I wonder sometimes if we are ever really finished with anything. I took Modern American Poetry with Lorrie Smith in the late 80s; I never took it again. And yet its effects are never not swirling through what I call “my life.” As a writer, a reader, a man, a father, a husband, a teacher, a homesteader, a fuck-up, a dogged angel . . .
Just so with A Course in Miracles. I took the course and gave it deep and sustained attention for several years. And then I moved away from it. I have compared the course to a way station on a mountain: you stop, you do what you have to do, and then you keep going.
But I wonder if a better metaphor is not simply courses themselves. After all, the course is not a spiritual path but a time-bound, curriculum-bound class. Why complicate things?
For example, I haven’t taken a math class in over thirty years. Barring some very unforeseen developments, I won’t take one again. And, for the most part, good riddance and God bless.
Yet I use math literally every single day. Grading papers, buying groceries for the family or hay for the horses, balancing my checkbook, playing certain probability-based dice games (APBA baseball, Dungeons & Dragons, backgammon). Indeed, my life would not function well at all if I did not have basic math skills that were readily brought to bear when needed.
I no longer read A Course in Miracles with any regularity. From time to time, I go back to it to double check something or out of curiosity. It is a comfort, in its way. I don’t read any ACIM teachers at all anymore. Perhaps that will change one day. Perhaps not.
I don’t experience this as a virtue or a problem or a mystery.
Still, the course’s effects – like those of Modern American Poetry so many years ago – go on in my life. On and on they go. They are like a bead of food coloring dropped into clear water. Swirling, eddying, clouding, shading. A Course in Miracles centered my thinking and drove my personal curriculum like nothing else ever had.
If we go back to the hiking-up-the-mountain analogy – we are in danger of over-analogizing here, I know – at the mountain’s summit, one no longer needs the map that got them there. But one’s gratitude for the map is perhaps more intense than ever.
I am grateful indeed for ACIM.
I am not trying to tell folks that they shouldn’t study the course, or that they have to return to the course, or anything like that. I am simply saying: give attention to the personal nature of what you are calling your experience – your psychology, your spirituality, your philosophy, your semantics, your aesthetic. What works and what doesn’t? What serves and what doesn’t? What resonates and what doesn’t?
There is no mountain and so there is no summit. Thus, are there are no way stations either. It is perhaps simpler and clearer to say that there are patterns out there that intersect with the patterns we are, and all we can really do is be attentive to the repatterning.
This attentiveness is very personal. Since everything is constantly changing, however subtly, it is not possible to come to conclusions that work in all situations all the time. It is tempting to do that – and in a lot of ways that is our default mode – but it is ultimately unsatisfying because it is dysfunctional and incoherent.
You are a pattern that briefly intersected with the pattern we call A Course in Miracles, which briefly intersected with the pattern of Sean, who wrote this pattern called a blog post, and from which all sorts of new and beautiful – relevant and irrelevant, helpful and not-helpful – patterns are right now unfurling.
And the unfurling never finishes. It never ever finishes.
So we give attention. We let stuff go, we pick stuff up. And the rivers flow, and the stars fall, and the winds come down from the sky. The bread rises, the pigs cry out for mercy in their pens, and the babies make us dream of a better and more peaceful world. It goes on like this. Us, too.