Chapter 3: On Decisions Proving Tough to Make

Years ago I was director of admissions at a small college for six months.  It didn’t work out for the college or for me.  When I left, I learned secondhand that the college president didn’t think that I was “suited for administration.”

That remark stung more than leaving the job.  Once I entered library science, the specter of administration loomed as a career ladder.  Because I have always had way too much ambition, I’ve tried to reconcile innermost needs with that specter many times.  But it can’t be done.  Yet have I really wanted to prove, all along, that my old boss was wrong?  Is that really why administration has been such a bugaboo for me?

Sometimes I think library science as a career just fell in my lap.  In this work I’m able to plan ahead and therefore have few deadline pressures.

Yet my first ambition—journalism—would have been filled with those very deadlines that I most dread.  What benign destiny altered my life plan for the better?  I can claim no credit for this, because I gave up on the idea of journalism and opted for library science for all the wrong reasons.

Many of our life decisions—as we “remember” them—may be based on myth.  The “reasons why” that I’ve told myself may have had no basis in fact.  We construct a fiction in retrospect that sounds more rational than the decision was at the time.  Or am I just more of a mythmaker than the average person?

Individuals sometimes “fight all the way” decisions that are providential.  This learned from reading anecdotal accounts of heavenly guidance.

Is this what has been going on for me as I resist library administration?

Not that anybody has asked.  I say ahead of time that I’m not interested so that I won’t be tempted with an offer I can’t refuse (an offer that “can’t” be refused normally appears, at least for me, to be ego-inspired).

I have to be certain that the ego is not the motivator here.  Perhaps I am destined to be in indecision about this for awhile.  Maybe I should stay in non-resolution until I learn what my soul is trying to tell me.  Yet non-resolution over a long period of time, I have learned, usually counsels “no.”

On a decision proving tough to make:  “Earlier this week I intuited, ‘You’re already made up your mind,’ and I hadn’t (consciously) about library administration.  But then soon I realized that my unseen partners probably know more about my life’s intentions than I do, at least what seems to be the most rational or logical way to carry out the purposes I set before I was born.”

I think I’m finally clear on “no promotions” at my job.  For years I’ve been pushed about by the impetus to succeed in my profession, and there has lately been some spillover in my writing.    It’s what Joseph Campbell calls a “concretized symbol” that will “push you around.”

I had a lovely synchronicity in that I read a journal entry and found total agreement with a passage from Campbell that I read the night before.  Campbell warns the artist (and specifically a writer) not to let his work (the art) get contaminated by his job (his employment).

For people with such impetus, he affirms, “. . .to keep up with your responsibilities and your fitness and still nurture your creative aspect, you must put a hermetically sealed retort, so that there is no intrusion, around a certain number of hours each day—however many you can honestly afford—and that time must be inviolate.”

In my case, my writing is informed by my employment.  At my job, I enjoy the social inter-actions and they teach so much about how people respond in all sorts of ways.  (Not surprisingly, that’s also the greatest personal benefit I got from the study and teaching of literature.)

All second-guessing and other vacillations aside, sometimes just not wanting to do some-thing is sufficient reason not to do it.  And even if it flies in the face of one’s habitual pattern of decision-making.  Maybe that pattern has always been flawed, even though it served in another time and place.

This is a new day, as described in a biblical passage:  “. . .rejoice and be glad in it.”

Sometimes timing is everything.  I was once extremely ambivalent about taking a given job, but the moments in which I needed to act always seemed to arrive when I was in a positive attitude.  I did take the job; it did have drawbacks; but that early contradictory work life made possible the smooth pathway on which I walk today.

Persistence will carry the day (and the goal) when thoughts of indecision and low self-esteem threaten to block leaving the gate.

If the process of making up my mind is unduly protracted and conflicted, I have come to realize that the option I’m considering is wrong for me.

Very high moments create a kind of super-sentient emotional tone from which we can see and understand far more than possible in the routine of daily normal living.  It is a bit of an artificial state of mind, but is nonetheless a better time to suggest new pathways than moments of depression.

I was on a high from successfully defending my dissertation when the dream to publish first emerged.  Years later I can say that the impulse to write was a genuine idea possible of  accomplishment and the instigator of some of my most rewarding hours.

