The dreams the Holy Spirit gives are indeed happy.  I am still learning, but I know more now.  When in my early thirties, I was dreaming the dreams of this world, caught in fantasies of an unreal past, and vulnerable in the extreme.  After many years and many hours of studying A Course in Miracles, I have experienced more and more hours and days of peace.  Oh, it is still not 100 percent.  But Jesus says, “In this world you need not have tribulation because I have overcome the world.  That is why you should be of good cheer.”

When I let my mind drop into fantasies, I forget how to live.  Yet the Course promises that the way will be smooth.  “Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition.”  It is not a hard path of learning, this better way structured to bring us to Awakening.  Every year gets better, every decade a giant step beyond the  previous.  More and more I leave fear behind as I try to see the face of Christ in my brothers and sisters.

What lessons am I learning?  Attack is not the way to go.  Anxiety is borne of the capriciousness of the ego.  And my worth is not measured by what I do.  Of course, there are many other lessons, some repeated frequently as I make my way still on this side of the bridge.  As many before me have said, God is not finished with me yet.

This book details the issues and problems arising from my  life story and then dealt with in the manner of A Course in Miracles.  In looking back, I find that three relationships–Self-to-self, self-to-others, and self-to-God–have informed the whole.  These images tell me that it is love that supports life and all my relationships of whatever nature.  Regardless of the relationship, however  tenuous, it is love that speaks to me in the everyday issues of which I tell you here.

Images in a Reflecting Pool was written by rereading journal entries, beginning the year that I discovered A Course in Miracles.  If the entry seemed germane to my quest, I have quoted directly from my journal.  Otherwise, I have penned a reflection based on some incident recorded there.  I have sought to follow the way of the Course, but the ideas herein are my own.

As you read, reflect on your own developing personal philosophy.  Don’t take my word for it.  Take nothing unto yourself unless it finds a gentle place in your heart.

Jesus walks with us in our quest, as he has promised.

Chapter 13: Living under the Gift of Grace

Once when I was particularly stressed, I internally intuited, “Play with me,” from whom I perceived to be Christ.  Also, “Don’t lean on me so hard.  You will knock me over.”  Now I can imagine “playing” with the Holy Spirit in thus this way.

Following His guidance takes a flexible attitude, but it doesn’t have to be somber.  Actually, the hallmark of Spirit-directed living is the joy that it elicits.

As the Course says, “Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play.”  Therein lies a total abandon that is tremendously liberating.  The real universe is not nearly as ponderous a place as I have sometimes imagined.  When I take myself too seriously, I project this outward.  But the light touch wins out every time.

I’m still trying to justify my existence by doing “spiritual” things–like writing this book.  Although I enjoy my job at the library, it seems so tangential to true loving service to others.  I’m careful to take time for people (including other staff members) at work, but that isn’t enough to quell this void in me either.

What is God trying to tell me?  I can quiet myself only by the knowledge that He will tell me in His own time and in His own way.

Once I developed a huge “floater” in one eye and wondered one long, stressed-out night (before going to a physician the next day) if I were going to lose my eyesight.  I realized then that if this loss happened, I would spend a tremendous amount of time in the darkness in meditation and prayer.  I also realized that I’d probably never spend that much reflective time with eyesight.

And it occurred to me that in centering and loving God, in companionship with Him, I’d be doing far more what God might want than my ceaseless, off-the-mark “good works.”

In the long years when God’s will seemed irrational to me, I prayed, “Lead me to want what God wants for me.”

Now that I have studied A Course in Miracles and appropriated its tenets unto myself, I know that my real understanding, coming from the Holy Spirit, would assert that God’s will and the will of my higher Self are identical.

It is the ego’s madness to believe that my will can only be asserted when in rebellion against God.

I can right this madness by quietly discarding the ego in every situation where I can identify egotistical motivation.  But a frontal attack won’t work because the force field of madness will only seem stronger.  Just gradually withdraw support from the madness that is the ego, and it will slink away.

In our overly busy world, it is hard to find time to stop and smell the roses.  If we don’t, though, we begin to feel that we are on a treadmill.

I have an idea that the human mind and spirit were not meant for the speed of modern-day life.  We all have a need to reflect, to center our minds—and for many that takes the form of prayer and/or meditation.

When I was a child, I sometimes lay across my bed during the daytime, with the sun stream-ing through the windows, for at least a couple of hours at a time.  I called it just “thinking.”  But it was truly nourishment for my soul.  I had found a solution to a fundamental need of living that made all the rest of my hours worthwhile.

