So during the summer of 2001 I dropped off three of my children at camp in Maine, left the youngest with my husband back in California and flew to Virginia to spend a week at The Monroe Institute at their “Gateway Voyage” program. People go to TMI for many different reasons, but my main hope was that the Hemi-Sync technology, as the research I had read suggested, would help me control my wandering mind.
That first Saturday afternoon, I immediately felt comfortable with the casual atmosphere at TMI. The 23 participants and the two trainers seemed friendly and I could tell that if all else failed, it was going to be a fun week. I instantly bonded with my roommate who like me, was married and had young children. Within a couple of hours I had sought out the people that seemed to have the most in common with me. It was a very eclectic group, with people from all over the world and in every profession imaginable. There were only a couple of people in the group whom I judged as ‘out there’ in their new age beliefs, but I welcomed the opportunity to expand my horizons. Growing up Catholic and later becoming a somewhat rigid Christian Scientist I had some growing to do in the field of acceptance.
The program was intense. We spent five or six hours a day listening to Hemi-Sync tapes and in the evening there were lectures or activities. But there was a lot of free time which I spent with other participants swimming at the lake, walking, or practicing yoga. I wasn’t having the flashy experiences people described during our debriefing sessions, but I felt that something good was happening within me.
During every guided tape, I used the quiet intervals to practice my workbook lesson. With the help of the Hemi-Sync technology I was able to experience moments of complete stillness.
As the week progressed I noticed my mind slowing down. I felt more peaceful. This feeling translated into my being more open and accepting of others. Though my behavior didn’t change in any obvious way, I noticed that whenever I was having a conversation with someone I wasn’t reacting or judging what they said. I was more interested in listening than in talking. My urge to want to ‘fix’ people was considerably diminished. I was seeing past people’s age, shape, color, occupation, nationality, and seeing more of who they really were. Everyone was or had been in some kind of pain and everyone wanted to be happy. At the time I didn’t have much intellectual understanding of the Course (I hadn’t met Ken Wapnick yet), but without consciously trying, I was practicing forgiveness.
As we sat with our group for the last time on Thursday afternoon, all the judgments I had made faded and I felt appreciation and love for every participant. One of the program trainers warned us that our perception would have ‘shifted’ during the week and that we may perceive things differently as we reintegrated into the world. His warning did not prepare me for the experience that I was about to have.
On my first flight I sat next to one of my new Gateway friends. We chit chatted about the week, and then got into a conversation about writing, James Joyce and “Ulysses,” which had been a favorite a long time ago. I felt nothing unusual beyond a sense of being relaxed, as I would have felt after a vacation without the kids.
We said goodbye in Pittsburgh and went in opposite directions to catch our next flight. As soon as I walked into the airport concourse and saw hundreds of people walking in different directions, I noticed something was very different. My mind was not commenting, categorizing or judging. The radio was off. I noticed my breath - in and out - and each thought was clear and spread apart. I was deliberate and aware of my movement through the hallway; my awareness was so heightened that I noticed every little thing: a spot of spilled coffee on the carpet, a tear-drop on a sleeping child’s cheek, the deep blue of a woolen scarf on an old lady at the sandwich stand -- but my mind didn’t say a thing. There were no judgments made; no conclusions reached. I felt connected to everything by this all-inclusive awareness. A deep sense of joy took over me. I could not stop smiling and my eyes were filled with tears.
Because my mind was not categorizing/judging others, I felt free from other people’s judgment of me. I walked unaware and unconcerned about how I might look to others, or what they might think of me. I didn’t feel the extra weight I was carrying from my last pregnancy or notice the fact that my hair was disheveled because I hadn’t used a hair dryer for a week. I was so content with the love I felt within, that I didn’t need external attention or approval. While I usually thrive on not making eye contact with strangers at the airport, I wanted to look into people’s eyes to find the love that was below the surface.
The experience only lasted a few minutes – the sense of peaceful contentment, about a week. Within two weeks of the program my mind was again full of thoughts and judgments and besides the occasional snippet of silence; my ego has been back to its old tricks. The voice of the ego in my mind can be loud and persistent. It talks, comments, censors, categorizes and judges hoping I will pay attention – hoping I will think the voice is me. Moment to moment I have to chose if I will identify with it. I have control over the radio dial and I know I can choose my station. I often choose to tune in to forgiveness, so that when I hear the ego’s voice in my mind, I can use it to show me what judgments I have inadvertently made, and by asking for help, I can undo them through forgiveness and this, will eventually lead to permanent lasting Peace (and quiet!).
I occasionally have experienced short glimpses of oneness. Invariably they happen after I’ve been practicing forgiveness consistently. The purpose of A Course in Miracles as stated in the introduction is to “[remove] the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence.” In keeping with the Course’s aim, my goal has been to recognize what’s in the way of the awareness of love rather than seeking the spiritual experience. It’s the undoing of the ego thought system through forgiveness that leads us home.