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Turtle Rescue and A Course in Miracles

The kids and I were driving yesterday – coming to the town line – when I pulled quickly to the side, made a three-point turn and zoomed back in the opposite direction. I parked on the shoulder, threw on the emergency lights and leaped out of the car.

My kids didn’t blink. They knew what was going on: I’d spied a turtle (a young snapper, in this case) crossing the road, and I was going to give it a lift across.

I am thinking of starting a new organization: TARP. Turtle Assistance, Rescue & Protection.

I love turtles.

But turtles are – like elephants and moose, like steamed clams dipped in hot butter, and certain Bob Dylan songs – illusions. So what’s the point? Rescue them or don’t rescue them – it’s all the same.

If A Course in Miracles were a course in pure metaphysics, I’d say sure. But it’s not. It’s a thought system that enables us – through forgiveness, a kind of honest and open attention empty of judgment – to make use of the illusion in order to facilitate awakening to reality.

Kindness matters! The form will change from student to student – you may be into rescuing horses, or growing organic cucumbers, or protecting what remains of our forests, or feeding the hungry, or giving lots of hugs, or telling jokes when laughter is needed – but the content never does. The content is always love.

It is never a mistake to be as loving as possible here in the world, so long as we don’t confuse our small expressions of love with Love itself, with reality, with God.

I’m still learning this myself, of course. But it’s a fun lesson. How helpful can I be? How much fun can I have? How much love can I extend?

Those are questions worth answering. The separated world – from humans to pine trees to turtles – will thank us for considering them. It’s not Home – but it does help make clear the way.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • JayCee August 23, 2013, 8:26 pm

    We are kindred Spirits as I am forever saving turtles in the road here in Florida. I rescue cats as well. I am a rescuer. I can not, not rescue.(apologize for double negative) . Loving kindness gives me peace. Peace.

    • Sean Reagan August 24, 2013, 12:06 am

      Yes, I got that gene as well and passed it on to my children. It’s a menagerie over here. But you know, if it brings us peace, then good. Kindness in the dream becomes the light by which we wake up to that Love in which there is nothing to rescue because everything is safe forever. Glad you’re here!

  • Aiko August 23, 2013, 11:36 pm

    I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am to read the post and see your video. Since I began studying the course in February of this year, I had come across this same question. I ponder, and get nowhere. But that is ok because I am still here. There must be some level of knowing for me to not have given up the practice entirely. I struggle to accept when I hear that none of this matters. I hang on to the teaching that love is expanding. By extending the love, I become closer to God’s will and his intention of creation. While I’m in this body, illusion is what I’ve got to work with to unlearn and know love and peace. Thank you.

    • Sean Reagan August 24, 2013, 12:15 am

      Thanks Aiko! I’m glad it was helpful.

      That’s an interesting point you make, actually – that there is a level of knowing that is operative outside of what you’re familiar with. I think that’s true. The course talks about our healed or unsplit mind as the Holy Spirit and so there are levels – or moments of clarity – that guide us and see us through, even when we aren’t really cognizant of them. Or so it seems to me. I have learned to trust that!

      And yeah – that’s really what the course is all about: working with the illusions as the way to get to grace. It’s a funny and subtle balance but it’s definitely doable!

      Thanks again for reading. Hope all is well!


  • janine August 24, 2013, 6:37 am

    Dear Sean,
    Thx once moree for your post and video! And good to hear it is safe to be a turtle when you are around, hahha. Reminds me of when I go swimming in the summer and insects are struggling for their lifes on the surface of the water giving me sometimes a hard time enjoying my swim cause I keep scooping them out all the time. Is it not really funny in a way how we act, trapped in trying to do good. As long as we do not realize who we are we will just need to respect the illusion we are in. The best way we can with a break now and then!

    Much love janine

    • Sean Reagan August 24, 2013, 10:30 am

      You’re welcome, Janine – yeah, turtles are definitely safe in my vicinity!

      Your insect example is perfect – that’s it in a nutshell. It doesn’t matter where or how we perceive the separation – could be a mosquito, could be the death of a loved one. It’s all the same! And our response is all the same: either we are practicing lovingkindess or we are practicing guilt and fear. The first leads us gently but surely out of the dream and into peace and the second simply ensures we remain separated from God. Finding that balance is hard but making the effort – paying attention, being prayerful, using the course if that’s our chosen path . . . all that helps us and little by little we wind our way to Heaven.

