Several weeks ago, three Texas fishermen were rescued from atop their capsized boat in the Gulf of Mexico, after having been stranded for eight days. The men, Tressel Hawkins, 43, James Phillips, 30, and Curtis Hall, 28, were found sitting on their twenty-three foot catamaran, 180 miles from land, having endured hunger, blistering heat, scares from sharks, and hallucinations.
The men rationed their salvaged bubble gum, crackers, beer and chips and used a hose to suck fresh water out of the internal “washdown” tank. Fishermen often keep such a tank to wash fish slime off their boat when they are out in the salt water. “We’d eat crackers one day, and then a handful of chips,” Phillips said. “Everything tasted like gasoline and saltwater.” (Texas Boaters Fought Heat and Hunger, USA Today, 8/31/2009, Section 1, p. 1)
What first caught my attention in this account is that they started hallucinating about the fourth or fifth day.
“We started hallucinating about people dropping off food and water,” Phillips said. “And we were talking to them, but they weren’t there.” (Texas Boaters, p. 1)
What is fascinating to me is how Hawkins, in particular, dealt with his hallucinations.
Hawkins said he initially wondered whether his rescuers were another figment of his imagination. “My first reaction was, ‘Is this really real?’ You must have to kind of sit back and say is this real or hallucination. You have to wake yourself up three or four times to make sure it is real.” (Texas Boaters, p. 1)
Now, what you and I know, and Hawkins may not, is that he is continuing to hallucinate now while safe at home, and we do, too, when we are not experiencing the peace of God and seeing with the eyes of Christ. We hallucinate each moment we take for real the dream that we are making up by believing that what we see with our eyes has reality, believing in our miscreations. We hallucinate when we listen to the voice of the ego, rather than the Voice for God. This is one way Jesus expresses it in A Course in Miracles.
The distractions of the ego may seem to interfere with your learning, but the ego has no power to distract you unless you give it the power to do so. The ego’s voice is an hallucination. T-8.l.2:1-2
The root meaning of the word distract is helpful here. It comes from the Latin, distractus, meaning “to draw away from.” We can choose not to give into the temptation of being drawn away from experiencing the peace of God. We can stand still for a moment and question the reality of our dream. Hawkins teaches us to kind of sit back and say is this real or hallucination. He did not, automatically, give it power.
You cannot expect it to say “I am not real.” Yet you are not asked to dispel your hallucinations alone. You are merely asked to evaluate them in terms of their results to you. If you do not want them on the basis of loss of peace, they will be removed from your mind for you. T-8.l.2:3-6
The word hallucinate comes from the Latin hallucinatus, meaning “to wander in the mind, in the sense of to have an illusion.” When we wander from the state of mind of the peace of God, we end up distracted by images in time and space, walking through an illusory world of our own making, believing it to be real.
Jesus tells us very early in His Text:
You are much too tolerant of mind wandering, and are passively condoning your mind’s miscreations. T-2.VI.4: 6
What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves, are wholly unreal? Could you have faith in what you see, if you accepted this? And would you see it? T-20.Vlll.7.3:3-7
Hallucinations disappear when they are recognized for what they are.
That is why I love so much the lesson that Hawkins teaches.
“My first reaction was, ‘Is this really real?’ You must have to kind of sit back and say is this real or hallucination.
My God! That’s all I have to do. I just have to step back for a moment and ask if this is real?
This is Lesson 155, I will step back and let Him lead the way.
The world is an illusion. Those who choose
to come to it are seeking for a place
where they can be illusions, and avoid
their own reality. Yet when they find
their own reality is even here,
then they step back and let it lead the way.
What other choice is really theirs to make?
To let illusions walk ahead of truth
is madness. But to let illusion sink
behind the truth and let the truth stand forth
as what it is, is merely sanity.
This is Lesson 182, I will be still an instant and go home.
When you are still an instant, when the world
recedes from you, when valueless ideas
cease to have value in your restless mind,
then will you hear His Voice. So poignantly
He calls to you that you will not resist
Him longer. In that instant He will take
you to His home, and you will stay with Him
in perfect stillness, silent and at peace,
beyond all words, untouched by fear and doubt,
sublimely certain that you are at home.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been actively practicing stepping back and being still. It came to me one night just before going to bed, while I was sitting quietly, simply being aware of breathing in and breathing out, that I could practice doing this during the day from moment to moment, when I remembered, particularly, when I found myself hallucinating.
This also coincides with the fact that I have been memorizing this passage from Lesson 189, I feel the love of God within me now.
Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside
all thoughts of what you are and what God is;
all concepts you have learned about the world;
all images you hold about yourself.
Empty your mind of everything it thinks
is either true or false, or good or bad,
of every thought it judges worthy, and
all the ideas of which it is ashamed.
Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you
one thought the past has taught, nor one belief
you ever learned before from anything.
Forget this world, forget this course, and come
with wholly empty hands unto your God.
I realized that I was beginning to live into the meaning of this passage by simply taking these steps.
1. Be aware of breathing in and out.
2. Ask for help to let go of thoughts.
3. Be present and receptive.
So, I am walking down the street, and I come face to face with a brother against whom I have a grievance; recognizing my hallucination, I breathe in and out and ask for help to let it go, and I become present and receptive, smile, nod my head in greeting, and walk on by.
I am becoming increasingly intolerant of mind wandering.
And now it comes to me to express it this way:
A single thought melts away in stillness,
dismantling an entire hallucination,
making way for the state of mind of the peace of God.