Just after I turned forty, I was taken by complete surprise when I was told by my Dean that I was terminated from my job. I was coaching and teaching at a small college, and he had invited me to lunch at a rather nice restaurant. Just after our food was served, he informed me of my termination with very little explanation. I felt ambushed, and having lost my appetite, I stood up and left. To that point in my life, I had never felt such devastation and shame and fear. I rationalized that we had just brought in a new college president, and I had been caught in faculty politics.
On a practical level, I still had mortgage payments and bills and a family to take care of. On an emotional level, I was facing shame and unworthiness and a complete lack of identity. I remember walking home from the restaurant with tears in my eyes saying to myself, “If I’m not a coach and a teacher, who am I?” Further, I had nothing to fall back on as far as faith, or spirituality, never having gone to church or taken a spiritual path. My life was becoming increasingly difficult, and I was in the early stages of undergoing psychotherapy.
To fill my days, I would walk the three miles from my home to downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, go to the library, look for jobs, and read all morning, go to lunch at a nearby restaurant, and then return to the library for the afternoon, and walk home in the evening—all the time wounded and depressed and lonely.
One day I was walking into town, and the words “sea change” came into my mind. Through therapy, I had begun to pay attention to such “free associations,” and as soon as I arrived at the library, I looked it up. It comes from a song by Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a play I had studied in college as an English major.
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea change
Into something rich and strange.
(Shakespeare, The Tempest, 1, ii,399-404)
This was my first break since the termination. I felt buoyed up, I felt there was hope, I felt that, perhaps, even I, a shameful bottom-feeder, could be transformed into something rich and strange, just as eyes turned to pearls and bones turned to coral. I love that “sea change” means “a profound transformation.”
At about the same time, I read an article where the columnist explained the meaning of the Chinese ideograms that make up the meaning of the word, “Crisis.” (An ideogram is a symbol used in some writing systems, e.g., those of Japan and China, that directly but abstractly represents a thing or concept itself rather than the word for it.) It seems that in Chinese two ideograms are used to express it, one means danger and the other opportunity. I saw that the danger in my crisis would be to continue looking at the world as I always had, that it was a given, and I was a victim, and that the only thing I could do was to adjust to it, always trying to find more peace and less conflict, that I would always be facing such dualities, there being no alternative.
Or I could see this as an opportunity to look at things differently. I could begin to trust ideas that came to mind, ideas that were glimpses of Truth beyond the world I saw. I could begin to trust that I was not alone. I could trust that there is an alternative to this way of looking at the world, that, perhaps, this is all a dream, as Prospero says in The Tempest.
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
(The Tempest, IV, I,156-158)
Looking back, I realize that the termination truly turned into an opportunity. I began seriously searching for truth beyond my sensory experiences. I focused on my therapy, I read books, voraciously, like Lao Tzu's The Way, The Bhagavad Gita, and Krishnamurti, and Jung, and books on Zen. I joined “New Age” groups, I meditated, and finally, five years after the crisis, I came across A Course in Miracles, in fact, my wife, Christine, gave me the Course on Christmas Day, 1986, and seventeen years after the termination, I crossed the threshold of Endeavor Academy in the Wisconsin Dells.
In retrospect, I am grateful for that “fateful” lunch and realize that my Dean was, indeed, my savior. I was saved from my investment in the dream, the illusion, the mirage, the mass hypnotism projected from my limited, egoic self, and I began to catch more and more glimpses of the true alternative that I am the holy Son of God, Himself.
This all came back to me yesterday while reading a chapter in a book by Joel Goldsmith (1892-1964) entitled, The Art of Spiritual Healing. He reminds me that I do not really hear the truth until I feel hopeless, until I am on my knees.
