Sep 15, 2008

A Course in Miracles and the Spiritual Experience

On Sunday before Labor Day as I was going to bed, I plugged my cell phone to its charger and was about to turn it off, as I do every night, when I sensed I needed to leave it on. The thought crossed my mind that as long as my older son is in college (I had dropped him off three weeks before) I was never going to turn off my cell phone at night again. I’m sure you can relate to these small intuitions we sometimes get. They are not that significant, just little previews of the script the Course describes as already past and which we are simply reviewing.

A little after 2:00 AM the phone rang and I wasn’t surprised to see my son’s name on the screen. He has never called me in the middle of the night, but it seemed fitting.

I picked up the phone and right away I noticed that he was excited about something. His first words were “Mom, I know what Love feels like.” He then proceeded to tell me this story.

He was particularly awake that night and had nothing to do so he picked up the copy of ACIM that I gave him two years ago for his sixteenth birthday. (I gave it to him on impulse. I am pretty well aware that the study of ACIM is not particularly suited for young people. At the time, I told him that he could keep it in his bookcase and one day, maybe he would feel inspired to open it.)

As he lay in bed, he opened it and began to read Chapter 1. Though he had never read from it before, it seemed familiar to him. As he read he began to notice his body felt strange. Though he felt his legs on the bed, they didn’t seem to be his legs. His head felt very heavy and when he got to the passage quoted below on p. 10 of the text in the section called “Revelation, Time and Miracles,” he suddenly lost awareness of his body and felt surrounded by total, unconditional Love.

Spirit is in a state of grace forever.
Your reality is only spirit.
Therefore you are in a state of grace forever.

He felt safe and loved, as he has never felt before. He was moved beyond words - he now knew what being in God’s Love feels like. Then he noticed his hands. They seemed very far away and at that point he knew that if he chose to stay in that love, he couldn't be in his body anymore. He felt his heart beat racing with panic and the experience ended abruptly. For a few moments he couldn’t move his body and he had difficulty speaking. He wanted to say something to his roommate, but the words wouldn’t come out coherently and it took several minutes before he could function again. At that moment, in tears, he picked up his phone, went outside his dorm and called me.

As we spoke, he was shaking, but at the same time, was elated by the experience. He asked me: “Do you remember what you wrote as a dedication?” I admitted to him that I didn’t. He said that I wrote, “I love you more than you can imagine.” He said to me: “Mom, I know what that love is – a love that includes everyone and everything.”

We stayed in the phone for a long time. I comforted him as best as I could, trying to get myself (my ego) out of the way. I noticed my mind’s reaction as he spoke and forgave myself for it. By noticing the thoughts that crossed my mind as he spoke, I was able to listen without the ego's agenda. I was conscious of allowing my words to be informed by love rather than the ego.

A passage in the Text came to my mind and I shared it with him: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition. The urgency is only in dislodging your mind from its fixed position here.” (T.16.VI.8:1,2,3) I assured him that he was safe and that he was not required to give up anything. The transition is gentle and gradual.

As I listened to him tell me his experience, I had the feeling that all the work I’ve done over the years to progress on a spiritual path was for that moment -- so that I could be ready for his call.

He drove home from college this past weekend and we spent all of Saturday together. He seemed very calm and introspective. He told me the story again in more detail. I asked him if the experience had had a lasting effect. He said that things didn’t seem as serious anymore. He’s an athlete and results have often seemed important. He said that he didn’t need people’s appreciation as much because he knows “where love comes from.” He also mentioned that in the past two weeks he has often had the impression he’s “seeing from somebody else’s eyes.” He feels more detached. Certain things like having money don’t seem so meaningful anymore.

I’m not sure my son will continue to read or study the Course. If he does, he will someday realize what its practice involves -- a commitment to undoing the ego-thought system one situation at a time. The experience he had may prove to be helpful in that he will have had a glimpse of what the end looks like. But it’s the systematic practice of forgiveness that diminishes our identification with our body and undoes judgment so that we can become aware of the love that is.

The introduction to A Course in Miracles clearly states the purpose of its teachings. It tells us that its purpose is not to teach the meaning of love, but rather to help us identify the blocks that stand in the way of our awareness of love’s presence.

Introduction 1:6 The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance.

It’s through the practice of forgiveness that we identify those blocks that are hidden in our unconscious mind; and with the help of our right mind we remove them one by one until we become aware of the presence of love that was always there.