Help Comes In Many Forms

Our need for help is obvious. Our own efforts are insufficient and likely to spill and roll in chaotic directions, like marbles spilling across the floor. We need texts and teachers – Zen masters, the Psalms, A Course in Miracles, good psychotherapists. Something. Without help, our spiritual exile is unnecessarily prolonged.

Thus, it is critical to be open both to our need for help and the actual form that help takes when it arrives. Because it always does arrive. Truly, we are not bereft.

Last night I read Yaeko Iwasaki’s enlightenment letters. She was twenty-five years old when she attained enlightenment. Less than two weeks later, she was dead. Her letters – which are written to her teacher, Harada-Roshi – are contained in Philip Kapleau’s The Three Pillars of Zen.

I’ve had this book for years – a close friend twenty years ago was a devoted Buddhist and follower of Kapleau, and I sort of dabbled with zafus. My efforts were sincere but more or less half-assed and in time I drifted along – back to Catholicism, back to Christianity, and eventually – long story – short – to A Course in Miracles. Recently, I pulled Kapleau’s book back out because I wanted to read something that was a bit more grounded than the opacity of the course.

I say that carefully, of course. I don’t object to the opacity, so much as need to step away from it at times. And it’s not really fair to call the course opaque – it is actually quite practical and simple. But our minds are capable of complicating anything, and when that happens – when I perceive that happening – it is sometimes helpful to gently step away for a few days or weeks or even longer just to breathe. It’s not a crime against God. God goes nowhere and our attention directed at other traditions or teachers is simply God another way. It’s no big deal.

Zen was fascinating to me – still is, in a sort of academic way – in my early twenties. It seemed practical in a way that Catholicism – my Christianity of choice back then – was not. Sure, I could read Thomas Merton and follow his efforts to unite Zen with Jesus and Christianity. There’s no doubt his work resonated for me in helpful ways. But I liked the instructions I was given at the Zendo. Sit like this, count your breaths and let’s talk again in a few years. There was a formality to it. There were these non-negotiable boundaries. I needed that then.

Reading Yaeko Iwasaki was inspiring. Her letters are very grateful and loving and lucid and they neatly track her experience of awakening. Reading them, I didn’t feel a need to make it Buddhist or Christian, if that makes any sense. It just seemed like what can happen to any of us if we pay attention in a disciplined way. Most fascinating was the way she cycled through her enlightenment. At first blush it has the air of a good acid trip or something – like she woke up in an amusement park where all the rides and treats are free. But then the experience evens out and becomes much more natural and grounded. It becomes almost ordinary.

I like this, in particular:

 . . . now that I have penetrated deeply and have acquired an unshakable aspiration to Buddhahood, it is clear to me that I can continue in my spiritual discipline forever and in this way perfect my personality to its fullest, impelled by the vow, which rises naturally within me, to save all sentient beings.

The truth is that we can become as addicted to crucifixion as well as to enlightenment. I think you can fool around for a long time – lifetimes maybe – in any practice. The conditions that Yaeko Iwasaki – especially with respect to service, the lovingkindness extended to all creation – resonates deeply with my understanding (which of course is always evolving, always growing sharper and more useful) – of A Course in Miracles.


I woke up from a pleasant dream at 2 a.m. and couldn’t sleep last night. I remembered Yaeko’s letters, and my friend with whom I have lost touch, and I felt very happy. I like the night a lot. The stars through the window, faint light on the neighbor’s white barn. It is very quiet and beautiful. I have been focusing on a review of the first five ACIM lessons, and they came through with unusual simplicity last night. I sat in bed and didn’t feel a need to do much of anything else. Every now and then that electric feeling of no-thoughts swept by. It is still so hard for me to trust the Holy Instant, to say yes to God, to awakening. But it is nice when that’s okay, when I can let it be what it is and not need to fix it or improve it.

Help comes in many forms, from many directions. We just never know.


