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Reading A Course in Miracles: Healing as a Release from Fear

Healing as a release from fear introduces a key component of A Course in Miracles: Atonement, rightly understood, is a remedy (T-2.IV.1:5). It is a principle which guides the application of miracles. Miracles, in turn, are a means of delivering a remedy to that which is sick (T-2.IV.1:2). Thus, a sick mind – which is a fearful mind – is healed by miracles according to the principle of Atonement, which is love.

Healing is not itself a miracle; rather, it’s a description of Atonement through miracles: we are released from fear, and experience the effect as healing.

In this sense, A Course in Miracles conceives of its students as both in need of healing at the level of mind and, also at the level of mind, as healers in their own right – of their own selves and others.

Essential to the healing process contemplated by the course is understanding that it aims solely at releasing from the fear that is our own miscreation. Indeed, it is only at the level of mind that healing has actual meaning (T-2.IV.2:4). Whatever apparent effects it may have in our life in the world is beside the point.

This can be both confusing and frustrating and therefore fear-inducing.

Our lives – even our own self – are comprised of distinctions, or differences. We fragment experience, both in terms of objects and events, and then we give differing values to the various fragments.

Thus, my biological son is more important than my nephew and both are more important than some kid half a world away, who I’ve never met. Winning the lottery is better than losing a job. And a diagnosis of no cancer is better than a diagnosis of cancer.

We tend to experience those issues as being of different orders and magnitudes. If my daughter catches the flu, that’s different than a difficult meeting with my supervisor at work, which is different from not having a quarter for the parking meter, which is different from being told I have lung cancer, and so forth.

It is all but impossible to perceive both body and the world brought forth according to that body without these splits and divisions and valuations. In fact, trying to do is is generally only exacerbates the fragmentation and resultant fear and confusion (e.g., T-2.IV.3:8-10).

Since we take the separation as fact, our inclination is to approach experience on its own terms. That is, if I am diagnosed with cancer, then I get chemotherapy. If I am overly anxious, then I see a therapist and perhaps take a pill. If I lose my job and can’t pay my mortgage, then I get a new job. This approach to problem-solving seems reasonable. It seems natural.

But A Course in Miracles is clear: whatever “problems” we have are merely symptoms of the only problem we really have, which is our perceived separation from God, which is fear-inducing (W-pI.79.1:4). The problem is not that life is hard or that sometimes circumstances run contrary to our preferences. The problem is that we are fearful, and our fear makes the presence of love almost impossible to notice, let alone avail ourselves of. Our belief in the separation as a fact makes us feel guilty for having left God and fearful of divine retribution. We miscreate and then double down on the error by believing in what we’ve miscreated.

It is essential not to underestimate the degree to which this guilt and fear obscure love and lead to our painful lives in a world of apparent scarcity, from which death is the only release. Healing it can take thousands of years (W-pI.97.3:2).

Atonement heals fear by enabling us to see it for the self-made sham that it is. This clear seeing – what we might call “visioning” – in turn naturally allows us to remember that there is nothing about which we need to feel guilt. We did not – because one can not – part ways with God. There is nothing to fear because nothing happened.

It’s easy enough to write that. But making it the foundation of our actual experience in the world we share with others can be quite challenging.

Healing as Release from Fear emphasizes that we have to heal our errors at the level on which they seem to occur (T-2.IV.2:3). It’s helpful to know that all fear comes from our misguided understanding of our relationship with God, an idea that reflects miscreation (T-2.VII.3:5-6, 14). But we still have to figure out how to handle public speaking. Or asking somebody out on a date. Or trying a new recipe. Or going to the dentist. Or dying.

That is, we still have to live our lives in these bodies, on terms the bodies and the world set forth. But this is not a crisis! The body is an effective learning device for the mind (T-2.IV.3:1), especially when the mind is given to the retraining contemplated by A Course in Miracles. We don’t have to fight it or fix it; we simply have to give attention to the lessons as they arise.

How does this retraining – this giving of attention – work?

