Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Course Note #38: Who's Right about Interpretation of ACIM?

On a list I'm on, this question was posed this morning: To accept the Atonement for yourself, do you have to agree with me (or anyone) on the meaning of ACIM?   Does anyone else have to agree with you?

My take is this:

While I've come to appreciate the Bible more over the years,
A Course in Miracles remains the spiritual path the continues to profoundly speak to me. Nevertheless, we can look at the bible as it relates to this idea of interpretation.

Literally thousands of people (if you consider ministers, scholars, authors, Sunday school teachers, etc.) teach/speak/share on the Bible. We can find material ranging from the rabid fundamentalists to those who look at the deeper metaphysical symbolism found in the bible. Some people teach it to children in Sunday school, while others teach it to scholars in college.

Who get's to be the authority on what the bible says? Thank God, not the people who take Leviticus literally word for word! lol

I personally find the teachings in the Bible more profound and applicable to my life if I look at the deeper meanings, so I'm thankful that I'm not stuck with the more literal fundamentalist approach. I've spent the last year with NTI, short for The Holy Spirit's Interpretation of the New Testament, scribed by Regina Dawn Akers.  Wow! What a gift this is.  At least for me, it has been a great bridge between A Course in Miracles and the Bible.

When it comes to the various bible translations, I like using several.  Maybe that's the "teacher" personality coming out, but sometimes reading a certain translation provokes an "Aha" moment:

 "Oh, that's what it means!"   Nevertheless, many argue about which Bible translation is the most valid, correct, or the goes on and on.  Now that the original texts of A Course in Miracles have been discovered and published, we can observe the same thing going on in the Course community.   

We must come to recognize that this is what ego (fear) does.

All over the world, debate and conflict abound in *all* religious/spiritual communities.  I am thankful for the inner freedom to let Holy Spirit be my guide rather than outside authority.

I do find it interesting that in the Course community, some feel that we should all interpret ACIM the same. ACIM is a deep and profound spiritual path, and it's amazing to me that anyone thinks that they've really got the foothold on the truth it contains, or that one could fully grasp it in a year of haphazardly applying its principles. 

I've been with it around 18 years now, and each year I gain new understanding about aspects of the course. It's amazing to me that even one lesson can unfold deeper gifts even after I've read it many times over the years.

There is still much in the course that I freely admit, I don't have a clue about. And, I'm fine with not totally understanding it. ACIM introduces us to our inner teacher, who then, if we're so willing, leads us through an *individual* curriculum...all leading to the same outcome.

I'm grateful that my curriculum involved spending years with ACIM and Holy Spirit, before I got to the internet (HAHA) because by then, I'd learned to trust guidance and not be swayed by the opinions of others.

I'm also grateful for everyone I've come across who have been passionate about, and inspired to share what they have learned through long-time application of ACIM.  To me, it makes perfect sense that all are needed.  It's God's way of meeting us where we are.  

So I for one feel that we ought to trust our guidance, honor that of others, and yeah, accept the atonement (correction process) for ourselves. ;)

So, who's right about interpretation of A Course in Miracles? God meets us where we are. In your willingness to let Holy Spirit be your guide, you will be led to peace.

P.S. Thanks to Ken Mallory for inspiring this post! ;)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Course Note #37: The Best Laid Plans...