A “godfather’s offer” (one I can’t refuse, as in the classic movie) is at least tangentially related to the fatal flaw of Shakespeare’s tragic characters and, for me, is virtually always coming from the ego.  If one makes the decision not to be ruled by the ego, the whole Force of the universe comes into play to reinforce this truly holy endeavor.

On the unreality of reflection:  “I have noticed a tendency to ‘resolve’ issues in my journal, and then–later–impulsively to choose a different answer.  I think I try to form a certain reality from wishful thinking, but then make a different decision when life seems to suggest otherwise.”

A vacation is not always the best time to make decisions about puzzling problems.  At least twice in one year I made that attempt, only to find when I returned to my normal routine that my decisions did not make sense.

Written upon reflection, two years subsequently, “It is easy to plan when very rested, as I was during that Christmas.  But the unreality of my thinking gives me pause for thought.”

On the impetus not to hide talents in the ground:  “My tendency to find a ‘should’ in life is causing me some problems.  I am too rigid (and unforgiving of myself) when believing that I must always try to do what I ‘should.’  In particular, right now the ‘should’ is taking the form, ‘I have these talents, so I should. . .[whatever].’

“All of this is a monkey on my back that I can’t seem to shake off.”

When I awaken with a certain idea, I wonder if my subconscious has served up a message.

On self-tolerance and self-acceptance:  “I remember waking up one morning with the thought, ‘A lot of us believe in a world where everything is not a matter of life and death.’  It seemed a thought from the Other Side, a plea for common sense in decision-making.  Maybe I need to meditate on why I have such a problem with a ‘should.’

“Am I too irresponsible?

“Am I not dependable?

“Am I innately lazy and try to whip myself into shape by manufacturing imperatives?

“Have I accepted a big challenge in this lifetime and probably take myself too seriously in trying to work it out?

“Do I fear regretting to work as hard as I can?

“Do I just have too strong a superego?”

Later . . .

“I know now that if I forgive more readily, I will realize the world can forgive me as well when I don’t measure up to some standard of unreachable perfection.”

There is a way of living by intuition and a way of living by rational choice (the latter usually called just “reason”).  The two are not mutually exclusive, of course.  But I have found that life is freer, more natural, happier, when I am brave enough to let intuition rule.  And it does take some bravery.

It takes a certain willingness to follow intuition.  Maybe there will always be a question in my mind about whether I am being rational.  But time and again events prove the correctness of following yet another hunch.

Do we have “free will”?  I once read someone’s remark to the effect that we act as if we do when we cross the street, so why not assume that we do?

Many years ago I was in a frame of mind in which unlimited possibilities seemed open to me.  The salient aspect of this period of time was that I was living with an attitude filled with love.  In making decisions, invariably I would come to a fork in the road.  It seemed that I could choose either way ahead and—this the questionable part—that either would be equally “OK”—just different ways to work out my destiny.  Maybe we really do live in a safe universe when we are at home in Love.

Reality offers what I really want–the prayer of the heart.

Sometimes the unconscious guides us to a certain familiar pathway as a warning.  If I find myself gazing vacantly out a window and fantasizing about the future, the future that I see is best avoided.

Remember not to try too hard to predict the future; probabilities change.

Chapter 14: An Ever-Closer Walk with God

A journal, updated with comments on past entries, will show what will appear to be miraculous problem-solving.  It’s a great faith-builder as well as a powerful learning tool.  One entry from my journal that illustrates this thought:  “Realizing that rationally I can see answers arrived at helps me to know that reasoning is a legitimate way to make decisions.  I am amazed at the high percentage of correctness I see from the vantage point of over a year later.”

My journal for the first year of our marriage is filled with a desire for more time of my own.  Then I was not yet accustomed to the many demands (and privileges) of a husband and home.  The desire for more time peaked again several years later.  But then I revisited an old affirmation of mine from many years previously:  “There is always time for what is needful.”  And what is needful may vary from time to time.

Right now my strong desire is to find the time to write.  And, almost magically, our morning activities have readjusted to give me that time.  God’s watchful care extends to every priority, when the timing is His Own.  Just be sure that how you want to spend time is also what your Creator  wants as well.

Repeatedly in my writing I have intuited (and sometimes outlined) the next project fully five years (or longer) before I began it.  The idea goes underground in my subconscious mind and there germinates.  I’ve read of this phenomenon in others who write, but surely it has wider implications than for this one activity.  It is a form of the “waiting prayer” that Catherine Marshall extols.

