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 for a long time, as if we would never be in touch again. Sometimes we talked frequently. Sometimes the talk was just chatty. Sometimes it was so deep – about God and ACIM and Relationship – 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 (T-24.in.2:1). 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.