Today is Christmas. I feel so blessed.  Life…what a gift!  Thank You.
I like to think of life as a classroom, and at least for me, class was not dismissed for the holidays!  I had planned to work most of the week in my chiropractic office, and so on Sunday night I made a list of all the holiday errands I needed to fit around my time in the office. 
The week started out well enough, on Monday morning on my way to the office I decided to stop off at a particular store to buy a gift for someone, and while there, I found a fabulous purse on sale! I left the store delighted with my purchases and entered the parking area where, I evidently missed a step, and fell hard to the pavement. I won’t bore you with all the gory details, but I left the parking lot with one ankle fractured and the other one sprained – things went downhill from there.  Needless to say, this past week I did not work in my office or get any of those holiday errands done.  
A Course in Miracles has quite a bit to say about how we make the future continuous with the past by being absent in the present.  We make plans about what will be needed tomorrow, based on whatever went on yesterday.  This week I was provided with an experiential lesson on how the “best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” 
            Through this experience I realized, not for the first time, that in any moment life could take a totally new direction.  And, amazingly, this is okay. I reflected on how the situation could have been a lot worse, and how for the first time, I get to stay home for seven days without worrying about the business.
            I’m not really sure how these life events are orchestrated, but it doesn’t seem to be an “accident” that this accident occurred at this time.  Much of my inner work of late has been on going deeper into “I am as God created me”, and allowing my Inner Teacher to teach me right perception of the body.  So here I have an experience that causes me to be even more mesmerized by the body! 
It has not escaped my awareness that injuring both ankles at the same time must contain some sort of metaphysical message.  Some believe that the body has absolutely nothing to do with spirit, but in my experience both professionally and personally, there is a definite connection between mind-body-spirit.  In the case of sprains, the metaphysical cause is, “not wanting to move in a certain direction. Resistance to change.” 
Wow! This is incredibly right on because for many months I have been guided to move into a new direction and have experienced much resistance.  Recently I’ve sought for deeper guidance in regard to this. 
Interestingly enough, a friend directed me to a blog post where the author had a similar experience.  Immediately after she felt that she achieved a heightened spiritual awareness, she fell down steps in her home and severely sprained her ankle!  She saw it as ego resistance. 
The Course doesn’t tell us that the body doesn’t exist, rather, it tells us that the body is a “fact” in human experience, yet, it is not who you are.  Nevertheless, the body can be used by Holy Spirit to heal our mind, or used by ego to distract from healing.  The body is, of course, ego’s major weapon of mass distraction! 
When I came home on Monday, I spent the afternoon in bed reading the Course and meditating on healing.  But then, I let ego move in as substitute teacher – teaching lessons on being hypnotized by form, namely, the form of my ankles! 
Nevertheless, I have continuously called on Divine Love to eject this substitute teacher!  Consequently, I have been able to really see how differently these two teachers taught the class.  With ego at the head of the class: I thought about my body, how long it was going to take to heal, if I could go back to work next week, and what would happen if I couldn’t.  Not to mention that all I want to do is eat, and now I cannot exercise!                      
As I let my mind rest on “Let me remember I am one with God” I was able to see the gifts in the experience.  God is.  God is in the present. When I am not resting in the present, I am not resting in the Presence, and thus cannot received the presents that the present holds. Bet you didn’t think one could use that word so many ways, eh? 
All things can be used by Holy Spirit to show us the way home.  Love whispers to us now:
This Christmas give Me everything
that would hurt you.
Let yourself be healed completely
that you may join with Me in healing.
Trust the process of life
to take you to your highest good.
Rest in the present,
in peace.

I must also say here, sappy though it may sound, that I’ve always viewed my husband as one of God’s greatest gifts to me.  His unconditional love and support of both Bobby and me, has been an unending source of healing throughout our years together.  Not surprisingly, this week he has been my major Christmas gift.  Thank you God and Thank You Bill. J

I spoke on this topic 12/29/09 to an internet audience. Audio is 56 min.

MP3 File

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Course Note #35: Exiting the Chrysalis

Hi there
Wow, I've been struggling with myself for the last few days! Yet, the very fact that I feel so much "fruggle" (a combo of frustration & struggle), reveals that I'm still trying to fix myself by myself. It seemed that all through the night last night I prayed without ceasing, lesson 365:

This Holy Instant would I give to You.
Be You in charge.
For I would follow You,
Certain that Your direction gives me peace.

I woke up with a line from the Course at the forefront of my mind: "Delay will hurt you now more than before, only because you realize it is delay, and that escape from pain is really possible...  Wait no longer, for the Love of God and you."