Spiritual healing often has far greater success with incurable diseases than with the curable ones because when a doctor says, “I’ve done all I can do,” the patient gives up hope of a cure from material medica and, in his hopelessness, he is receptive and responsive to the spiritual impulse. (Joel Goldsmith, The Art of of Spiritual Healing, Chapter V, "What Did Hinder You!", p. 57)
And “sea change” was, indeed, a spiritual impulse. That was the beginning of my awakening, a process continuing to this day, the initial realization that I am dreaming.
Just for a moment imagine that you are experiencing an unpleasant night dream: You are in the ocean, swimming; you have gone out too far; you look back toward the shore and see that there is very little hope of rescue. Even though you shout your lungs, no one can hear you. And so you are seized with fear. You struggle and strive to reach the shore, and, of course, the harder you fight the harder the ocean fights you. There is only one thing left for you to do—drown. Yes, drown—but wait! In your fight, you shouted and someone heard you, came over and shook you, woke you up, and behold the miracle! The drowning self disappeared; the ocean disappeared; the struggle disappeared. You awakened and found that you had never left your comfortable home. All that was necessary in order to be released from the struggle was to awaken. This is the nature of spiritual healing. Whether you are struggling with some form of sin, false appetite, disease, poverty, unemployment, or unhappiness, stop struggling and wake up. Wake up to your true identity. You are not a swimmer in a deep ocean; you are not a sufferer in sin and disease; you are not a coach, teacher; you are the Christ-consciousness, a child of God, and the very error you are fighting, you are perpetuating by that fighting. (Goldsmith, p. 58)
. . . unemployment.
Whatever the form it takes, I need constant reminders that “This is not so, I am dreaming, Help!”
I have come to learn through A Course in Miracles that reminders of the Truth of what I am, God’s holy Son, are always available, and that these spiritual impulses will come into my awareness when I stand still for a moment and ask for help. I have learned to trust that they will come into my mind just as “sea change” came to mind, gifts, infused with the power of God. These reminders come to me in a variety of forms: Reason, Forgiveness, Trust,
Gratitude, Peace, Receptivity, and God’s Will.
Reason helps me sort out the true from the false in respect to the premises, or foundations, of my thinking process. The clearest way to look at this process is to consider a syllogism, for example:
All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
A syllogism demonstrates that if the first two premises are valid, then the conclusion is valid. Of course, the irony here is that philosophers through the generations have used this syllogism as a good example of establishing validity, when, in fact, it is completely invalid because all men are immortal. It is also ironic that they would use Socrates because he said these words about his immortality at his trial:
If death is a removal from here to some other place, and if what we are told is true, that all the dead are there, what greater blessing could there be than this, gentlemen? . . .How much would one of you give to meet Orpheus and Musaeus, Hesiod and Homer? I am willing to die ten times over if this account is true. . .They are now immortal for the rest of time, if what we are told is true. (The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Pantheon Books, New York, 1961, “The Apology,” p. 25)
Jesus begins the Lessons of His Course by establishing a valid premise in the title to Lesson 1:
Nothing I see means anything.
We learn through His systematic mind-training how to complete the syllogism:
I see a tree.
Therefore, the tree means nothing.
Jesus teaches us from the beginning that what is visible is unreal, meaning nothing, and He leads us to experience that what is invisible is real, meaning everything.
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein, lies the peace of God.
Jesus begins where He does because He knows that for our entire lives we have taken for granted that seeing means something, basing our lives on this syllogism:
Everything I see means something.
I see a tree.
That tree means something.
And, of course, what the tree means depends on my past—memories and judgments and associations, and what it means to you depends on your particular memories and judgments and associations. And we think we can communicate with each other on this level?
Thank God for A Course in Miracles. It is a systematic mind-training that reverses our habitual, conditioned way of seeing falsely, so that we can learn to see truly. That complete reversal is what a “sea change” means, a sudden reversal of the tide.
Fidelity to premises is a law of the mind and everything God created is faithful to His laws. But fidelity to other laws is also possible not because they are true, but because you made them. (The Urtext, p. 128)
Forgiveness is a shift in awareness from the dream, the unreal, the past, to the awareness of the truth, the real, the present, the peace of God.
