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Leaving the ACIM Way Station

The other day I said to a friend that A Course in Miracles was sort of like the last way station before I set out for the summit. I hunkered down with it, I learned a lot, made contact with my inner teacher, made contact with some external teachers like Tara Singh and Ken Wapnick and . . . moved on. Went up the trail.

Historic postcard of Mount Ascutney in Vermont. Still and forever my favorite mountain, both to climb and to admire at a distance.

My point was that nobody lingers at the way station. You do what you need to do there and then you move on. Sure you can linger. Yes the company can be great. And yes, there’s no penalty for staying. You can spend your whole life at the way station – the world won’t end.

But it’s important to be honest. If we’re on the mountain because we want to reach the peak, then what is the point of making the way station our home, spiritual or otherwise?

Why not go where you want to go?

A Course in Miracles is a course – you take it, you take it again if that’s helpful or necessary, you study it carefully to be sure you’ve got it, you help other students and let yourself be helped, you listen carefully to your teachers . . .

And then you move on.

I was confused about this for a long time. I wanted the course to be my home, and I wanted course students to be my tribe, forever and always with a neat little bow.

But A Course in Miracles is not a spiritual path. It’s not a religion. It’s not even a community really, because it is so intensely personal. It’s just a self-study course that you can take or not take. So take it or don’t. But if you’re still dogging it twenty years later then it’s possible you’re indulging some confusion or denial.

If somebody wants a church or a meditation practice or something like that, there are plenty of options. There’s nothing wrong – and a lot helpful – with availing ourselves of them.

But that’s not what A Course in Miracles is about. You take the course and then you get on with your life. You make contact with your teacher, and that’s that. It’s like taking an accounting class. You learn the rules of accounting and the supporting math and then you go become an accountant.

If you are still taking accounting classes ten years later, and if you are struggling with the material, or if you’re taking them because you like the other students or whatever, then maybe accounting isn’t for you.

A Course in Miracles is no different. If it’s not helpful, then great. That’s good to know! But if you feel some calling or attachment to it, and if you read a line like “you make contact with your teacher, and that’s that” and you don’t know what it means then maybe you should ask some questions.

1. Why don’t you know?
2. Have you really and truly given the course all your attention and effort?
3. If not, why not?
4. If not, is it coherent to re-take the course?
5. If not, is there some more helpful course or tradition or practice of which you might avail yourself?

Always keep in mind that A Course in Miracles is simply one form of a given curriculum (e.g. C-in.2:5-6 and T-in.1:4) . There are others. Don’t sweat it if you’re being called to find out what those others are. Think of it this way: somebody in some other form of the curriculum needs you. Don’t waste time; find them. Help them. Be helped by them.

So that was what I meant: you take the course, you move on. But the friend with whom I was speaking asked a good question. He didn’t ask about the way station thing. He asked about the summit.

“So did you reach the summit?”

I laughed. It was a good question.

The summit (and the mountain and the way station and A Course in Miracles and the self and . . . ) are just analogies. They’re just a way of thinking, to those for whom thought is the mode. They are real analogies – real symbols – and they have some utility, but . . .

Nobody is really climbing a mountain at the top of which is God. Nobody is ascending a ladder to Heaven.

There is no God. There is no Heaven.

There is only this.

A Course in Miracles didn’t teach me that. It didn’t wake me up or enlighten me, as folks tend to use those terms. Really, it just helped me ask some very good and important questions (questions that were very personal to me and to where I was at with the whole God and Jesus thing) and then gently – with rare exceptions – pried me open so that I could receive the answers.

Those answers begat questions the course couldn’t answer – questions the course wasn’t designed to answer – and so I had to ask them elsewhere. Really, that is what it means to make contact with your teacher. You go where the questions say to go. In my experience, that is what the course does – it makes the next step or two clear.

There is no end to questions, and that is a nice thing to learn. When you learn it, you can relax about being right. You can relax about missing anything. You can relax about finding the One True Right Answer. Questions arise, answers arise, and then more questions arise. It’s okay. It’s more than okay.

No matter how intense you are, or how carefully you study, or who you allow to help you . . . questions arise. Answers arise.

In other words, there is no one answer that undoes anything. The undoing happens of its accord. In retrospect it sometimes appears as if there were some external cause – the temple bell going off just so, Jesus alighting on a nearby pine tree and setting it afire. But mostly it’s just the slow cessation of resistance, the emerging willingness to let be. You make a pot of coffee. You go for a walk. You write a poem or ride the horses or steam some broccoli . . .

There is nothing wrong with getting all intellectual and wordy about God and awakening and A Course in Miracles. I do sometimes, because it’s natural and fun and interesting. Better women and men than me have done the same, sometimes to a very helpful degree but still. It’s not right in any absolute sense.

A lot of people end up in a space of inner peace and stillness based on nothing other than common sense and simple attention.

Some folks get there because of religion. Or a good psychotherapist. Or the right combination of hallucinogenics.

Some people just get lucky.

That’s more or less what I said to my friend in response to his “did you reach the summit” question. And he replied – because he knows me and because he loves me and because it was the best thing to say in that moment – that I was full of shit.

And we both laughed then and kept walking. Our dialogue moved on to other subjects.