For a good portion of my life I was like the caterpillar, clinging to the earth -- nibbling away on the things of the world.  And now...I feel that I am in the chrysalis, dying to the old to give birth to the new.  It's a painful business, but only because I'm trying to do it myself.  I doubt that the caterpillar struggled in the chrysalis to become free, I imagine that it surrendered to the process.

I can see that this body "issue" I've been struggling with for several years is really a great gift as it is teaching me a lot about bondage and freedom. In NTI I am told to, "Be grateful for this body and all it is teaching you, for in partnership with this learning device you will correct the mind."  On that same note, I am reminded of something one of my friends, Tomas, said just the other day on FB: Today I heard very clearly, "Give me your mind and I will heal your body," and I thought how scared we are most of the time because we want Him to heal the effects without giving Him the cause to heal. No wonder we suffer.

"Wow!" I thought as I read that, and then Holy Spirit said to me: "Sheryl, give me your mind and I will heal everything."  We want God to fix everything "out there" without being willing to hand over the cause, our mind.

Much of my inner work over the years has been to one degree or another about arising in consciousness to the Truth of Who I Am.  I love the butterfly as it speaks to me of transformation and freedom.  

Today, I am ready to begin exiting the chrysalis; to live with a greater sense of Self fullness rather than Self forgetfulness. Today I am willing to be free as the Butterfly.  

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Course Note # 34: Embrace the New

In late 2007 and early 2008 as I was being urged to let go of particular habits that were no longer serving me, I received quite a bit of insight on the passage in the Bible about not being able to put new wine in old wineskins. If new wine is poured into old wineskins the skins will burst and thus the wine is wasted.

My inner teacher has reminded me of these teachings off and on for the past few years as it relates to what was going on with me then, and now. The essential message Spirit gave me was this: "Sheryl I cannot pour new power into you if you are unwilling to give up old ways of being, old attitudes and old habitual thought patterns." It was a Wow moment to realize that these teachings were not just words in a book but contained powerful truth related to my own life.

Then in November of last year I began a study of NTI (The Holy Spirit's Interpretation of the New Testament), and it was no surprise to find the same teachings here.
NTI, Matthew 9:14-17
"Let go of old habits and old ways of thinking. They have not served you. To hold onto the old is to create a future like the past. That is not useful to you now. Listen to my word. Hear what I say. Practice it. Then you will know what to do."

NTI, Luke 5:33-39
"Old habits must be let go, for old habits will not usher in a new day. With old habits, all things remain the same. But with new habits, all things are possible. I have come to teach you new habits. You will learn these habits by practicing them as I ask. Remember Me, and practice. You will catch yourself practicing the old habits, for this has been your way until now. Slipping into old habits does not ruin the new ones. So when you find yourself doing this, forgive yourself..."

I have been directed to this guidance off and on throughout this entire year and received greater insight on it fairly recently. I'd like to point out how all great spiritual literature meets us where we are: When I was first directed to these passages I heard this: "When you find yourself slipping into old habits, forgive yourself." So for quite awhile I did practice forgiving myself for falling into my old thought and behavior habits.

A couple months ago, however, I was evidently ready to hear this: "So when you find yourself doing this, forgive yourself your attraction to the old by stepping away from the old and stepping into the new. Each time you do this, you help yourself to unlearn the old and learn the new. Take no old habits with you into the new, for the old habits must be left completely if the new habits are to result in new."

So through this I see how spirit meets us where we are. Earlier in the year I was urged to forgive myself for my departures into the old. Now I'm being guided to forgive myself "by" stepping away from the old and into the new. In other words, I forgive myself by practicing!

What do I/we practice? All behavior comes from thought. Any practice that is used to let go of old ways of thinking will do.  This material has certainly spoken to me about behavioral habits, but on a deeper level, it speaks to letting go of the old habits of thinking that keep me stuck in behavior patterns that no longer serve me.  One practice that I really like is to simply give my thoughts to Holy Spirit for the purpose of healing my mind.