If we see our experience in the world as an extension of fear-based thinking, then we can respond to that experience with love. Indeed, that is the best use to which we can put the world as it is brought forth by our minds. It is a means by which we heal the separation (T-2.III.5:12). Whatever we face in the world – regardless of its apparent significance or magnitude, regardless of the level of our emotional response to it – it is there in order that it might help heal us from fear and thus facilitate our reunion with our brothers and sisters in God.

This often creates tension for many students, especially with respect to bodily issues (such as food or sex or illness). The course asserts that worldly (or physical) remedies are magic (T-2.IV.2:8). This includes aspirin, Penicillin, talk therapy and art therapy and physical therapy, tarot and yes, even A Course in Miracles. All are magic. All are “non-creative agents” that cannot heal, because they do not exist at the level of mind (T-2.IV.4:3).

And again: at the level of mind, which is the only creative level, the only problem is always fear, which we made (T-2.VII.3:1), and the only cure is love, which God created, and which we can learn to create again (e.g., T-11.in.3:1-2, T-11.I.3:4-5, 8).

Yet it is better to accept these varied “magical” remedies than to take none at all. Why? Because implicit in the concept of healing as a release from fear, is the recognition that what we are learning is not easy. In fact, it appears – and so tends to be experienced – as quite difficult. Thus, we are allowed – encouraged even – to accept healing in whatever form it appears. If chemotherapy appears viable and loving, then get chemotherapy. If changing your job appears viable and loving, then change your job.

Sometimes . . . illness has a sufficiently strong hold over the mind to render a person temporarily inaccessible to the Atonement. In this case it may be wise to utilize a compromise approach to mind and body, in which something from the outside is temporarily given healing belief (T-2.IV.4:5-6).

Small steps are not signs of a “bad” ACIM student. There are no “bad” ACIM students. We are simply accepting as much love and miracle-mindedness as we can at this or that stage of our learning. So long as we remain open to ongoing shifts in thinking, it’s okay. It’s more than okay.

The value of the Atonement does not lie in the manner in which is it expressed. In fact, if it is used truly, it will inevitably be used in whatever way is most helpful to the receiver. This means that a miracle, to attain its full efficacy, must be expressed in a language that the recipient can understand without fear (T-2.IV.5:1-3).

Healing releases us from fear; it does not increase our fear (T-2.IV.5:6).

So do we really need to walk our dog in the forest and listen to birds in order to feel close to God? Do we have to sit quietly in the morning with our coffee, praying to God, and listening for a reply? Do we really have to do the lessons of A Course in Miracles? Drink kale smoothies? Do cardiovascular exercise? Avoid trans fats?

Of course not.

And also? Of course we do.

The rituals and events and activities that appears to us as loving, kind, nurturing, supportive, enriching – in a word, helpful – matter. In the dream of separation, they are symbols of love. When we give ourselves to them, both accepting and extending them, we both heal and are healed.

It is okay – it is more than okay – to undo fear at the level at which fear appears.

If it is appropriate in time to be led beyond those symbols – to new symbols, say, or beyond symbols altogether – then that will be made clear (e.g., T-2.IV.5:4-5). Our job is to be willing to be released from fear. It is not our job to decide where, when or how much fear will be released. It is not our job to decide what the observable worldly effects will be, or whether there will be such effects at all.

We show up; we avail ourselves of the course; and healing happens.

Thus, in a sense, Healing as a Release from Fear is an invitation to look into our personal symbols of love and healing. It doesn’t matter if healing means watching cardinals at the feeder, or hand-knitting gnomes, or making blueberry pancakes for your kids, or going for long walks in the rain, or following a strict vegan diet, or being celibate, or playing dungeons and dragons, or writing poetry, or . . .

If it is healing – if it is experienced as helpful – then it is healing. Trust that. The form in which healing appears is never the point; the content (which is always either fear or love (both of which mandate the same response: love)), infusing the form is the point.

In this respect, it can feel as if miracle workers are asked not to leave the world but to become even more a part of it. To deepen their attachment to and investment in it.

Well, maybe. Or in a way.