Keep a record of your deepest longings and then reread the list some months (or years) hence.  The longing may have been placed there by God, and then surely if we do our part at the right time, He will bring it to pass.

I’m pushing the limits in wanting to write this book “for God.”  But my inner sense is that I’m trying to rush ahead when He would have me hold back.  It is all well and good to want to build a cathedral for God, but if the timing isn’t His Own, the construction had better wait.

Recently I realized that the academic book I wrote a few years ago got me off balance and disturbed my peace.  And just last night at bedtime, in my mind’s eye, I planned another academic book.

The Course says, “The first obstacle that peace must flow across is your desire to get rid of it.”  How true!

The prophet Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh to warn the people to repent, although he knew God wanted him to do so.  So he ended up in the belly of a whale for three days.  Then he went to Nineveh.

Like Jonah and as part of my personal rebellion, I have been, for much of the time, unable to see that God’s will for me could be what I truly wanted as well.  (The Course asserts that God’s will and our real will are always identical.)

I stayed true to the pathway on which I was walking because I had numerous indications that I was, however strangely, following the will God had for me.  Surely something good must have transpired in my drama, though I cannot see the whole picture.  It is enough, for now, to know that my part was to follow the way of obedience, without swerving.

I know that sometime later, maybe beyond this lifetime, I will know why.  In the meantime my nocturnal dreams tell me as much as I need to know.

Jonah and the whale dies hard.  Is my troubled view of the right pathway as the work-oriented, hard way a projection of the unforgiving aspects of my own personality?  Probably.

We project our view of God and God’s will from what we are like.  I think I’m too con-trolling and therefore see God that way.  And then doing what I “should” do—the “right thing” (whatever that might be)—becomes coercive.  To believe that God backs people into corners to do “His will” is simply projection borne of a faulty self-concept.

I am learning that the “should” and “ought” of my life reflect the degree to which I have projected my controlling tendencies onto God.  I am too tied to Old Testament religion, which emphasizes a God who orchestrates the world stage from without in sometimes very directive (and even nefarious) ways.

I need more of the loving spirit of the law that Jesus exemplified.  He was not afraid to reject authority if it didn’t seem caring or nurturing enough.

He likewise rejected “success” in the eyes of the world.  Jesus was directed by the inner Spirit in all he did.

As David said a couple of days ago, the locus of control needs to be within—not given away to others (even God) perceived as outside one’s self.  (And God is not “outside,” but within, not an “Other,” but the blooming of Creation made manifest even in creatures such as myself.)

I have long had an agreement with my innermost Self to get agitated if the action I am contemplating is wrong for me.  Conversely, when I turn my pathway over to God, saying, “I will go wherever you say, doing whatever you ask of me,” I have felt the “peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”  When these two emotions are found in conjunction with one another—agitation
followed by peace—I know that what I think God wants of me is truly what He does.

For many years I felt a directive to “go to Washington” (D.C.).  It was a metaphor, because I didn’t actually have to go there geographically.  But every time I considered abandoning what I had perceived as “God’s will” for me, I became overwrought.  When I reaffirmed to God my desire to go wherever He asked, do whatever He wanted, real peace always descended upon me.

Useful advice from an old saying:  “If in walking along a hallway, you try to open a door along the way, and you do everything to open it that you can, and it still won’t open—God has closed that door.  Keep walking, and you will eventually find another door that opens easily at a touch.”

Delays are hard to take.  God’s answer may have come immediately to any dilemma (He is outside time and space), but in our world the answers seem to take time for their working out.

I used to get so hung up on wondering what was God’s will, and then feeling that if I correctly discerned it, how could I be anything except a puppet?  Even when I think I have resolved the issue by affirming that God’s true will and my real will are the same, I walk back into the dilemma.

In our insanity we think we choose freedom when we rebel–a typical adolescent response. Surely Jesus is the only truly mature soul in our midst.

At times I have had a delicious sense of “God is taking care of me.”  This feeling invariably comes when I relax and let Him time everything properly.  As Catherine Marshall says, “It’s good to remember that not even the Master Shepherd can lead if the sheep do not follow Him but insist on running ahead of Him or taking side paths.”