  1. Hi Sean,

    On the topic of, help comes in many forms, I am.on lesson 99 and my emotions are all over the place.

    I had an experience in the last few days that really scared me,.and at the same time, served a purpose.

    I am still disoriented,.shaken, frightened, and grateful from the experience I had a.couple of days ago.

    So, let’s see if I can break this down, it can’t be that hard right? It only lasted an instant,.and it was gone, but left me stunned.

    So in practicing these workbook lessons, out of desperation I have been very vigilant in applying the lessons,.and setting alarms as reminders.

    Well despite my best efforts, in the last week I had become very very busy, activity had spun up everywhere.

    And for a a few days of course, the application of the lessons were neglected.

    In those few days of busy activity, I wrecked the car, no injuries, but costly. Locked the keys in the car, broke the car window trying to unlock it.

    The next day I backed over 2 of my neighbors mailboxes, calling contractors and brick layers to rebuild the boxes. All of this stone cold sober.

    I was joking with the neighbors about my foolish mistake, and one of the neighbors wives became angry, and told me it was not funny, and that if her husband would have still been out by the mailbox, I would have killed him.

    I was beyond angry with her. I was irate, and my feelings were hurt immensely. Guilt, fear, shame, and sadness engulfed me.

    Later in the day as I sat quietly, I was shown one picture in my mind, it had all of the events that took place in those few days., in that one image.

    Thoughts came with it.

    “Everything that took place, every event was simply resistance to the lessons.”

    “All of what happened in those few days were carefully planned, to occur in order, by the ego to distract you from the lessons.”

    “You could have indeed run over the neighbor, and still, it would have been business as usual to the ego”

    “There is no depth, no lengths that the ego will not go to, in order to achieve its objective.”

    “This is all that happens in this dream world, it is all set up, down to every detail, this is why it takes millions of years in time to play out.”

    “The ego is the ultimate time waster”

    “You are very close to your limit in time, very few moments of pleasure left here, while following the wrong teacher.”

    “You are safe, but you are unaware of your safety, and where it lies”

    “Do not allow anymore time to waste, drop the ego as your teacher, it will hurt you more now, let me show you, and teach you who and what you really are.”

    So I do not want to leave my home, lol.

    Sean, have you heard anything like this? Is it possible that all the seemingly random events are that well calculated?

    That no matter what I try to do in this world, I am only in store for more series of events like these?

    And still since, I have missed a few practice periods, not many lol.

    While I cave dwell, I may as well tune in to Jesus and learn, or unlearn.

    Thanks for letting me share.

    1. Hi Tom,

      The issue really isn’t what happens or doesn’t happen – the issue is are we giving it to the Holy Spirit to interpret in favor of peace or to ego to use to make more conflict.

      If we take what happens literally, then we are in the domain of the ego. But also, if we call it a dream or an illusion, and fail to take it seriously, then we are also in the domain of the ego.

      The Holy Spirit is interested in the end of fear, which is the end of conflict. And the mechanism by which the Holy Spirit undoes fear is allowing us to see our own projections and become responsible for them by no longer projecting.

      Thus, there is a perception of conflict with the neighbor’s wife who is angry (and her anger arises from fear). And there is a perception of a solution by becoming more serious about practicing ACIM (which solution arises from fear, i.e., there are consequences to not doing what I SHOULD do, I better do it OR ELSE).

      The common thread is the fear.

      The only answer is love – not A Course in Miracles, not amends at the level of the world, not more meditation or yoga.

      So I think the trick with stories like this one is to take it VERY VERY seriously WITHOUT taking it literally. Nothing ACTUALLY happened but what APPEARED to happen deserves our attention anyway.

      In a sense, we resign as the author of meaning in our lives, and let all of it be interpreted by the Holy Spirit, who refactors all our experience in favor of love, gently undoing the many threads of fear so that they can be braided into a vast Friendship Bracelet of Divine Creative Love.

      Which can’t happen fast enough 🙂

      Thanks, Brother.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.