      Thanks so much!

  • Eric August 24, 2013, 9:46 am

    Hi Sean,

    Though this post is funny about a turtle, I think it brings up a very important subject about the course and illusion.

    I’m adding this after I have written my reply. I apologize ahead of time that this reply is not very light hearted and maybe a little “too serious”.

    I think it is a great tragedy that comes from the misinterpretation of the course about illusions, that cause some students to believe that nothing really matters. This distorted idea that apathy equals spirituality is not what the course is about.

    This is a top-down approach of trying to counteract error with knowledge that has been called in some non-dual circles, the Advaita trap or the Advaita shuffle. But Jesus tells us this about himself,

    “I was a man who remembered spirit and its knowledge. As a man I did not attempt to counteract error with knowledge, but to correct error from the bottom up.” ~ACIM

    When I hear a student say things like, “It doesn’t matter anyway, because it is all an illusion”, I get the feeling that this is actually a defense mechanism. It is a way of trying to depreciate one’s own thoughts/thinking to alleviate one’s own fear through dismissal.

    But one of the first things Jesus tells us in the course about our thoughts and the mind is,

    “Everyone experiences fear. Yet it would take very little right thinking to realize why fear occurs. Few appreciate the real power of the mind, and no one remains fully aware of it all the time. However, if you hope to spare yourself from fear there are some things you must realize, and realize fully. The mind is very powerful, and never loses its creative force. It never sleeps. Every instant it is creating. It is hard to recognize that thought and belief combine into a power surge that can literally move mountains. It appears at first glance that to believe such power about yourself is arrogant, but that is not the real reason you do not believe it. You prefer to believe that your thoughts cannot exert real influence because you are actually afraid of them. This may allay awareness of the guilt, but at the cost of perceiving the mind as impotent. If you believe that what you think is ineffectual you may cease to be afraid of it, but you are hardly likely to respect it. There are no idle thoughts. All thinking produces form at some level.” ~ACIM

    and also,

    “When we have overcome fear-not by hiding it, not by minimizing it, and not by denying its full import in any way-this is what you will really see. You cannot lay aside the obstacles to real vision without looking upon them, for to lay aside means to judge against. If you will look, the Holy Spirit will judge, and He will judge truly. Yet He cannot shine away what you keep hidden, for you have not offered it to Him and He cannot take it from you.” ~ACIM

    There is a video where Ken Wapnick is talking about this subject and actually says that course students are some of the worst people on Earth when it comes to this.. He jokingly gives examples of someone at a funeral sipping champagne with a huge smile on their face, because nothing really happened. Or says that the last thing someone wants to do if they need to get to a hospitial for medical attention, is call a course student, because they will most likely get Lesson 136, “Sickness is a Defense Against the Truth” quoted at them.

    While these are humorous examples, sadly, I have seen first hand what happens when someone misunderstands the course, or the ego uses the course’s metaphysics as a weapon. On a spiritual board, I’ve seen two “course students” tell a woman who’s son was murdered, that it was her ego that did it. I have also seen people be very vicious to others, making fun of them and calling people very nasty derogatory names. When called on it, the person laughs, stating that it doesn’t matter, because it is all an illusion anyway. This is obviously insane thinking that one could attack others, without attacking themselves first, but “ego enlightenment” attempts to obscure the obvious.

    The course states over and over that it is a practical course. To say that it doesn’t matter because it is all an illusion is spiritual immaturity disguised as wisdom. I’m sure no one pontificating this idea has stopped showering, brushing their teeth, eating, going to work, paying their bills, etc., because it is all just an illusion.

    The world is our classroom. On this level it does matter. Our thoughts will either move us closer to the real world (still an illusion), or deeper into the world of condemnation. Whether aware of them or not, our thoughts are continually making this choice, because no thought is neutral. To say that it doesn’t matter, is almost an attempt of not having to choose and make one’s thoughts neutral.