Those lazy days of childhood are a thing of the past.  Now I look for chunks of time during the day that can be made free just to think, and I try to resist (not always successfully) the urge to open a book to read.  The Holy Spirit needs to reach me directly, too—not always does He want the mitigating presence of another’s words (however spiritual those words may seem to be).

My greatest regret is having verbally attacked another when he didn’t express the love that I wanted.  I certainly played out the role of the shrew that needed taming.

But it was left to God Himself to soften my rough edges—God working through Norman Vincent Peale and Catherine Marshall and Jesus himself (A Course in Miracles).  And the one I attacked?  He, by example, led me to the healing touch of deep prayer.

Seeking through reading, finding through prayer—a combination that in the most pragmatic (as well as idealistic) sense works.

Psychic pain has brought me closer to God.  Sometimes I think I chose this pain to show me the Way.  Certainly my moments of greatest peace have come in the deep prayer that sets aright my little window on the world.

I sometimes believe that physical spaces have vibrations as real as any encounter with a living human being.  Twice I have experienced overwhelming peace while spending time in an area previously occupied by a sincere practitioner of prayer—one, a nun; the other, a seminary student.

The nun had sublet her apartment to me, but the seminary student had rented the upstairs room in my great-grandmother’s house fully 50 years previously (and it had been largely unoccupied since).

By contrast, for the most stressful year of my life, I lived in an apartment previously occupied by a couple conflicted by abuse and violence, and who separated at the point of moving out.

In the first house that my husband and I owned, the previous owner left bright and shiny copper pennies in various places.  It is pleasant to think that her expression of good luck got our residence off to a happy start and colored all the joy that followed.

I don’t think I have always, throughout eternity, been a very religious person.  I am more comfortable with expressing spiritual truths in secular terms.

If love, wherever it is found, is good and true, I don’t think that worship in the traditional sense is a requirement of right living.  As the Course says, praising God hardly means to tell Him how wonderful He is.

Surely He does want us to commune with Him, and there is a sweetness and peace about contemplative prayer that we can experience no other way.  But then we return to a very secular world not ready to hear religious truths in the manner of an all-encompassing world view (contrary to the Middle Ages).  We have to express our truths in the language that our generation is ready and maybe even eager to accept.

Confessions of someone struggling to meditate:  “I’m not yet experienced enough in medi-tation not to feel bored by it.  But it works!  And its efficacy will get me over the boredom.”

One of the best techniques I’ve ever run across to observe spiritual growth is Catherine Marshall’s “prayer log.”  She and her husband, Leonard LeSourd, described and dated each dilemma in daily life, then recorded and dated the answer when it was received.

A prayerful reading of the entries in a prayer log, accompanied by writing down ideas that come as intermediate steps, leads more easily to the receptive mind that can accept God’s answer when it arrives.  If sincerely listening, you may not have to wait long!

God’s answer is always ready to come immediately, but you will hear it only when finally prepared fully to listen.

Journal writing is a form of prayer as well as a cathartic release.  What I write is intensely reinforced in me—the Course’s definition of teaching what we would learn, but to an audience of one.

Blessings are powerful catalysts.  I once prayed for someone in a very forgiving spirit—something I had not always been able to do, and this time it was truly genuine.

Within the hour, I had experienced an epiphany that assured me that God wanted to help me in my life; I didn’t have to struggle all alone to prove anything.  God would smooth the way.  It was like Coleridge’s great poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:  I blessed the water snakes and the albatross fell from my neck.

Dream work:  What you pray about just before going to sleep will very frequently be illumined by a dream in the morning just before awakening.  And this dream will be easily recalled.

On struggling with trust:  “The Holy Spirit always works things out better than I would myself.  So why do I still resist?”

I’ve been thinking that “just” turning an issue over to God doesn’t work well if, in effect, I “give up”!  That “giving up” may be a crucial point.

I had wondered why relinquishment seemed to turn out badly for me.  I need, with God’s help, to “work with” the problem.  If I truly give up, I may have already failed and know it intuitively.

Then the inexorable law of cause and effect may inevitably force bad repercussions.  Only if I act to cooperate with the miracle awaiting me will I know peace.

Is life really a dream, as the Course says?  I feel very strongly sometimes the divine in and through me.  Partly this is remembering the flow and sparkle of the world when I am in vulnerable states of mind.  But there is absolutely no way to communicate in words what this experience is all about.

Once lived through, though, there is no turning back to an agnostic view of life.

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.