When I was a new student of A Course in Miracles, I taped favorite passages for listening during my commute.  On a crisp and clear but very hot Southern day in summer–our wedding day—my husband-to-be and I experienced an event full of wonder that I have called a “miracle.”

About mid-morning on our special day, David and I decided to go on an errand together in my car, and because we were in my familiar hometown, I planned to drive.  As I unlocked the pas-senger side of the car for David, we both heard my voice reciting from A Course in Miracles.  Once inside the car, I retrieved the tape recorder and cut it off, remarking that the recorder couldn’t have been running very long or the tape would have run out.

What had started the recorder?  No one had been in the car yet that day.  Like all tape recorders, this one was operated with fairly stiff push buttons.  So it is a mystery.

I deduced from this, my wedding day miracle, that if I followed the principles of A Course in Miracles, our marriage would turn out all right.  And this modest directive has played out a thousand times over–a thousand times better—in the days, months, and years since.

On life’s real security:  “It very liberating to decide not to depend on myself.  There is no way of life that I could choose that would keep me safer than living in absolute dependence on God.”  I’m actually emotionally not very strong.  I’m sure I chose this weakness to learn how liberating dependence on God is.”

Accepting help freely takes much pressure off.  I live better.  I also feel very loving toward the people who treat me kindly.  And my ego is less involved when I accept help.  Certainly this bogeyman, the ego, has always tripped me up; frequently there were things I wanted to do and couldn’t–and my ego would hurt over it.  Responding to help beyond me takes the pressure off, and helps me to know that if “it” doesn’t get done, it probably wasn’t meant to be done.

It’s akin to that epiphany I had in Chicago one night:  God’s help is a gift, freely offered, a desire to smooth the pathway for His loved ones.  Our part is only to be open to His guidance.

If prisoners loosed from their chains after long years in captivity do not immediately leap for joy (A Course in Miracles), is it any wonder that we don’t fully enter into a new life upon learning the truth?

We, like they, need time to become accustomed to our new freedom.  We have been frozen by an imprisoned will, because to protect the All, God had to put limits on our ability to create inappropriately and insanely.

Once we find ourselves once again with a clear mind, part in harmony with the Whole, we will know that it is only an adolescent temper tantrum that ever made us feel that to be free we must have a will different from God’s.

It is a paradox of the universe that we are only free when we are truly joined, in our right minds, with God.  We see a partial parallel in earthly life; when we lay down our arms against our parents, we are finally free to be real people, not responding repeatedly in reaction to them.

Laying down our arms against God means that we live in the fullness of our Being and at peace with the universe. Only then have we truly “grown up.”

I have not always trusted promptings:  “My ‘feelings’ have been notoriously unreliable.  Most of those decisions that I made by intuition were probably right to the degree that they also were rational decisions.”

But can anyone really believe that divine guidance is irrational?

As Emily Dickinson penned, “Much madness is divinest sense/ To a discerning eye.”

On following the sixth sense:  “Many times now I half-consciously say to myself what to do next (or not do), and it turns out to be ‘Oh, so right!’  When I test my hunch by not doing my directive, I see what the problem was.  And sometimes I see what the problem would have been if I hadn’t followed my intuition.”  All of which–sixth sense, hunch, intuition—I see as indicators of the Holy Spirit at work (and play) in my world.  And when I am aware of my real will, the prompt-ings of the Holy Spirit do not seem coercive.

An example from real life:  “I bought a luxury item today when I realized the indication was that I should not, and Paul objected when I got home.  When I don’t follow the psychic prompting, I virtually always find out later why life would be smoother if I followed the prompting.”

All visionary experiences are not psychotic, but, on some level, all psychotic experiences are visionary.  Even the especially muddled ones.

Every time I follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance for my next step, I find a blessing–usually immediately.  Then I silently praise God and affirm, once again, that I will not doubt my inner Guide.  (My consistency is still not perfect.)
The dynamic is especially apparent in guidance that on the surface appears to contradict common sense.  Because it is uncommon sense.

How should I make decisions?  In retrospect, that appears to have been very difficult for me.  Once I just followed a “feeling” (what I called “intuition”).  And I did some rather foolish things.

I am now somewhat mollified by the rejoinder of the Course, “The partly innocent are apt to be quite foolish at times.”  To what extent should reason enter in?  Would intuition lead astray or even lead to an undesirable mental state?