But more accurately, miracle workers ask of everything they experience and encounter: what is it for? (T-2.II.3:2) Is our engagement with the world based on a sincere desire to be healed of fear? And to help others be healed of fear has well?

That is, are we responding with love to everything, regardless of whether it appears as loving or fearful (in whatever form those abstractions assume for us)?

That is the question and our work is to learn how to say yes, over and over, for ourselves and one another, until we are all home in God.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Joel January 12, 2012, 8:40 pm

    This is a very powerful and helpful post, Sean! Thank you so much!

  • ron November 7, 2012, 11:40 am

    very good post.. its really tough when someone is in actual constant pain any advice?

    • Sean Reagan November 7, 2012, 12:20 pm

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for writing. It’s a great question.

      We are all in constant pain. It is the nature of the world – it is why the world exists. We don’t want to see and remember our oneness with each other – and by extension, with God – and so we throw up this hideous painful world to blot out the light. And then we stumble through it, dreamers in a terrible dream, eking out the occasional crumb of happiness before death waltzes in and slams the door shut in our guilty face.

      We all experience that nightmare differently. Some of us are wracked with horrifying emotional pain, intense depression, agonizing physical pain, deep loneliness, whatever. Jim Morrison once sang that nobody gets out alive and he might have said too that nobody gets through without suffering. The form of the suffering changes of course, but the content – the guilt and fear begetting our unceasing denial of God – never does.

      The solution for pain is always the same: to heal the mind that believes it is not one. But that’s a pretty tall charge, I think. It’s easy to write it or say it but to actually live it?

      I think the goal of the course is to help us look at the specific form of our pain: for me, for a long time it was anger. And I stayed with it and stayed with it and one day it sort of dissolved and I sank down to a new level which was fear. And I stayed with it and stayed with it and gradually that began to dissipate as well and below that was guilt . . . I could tell you the anger made my life hard – brooding silences at home, impatience with students and so forth. That’s true. But the real point was that so long as I had that anger – and it was always justified – I wasn’t looking within. I wasn’t making even a pretense of healing.

      Physical pain is the form that some of us choose. We are in this dream and that is the dream. It can help to see that and to accept it. It is like the course teaches:

      The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. No mattter what the form of the attack, this still is true . . . Let [the figures in the dream] be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream (T-27.VIII.10:1-2, 6).

      It’s our dream – we chose it. We’re making it go. And so seeing that, can we begin to ease up on it a little? Can we begin to say, okay, this dream is not what I want. I want the light I hid by making this dream. When we do that, little by little, we are separating from our bodies – the physical self, the psychological self – and affirming that our reality is as a child of God, a thought in the mind of God. We aren’t suffering alone in the world. We are home with God.

      None of that is to say that we shouldn’t avail ourselves of help in the world on the world’s terms – so long as we’re clear that it’s all part of the dream. I take aspirin when I have a headache. If I had cancer I get chemotherapy. If I was intense physical pain, I would avail myself of remedies – hospice care, pharmaceuticals, and so forth.

      But I would always try to keep my focus on the content – not the form of the problem (the physical pain, the psychological anger or fear, or whatever the case may be). The content is the guilt and fear at having separated from God. That’s what I want to see. That’s what I want to offer up to the Holy Spirit with the help of Jesus. The aspirin or other pain reliever is just as much an illusion as the pain it aims to heal. So what? If I am giving my mind over to the teacher who knows how to heal it – the HOly Spirit – then it does not matter what is happening in the world.

      I think the course is deeply challenging. It is not for the faint of heart. We prepare lifetimes for it, to be ready to take on the responsibility of accepting that we are not bodies and that this world is not real. It’s hard work – it’s scary work. But we do not undertake it alone. We are joined by mighty companions who will walk with us each step of the way. We only need reach out.

      Thank you again for reading and dropping a line!

      Sean

  • ron November 8, 2012, 11:30 am

    thank you for a mind opening response, acim really works in slow mysterious ways.. some quantam scientist once quoted re dead.. nobody ever
    leaves this world dead.. thanks, keep up the great work.. ron

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