True prayer

lightning 3We had traveled only an exit or two when my husband’s cell phone, resting in the vehicle beverage well between us, sounded a sharp alarm. Weather alert, he said, glancing down at it. No surprise there. We had spent the day moving my daughter back to college in Colorado Springs. While unpacking the supplies from our Costco and Bed, Bath & Beyond shopping sprees and setting up the mattress and frame we’d scored at a nearby warehouse store in her on-campus apartment, we couldn’t help but notice the ever-darkening skies. A strengthening, erratic wind whistled through the open windows of the third-floor unit nestled like the rest of the campus in a steep mountain valley, offering welcome respite to a long, muggy, 90-something-degree afternoon. By the time we’d headed for the highway-25-North entrance ramp toward Denver around 7 p.m., ink-colored clouds had crowded overhead, ominous in a cartoonish way, like the skies over New York City toward the end of the old Ghostbusters movie.

Still, the highway pavement remained dry, even as the traffic ground to a halt. We had hoped to make it back to Denver before 9 p.m., when construction crews were scheduled to resume the task of widening stretches of the interstate. Now, my cell phone droned its own warning, a final gasp before its battery—begging all afternoon for unavailable recharging and mirroring my own state of mind—expired. Our maltipoo, exhausted from racing up and down stairs and around and around the quad, raised one, enervated eyebrow, and studied me as I read the text:

“FLASH FLOOD WARNING THIS AREA TIL 10:00 PM MDT. AVOID FLOOD AREAS. CHECK LOCAL MEDIA”!

I sighed. I had been dutifully forgiving all day, asking for help in seeing everyone and everything without judgment and mostly succeeding but enough was enough! The steadily throbbing pain in my lower right back ratcheted up several notches on the scale. My neck muscles, already aching from the drive and move, clenched, evoking a long list of past grievances expertly woven into their cellular memory.

We searched for a local radio news signal to no avail. As we inched along, I could dimly make out the telltale red-and-blue lights of emergency vehicles ahead. Eventually, we drew near enough to read a traffic marquee revealing in yellow neon block letters that traffic was being diverted off the highway at the Woodmen exit due to flash flooding near the Interlocken exit further north.

My heart rate obediently rose in response to the body’s adrenaline fueled, primal fight-or-flight commands. That edgy state that had signaled adventure and excitement in my own college days had nonetheless, over time, morphed into a precursor to terror. I appeared to have lived too long, accumulated too many bodily “life”-threatening experiences, to welcome it all in giddy stride as I once had. After all, mortality seemed much more plausible now that I had gotten close enough to glimpse the emergency vehicle lights ever hovering on the horizon, make out the grim warnings ever flashing on the proverbial marquee.

Along with our fellow drivers we exited west uphill into driving rain. We drove a ways before pulling into a suburban shopping center. I went inside to order some take out from a chain Chinese place (couldn’t bring the dog in, after all), thinking we should wait it out, or at least try the higher-ground route running parallel to I-25, and then re-enter the highway below once we had gotten well to the north of the flood area.

My husband–surprise, surprise–had different ideas. He had hooked up the GPS and believed the highway had reopened. Despite the deluge, he wanted to move on right away. We drove a short distance on the parallel route, could see that the highway below had indeed opened up, and got back on. Thus ensued a long, slow-moving, horrifying drive through a long, slow-moving, horrifying storm. Finally tuned in to the local radio station connected with a local TV news affiliate we learned of flash flooding and possible additional flash flooding all around us. Reports of parts of the road we had just driven on positioned below the Black Forest burn area (home of the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history this past June) washing out and more flooding heading toward the resort community of Manitou Springs downhill to the South poured in from eyewitnesses. Just two weeks earlier, a flash flood had washed into restaurants and swept vehicles off Highway 24 in this very area, victim of the most costly wildfire in the state’s history last summer.

As we crept along confined to two lanes in a construction zone bound to our left by a cement barrier, we drove over muddy portions of the road that had flooded earlier. It occurred to me that the barrier had functioned as a kind of dam for the water washing down from above. Bad, freaking news, the ego shrieked!  If it started rising again, where would we go? We were sitting ducks (pun intended) trapped in gridlock traffic as creeks in the hills directly above us continued to overflow their banks!