Questions still teasing me out of thought.

Actually, there ought to be no conflict between intuition and reason.  What we call “reason” is frequently really judgment, and that is the sticking point.  A Course in Miracles counsels the giv-ing up of judgment, because we can’t know by judgment the best course to follow.  It is always “of the ego,” the really bad guy.  Follow instead the still, small Voice within—and know peace.

God deals differently with different people, and differently at different times with the same person.  When I became fearful of following my feelings in deciding what pathway to take, He gave me a new way to hear His Voice.  Distinct thoughts come into my mind from the Unconscious that calmly suggest a way to go that turns out amazingly well.  And there is never any fear that my personal subconscious will overwhelm my rational mind.

Even if the initial reaction from others to an action precipitated by intuition makes that intuition appear misguided, be patient and wait.  The final response is likely to be much more positive, and therefore yet another reinforcement for following one’s inner nudges.

I get a lot of psychic help in knowing what and how to do things–how to make decisions.  Others might call it intuition, or the Holy Spirit, or “help from the Other Side.”  Catherine Marshall called this phenomenon the “Helper.”

But a friend of mine, in a moment of envy perhaps, or maybe irritation at my upbeat attitude, asked me, only partially in jest, “Do you live a charmed life?”  This question even suggests some alliance with dark forces, so misguided can we be in our madness.  We think what God wants for us “for our own good” could only be a spanking, much as we sometimes discipline our children.

“. . .In milder forms a parent says, ‘This hurts me more than it hurts you,’ and feels exonerated in beating a child.  Can you believe our Father really thinks this way?” (A Course in Miracles).  No!  God deals only in win-win situations.

On following intuition (or the Holy Spirit):  “I need to have patience with myself.  Often I feel ‘guided,’ and if I follow the feeling or impression of what I should do, the way ahead is smoothed.  Things turn out well (or better) because I have followed this guidance.  This dynamic usually means that I am feeling flow at work and home.”  In short, don’t second-guess the Holy Spirit.  Take the action that intuition prompts:  Alter your direction to fall in line with His Own.

And if you can’t seem to do this immediately, follow as soon as you can.  The Holy Spirit will work with us as we bring more and more of our steps in sync with reality.  I find that I resist changing directions when I am being way too stubborn.

As an old boyfriend used to say when met by my irritation (my irrational irritation): “Lighten up!”

Indeed, “Let it rest lightly on my mind,” has at times been a constant refrain.

It is a highly liberating experience to feel in command of one’s life.  Paradoxically, this liberation arrives when one is listening most closely to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.  If one follows the guidance of the Holy Spirit, what ensues is never going to be bad.

From A Course in Miracles:  If you don’t ask the body to do too much, it will remain a “serviceable instrument.”  I have an idea that I get sick (usually with colds) when I have failed to follow this dictum.

But the Course also says that Atonement “takes away the guilt that makes the sickness possible,” and if we follow the Holy Spirit, we will be absolved of guilt:  “. . .of all the many causes you perceived as bringing pain and suffering to you, your guilt was not among them.”

“Do not, then, think that following the Holy Spirit’s guidance is necessary merely because of your own inadequacies.  It is the way out of hell for you.”

If, as A Course in Miracles says, what one experiences is a dream, then it should not surprise us that our minds can create signposts along the way.

A signpost can be a word, a phrase, a recalled song lyric—almost anything that recurs and gives pause.

The signposts are created by one’s mind and spirit to increase insight and speed one back to God.  Be prepared to note what follows in the dream.  If God is trying to speak to us, he still cannot get through unless the raw materials of the revelation are already there.  We cannot have an other-worldly experience unless the language—the words themselves–are already in our minds.  This then is one reason to read widely, to be ready for new combinations of creative thought to arise.

On choice:  “Surely there can be more than one ‘right’ choice; there is still room for personal inclination.  For example, is it better to wear a red or blue or green sweater?  What difference does it make?  Ultimately, everything may be planned in every detail, but within the dream we have the illusion of choice.”

On the folly of superstition:  “You can always find a ‘sign’ to support what you want (or don’t want) to do.”

