To most people who are not on a metaphysical path, the idea that sickness is mental may seem radical; after all, all evidence suggests the contrary. What hurts us always seems to come from outside of us. But the world is a manifestation of thought. This means that whatever beliefs or thoughts we hold, consciously or unconsciously, make the world as we experience it. Similar to a dream, where the dreaming mind is the source of what occurs in the dream, as a collective ego, we project the world we see. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, taught in the late 1800s that the universe is “the outward condition of your inward thinking.”
Last February, I went to Hawaii with my sister to visit my brother. At the beach one day, my sister noticed a cyst in my lower back. I put my hand to it and noticed there was a protruding mass of some sort. It wasn’t huge, but definitely noticeable.
Back home, I developed an obsession with it. It was the first thing I looked for as I woke up in the morning. My hand could reach back and touch the exact spot where it was. I noticed it in the mirror and also caught myself thinking about it several times a day. After a few months a few fearful thoughts began to creep into my mind.
I tried praying, but I fell into the trap of believing in what the Course calls “order of difficulty in Miracles.” It’s the erroneous belief that there is a hierarchy of illusions, making some harder to heal than others. While I was sure I could heal from a cold, or a sore throat, a growth seemed too solid and permanent.
So I decided to see a doctor. It felt a little vain for wanting the thing removed and awkward, especially because I hadn’t seen a doctor since my last child was born 10 years before, but I went anyway.
After measuring the growth and taking copious notes, the doctor said he could remove it and agreed to submit the request to my insurance which, of course, declined to pay for the surgery unless I went through more tests.
I’m not opposed to tests. Someday, I may decide that I want them and it won’t make a bit of difference. We are all heavily identified with our bodies. Just as our bodies need water, food, oxygen, warmth – all external things we believe we need to survive; one day, I may decide that I need medicine to live just a little longer.
But as I looked within for guidance on that particular day, I couldn’t see myself going through it. I remembered this passage from the Manual For Teachers page 18:2:5:
“Who is the physician? Only the mind of the patient himself. The outcome [whether the patient heals or not] is what he decides that it is. Special agents seem to be ministering to him, yet they but give form to his own choice. He chooses them in order to bring tangible form to his desires. And it is this they do, and nothing else. They are not actually needed at all. The patient could merely rise up without their aid and say, "I have no use for this." There is no form of sickness that would not be cured at once.”
So when I got home that day, I knew I needed to take a stand. I was either going to go back to the doctor and follow his recommendation, or I was going to handle my thought.
Re-reading the “Song of Prayer” Pamphlet, I realized that I was bound by my desire to see my body free of the cyst. I was basically believing that in order to have peace the cyst needed to be gone. Page 2 of the pamphlet says: “The secret of true prayer is to forget the things you think you need.….Also in the same way, in prayer you overlook your specific needs as you see them, and let them go into God’s Hands. There they become your gifts to Him, for they tell Him that you would have no gods before Him; no Love but His. What could His answer be but your remembrance of Him? Can this be traded for a bit of trifling advice about a problem of an instant’s duration? God answers only for eternity. But still all little answers are contained in this.”
I had heard Gary Renard talk about this “True Prayer” mentioned on the pamphlet at a seminar once. He had suggested we practice it for 30 days and see the change in our lives. Though God is not aware of our material experiences in the world; he only sees us Perfect and in His image and likeness, when we connect with Him, it is inevitable that our experience of the world will change.
Gary instructed the group to get into a meditative state and then imagine a bright welcoming warm light. He said it might be useful to think of Jesus, as a symbol of our joining with the right mind, leading us to an altar where we place one by one all of our desires, needs and attachments. (If I were to do this right now, I’d be placing on it my family, my tennis racquet, my work, my copy of A Course in Miracles, this blog, my laptop and the story I think I want to write.)
The altar, which is mentioned in many places in the Course, is the symbol for the decision maker -- the part of the mind which moment to moment chooses to identify either with our right mind, also called the Holy Spirit or Christ, or our wrong mind, the ego. As I place all my desires and attachments as gifts on the altar, what I'm saying is that I am willing to let go of all idols which stand in the way of my experiencing God. The altar then disappears as does Jesus (if we choose to take his image with us) and all that is left is our desire to experience ourselves as one with God. We then wait in quiet until He appears. (In reality he doesn't appear, He is always there. We just become aware of His Presence in us.)
In practice, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Some days, I notice huge resistance in the form of aggressive distracting thoughts. It might take an hour in the morning just to achieve a few seconds in the Presence of God. Most days, I never get to that place, but that occasional day when I do, makes all the others worth it.
After the mind is quiet and I’ve invited Jesus to join me, I place my attachments on the altar, and then he leads me to Him. I wait in quiet focusing only on my desire to feel His Presence. Suddenly, I become aware of an overwhelming sense of total release; like rest after a hard, arduous journey. I feel light as the veil of judgment dissipates and for a second, I know I am loved. The joy brings tears to my eyes. It’s a kind of joy that has no equivalent in human experience. It’s suddenly clear how much effort it was to be separate and how natural it is to be One. I feel an enormous sense of compassion and forgiveness that starts with me and embraces everything I’ve ever come in contact with and then all images and words fade and for a few seconds, I AM.
On the days where resistance is strong and I can’t get past it, I’ve learned to succumb to it. Resistance is fear of awakening. To our ego, oneness with God is equivalent to death, so instead of fighting resistance, which would only make it real, (anything we think we have to fight has to be real,) I just forgive it. “I must not want to experience the Love of God today,” I tell myself and just stop there. Other days, it seems natural to want to let go and I do.
Practicing True Prayer changed everything. As I became more in touch with His presence in me, the urge to look at my back gave way to a trusting feeling of peace. I didn't look because I was no longer attached to having a particular result. On occasion, I would notice the cyst, but it didn’t seem as important anymore. If I had to live with it for the rest of my life (or as bizarre as this may seem, if it killed my body,) it didn't matter too much. My peace came from myself and not from my body.