    • Sean Reagan August 24, 2013, 10:39 am

      No apology necessary, Eric. I was thinking very much while rescuing that turtle about the course and illusion. And I agree with all your points. I actually appreciate Ken’s honesty very much on this subject – and he is right. It is easy to hide behind the metaphysics and justify all sorts of nonsense because “it’s all an illusion anyway.” While we all tend to find that form of kindness that makes the most sense – I rescue turtles but so far I haven’t done squat about dolphins and whales – I do think that we are being called to its practice.

      Perhaps somewhat germane is this quote – one of my favorites in the text because it really emphasizes the importance of not ignoring this world of dreams and illusions but of paying close attention to them as a means of ultimately finding our way out.

      Your special function is the special form in which the fact that God is not insane appears most sensible and meaningful to you. The content is the same. The form is suited to your special needs, and to the special time and place in which you think you find yourself, and where you can be free of place and time, and all that you believe must limit you (T-25.VII.7:1-3).

      It is indeed a practical course!

  • Aleta August 24, 2013, 11:50 am

    Sean, I can relate to your turtle rescue, as my husband and I are “critter rescuers” also. In fact, at one time my husband ran a wildlife rescue center.
    This spring we came upon a young turtle that had been hit and flipped over; it had a crack in its shell but it was still alive. We drove it over 2 hours to a wildlife rescue center where it is currently on the mend and when it is ready, we’ll pick it up and return it to where we found it, a necessity since they have a strong homing instinct.
    Last summer a hummingbird hit our window and broke its wing. (We have about 30 hummingbirds at our house in the summer!!) We drove it to the wildife center and it was able to be released to migrate with the rest of the birds in the fall.
    We feed the raccoons around our home in the spring. That’s when the females have the little ones in their burrows and they may need a little extra nourishment. They come out in the daytime to forage, and by the end of the summer they bring their little ones out as well, entertaining us with their frolicking and cute antics.
    We also take bugs out of our home in a cup, rather than killing them, no matter what kind.
    I never used to be so sensitive to the plight of wildife, but my husband’s influence and the Course have influenced the change in me in that regard. Now I can’t NOT do what I can to help another living being whether it be a butterfly or a child. The hardest thing for me is when I see a news story about animals being abused and I have to control the anger that wells up inside. But that’s a lesson too, in recognizing that it is how I SEE the world that matters, not what seems to be happening in the world. So, rather than turning away, I often force myself to watch those kinds of news stories just so the Holy Spirit can use it as a lesson in forgiveness.
    Although the world and all the forms of things it seems to contain, is an illusion, it is a classroom with real effects in that it can lead to the experience of uniting with our True Selves. The course says over and over that, although it is an illusion, the purpose of the world is forgiveness. I am reading Liz Cronkhite’s book, “The Message of A Course in Miracles: A translation of the text in plain language,” and recently read this paragraph that I think pertains to this discussion:
    “Even though the world is an illusion of death, you do not need to let it stand for this to you. Change its purpose and everything in it will be changed as well. Everything in the world is defined for you by what you perceive it is for. How lovely is the world when you perceive its purpose is your extension of forgiveness! How free from fear, and how filled with blessing and Happiness! What a Joyous thing it is for you to dwell a little while in such a Happy place. And, in such a world, you cannot forget that it IS a little while until Timelessness comes Quietly to take the place of time.” Chapter 29, sec. 6, 5 (2-4), 6
    I can’t wait!! 🙂
    Take care!

    • Sean Reagan August 26, 2013, 9:19 am

      That is some serious devotion to animals! And, of course, I especially love the turtle story. I don’t know what it is about them but they seem so sturdy and wise and deliberate to me. Maybe I admire them for that reason. My 14 year old daughter has become a bug rescue master – spiders, moths, it doesn’t matter. If they’re in the house, she’s going to get them out.

      That Cronkhite reference is right on: We aren’t really dismissing form because it’s an illusion, but rather embracing it as a means of seeing the Love that lies beyond it. In a way, every moment can be the one in which we slip from timelessness to time. And we make that transition through love: it doesn’t matter whether that love extends to humans or foxes or moths. The love- the content – is always the essence.

      Thank you, Aleta! I hope the gardens & quilts are going well.


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