I am suspicious of offers that seem too good to refuse.  It’s a reminder of the movie, “The Godfather”:  “Make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

If my analysis is actually like this, there are powerful motivations compelling the action or choice, but perhaps (on many occasions) a still, small voice (easy to overlook) counseling “no.”  This is a time for great prayerful consideration of exactly what should best lie ahead.

When the ego isn’t motivating, what takes its place?  A Course in Miracles says that every-one who sees the light realizes the paradoxical truth, “I need do nothing.”

But that isn’t a license for laziness.  The Awakened will eagerly (but peacefully) seek to awaken others in every task of daily life on which they are sent.  And being finally motivated by something worth doing, they will truly accomplish for the first time.

What does it mean in the New Testament to have to pay the “uttermost farthing”?  A farthing, after all, is just a tiny fraction of money.  I think our minds, through and through, have to be perfectly attuned to God.  One cannot finally be even a “wee bit” insane.  And our immediate problem is discerning the best (and quickest) route back to sanity.

I think I’ve finally read enough to reassure myself that doing what I really want to do is the pathway back.  Finally, I can say “no promotions” at my job and mean it.  The Course acknowledges the difficulty of reaching this understanding.  Speaking of the “teacher of God,” the Course says, “And now he must attain a state that may remain impossible to reach for a long, long time.  He must learn to lay all judgment aside, and ask only what he really wants in every circumstance.  Were not each step in this direction so heavily reinforced, it would be hard indeed!”

Yet I think, to be right, that this type of decision-making must draw on the informed intuition of the Holy Spirit—the intuition that His will and my true will are actually the same.  Anything less than this is likely to be the whim of the ego, and probably get one in all sorts of trouble.

If this life is only a dream, a play, a shadow drama, how much does it really matter if we create a bad dream?  Would God ever ask one to play a villain?

Joseph Campbell confronts this question obliquely in his first meeting with a well-recognized guru.  He asked him, “Since all is Brahman, all is the divine radiance, how can we say ‘no’ to ignorance or brutality or anything?”

And the master responded, “For you and me, we say ‘yes.'”

Secondhand, Campbell learned that the guru had told his students that Campbell was on the brink of illumination.

But what are we to make of this?  Morality plays illustrate the triumph of good over evil; at first glance, it appears that the good needs the evil to show the value of contrast.

But isn’t there already enough evil?  Do enlightened people really have to create more to keep the plot interesting?  I think not, though it is quite possible to plan a life based solely on this question.  At base, though, what we may have here is a particularly insidious form of madness perpetrated by an ego not yet conquered.

Chapter 15: Experiencing the Happy Dreams the Holy Spirit Brings

An entry that says diversity is good:  “Nobody is any more ‘special’ than another.”  What are the values that people have which reflect different choices and are just as good as my choices?”

When we are doing the wrong kinds of things, or (more aptly) not enough of the “right” things—the things truly meant for our doing—we sometimes think our existence needs justifying.  So we try, at first, doing more and more of the same.  But, finally reaching an impasse, we learn that it is the way we are spending our life that is at fault.  We take a look at what we really want to do (i.e., the true pathway is found in our real will), and take the first faltering steps toward accomplishing the right “new goals,” and peace reigns again.  We realize that maybe we need to do some different kinds of things—not “more,” but “what.”  And finding peace may be the whole answer.

Even love (with a little “l”) is not enough. Karen Goldman says, “If we were to find our truest loves and define ourselves by them, we would not find Peace. . . Peace lives beyond the point of earthly happiness.  It is the very fabric of the great Beyond that exists within us all.”  In short, we need a pathway that has a heart.  What pathway is that except those things done in peace?

My great-grandmother didn’t need to understand psychologically why it is wrong to attack others.  She just kept on loving, and others learned from her example.  But there was more rebellion in me.  If I were attacked, I felt justified in attacking back—a state of mind that made me ripe for the psychology of A Course in Miracles.

An attack is always distress based on error.  An interpretation that leads easily to forgiving the illusory bad dream that one is witnessing.  A sane interpretation, leading to sane behavior–finally.

A very wise, though not well-educated, woman once told me, “We have to learn to see Christ in everyone.”

An instructive day could be had by anyone who imagined that Christ was merging with the various personalities that she met.  Even an impossibly cranky person could be seen as Jesus having a bad day.  Would we not quickly forgive, knowing that this person truly in deepest heart means us well?

