“The search for love is but the honest searching out of everything that interferes with love.” – – A Course In Miracles
In 1965 two psychologists who worked in the same department in a New York firm became fed up with how hostile they were toward each other. One of them was named Bill Thetford, who told his partner Helen Schucman words to the effect that “there must be another way.” Not long after, Helen began experiencing what she described as an “inner dictation,” and which she later began referring to as simply “the Voice.” She continued to take the dictation for seven years, worked on the material with an editor named Ken Wapnick, and shaped it into what is now commonly known as A Course In Miracles, published in 1975. Until her dying day, Helen Schucman had much difficulty applying the basic tenets of the Course herself. She is not alone.
Since November 6th of 2016 I’ve been working to combat a growing sense of dread. Each day I’ve had the thought “nothing can be worse than what was said or done today.” I have been incorrect more than eleven hundred times. Last night I just felt oppressed to the nth degree. I am not used to being in that place. I attempted to sleep and couldn’t, running over the world’s events in my head repeatedly. Possibly a diversion might help. I turned on the tv only to tune in to a program on fascism, with this chapter dissecting the rise of Hitler. It was obviously not hard to draw lines from then to now. I’m seeing this stuff everywhere. But I’m getting fed up. I too have been looking for a different way out.
For years now I’ve had a lingering resentment against a guy who I’ve known since childhood. I have not seen him socially since 2012 when I finally told him our friendship was done. For years while lying in bed trying to get to sleep his image would pop into my head, and as it was a fantasy I did whatever I felt like in my mind. Suffice to say he likely would not have survived if what occurred in my head was real life. So it seemed odd that when I thought of him earlier this week I felt discomfort at the idea of causing him any harm and began to chant a mantra instead. Automatically. I believe it was Wednesday night when here came his image again, but alongside it was the sentence “You do this unto yourself.” I have been an on-again off-again student of ACIM and I remember that line used to describe projection. The complete phrase is “Here is the secret of salvation: you do this unto yourself.” That felt strangely liberating, to know that all I’m doing is projecting my garbage onto what I see as a sick world. So off to bed I went.
As I lay trying to sleep, it seemed too coincidental that dropping my resentment, thinking “there must be a better way,” and flicking on the tube to a fascism piece all happened so close together. Again I couldn’t sleep and went to my book shelf. I grabbed the first book I could by feel rather than looking at it. It was one of my ACIM support material books. I randomly opened it to a page where I had highlighted the following: “We actually believe we know the problems – ours or the world’s. Some are better at identifying them than others, but everyone has some idea of the nature of what is wrong, from heads of state to ordinary citizens. Even more absurd from the point of view of A Course In Miracles is that we think we know the solutions.” One of the basic ideas of ACIM is that there is only one problem: a sense of separation from God.
A Course In Miracles consists of six hundred sixty-nine pages of text, three hundred sixty-five lessons, and a ninety-two page “manual for teachers.” I have had many aborted attempts to go through the entire thing since 1991 as my resistance has won out every time. Its only in recent years that I’ve come to understand why. ACIM (not unlike any recovery program) requires one to look at one’s self with absolutely honesty – gently. Ironically, being gentle with myself is the hardest part.
When I lay down again after all of this, I had such a deep sense of peace. The words almost formed solidly in my mind: “Oh my God, I don’t feel alone any more!” I had no idea the depth of loneliness I was in. As my day went on today I pushed all of last night away as best I could, but as I sat to meditate about a half an hour ago, I just couldn’t deny my need to write about it. So here it is.
Doing ACIM is a lifetime study. I’ve often thought of it as the Big Book on steroids. There’s no way possible to read it and do the lessons and comprehend it in one year. So it’s cool to pick up a few books and have everything seem so familiar to me. I know some of the basic principles. But I have not “done” ACIM. So why now? As cumbersome as it can be, it is the perfect match to the mindless repetitions of world events I’ve unfortunately come to know as normal. It is also truly wonderful to feel that Presence in such a scary time. I’ve been in recovery for thirty-one years. If perfection was required I would have been toast my first day sober. I need to practice being gentle with myself while being deeply honest. It is a tall order, and all of my fear of not finishing may be unfounded. My world will not end if I drop it again. And maybe this fear is my first practice point. I already don’t even know the problem. The problem is a sense of separation from God. And it has always been a choice.