Another Kind of ACIM Teacher

I want to talk about non-public teachers of A Course in Miracles. These are often referred to as holy relationships.

I am being more personal than usual in this post.

Two points: first, if I am talking about a holy relationship here, then I am using “holy” in terms of the desert – stones for bread, sand in your eyes, haunted by demons. Second, in the relationship I will describe, learning is utterly mutual. It isn’t hierarchical at all. This rules out formal teachers and teaching arrangements.

I wish on all ACIM students a relationship like the one I write about here. I did nothing to earn it, and a lot to dis-earn it, and yet it steadied me in immeasurable ways, making possible a deep and creative learning that eventually reached – and then undid – what we call “awakening.” Even to call this relationship a gift is to minimize it.  

My lesson in this relationship was about learning how to share. I mean that literally. It was Kindergarten all over again. I had to literally relearn that relationship only works when it is premised on absolute equality.

It took me years to learn this. I am still learning it.

Implicit in this relationship was the need to see beyond the various labels, identities and roles that obscure the purity of love. Some of these are given by society, some by religion, some by family. Some we invent. Paradoxically, “seeing beyond” meant actually living – accepting, defying, honoring, defiling, loving, resenting, amending, resisting – those identities and roles. It turns out that surface narratives about life (i.e., husband, father, brother, friend) – are undone by giving sustained attention to them.

If you really want to gaze into the Face of God and live then with all your heart you have to live the lie, the illusion, that you are separate from God. That is the only way to penetrate to the origins of the lie and explode it. You have to lean into the specific life – the specific form of the lie – you are living. You have to embrace what is given on the very terms on which it is given and allow it all the space it asks for.

What happens when you do that? Where do you end up? Who is with you?

What began was a long assignment, a learning situation that was neither dramatic nor sexy nor even at times noticeable. It was a complex dialogue that transcended time and distance. It had a life of its own, quite apart from the two who comprised it. I clung to specialness with a tenacity that still makes me sad. Every step of its relinquishment was like having a tooth pulled. If I had a nickel for every time I said “I quit” or “fuck this” – and, sadly, on a couple of occasions, “fuck you” – I could buy everyone reading this a thousand times a thousand cups of coffee.  

Sometimes we drifted apart and wondered if we could find a way back. Sometimes there was nothing but the relationship. Often we skimmed the surface. Sometimes we went so deep that it was hard to breathe for days after.

We asked a lot of hard questions and then waited together while mutually clear and helpful answers were given. 

Is that clear? The focus was always on our mutual willingness (which often had to be earned, remembered, clarified, renegotiated) to keep asking hard questions about literally everything. And then, having asked the hard questions, to enter the difficult space of waiting together while the answers presented themselves in ways we could actually understand and use.  

In all of this, slowly but surely, we moved into a space premised on radical equality (which underlies Humberto Maturana’s definition of love, which is ACIM forgiveness in royal garb). There was no need to justify ourselves to one another. In a lot of ways our relationship defied labels, though perhaps that is a retroactive gloss. Most people viewing it from the outside would have labeled it just fine. Many did.

From an ACIM perspective, we made together a deliberate choice in which we did not perceive our interests as separate (M-1.1:2). Thus, a light of learning entered the darkness engendered by confusion and sacrifice (M-1.1:3). And, because our learning needs literally mirrored each other’s, the “perfect lesson” was forever before us in the form of “unlimited opportunities” (M-3.5:2-3,6). We were capable of learning, so we learned.

There is a lot of clarity around this, and a lot of gratitude. We go nowhere alone; we learn nothing for ourselves only.

In order to figure out what A Course in Miracles can teach you, you have to question everything ( To question everything is to go deeply into your thought system and find its foundation. You have to raise a strong lantern over this foundation and gaze long and hard at what appears there. It is not easy; sometimes it is terrifying. A good teacher is a lantern. They are the light in which every value and ideal we hold can be examined and – at some point, when we are ready – released because we see at last that it has no value. It’s not what we want because it’s not what we are.

A good teacher invites the Holy Spirit into our living so that we can assess what serves the cause of Love and what does not and – having made that basic judgment – keep what is helpful and let go of what is not.

In the end, that is what this teacher allowed me to do. She literally contextualized every lesson Ken Wapnick and Tara Singh taught me. She insisted that everything – everything – be released. Please note that this is an inner release. It is a release of all the dreams and fears and hopes and fantasies and ideals and goals that seem to constitute our being. You let it all go and what remains?

Nobody can answer that question for you. All you can do is find the one who helps you ask it and then waits with you while the answer is given.

This releasing is not necessarily about formal changes in our living in the world – new jobs or partners or diets or study groups. Naturally the form of our apparent living may shift as our thinking shifts, but it’s the thinking that changes. The form is just a reflection. Clear up the distraction and clutter in mind and let what happens on the outside happen.

My promise to you – because it is the promise that was made and kept for me by and through this teacher – is that as you let things go, the Face of Christ and the Peace of God will be revealed to you. As swiftly as you can handle it, love and peace will be revealed in and as the whole of your being. You will know with quiet certainty that God is Love, that God is present, and that God is All in All. And All is well, and All will be well, in all ways, always.