If I have had a very busy (“busy” equals stressful) day, I am likely to awaken that night with a coward’s heart.  We experience God in quietness—not frantic activity.  And so the fears come back, drowning out the love, when we have followed the way of the world too closely.

There is a longing for Hestia in me.  Hestia was the Greek goddess of the home and hearth, the one who felt centered in the inner rather than the outer, the now rather than the past or future.

What does “home” represent to me?  I’ve identified several aspects:  safety, refuge from the world; the warmth of love and companionship; being taken care of (whether by myself, David, or the safety of the environment).  A large indefinable component is a sense of unconditional love, i.e., being loved regardless of achievement in the world.  It is the same safety that I felt in my grand-parents’ home as a child.

I never had any schoolwork to do there (often being on vacation or celebrating a holiday), so the impetus to make good grades could be forgotten for awhile.  It has been hard for me to realize that salvation is not something you do, so deep does the impetus to achieve reside in me.  Hence the desire for Hestia, at home with one’s center, where God Himself resides—where no earthly de-mands are made upon me and I can live in the eternal present.

On wanting God alone or, conversely, wanting things of the material world:  “As I read A Course in Miracles, I see that wanting a husband and home and profession are things that the world offered that I wanted.”  And I see these wonderful blessings that have come my way as part of the happy dreams that the Holy Spirit is able to provide when we are ready to walk more closely with Him.
Yet the Course also says, “The world I see holds nothing that I want.”  It is the intangibles made possible in and through material blessings that I want and feel I have a right to have.  It is not the materialism per se that beckons me.

Will this truth about my inner motivation be what saves me from finding security in the things of the world—saves me to find security in God alone?

There is a call to art and joy in us that won’t be stilled.  In college, I remember hearing Rubenstein in one of his last piano concerts.  While sitting there in the balcony, utterly enthralled, I decided, “This was what I was born to do!”  Hearing the best classical music played by a virtuoso is art at its best, but it was the joy instilled by the experience that brought on my internal remark.

In looking back to the time when I was in my first job, I thought I had found in my private wonderings a greater purpose worth sacrificing happiness.  But the central myth was all a mirage.

Like everybody else, maybe I really did have a “greater purpose,” but it would have been better carried out if I had never lost sight of my happiness.

Then, though, I remember being quite judgmental about a student who professed (unabashedly) to seek happiness as her greatest good.  Maybe the problem is that we simply, in our madness, don’t know how to seek in the right places and in the right ways.

In the midst of everyday life, that tap on one’s shoulder signifying happiness always comes from the Holy Spirit.

Blaming another for one’s unhappiness is a dead end street.  Saints have remained serene under the most adverse conditions.  It is what is within a person that ultimately determines one’s state of mind.

The Course unabashedly counsels that happiness, being that which we all seek anyway, is worth seeking as an end in itself.  If this is true, why does seeking “happiness” as a veritable good seem fraudulent to me?  Is it because many people invariably look for pleasure instead (and usually in all the wrong places)?  If more of us found happiness in the intangibles of the Spirit, wouldn’t happiness seem worthwhile after all and therefore valuable to be pursued for its own sake?

Yet happiness does seem to be elicited as a byproduct of right living and right thinking (indeed, this too is a premise of the Course).  It is true that students of the Course (like everyone else) frequently find happiness elusive and just waiting over the next hill for its full fruition.

In actuality, though, perhaps only the truly happy can help other people learn how to live.

“My way” may be gratitude.  From my favorite biblical passage as a child:  “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and unto His courts with praise.”  God doesn’t need my praise, but I do:  I need to acknowledge that all this goodness doesn’t originate with my all-too-often ego-oriented self.  Indeed, the ego fades in the presence of thankfulness.

I’ve come to feel that it has been better to have the good years follow the lean.  Now I know how to appreciate these blessed “happy dreams” that the Holy Spirit weaves.

A Course in Miracles says, “There is no need to learn through pain.”  My prayer for the last several years:  not to learn through pain!  But somehow I had overlooked that promise in my favorite book.

The Course means that to follow the Holy Spirit is to be absolved of pain because His gui- dance knows all the outcomes that any given action would bring and He chooses the painless route.

