Apr 3, 2010

A new beginning

Long before I found A Course in Miracles, I followed Howard Roark. From the moment I imagined him at the edge of a cliff about to jump, I fell in love with him. I was in my early twenties, and no character in literature has made more of an impact in my life than him. Here's a guy who has just been kicked out of the most prestigious school of architecture for refusing to draw buildings using design guidelines from the past, and yet he is serene, focused and unaffected. He doesn't think about what the future will be like for him without a title. Instead, he goes for a swim. He gets butt naked, climbs up to a cliff and jumps into the lake.

One of Ayn Rand's purposes in writing her novel "The Fountainhead" was to portray the "ideal" man. Howard Roark is the ideal man. He is a man who consistently acts, speaks and designs for himself. He never gives to get or acts to impress. When he speaks, he says what he wants to say. Words for him are tools for communication; not manipulation. He acts consistently with what he wants and needs for himself. Ayn Rand calls him "selfish," and in her world that is the ultimate compliment.

Yet Howard Roark is one of the kindest men in literature. Because he doesn't need anything from anyone, he also expects nothing. When he helps, he demands no gratitude because he helps for his own sake. His integrity can never be sacrificed. As a result, he offers the highest form of help possible, which in Ayn Rand's words is to recognize other's "own independent value."

Howard Roark cannot be hurt by people or circumstances because he gives them no power to make him happy. His happiness comes only from his personal achievement; from doing what he is born to do. The first line in the novel is: "Howard Roark laughed…….He laughed at the thing which had happened to him that morning and at the things which now lay ahead." From that point on until the end of the 727 page novel, he keeps on laughing and smiling as he faces adversity because no matter what happens to him – and a lot does – he is free.

After his swim in the lake Roark goes into the world to practice architecture. In early twentieth century New York City he is way ahead of his time. He is labeled a "modernist" and throughout the novel he is abused and condemned by a society that is not ready for him. Yet, no matter how difficult the situation gets for him – several times in the novel he loses everything - he cannot suffer because his core belief is that nothing can hurt him. He knows that his body might be hurt or inconvenienced; he may become poor or even be thrown in prison; but he understands that a man can only hurt himself by giving power to the world to hurt him.

At one point in the novel he says to his friend Steven Mallory: "I don't think a man can hurt another, not in any important way. Neither hurt him or help him. I really have nothing to forgive…." Roark understands that he can't forgive another man because a man can't hurt him in the first place. How can he forgive someone for something he didn't do?

Over the last eighteen years, I have struggled to reconcile my love of Howard Roark with my practice of A Course in Miracles. I understood partially and only for brief moments what one had to do with the other. Last week I had a revelation which took me back to Howard Roark. I awoke to the realization that there is nobody out there to do things for. There is only one and that one is me. For the first time in my life I felt deep love for myself and as a result, for everything I see. I experienced this will rise within me that allowed me only to speak and move for myself.

This force that directed my actions made it impossible for me to do anything with the ego's motive which is to seek love, approval or attention from others. For two days I couldn't speak, move or even smile for other people's sake. Speaking or moving outside of this new found integrity felt like deep betrayal and I wouldn't dare betray it for the sake of others. Following this Will that guided my words and actions, I understood, was the end of suffering.

When this happened I was in a program called "The School for the Work," by Byron Katie. People noticed me and interpreted what they saw as a sign of grief. They were kind to me and offered me food, water and comfort. They tried to hug me. They asked me questions. They smiled at me. But I couldn't answer to please them, or to make them feel better. I could only move for myself, speak for myself even write for myself. Those first few hours after my mind cracked open, I was so moved by the freedom I felt, that I cried. I felt drunk with Joy that came from feeling complete. If I had a fear, it was only that somehow, I would choose to go back to doing things for others.

Little by little over the past week I've learned how to act normally again. I look the same and sound the same; the only difference is in purpose. My words and actions are honest because their purpose is not to manipulate. The blessing to others is that if I am with them, I am fully present and not calculating consciously or unconsciously what I might get in return. I'm no longer seeking approval. I have become Howard Roark.

