This need not be

Northern_lights_scenic_aurora_borealis“If you cannot hear the Voice for God, it is because you do not choose to listen,” I read, from A Course in Miracles Chapter 4, IV. This Need Not Be.

The big, blue book lay cracked open on my desk. How many times had I turned to it in pain and confusion and longing for a better way and found it simply by randomly opening to a chapter, a section, a line that seemed expressly written as an answer to my prayer? A Course in Miracles as Ouija Board, in a good way. And yet, this morning its message had somehow gone foreign, its comfort as elusive, as likely to slip through my fingers, as any other in this dreamy world.

“I’m listening,” I said. “Really!”

But no answer came. The inspiration I sought to write my way back to sanity as I so often did had gone AWOL again.

And so I sat staring at the bulletin board on my wall (I know, what am I, nine?) filled with favorite snapshots of places and people in the continuing saga of separated Susan that now seemed only to mock me. A photo of the marquee for a restaurant on the Left Bank in Paris called “Susan’s Place,” (how special is that?). Another of a beach in Point Reyes National Park I’d spent so many weekends wandering, searching, as if looking for Sir Francis Drake’s legendary, lost treasure. A tiny, black-and-white photo of my parents while courting all dolled up for a dance, a postcard of the yoga retreat center and working ashram I flee to now and then for its pristine stillness. And half a dozen pictures of my daughter when she was little, staring out at the camera with eyes forever wiser than her years, artistically grouped around a bumper sticker reading: “Don’t make me release the flying monkeys!” the possibility of which I had somehow successfully dodged as long as I could recall, but now seemed in danger of succumbing to.

Here’s what I needed an answer to. Said daughter, home from college working in Denver for most of the summer, had made it very clear from the get-go that this would be her last season home. Next year she would seek an internship or employment near school, and the following summer after graduation, God willing, head out to seek her fortune in one way or another as healthy egos will. Although I thought I had made peace with these inevitable rites of passage, I found myself, emphasis on self, as these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer rolled along, again hoping to paint special memories together, perhaps even bulletin-board-worthy. You know, quality experiences I might conjure up in the days and weeks and years apart that lay ahead. I know.

Suffice it to say that despite (or, perhaps, expressly because of) my best intentions these excursions together—from trips to the mall to lunches to bookstore forages to an actual girls’ trip to the coast of Oregon—turned out to be no more or less special, complex, or conflicted than the days in between, sharing a house and dog and life together again, our personal differences magnified by her recent illusion of collegiate independence combined with the attachment I’d apparently developed to the quieter, more orderly life her absence afforded.

Upset that things had not gone as planned, feeling I had somehow again fallen short in this parenting gig which I had tried so hard to perfect over the years (I know), near constant critical thoughts and judgments of her and me bobbed to the surface of my Magic-8-Ball brain as the time for moving her back to school drew near. Although they remained stillborn in my throat, I knew she could feel them, and hated myself for it. I also knew I was looking at my own self-loathing, but its unwelcome appearance in this most “holy” of relationship venues seemed an abomination completely impossible to forgive.

Although I kept reminding myself I was not upset for the reason I think and begging to see things through the loving eyes of you know who as the Course teaches, my heart seemed to have locked itself once more into its default clenched position. And yet, I kept asking, and waiting, and asking again, until I was able to hear. Then it occurred to me once again that this was not a Course in fortifying bonds woven of personal neediness in our personal relationships. This was a Course in freeing us of the belief in the neediness of such bonds, and thereby freeing those we love of their oppressive constriction.

As Ken Wapnick so often says, this is not a Course in the positive. It’s a Course in learning to look with our healed mind’s vision which means looking at all these special needs, this special self, the conditions we place on our special relationships and saying I don’t want to depend on this anymore for my peace and joy. I don’t want to hold myself and my relationships hostage to the ego’s idea of relationships in which we manipulate others to get our needs met. It doesn’t work. I’m looking in the wrong place. It’s painful and crazy and I don’t want to do it anymore.

I turned back to the big, blue book, which appeared to have translated itself back into English, and read:

“… Your mind is filled with schemes to save the face of your ego, and you do not seek the face of Christ. The glass in which the ego seeks to see its face is dark indeed. How can it maintain the trick of its existence except with mirrors? But where you seek to find yourself is up to you.