For me, it felt like I had been walking through a thick dark forest for a thousand years. The trail was hard to find; sometimes I got lost. I was often hungry and thirsty. Always I was scared. Sometimes thorns bit my heel and sometimes wolves chased me through to dawn. I’d mostly forgotten where I was heading and half-wanted to go back. It was hopeless.

All my teachers helped me with aspects of this difficult journey. The teacher I speak of today was the one who went with me as as a sister and helped me reach the end. Together we located and relocated the trail and went along it as best we could. We shared little fires, left notes if we had to go on ahead or linger behind, pointed out pretty flowers and bear tracks and just generally reminded each other that this is the way and I am not going to leave you alone on it.

And then one day I stepped out of the forest into a vast open field. Moonlight filled a thousand flowers. The air was sweet and warm; there was a brook in the distance. When I looked at my hands they were mostly light, and they were not separate from the light of countless other hands. When I called my teacher’s name, she answered in a language I had forgotten that I knew. When I answered, it was not my voice speaking but another’s.

There is a quiet song in this place, and when you hear it, you never forget it. And so, in a very real way, you will never be lost or alone again. You will never struggle again. You are home; you never left your home.

Tara Singh and Ken Wapnick worked diligently and selflessly to help me and countless others get here. How grateful I am! But lauds and praise to the one who literally walked beside me – who undertook the messy and complex task of teaching Sean when to be quiet, how to be humble, and when to speak and what to say so that he might remember his place among the lost and forsaken, the weary and defeated and, in doing so, remember the God of Love in Whom there is neither loss nor weariness nor defeat nor separation at all.

I did nothing to deserve such a gift, yet the gift was given. Do you see? What can I say or do in return, other than make this simple promise: where you go, I will go, and whom you call sister or brother, I will call sister or brother, and for this shared fire at which we are together home and forever welcoming others to remember they are home as well, I will never stop thanking God. 


  1. While I understand to a degree what you are saying here Sean I am left confused. It was a bit like when somebody only tells you part of the story and it is frustrating to try to read between the lines as what the story is really referring to. Although you say it in a non-public teacher are you referring to a spiritual friend, a person that has been giving you some sort of sole searching lesson, is it a partner, or is it simply a colleague? I must be missing something here I think. Although I have been reading your blogs for a while I think this must refer to something I have missed along the way…….. Very moving though ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you, Suzy. I appreciate that ๐Ÿ™

      It is not an easy relationship to talk about . . .

      One of the things I most resisted about A Course in Miracles was the way in which it made clear over and over that we awaken from the dream of separation when we make a deliberate choice in which we do not see our interests as apart from someone else’s (M-1.1:3).

      This is a form of joining that is practical, embodied, and ordinary. It is ACIM applied, not intellectualized.

      For some of us – I am one – this joining is hard. For others, it’s easy and squaring away the metaphysics is the challenge.

      I wanted the course to be a matter of intellectual comprehension, which came easily enough for me. I did NOT want it to be about equality with my brothers and sisters.

      The relationship I am trying to write about is the one in which it became utterly – sometimes terrifyingly – clear that the course was about equality. It was a learning/teaching relationship in which the lesson was our unconditional equality, which I am sad to say I accepted only grudgingly. But I DID accept it.

      The label for the relationship? Honestly, “Sister” is the best word, with all its psychological and religious overtones. But friend, spiritual advisor, teacher, student, fellow student, therapist, study buddy, pain in the ass would all work as well ๐Ÿ˜€ . . . It was a relationship given to a very radical healing and for me makes sense mostly in the context of ACIM, special/holy relationships, and salvation.

      In time, (as per part three of the ACIM preface), these kinds of relationships generalize so that we can “acknowledge Christ in all our brothers and sisters” and in doing so recognize “His Presence in ourselves,” which is also to “remember God.” At that point, we merely wait on God to “take the final step.”

      That’s what this relationship was, and that’s what it did.

      From a writerly perspective, I was trying to write in a way that would make the relationship more inclusive than just “Sean and his Teacher-not-a-Teacher.” That is because in the end, the relationship was not itself the point. The point was the understanding of undifferentiated love the relationship made possible, which MUST include everyone.

      For me, every single lesson and learning challenge that arose in studying and practicing ACIM passed through this relationship in one way or the other. Sometimes it passed through in the form of me being a teacher and making this or that concept clearer. Sometimes I was the student – prideful, arrogant, stubborn and, once in a great while, graceful ๐Ÿ™‚

      At some point, we reached a juncture where it was clear that what obstructs Love is the perception of differences, and we began to seek the peace that comes from being willing to no longer see differences. This is the same as saying that we became ready and willing to see ONLY equality, ONLY sameness. At that juncture, the relationship became holy in ways that just don’t translate well into words.

      But I still think it’s important to try and talk about them.