In a sense, it is true that I am full of shit, but in another sense, I am full of light. Whether it’s shit or light you see really depends on what you need. On my end, it’s all the same. Or rather, it’s shit or light depending on what I need – the I think I am at a given moment, engaged and interfacing the way I seem to be engaged and interfacing with the world . . .

Often when I write these posts I feel some sorrow that whoever reads them is not here to walk with me. It is often easier to talk through this material, which often just means seeing that there isn’t a lot to say. But walking and talking (especially on mountains) is fun. And really, when we are finished with the whole awakening and God and ACIM stuff, then we can move on to the real work: feeding hungry people, ending violence, learning and teaching sustainable ecological practices . . .

I’m here. I’m glad you’re here, too.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Richard February 21, 2018, 5:08 pm

    thanks for this Sean…marvellous..

    • Sean February 22, 2018, 11:25 am

      Thank you for reading . . . hope all is well

  • Mike March 8, 2018, 4:55 pm

    I watched a video* of “dancing” to the Truth (with words narrating it!), and it helps me appreciate the dancing of any form. I sure would like to take those walks with you, but I guess while I’m feeling that I’m not “in” how much I enjoy your posts, THIS form of dancing. [It’s great to be reading them again]
    You’ve helped me a lot with my post grad work of ACIM. There’s some really interesting work to be done by reclaiming teachings from there “ultimateness” (a new referring back to them if I do, and “talking” them with those communities since I’m able to “give back” from the “mountain top”) . The unconcious attraction to ultimateness is kind of what they’re for “fixing”, but doesn’t matter or especially because of, that’s what makes them possibly stickier. Like you say, they’re trying to show how to “move on” but that’s heard as “move like this” (and always refer to this holy cow for instructions). To see a new-ish movement go the same way as Christianity, AA, etc – I realized it was Me that chose to wake up – and so be able to see that they, AND a me using their “failures”, coud be used this way.
    I’ve reposted your “how to get to Boston, but we’re in NY” post, and so “others” have bennefitted from it extending outwards. I’m online with Fred Davis (AwakeningClarityNow.com) and he put in his resources link. I made a little website and put it there ( http://www.buddhacall.me/train-to-where ) , and use that link, like for a Facebook ACIM group. It’s one of the best teachings out there!
    I love you
    * https://www.facebook.com/BQhub/videos/1252046831579907/?fref=mentions

  • Elizabeth Clapp June 11, 2018, 9:59 pm

    Elizabeth, thanks to all for your thoughtful comments. I think I was on the verge of making an idol of ACIM. I am deeply grateful for it and feel like it came at a time when it would be helpful to
    me. I am pursuing it still. The thoughtful comments made have me to back off from an “all or none” mentality. Since God is infinite and so are we, I believe we will always be learning even when we Self Realize and know our eternal unity with God. Thanks again and blessings for all.

  • Margaret December 1, 2018, 2:46 am

    Hello, Sean. I really enjoy using the hyperlinks in your posts and hopscotching my way around your thinking and feeling about ACIM and related matters. Somewhere, in another post, you mentioned “epistemic humility,” and that phrase really resonates with me. It’s a clearer, more succinct way of stating something that I’ve been reaching for in my own notes. So thanks for helping me with that.

    I’m relatively new to ACIM, but I imagine I could stay occupied at this particular way station for a long time—clarifying and deepening my understanding; following the “felt sense” of that (as well as whatever murkiness gets stirred); practicing alignment with Love; letting the Holy Spirit propel me into the world as is appropriate, day by day; and finding my ability to love “in the trenches” challenged in new ways. As you say, the practice is personal, and we can bring other skill sets and paradigms into the mix, too. And if the “journey [is really] without distance,” then the summit is already within us, wherever we happen to be.

    Well, it’s late, and the main thing I’m trying to say is that I really appreciate your thinking out loud with us—so eloquently and provocatively. Thanks.

    • Sean December 1, 2018, 10:33 am

      Thank you Margaret. It’s funny you commented here; I was thinking about this post last night, specifically thinking that I need to be less categorical about suggesting I’m over or past or otherwise finished with A Course in Miracles. It nearly always comes back to bite me. 🙂

      For me, either because I’m slow or perhaps because it truly is where I experience and thus extend God’s love most clearly, learning appears to be a perpetual activity. I keep waiting for the end and it keeps going, like a dog bringing the ball back one more time. That it’s always the same ball, same throw, same everything seems not to matter. Indeed, it seems almost to be the point.

      “Epistemic humility” has been a theme of the past year or so’s learning, though being clear enough to say so is newer. The concept that we do not know what we do not know is incredibly humbling; my resistance to it has been quite strong over the years. Yet paradoxically there is a lot of peace and even joy in simply accepting it. It allows me to truly assume the posture of the student (the disciple, the apostle) which in turn facilitates a much more loving openness, willingness et cetera.

      So, you know, thinking out loud matters! Mine but also yours (eg “the summit is already within us”), or all of us together for all of us altogether.

      Thank you again. I hope you have a lovely day!

      Sean

  • Margaret December 1, 2018, 11:10 am

    “That it’s always the same ball, same throw, same everything seems not to matter. Indeed, it seems almost to be the point.”

    “The concept that we do not know what we do not know is incredibly humbling . . . . Yet paradoxically there is a lot of peace and even joy in simply accepting it.”

    Amen to all of that, my brother. All good wishes.

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