Scalability and A Course in Miracles

When my software friends talk about scalability, they usually mean the ability of a program or system to handle exponentially more work without significant alteration. The underlying model naturally expands to handle increasing loads.

I was thinking about that concept this morning while trudging through the rain with my dog. A Course in Miracles, I decided, was scalable. Let me share a couple of personal stories to support what I hope is not too inelegant a metaphor.

A few months after I began to study the course in earnest, I made a significant mistake in one of my classes. I’d taught the students A and then graded their papers as if I’d taught them B. My error came to light during a somewhat tense classroom discussion when everyone was wondering why their grades were so low. They were angry; I was mortified.

I was also scared. I pictured them going to the Dean, writing letters to the college paper, and maybe even hiring lawyers. I was new to the college and still working on first impressions. This was not what I needed or wanted!

Here’s what I did. I hastily promised I would figure out how to fix the problem and then ended the class early. I left the school and drove thirty minutes east to one of my favorite mountains and climbed it. When I got to the top I wandered around the summit praying in a breathless sort of way and trying to remember a helpful phrase or lesson from ACIM (like this one).

Eventually, I realized that no matter what happened, it wasn’t the end of the world. Even if I got fired and publicly humiliated, I would figure something out. It wasn’t a spiritual insight so much as resignation. But it settled me. I drove home and made dinner for my family. I fed the dog. I told stories to the kids at bedtime.

When I saw the students again two days later, I offered them a few choices on how to fix the problem. We talked it over and they chose the one that made the most sense. Nobody wrote any letters. Nobody turned me in.

It was all – surprise surprise – okay.

Here’s what worked in that situation: rather than panic and fight (which is my default mode), I created space in which to make contact with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I ended the class and went to a favorite mountain. I prayed. I turned my thoughts towards the healing inherent in A Course in Miracles. I stayed with it until I found something resembling peace. And then I did what was in front of me. Even if I wasn’t feeling it one hundred percent, I acted as if Jesus had my back and everything was just fine.

In retrospect, that was not a very big problem! It happens to all educators from time to time. The solution is apparent and natural and it’s just no big thing. When stuff like that happens today I just breeze through it. I don’t even really recognize it as a problem, per se.

Fast forward to about a year ago. I am an elected public official and in my community I sometimes have to chair standing room only meetings. The press is there. The public is there. State and local officials are there. There are rules of order that have to be followed and it’s my job to know and apply them.

At one meeting, a resident stood up and publicly berated me for what he believed were procedural violations. He was angry and caustic. People were watching. That same feeling – fear and guilt – welled in chest.

When he finished speaking I took one step back from the microphone. I closed my eyes and thanked Jesus that I could remember to say thank you. I asked for wisdom in my response. I drew a deep breath. Then I stepped to the microphone and responded to this individual.

I applied the same steps, right? Create a space in which it is possible to ask your internal teacher for help. Trust that the help will be there. Then step back into your life and do the best you can.

I understand that there is no order of difficulty in miracles (T-1.I.1:1) and that at the metaphysical level our problems do not have orders of complexity. I understand that our only problem is our perceived separation from God regardless of whether it manifests as a headache or a fatal car accident.

My point is simply to demonstrate that as we grow closer to the course – studying it, practicing it, teaching it – it scales for us. It’s there for the stubbed toes and it’s there for the diagnosis of cancer. It’s there when our child runs a fever and it’s there when our house burns down.

Importantly, it scales within us. The so-called little problems in my life are slowly dissolving. The so-called big ones are getting less so all the time. Why? Because the course scales inside me to handle whatever guilt, grief and anguish I project on the outside.

We learn that miracles do not heed degrees of difficulty by bringing them to application. We see it happen. And more than that, by some spiritual osmosis that I will not pretend to understand, we become those miracles.

What am I really saying? In part, I’m saying that if you feel called to study the course, to make ACIM your spiritual path, then go for it. Bring your whole self, as you understand that at this time, to the process. The sooner you do, the lighter you’ll be.

And I’m also saying – for those of you who, like me, are still struggling with woes in the world of illusion – take heart. It gets better.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Claudia August 11, 2013, 11:54 am

    Sean, I do trust that it gets better. But there are days like today when I’m having to step back every moment and ask for help. To remember to keep breathing in the dark moments. I know the help is there. I know I can choose to see this differently, and to see peace. I know I am alright and I am exactly where I am supposed to be, right this minute. But wow. This is tough stuff. I want to get mad. I want to rant and rave and lash out hard. I know that’s just the fear talking. And under that fear is even more fear. I feel like I am skating around on a vast frozen lake of fear. I am afraid to look down because the frozen black ice will be so dark and overwhelming. I know if I just keep skating around up here I won’t accomplish much for a long time, but the thought of cutting into that ice to examine its depths is terrifying too. I know under the fear is Love. I know that. It just doesn’t feel like Love, or safe, or even a good use of my time, since I tend to move at a glacial pace. It’s going to take forever to undo this. Thanks for giving me a place to at least write it down. Someday in the far far away future, I know I will finally stop seeing through a glass darkly. I am looking forward to that day.

  • Michael August 11, 2013, 3:37 pm

    For God’s sake Sean, don’t keep us in suspense – what happened with that creep at the meeting. Did you fix him good?
    And Claudia, you’re having a bad day – lighten up (on yourself). We must make a definite decision to believe Jesus and not our craziness. As Sean says, he has learned to step back or count to 10. With practice it gets easier. Today I’m a little less deranged than you – but tomorrow….

  • Claudia August 11, 2013, 4:13 pm

    Thanks Michael. I know you are right. Your comment made me laugh. I’m alright. I’m always alright. Just some days…..Ugh.

  • Anil August 11, 2013, 4:19 pm

    Some days… Ugh is right !
    ps. Thanks, Michael for your lightness !

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