I have said that you cannot change your mind by changing your behavior, but I have also said, and many times, that you can change your mind. When your mood tells you that you have chosen wrongly, and this is so whenever you are not joyous, then know this need not be. In every case you have thought wrongly about some brother God created, and are perceiving images your ego makes in a darkened glass. Think honestly what you have thought that God would not have thought, and what you have not thought that God would have you think. Search sincerely for what you have done and left undone accordingly, and then change your mind to think with God’s. This may seem hard to do, but is much easier than trying to think against it.” (From paragraphs 1 and 2)

Hallelujah! The answer to every seeming abomination of the ego thought system, even this, remains the same, and I had already taken the first step by honestly searching my mind. Then choosing to think with the part of our mind that remembers no pictures we have dreamed up to prove otherwise have had any effect on our shared reality within God always works. Eventually, at least, within the illusion of time, once our fear of losing our false identity–a fear that appears to strengthen as we draw nearer to the light but is actually through our continually choosing healed vision, diminishing–subsides. The remembering is done for us. Fear cannot stop love returning to the Love it has never left, mending every mistaken thought and feeling, and meeting every need.

My fisted heart unfurled for all.

“… I am not mistaken. Your mind will elect to join with mine, and together we are invincible. You and your brother will yet come together in my name and your sanity will be restored. I raised the dead by knowing that life is an eternal attribute of everything that the living God created. Why do you believe it is harder for me to inspire the dis-spirited or to stabilize the unstable? I do not believe that there is an order of difficulty in miracles; you do. I have called and you will answer. I understand that miracles are natural, because they are expressions of love. My calling you is as natural as your answer, and as inevitable.” (From paragraph 11)

Honored that my new bookForgiveness Offers Everything I Want, is now available at the Rocky Mountain Miracle Center in Denver, Colorado, where I teach regularly on Tuesday nights. Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want takes up roughly where my last ACIM essay collection left off, and conveys my growing faith that no matter how wrenching, wild, or wacky the dream of our lives may appear, we always have a choice about which inner teacher we are looking and listening with: the ego, the part of our mind that believed the “tiny, mad idea” of separation from our source had real effects. Or the “right mind” that remembered to gently smile at the bizarre thought of it. Through day-to-day practice we learn that choosing the inner teacher of fear hurts, while choosing the inner teacher of kind forgiveness yields peace that defies understanding and includes everyone and everything in its warm embrace. If you’re thinking about buying a book and live in Denver, please consider purchasing a copy from the RMMC to help support their great work. The new book is also available on Amazon.

Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, and my previous book, Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, are now available from the ACIM Store:, where I am honored to currently appear as featured author. 

I enjoyed talking with Bruce Rawles recently about my new book; Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, and the importance of cultivating a relationship with the inner teacher of forgiveness in our one mind. You can watch the video by clicking here: or on my home page.

You can listen to a recent conversation I had with my good friends and fellow ACIM teachers Lyn Corona, and Bruce Rawles about how to forgive ourselves on this journey home to the one Love we never really left here: on the Videos page of this site.

Also had a good time talking with CA Brooks, host of the 12 Radio show Simpletales, about my new book and recipes for true forgiveness. You can listen to the audio here: on my Audios page.

Although A Course in Miracles is clearly a self-study program and the one relationship we are truly cultivating is with our eternally clear and loving right mind, a mentor can help Course students apply its gentle forgiveness practice in their lives. In one-on-one phone sessions I help students identify and transcend the ego’s resistance to healing our split mind through forgiveness. By looking with and listening to our forever kind inner teacher we learn to recognize and release the unconscious blocks we use to push unwavering, all-inclusive Love away, begin to see everyone and everything as the same in God’s heart, and gradually awaken to our true, whole, eternally innocent nature. For information on individual ACIM mentoring; please click on the mentoring tab on this site. (Please note that no one is ever turned away for lack of ability to pay.)




  1. Great reminders; thanks, Susan… I think I’ll use the bulletin board metaphor (with help from our Shared Kindness Teacher) to alert me to when I’ve pinned ‘special’ importance to one illusion, elevated above (including ‘fond memories’ of hikes at Pt. Reyes) – or demoted below any other illusion in my mind… even when I haven’t reached the threshold of releasing the winged monkeys to defend the seeming differences. 🙂

  2. The monkey are always an option, Bruce. 🙂

    Thank you for your kind response!

  3. David Smith says:

    Susan: Your essays are really wonderful! I enjoy your clear, crisp and witty writing style. Your everyday stories are down-home and help me to relate to the events on my everyday screen. Yes, I too have found that ACIM as Ouija Board has often provided me with amazing answers and insights. I especially appreciate the way you incorporate passages from the text with aspects of your daily life. Your essays help inspire me along the path. Thank you for sharing.

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