Unless the past is over in my mind,
the real world must escape my sight. For I
am really looking nowhere; seeing but
what is not there. How can I then perceive
the world forgiveness offers? This the past
was made to hide, for this the world that can
be looked on only now. It has no past.
For what can be forgiven but the past,
and if it is forgiven it is gone.
Can you imagine how beautiful those you forgive will look to you? In no fantasy have you ever seen anything so lovely. Nothing you see here, sleeping or waking, comes near to such loveliness. And nothing will you value like unto this, nor hold so dear. Nothing that you remember that made your heart sing with joy has ever brought you even a little part of the happiness this sight will bring you. For you will see the Son of God. You will behold the beauty the Holy Spirit loves to look upon, and which he thanks the Father for. He was created to see this for you, until you learned to see it for yourself. And all his teaching leads to seeing it and giving thanks with him.
This loveliness is not a fantasy. It is the real world, bright and clean and new, with everything sparkling under the open sun. Nothing is hidden here, for everything has been forgiven and there are no fantasies to hide the truth. The bridge between that world and this is so little and so easy to cross, that you could not believe it is the meeting place of worlds so different. Yet this little bridge is the strongest thing that touches on this world at all. This little step, so small it has escaped your notice, is a stride through time into eternity, beyond all ugliness into beauty that will enchant you, and will never cease to cause you wonderment at its perfection.
I know I am experiencing gratitude when my chest becomes infused with warmth, and I tear up, and my mind is still, my heart filling with love.
Walk, then, in gratitude the way of love.
For hatred is forgotten when we lay
comparisons aside. What more remains
as obstacles to peace? The fear of God
is now undone at last, and we forgive
without comparing. Thus we cannot choose
to overlook some things, and yet retain
some other things still locked away as "sins."
When your forgiveness is complete you will
have total gratitude, for you will see
that everything has earned the right to love
by being loving, even as your Self.
Our gratitude will pave the way to Him,
and shorten our learning time by more
than you could ever dream of. Gratitude
goes hand in hand with love, and where one is
the other must be found. For gratitude
is but an aspect of the Love which is
the Source of all creation. God gives thanks
to you, His Son, for being what you are;
His Own completion and the Source of love,
along with Him. Your gratitude to Him
is one with His to you. For love can walk
no road except the way of gratitude,
and thus we go who walk the way to God.
And now I trust that no matter how I feel while my awareness is on seeing through the body’s eyes, using false premises, experiencing pain and despair, I know that I can shift to another awareness, knowing that “This is not so.” There is only the peace of God, that nothing I see means anything, even though there may be a gap between the recognition and the peace.
For an expression of trust, I am turning to a little book, God Calling. In 1932, a woman came across a book entitled For Sinners by A. J. Russell. Reading the book, she was led to believe that if she were to sit down with a good friend, a “spiritual” woman with “pencil and paper in hand, “ they would receive messages from Jesus. And, indeed, they did. In this little book are messages for each day of the year. Here is the message of October 6, entitled "A Child’s Hand."
Yes, cling. Your trust shall be rewarded. Do you not know what it means to feel a little trusting hand in yours, to know a child's confidence? Does that not draw out our Love and desire to protect, to care? Think what My Heart feels, when in your helplessness you turn to Me, clinging, desiring My Love and Protection. Would you fail that child, faulty and weak as you are? Could I fail you? Just know it is not possible. Know all is well. You must not doubt. You must be sure. There is no eleventh-hour rescue I cannot accomplish. (A. J. Russell (Ed.), God Calling (Barbour, Ohio, 1989, October 6)
And this is Jesus speaking:
If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy. (W-p1.70.9:3,4)
One morning I was sitting on the couch looking out the window, absent-mindedly running through the events of the coming day, and all of a sudden I was overcome by utter peacefulness; I was lifted out. Then, this came into my mind, “This is my only function, this is my only purpose.” I realized that while I walk in the world, but not of it, my only function is to come into this state of mind, the awareness of the peace of God. This is my only purpose, and this is simple. I came into full understanding of Brother Laurence’s phrase, “It’s not what you do, it’s the state of mind in which you do it.”