Now, as another helpful practice, I am reminded of Lesson 314 in ACIM, which I've paraphrased a bit:

I seek a future different from the past.

Holy Spirit, may you reveal to me
a new perception of myself.
I have been mistaken about who I am,
and now I want to choose the present to be free.
I leave my future in Your hands
and leave behind my past mistakes.
Guide me in your holy light.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Course Note #33: Mind Training

A Course in Miracles is all about mind-training and mental discipline.  Through diligent practice of its principles, I have learned how to choose peace through being aware of when I’m not at peace, and choosing again. 
Over the last several years the Inner Teacher has been taking me deeper into training on mind watching, which is really about looking at my thoughts. It’s probably fair to say that most of us have areas in our lives where we experience frustration, struggle and reoccurring problems. These feelings most likely show up in areas of habitual and compulsive behavior.
I certainly can engage in compulsive overeating, and habitually feeling solely responsible for running my business rather than letting go and letting God.   What is it for you?  These behaviors are often on automatic pilot, seemingly facilitated by something going on in our unconsciousness.
A Course in Miracles contains some very rich material on this idea: “The unwatched mind is responsible for the whole content of the unconscious.” (urtext: T 2 E 23) 
According to Webster, “unconscious” is to be, “unaware of; it is the sum of all thoughts of which the individual is not conscious of, but which influences the emotions and behavior.”  And “conscious” is to be, “awake; aware; aware of oneself as a thinking being.”

While on a morning walk, after first clearing my mind of a grievance I had toward a friend (this is a key point because when we hold onto grievances we are unavailable to receive guidance), I began to receive guidance on unconscious thoughts.  I heard the Inner Voice say that the thoughts that precipitate behavior that I am seemingly unconscious of, are not really unconscious at all.  In fact, not only am I conscious of these thoughts, I listen to them, believe them and then act on them.  The reason they seem to be unconscious is because I’ve been listening to them for so long that I no longer hear them.  

With mind training we learn to hear the thoughts we think.  In the Course we are told, “You are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice.  What you do comes from what you think.  (urtext: T 2 D 5)
When we begin to watch our minds, then and only then will we be privy as to why we do the things we do.  We seem to be unaware of why we engage in certain habits, however, before we did engage we thought a thought, we listened to it, believed it, and then acted on it.  This is not just about compulsive behavior patterns, but also habitual thought patterns such as worry, anxiety, self-criticism, self-pity, etc.
            I’ll use my example of compulsive overeating: I get off work and have a thought about buying wine and picking up food or ordering a pizza.  I listen to that thought, believe that it sounds like a great idea, and then I act on it. I then call my husband and ask him what he wants.  All this seems to occur on automatic pilot.

Let’s say that I catch the thought: I’m really tired tonight, I’m going to stop and get some wine, and pick up some food.”  What if I stop there and look at the thought? Then, instead of just listening to and acting on the thought, I’m now engaged in hearing the thought, “I’m tired, I want to…”  Only when I hear it, do I then have the opportunity to choose again, or not.   There is nothing wrong with eating pizza or drinking wine but, if I cannot say “no”, then I am enslaved.
            So one night as I caught these thoughts, I heard the Inner voice ask, “Sheryl, what do you really want?”
“I really want to drink wine and eat pizza!”
“Sheryl, what do you really want?”
“I want to be free.”
Freedom isn’t just about being able to do whatever you want, it’s also about being able to not do what you don’t want to do.  When it comes to compulsive behavior, we continually engage in activities that cause us pain later. Compulsive spending racks up the bills, compulsive eating racks up the pounds, compulsive self-pity racks up feelings of unworthiness – and all of it racks up excessive focus on self.

Mind training is really about awareness because without it, we are not free to choose again. It requires vigilance, which is watching with awareness.  Frequently when the word “vigilant” comes up, along with that comes whining: Why do I have to do that? Am I ever going to get to a place where I don’t have to do it? It’s too hard! Spirituality is supposed to be simple!” 