      We become the Christ because the other knows us that way. They see in us what we cannot see in ourself. In time, their knowing becomes the way in which we finally do see it for ourselves. But seeing Christ in ourselves means seeing it in everyone, in a practical embodied way. It feels like a law: Christ is All, not personal. The Creator is Love, and we remain as God created us, so . . . That is how separation is finally revealed as an illusion: we no longer see the differences in form; we see only the content that is God extending Himself as Love continually.

      I think I was trying to say all this, and say how it was a LOT of work, and that the work was mutual, and that my sense – anecdotally – is that this kind of relationship is the way for many serious ACIM students and so, again, it feels important to try and talk about them, even the parts that don’t easily resolve in language.

      Anyway, this is a long-winded response and probably only clouds things further ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you again for reading and reflecting and sharing. It was a vulnerable post for me, and I am grateful for your thoughtfulness โค๏ธ โ˜ฎ๏ธ โœจ

      Hope you are well Suzy!!


      1. Thank you Sean, that was beautifully written and explained. I know exactly what you are explaining, and think that anyone that reads this will totally resonate with this also.

        Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us and I understand how you felt this relationship. To be honest writing anything for others to read leaves us with a feeling of vulnerability and it is a gift to us all that you do so.

        I read all your posts and love them, I missed them for quite a while and a friend notified me that you were up and running again and so I am back board with you and them again and so thank you for sharing.

        So, many thanks for your sharing, your vulnerability, your love of the course and most of all your love for us all and your desire for us all to return Home with you.

        Much Love Suzy xxx

  2. Hello~
    I am new to your blog being led here by the key word search, โ€œatonement.โ€ This post resonates with me deeply as I, too, wrestle with living into acim principles and am much more accustomed to intellectually all of it. But what struck me as beautiful about your writing was your forest metaphor. One sentence found its way into me an illuminated a tiny flame of hope. โ€œFor me, it felt like I had been walking through a thick dark forest for a thousand years.โ€ Thank you for giving me this gift.

    1. You’re welcome, Kimberley. Thank you for reading and sharing. Yeah, that forest ๐Ÿ™‚ How grateful I am for those who share the way through it.

      ~ Sean


  3. I met my friend many years ago.

    I too have seen the forest. I decided to enter, as I had been directed by other travelers. As I began to enter, I noticed that the path was molded and disfigured much like the marble steps of Ancient Greek buildings. It was a well-worn path leading to darkness. I followed anyway. I knew I had been there countless times and made the decision once again to enter, but I could see no other path.

    I recently was standing on a clear and beautiful crossroads, struggling to manage the heavy ropes that were encircling my shoulders. You know the ropes that anchor tugboats to the shore? ( I am just now realizing the significance of this metaphor!) that was the size of the ropes that I was carrying. I had come so far on the path. I had so diligently followed the rules of rope carrying, however I was struggling with one rope. It was touching the path and the rule was, I could not continue on the path if any of the ropes touched the path. I somehow asked for help or thought I needed help. It wasnโ€™t communication as we know it. Instantly I realized that the ropes were gone and I knew my friend was there.

    These lessons are one of many dreams. I โ€œknowโ€ the source yet I feel frustrated to know so much but, yet, fear so much. I feel like I am squandering. Such gifts I have received yet fear is here again. I want to go out in solitude, on the beach, and scream. Just scream.

    How are you here, yet home? Iโ€™m lost again.

    1. Gassho Elizabeth. I love this comment so much . . . Thank you . . .

      Is your friend still with you? Like in a way you could call or email? Or reach somehow?

      We do not wake up alone. We do not share our gifts alone. We do not lose the ropes, make clear the way, share the scream alone. We do not even make and translate metaphors alone! So in the world we share – the one in which we know Love and then forget, remember then know and then forget, over and over and over (which repetition, by the way, IS the embodied self and the world) – where is the sister or brother who does not leave us? The Bodhisattva who says, I will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven without you, who takes a Holy Vow to go with us all the way, and so long as we cannot move, will not leave us lost or alone?

      This is a real relationship! Could be a friend, fellow student, ACIM teacher, therapist, artist, whatever. Could be someone dead or alive, near or far away. Whatever the form though they are here for the separated self we can’t quite remember that we aren’t.

      If we cannot find this person or they seem to be missing, then I think we just take care of ourselves as gently, patiently and kindly as possible and trust that our friend – wherever they are, is helped by our self-care – and this helpfulness will align our paths in the most helpful way possible, which may or may not be what we expect but WILL help ALL our brothers and sisters . . .

      All of which you know! But then there is that moment when you forget, and even worse than that is that moment right before you forget – when you can feel the forgetfulness coming on . . .

      I know this space!

      When I forget, others remember for me. Some of them I know, some I don’t. My friend never forgets; for them, I don’t forget. It’s a promise we made. I know a handful of readers who, when they read your comment, will hold a good thought for you. They will remember what you forget (and perhaps when they forget, you will remember for them) and in this way – all of forgetting and remembering together, joined as one in undoing of what never was – we will finally once and for all remember-without-forgetting the joyfulness of unity with our Beloved.


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