The peace of God is shining in you now,
and from your heart extends around the world.
It pauses to caress each living thing,
and leaves a blessing with it that remains
forever and forever. What it gives
must be eternal. It removes all thoughts
of the ephemeral and valueless.
It brings renewal to all tired hearts,
and lights all vision as it passes by.
All of its gifts are given everyone,
and everyone unites in giving thanks
to you who give, and you who have received.
While you stand to one side as a witness or a beholder, eventually a state of peace will come. Then you will catch a glimpse of God as Is—not a power over anything, just God is. You begin to understand that no power does anything to anyone, and you become a beholder as reality begins to appear. All problems fade out in proportion as you develop this ability to be quiet, to behold, and to witness divine harmony unfold. (Goldsmith, p. 68)
Please read the following passage aloud and hear Jesus saying to you, The hush of heaven holds my heart today, (Lesson 286), as you would soothe a crying baby, “Hush, shhhhh.” Listen to Jesus’s soothing “s” sounds.
In Him you have no cares and no concerns,
no burdens, no anxiety, no pain,
no fear of future and no past regrets.
In timelessness you rest, while time goes by
without its touch upon you, for your rest
can never change in any way at all.
You rest today. And as you close your eyes,
sink into stillness. Let these periods
of rest and respite reassure your mind
that all its frantic fantasies were but
the dreams of fever that has passed away.
Let it be still and thankfully accept
its healing. No more fearful dreams will come,
now that you rest in God. Take time today
to slip away from dreams and into peace.
When I am experiencing the peace of God, I am receptive to God’s Voice, the Holy Spirit. Often, during the day, I experience an idea coming to me, unbidden. It’s the having of wonderful ideas.
. . . “sea change.”
Let every voice but God's be still in me.
Father, today I would but hear Your Voice.
In deepest silence I would come to You,
to hear Your Voice and to receive Your Word.
I have no prayer but this: I come to You
to ask You for the truth. And truth is but
Your Will, which I would share with You today.
Today we let no ego thoughts direct
our words or actions. When such thoughts occur,
we quietly step back and look at them,
and then we let them go. We do not want
what they would bring with them. And so we do
not choose to keep them. They are silent now.
And in the stillness, hallowed by His Love,
God speaks to us and tells us of our will,
as we have chosen to remember Him.
And so, in conversation with a friend, perhaps one who has come to me for help, I simply listen, step back, and often find myself saying, “This just came to mind,” and I trust that whatever it is, it will be helpful for both of us.
Your healing Voice protects all things today,
and so I leave all things to You. I need
be anxious over nothing. For Your Voice
will tell me what to do and where to go;
to whom to speak and what to say to him,
what thoughts to think,
what words to give the world.
The safety that I bring is given me.
Father, Your Voice protects all things through me.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
When I get out of the way, God’s will and mine are one; not mine but Thine.
Your will be done, you holy child of God.
It does not matter if you think you are
in earth or Heaven. What your Father wills
of you can never change. The truth in you
remains as radiant as a star, as pure
as light, as innocent as love itself.
And you are worthy that your will be done!
God does not know of learning. Yet His Will
extends to what He does not understand,
in that He wills the happiness His Son
inherited of Him be undisturbed;
eternal and forever gaining scope,
eternally expanding in the joy
of full creation, and eternally
open and wholly limitless in Him.
That is His Will. And thus His Will provides
the means to guarantee that it is done.
Wherever I am, the Father within me is; therefore, wherever I am, the Father within me is about His business. (Goldsmith, p. 41)
These reminders, literally, "bring to mind again" the remembrance that I am God's most holy Son in whom He is well pleased.