Okay, let’s address this here:
Why do I have to do it?  You don’t, unless you want to experience more peace, freedom and happiness.
Am I ever going to get to a point that I don’t have to watch my mind?  No, not if you want to live in peace and freedom.
It’s too hard!  And so the way we live our lives is easier?
Spirituality is supposed to be simple.  It is, it’s just not easy.

Through the practice of watching our thoughts, we bring them out of the unconscious and into the conscious.  We can only gain awareness on why we do the things we do through learning to be consciousness of the thoughts that came first. 
            Okay, so now that I am learning to hear the thoughts that precipitate compulsive behavior, what do I do next?
           Here's some Good News! This is the part where spiritual practice really is simple.  You don’t have to do anything but, let it be done for you.  How cool is that?
When you are aware of your thoughts, you can then give them over to the Inner Presence for healing. There are many forms of practice, in fact, using any one of the workbook lessons in the Course will do.  It can be as simple as saying, “Holy Spirit I give these thoughts to you for the purpose of healing my mind.”  Or, frequently when faced with the temptations of the ego, I pray Lesson 365

This holy instant would I give to You,
Be You in charge.
For I would follow You,
Certain that Your direction gives me peace.

And now I am prompted to a wonderful passage in NTI on freedom:

Your goal now is freedom, and you will succeed in your goal by letting go of every thought that would keep you imprisoned.  For the hellish thoughts within your mind are your prison, and only by letting them go can you be free.  Listen to Me. I am sharing the secrets of your imprisonment and your freedom.  It is not My Will that you be imprisoned.  It is My Will that you be free.  Listen to Me.  Accept My Will as yours, and open your prison doors. (NTI, Matthew 5:29,30)

Learning to be free does require practice, patience and perseverance – the rewards are great.

*Here is an audio I gave to an internet audience, it is 49 min.*

Mind Watching


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Course Note #32: How Can I Serve Today?

Hi There,
Yesterday I woke up with the idea to write a blog on "How Can I Serve Today?" I had quite a few things that I thought I wanted to say about it. I was in my chiropractic office yesterday, and so did not have time to write, but I realize today, that I did have time to practice it.

My mother has been going through something that has been very stressful for her, and seems to be quite unfair. Yesterday morning as I was leaving the house, I burst out to my husband that life can be so unfair! Ah, but being a Course student, Holy spirit immediately reminded me of the truth, "Now Sheryl, you know better than that. You're doing this to yourself."

Ya, Can anyone say, "BUSTED!"?

Throughout the day I practiced forgiveness. My mother and I shared that this was the best way to proceed, to let go of our own anger for the purpose of healing.

Then this morning I landed on this page in NTI, Matthew 5:25-26

"You cannot find joy within hatred, for hatred is like a prison and the jailer is but yourself. Free yourself from your prison of pain. Let go of that which you think your brother has done to you. It is not important. It but keeps you imprisoned within a limited mind and away from the unlimited, which is but your Self. Let go of all grievances against your brother, no matter how large or small they seem. For they are all the same, and each one has the power to keep you imprisoned from your Self.
  "When hurtful thoughts about a another come into your mind, let them go, for you do not want any thought in your mind that is not the thought of love. Your goal now is freedom, and you will succeed in your goal by letting go of every thought that would keep you imprisoned. For the hellish thoughts within your mind are your prison, and only by letting them go can you be free... The thoughts of justification are like poisonous prison food."
     Don't ya love it? Poisonous Prison Food!
    In our willingness to spit out that poisonous prison food, we are so incredibly rich. I shared with my mom that this whole thing is just another opportunity to choose again.

   I am reminded right now of one of my favorite lines in ACIM:

In any pain, despair or perplexity
the voice of Love within
gently calls to you and
My Brother choose again.

Just moments after I wrote to my mom, I realized that when I asked the question yesterday, "How can I serve today?" I was given yet another opportunity to serve through the practice of forgiveness.

Thank you.