I began to bargain again with Jesus as I do when flying in turbulence (almost impossible to avoid near Denver), when driving over mountain passes in whiteouts, when hiking with lightning visible in the mountains, or waiting for my daughter or husband to drive home in a snowstorm. Explaining that, while I know we’re not supposed to ask for specific help he has nonetheless promised to meet us in the condition we think we’re in. And, right now, I really, truly, madly, deeply think I’m contained in a body in imminent danger of drowning in its own hallucinations!  I’m just not there yet, I told him. As if there were a there there—(thank you, Gertrude Stein). And since it would not be helpful, as he has said many times, to increase my fear, could he please just protect us right now in form!

I recalled the titles of workbook lessons I always find comforting in such situations.

“God goes with me wherever I go.” (Workbook lesson 41)

“I am surrounded by the love of God.” (Workbook lesson 264)

Please surround and protect us, Jesus, I begged. Even though I know you claim we’re not supposed to ask for help in form, I’m back at the bottom of the metaphorical ladder home and need a real hand to hold!

But as I listened to more news reports of the water rushing south toward Manitou Springs, another thought arose. If kindness really had created me kind, as the Course assures us it did, it seemed really unkind to ask for special favor while cars around us up and down the highway, cars on the road we had exited to the west, cars and homes that lay still south of the rushing streams and rivers were equally, if not more perilously, positioned. And so I prayed for us all. I prayed that all minds terrified and seemingly helpless in the wake of this seeming deluge born of the deluge of the ego thought system of one or the other could feel the comfort of that hand in theirs. Could remember they were one, safe mind, not many threatened bodies, eternally loved and loving, and never alone. Forever surrounded by the love of a God that had (and never could) hurt, or leave, or fail us.

I wish I could say my fear vanished instantly as a result, that the harrowing drive beneath green-black skies severed now and then by jagged lightning strikes no longer upset me, but I’m not going to lie to you. My heart still raced. My hand still clenched the door handle, as if bracing myself for the wave about to hit the passenger side or the rolling of the SUV once we inevitably hydroplaned off the road. The physical sensations did not abate. Still, as the traffic picked up along with the rain after we passed the flooded area, I just kept focusing on Jesus’ hand, the door handle but a placebo for the hand I really wanted to squeeze.

The  more I squeezed, the more my heart opened to everyone afraid tonight, waiting out the storm in their cars or their homes, confronting the ultimate helplessness of the “human condition,” with yet a strength within and without that guaranteed safety and peace and calm.  The more I squeezed, the more my heart expanded and expanded still to include everyone and everything feeling hopelessly lost and alone in their scary dreams.

The more I squeezed, the less I needed to, and, unlike more times than I wish to count or admit, I did not secretly blame my husband for his failure to slow down. And I noticed that the fast lane actually had a lot less water than the slower lanes because of the camber of the road. He had been right about not taking the alternate route, maybe he was right about this, too. In any case, I let go of the door handle at some point, but I never stopped holding the hand of our only real protection, extending it to everyone in my mind without exception or priority, location or condition, and waiting for the skies of guilt to clear as they inevitably did and always do.

“The secret of true prayer is to forget the things you think you need.  To ask for the specific is much the same as to look on sin and then forgive it. Also in the same way, in prayer you overlook your specific needs as you see them, and let them go into God’s Hands. There they become your gifts to Him, for they tell Him that you would have no gods before Him; no Love but His. What could His answer be but your remembrance of Him? Can this be traded for a bit of trifling advice about a problem of an instant’s duration. God answers only for eternity. But still all little answers are contained in this.”

(From The Song of Prayer, I.PRAYER I. True prayer, paragraph 4)

Thank you, Gary Renard, for adding my new collection of ACIM essays, Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, to your Recommended Reading list:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0983742014?ie=UTF8&tag=garyrencom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0983742014 

Honored that Forgiveness 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. 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 Wantand my previous book,Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, are now available from the ACIM Store: http://www.acimstore.com/default.aspwhere 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: http://youtu.be/D4fO6u_EP74 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IY4DZ0E5A0&feature=youtu.beor 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: http://goo.gl/iHydCor 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 natureFor 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.)

 

 

Comments

  1. Here, here! (or is that hear, hear? 🙂 … to forgetting those pesky and persistent ‘things we think we need.” (My favorite part of the Song of Prayer, too, undoubtedly because it challenges me the most, and most what ‘i’ need to learn.) Our only perli is playing with projections, yet it’s sure popular! 🙂

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