Does this mean that we will know no suffering?  That depends entirely upon how close a walk with the Spirit one can endure.  It takes a particular kind of courage to give up one’s own, im-perfect, judgment and follow guidance that may be impossible to scrutinize.  We have to be very flexible, able and willing to change directions at an instant’s notice.  Most of us can’t do this con-sistently.  But when we do, we are blessed with joyful living, able to overlook pain entirely.
Overlooking is, of course, not the same as never experiencing.  But from my life I know that the pain lessens dramatically when one is following the footprints of guidance.

A Course in Miracles says, “Anything in this world that you believe is good and valuable and worth striving for can hurt you, and will do so.  Not because it has the power to hurt, but just because you have denied it is but an illusion, and made it real.”

Constantly I am pulled back to realize that better living comes with doing less rather than more:  “My bronchitis slowed me down and showed me that more happiness may be in relaxing, doing less, slowing down to read, etc.”

One of the affirmations of the Course reads, “Above all else I want to see.”  This very strong statement is then elucidated twice more:  “Vision has no cost to anyone.”  “It can only bless.”

Having true vision would mean, like the female character in the movie, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” that I had “gotten the madness out.”  (The Course says that this world is actually a place of madness–madness borne of guilt.)  Sometimes I think I really want to be well and think rightly so I can be of real help to others—even more than I want it for myself alone.

This sounds laudatory, but is it really evidence of ambiguity about the goal?  Is there still attraction in me for the forbidden, the “sin”?  If so, I need to see “sin” as only a mistake, and every-one wants mistakes rectified.  Maybe the best thing that I can do in this life is get my act together–get “well” in a karmic sense.

Several years ago, in one of my more self-centered moments, I listed nine answers to the question, “What do I really want?”  I am chagrined to notice now that there is nothing directly said about love and service to others, except for my husband (who heads the list).

But the Holy Spirit takes us where we are and leads us as best He can, given our blindness.  Just as Maslow said that safety must precede satisfaction of higher goals, maybe I needed these nine prayers answered before I could turn outward.  And they have been answered–all nine–gloriously:

What do I really want?  This is my list:  (1) love and companionship with David; (2) peace of mind and tranquility; (3) satisfying daily work; (4) contentment, happiness, and gentle joy; (5)  good emotional and physical health; (6) a “centering” that leads me to the goals of A Course in Miracles; (7) satisfaction in the present; (8) strength to cope with any and all changes in my
life; and (9) good sense of style and attractiveness.

I have been in a bad mood because I have been stressed out.  I never get mad unless I am stressed.  Since I know this about myself, I ought to reduce stress so that anger just doesn’t happen.  After all, learning how to live in the “real world” is what we are here for.

Basically, I think I know enough from the Course to live well (i.e., appropriately).  Now I just need to put its great principles into practice.

On how to live peaceably:  “I realized recently that maybe I am trying too hard in regard to living by the Course.  My best teaching and my best speeches have come when I am at ease, relax-ed, and poised.  Isn’t it quite likely that living well demands (i.e., requires, asks) the same?”

I think the Course, at its heart, is only structuring the dream so that we can awaken.  “Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play.”

A favorite biblical quotation:  “Ask, and you will be given what you ask for.  Seek, and you will find.  Knock, and the door will be opened.”

I accepted that Scripture as a promise years ago.  Now I am deeply aware that Jesus’ words are true.  But my questions have found answers only in a gradual unfolding.  As Catherine Marshall says, “Waiting works.  It is a joining of man and God to achieve an end, and the end is always a form of the Easter story.”

From my journal, the obvious but maybe not so obvious:  “The Holy Spirit is very good at working out everything so that it is a win-win for everybody.”

Joseph Campbell’s dictum, “Follow your bliss,” is not unlike the New Age thought of Ruth Montgomery’s “Walk-Ins”:  “Go with the flow.”

There are very few times that one must go through life (as Hugh Prather describes) “being pulled through it kicking and screaming,” and for many that better way to live is delineated in A Course in Miracles.  The key point, forgiveness of others, sets aright one’s relationships and leads one to Michael Drury’s dictum, a “settled good will toward humanity.”

Following the Holy Spirit’s direction, as advocated in the Course, creates the flow described by Montgomery and leads inexorably to a proliferation of life possibilities, unique and perfect for oneself, that Campbell believes will ensue from following one’s bliss.

The ideas shift and turn with each writer, befitting his or her unique inspiration, but the process of learning how to live well is a universal experience.