Wag more, bark less

 (Just back from a vacation with my family and posting this excerpt from my first essay collection, Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, about practicing the Course’s extraordinary forgiveness in ordinary life. Hope to get back to my more regular posting schedule soon.)

Kayleigh looking out windowMy little dog Kayleigh spends a lot of time peering out our side glass door into the frozen garden as dusk descends, now and then issuing a determined woof, guarding us from illusory predators. As often as not, she spies my shadow moving behind her in the kitchen or perhaps her own, mistakes it for an encroaching enemy, and, like any faithful guard dog, springs into alert mode. Occasionally she graces us with a single, ferocious bark, before hopping backwards with a little snort like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. Reacting and overreacting to her mistaken interpretations—my morphing shadow and her own–the dark side of maltipoos clearly exposed.

I can’t help but relate. I was the kind of kid that saw a continuous parade of monsters and witches writhing on the windows and walls of my bedroom. There were beings out to get us in this world; I knew it even as a toddler; beings in the basement, beings in the attic, beings in the closet and under the bed that did not have our best interests at heart. The Commies could launch nuclear missiles at any moment from the other side of the world that could wipe us out in a single, gigantic mushroom blast. A person could have a heart attack like the mother of one of our friends across the street or an explosion in their brain like my cousin’s wife and drop dead. I counted catastrophes instead of sheep lying in bed as a child. And yet, there was something addictive even back then about it all, a thrill I preferred not to examine too closely, endlessly distracted by defending against all these horrifically entertaining shadows.

My brother Michael and I would burrow under the covers in my bed on rainy mornings listening over and over again to the score from Prokofiev’s Peter & the Wolf.  Our mother would put the record on the turntable; then go about her housewifely business. The vivid music and tale of a daring and disobedient boy’s near-death encounter with a wolf seriously creeped us out. We would scream at the top of our lungs as Peter and his animal friends acted out their parts in a story of Communist propaganda completely lost on us. I credit the score for my early fascination with all things Russian (including, I suppose, that ever likely to detonate in my backyard bomb) and my later decision to take up the clarinet in elementary school in honor of my favorite character Ivan the cat.

But I digress once again, as the ego would have me do. The point is I am coming to the end of a year in which I committed to remember to look at my errors in perception with my right mind and report in writing at least weekly on the results. Not in an attempt to stare the many forms the one error seems to take down or growl the ego’s fantasies into submission but to watch them disappear in the light of true vision when I choose to open the garden door that appears to keep love away and step into the light. Allowing a smile to return to my mind.

We have been applying the workbook’s “happiness lessons” in the class I am teaching on forgiveness in which our teacher, that symbol of the awakened mind we all share, entreats us to consider our true will and nature versus our mind on ego. “God’s Will for me is perfect happiness,” he tells us. “I share God’s Will for happiness for me,” and “God, being Love, is also happiness.” He tells us we do not want to suffer, that joy is our inheritance. But Jesus also tells us we deny this truth, intent on making the “sin” of separation from our unified, loving source real by projecting the guilt it engenders in our unconscious mind onto someone else. Compulsively blaming the shadow “out there” for our unhappiness in an effort to cajole God into buying our relative innocence. We’re addicted to looking with the ego at seemingly infinite manifestations of that same murderous story, defending and attacking our own shadow in endless guises. So frantically distracted by battling our own image that we forget we can summon the other teacher in our one mind and learn to smile at these theatrics.

Why are we so addicted to looking with the body’s eyes despite the pain it brings? Afraid to look with our right mind even though it offers real happiness instead of surreal terror?  Because if God equals the only real love there is and we sinned against him, we must keep love away or face certain retaliation. And so we defend against love, terrified to look beyond the murky, murderous figures competing for survival in the mirror.

Confronted with the peace and joy of our true nature through these lessons had once more plunged me (the decision maker that once chose for the ego’s impossible dream of exile from love and clings to its mistaken fugitive identity) into a fearful abyss. This is not a nice world. When I look with Susan’s eyes I am not a happy camper; battling myriad confounding problems casting their shadows on the glass of my brain. Forgetting I am really gazing into a trick mirror at the illusory face of my own false self, a fearful image generated by a stray thought that could never be.

I had been taking it all including this Course seriously again; looking with my wrong mind, judging what I saw, and confusing adrenaline and the promise of specialness with the serene, eternal happiness I really wanted. Once again my little dog had mirrored my wrong mind back to me, allowing me to recognize my error and choose again to look with a teacher that can truly see.

It has been a year since I committed to catching myself looking with the ego and choosing instead to look with the Holy (Whole) Spirit in our one mind. I am still afraid, but I am at least learning that developing the habit of observing which teacher I have chosen must precede my decision to choose again. As “The ‘Dynamics’ of the Ego” in A Course in Miracles Chapter 11 reminds us:

“No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. There is no need to shrink from illusions, for they cannot be dangerous.” 

I believe this more and more as I remember to look.

“What is healing but the removal of all that stands in the way of knowledge? And how else can one dispel illusions except by looking at them directly, without protecting them?”

On the floor by the door Kayleigh woofs at an invisible enemy. I lift her to my face, eye-to-eye, hoping to reassure her. But somewhere in her DNA a wolf still reigns. She refuses to make eye contact with me, the dominant one in this position. I return her to her sentry post on the rug inside our garden door. She studies the glass, now and then barking at the many menacing forms her own shadow loves to take.


The Foundation for A Course in Miracles could use our help as they continue to teach and publish the mind-healing, life-altering work of our beloved teacher and mentor Ken Wapnick, who selflessly dedicated his life to helping us change our minds about the world and find our way home. You can express your support and appreciation for this ongoing work with a donation here: https://www.facim.org/bookstore/p-195-donate.aspx. 

Now, when you buy on Amazon, you can support The Foundation for A Course in Miracles, too! Details here: http://www.facim.org/announcements.aspx 

The Foundation for A Course in Miracles continues to offer illuminating classes taught by a talented, devoted, inspiring staff! I was so deeply moved and inspired by their presentations at the March academy, and can’t wait to return for more in July! Check out their offerings here:  http://www.facim.org/temecula-schedule.aspx 

Enjoyed talking again with Bruce Rawles recently about the importance of remembering the new purpose of our lives as a forgiveness classroom and being vigilant in looking at all our reactions with our new inner teacher. Please excuse the reference to audio problems that turned out to be only on our end. 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYGbSga-tis#t=11  

Here’s a link to details about a new Tuesday night class I am offering here in Denver https://www.foraysinforgiveness.com/classes-events beginning in May 2014.

I enjoyed talking with CA Brooks of 12 Radio May 2nd about making practicing the Course’s forgiveness the new purpose of our days 

HALF-HOUR, FORTY-FIVE MINUTE, OR HOUR-LONG MENTORING SESSIONS NOW AVAILABLE: Although A Course in Miracles is clearly a self-study program and the one relationship we are truly cultivating is with our eternally sane and loving right mind, mentoring can help remind Course students having trouble applying its unique forgiveness that the problem and the solution never lie in the difficult relationship, situation, behavior, health issue, etc., but in the decision-making mind. In every circumstance, without exception, we can experience inner peace and kindness toward all, unaffected by the seemingly random strife of a world designed to prove otherwise. By choosing to look at our lives as a classroom in which we bring all our painful illusions to the inner teacher of forgiveness who knows only our shared innocence beyond all its deceptive disguises, we learn to identify and transcend the ego’s resistance, hold others harmless, and gently allow our split mind to heal. One-on-one, hour, forty-five-minute, or half-hour mentoring sessions are conducted via traditional phone or Skype (your choice). Please contact me to find out if mentoring is right for you before submitting a payment below. (No one is ever turned away for lack of ability to pay.)

My dear friend and wonderful teacher Lyn Corona continues to offer wonderful new classes at the Rocky Mountain Miracle Center through her School of Reason for Course students and teachers. You can subscribe to her website http://www.schoolofreason.org/ to receive information about upcoming classes. 

My good friend and gifted A Course in Miracles teacher and writer Bernard Groom has been posting beautifully written, heartfelt essays about living A Course in Miracles for years at http://www.acimvillage.com/. I found his recent, kindly right-minded contemplations there on the death of our beloved teacher Ken Wapnick deeply comforting! Bernard lives and teaches in France with his dear wife Patricia. You’ll find a wealth of information in French on his website http://uncoursenmiraclesenfrance.com/ including recorded talks available for purchase or free download: http://uncoursenmiraclesenfrance.com/audio/. 

Here’s another ACIM hangout video I did with my friend Bruce Rawles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yogj9ckTXbc&feature=youtu.be . In this one, we talk about our love for our teacher Ken Wapnick, a demonstration of kindness to one and all, and how we can honor his life and heal our minds by living all he has taught us!

My latest book, Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, is available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions. If you read and find the book helpful, I would so appreciate you posting a brief (a sentence or two is fine) review on Amazon. 🙂

Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want is also available at the Rocky Mountain Miracle Center in Denver, Colorado, where I teach weekly on Tuesday nights, 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.  Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, and my previous book, Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, are now also available from the ACIM Store: http://www.acimstore.com/default.asp.





  1. Barking at illusory predators, phantoms menacing at us from a reflected dream? That’s all our worrisome dreams can be, yet we’re so invested in victim alibis and finger-pointing projections we oft forget that we can choose our Inner Kindness Teacher’s gentle translation of seeing them all the same; just silly forgivable fun-house mirror imagery from a mind learning that it’s harsh judgments were unfounded. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this post, Susan!

Speak Your Mind