I understand now what Ken Wapnick meant when he said that ultimately you realize that the Holy Spirit is you. When your mind lets go of its identification with the ego you become what you are in reality. Without the ego, you are that mind, which A Course in Miracles calls the Holy Spirit, which knows its true nature. Everything you do with this mind is honest because it does not need anything. This means you no longer reinforce the ego with its dream of separation in yourself or others. The "Secret Vows" which the Course talks about are off. Without the ego's motives, your purpose is only to extend love. And with love you can only be truly helpful.





  1. Thank you for going into that in more depth. Makes sense to me; but it always did. It looks like you're coming back to normal, ..., but never all the way back. I want to talk with you more. (Today, I almost signed up for BK, but wanted to check dates first.)

  2. Dean, I'm happy to report that I do sound and act normal. That is a huge relief. One of my worries last week was whether I'd be able to function in my roles. My mind is anything but normal though, but no one (except possibly for Scot) can tell. I think you would love the School. Next dates are in October. Call me whenever you feel like talking more.

  3. The Work is saving my ass lately, let me tell you!

    I'll write you an email one of these days, but honestly!


  4. oh, and beautiful post. one to read over and over.

  5. Marian, thanks and if you ever want to trade facilitation with me, let me know. XOXO

  6. Thank you, Alban. I'm happy to hear from you. :)

  7. Now I understand better what you said over the phone, I'm so happy for you!. I hope I can reach that state of mind, you are my hope, you are a blessing.


  8. Thank you, Gabriel. One of the ideas that became clear over the past week is that there is literally nothing to do except to find Joy in what you're doing in the moment. If that's not available, just observe how much you don't want to accept what is. Watching the ego will allow you to get in touch with the incredible fear that is associated with the thought of letting it go and eventually as you watch it and do nothing it will lose its grip. I see you, my friend. :o)

  9. Dear Aileen,
    Thank you for sharing your incredible story. It is inspiring to read!! I,too am experiencing the freedom you speak of more and more each day. All the points of view (ego) rise and then pass like clouds in the sky when I see they have no power over me through my reliance on the clarity of awareness (Holy Spirit). I see that nothing has an independent source outside of awareness. As my suffering is ended and all my problems easily resolved, all that is left to do is be of benefit to others, all the while knowing there is nothing I need and nothing that needs to be fixed or changed because everything is already naturally perfect and there is no place where we are separate from anything. Therefore life is a complete joy. Even in intense grief I am in joy. This is what the Buddhists meant when they say pain is inevitable, suffering optional. All the points of view will continue to flow unpredictably. By allowing them to be as they are without trying to alter them or avoid them they rise and pass like clouds in the sky and tremendous power is released in which talents, gifts, and strengths we never knew we had rise to the surface and we are able to do things in the world that we used to think impossible. With the clarity of awareness all things are possible. Love, Linda

  10. Linda, I am so moved by your realization and by how your path, which to me has always seemed incredibly difficult, has taken you where you are now. I re-read parts of your book (One Again) the other day. It's such joy to see you! XOXO

  11. Thank you, Aileen, for posting about this revelatory experience. I seem to be finding many persons (all women, of late) who have had or are having such experiences. Since you are all in my dream, I know that I am getting closer to the same. I wait patiently for 'my time', knowing that I cannot be apart from any of you for even a moment. Thank you for leading the way in the seeming dream. Be-ing with you.


  12. Thanks good buddy! You have shared the meeting of a need that is universally in each of us. I look forward to opening this up more with you...whatever you can share... I am very interested in looking into the program. We will listen soon. Hugs, QL

  13. FE: in your comments to Gabriel you said "...there is literally nothing to do except to find Joy in what you're doing in the moment. If that's not available, just observe how much you don't want to accept what is." - this is so important! this brings me back from distraction from my purpose. it reminds me i can find Joy in what i have thought of as a difficult past or an uncertain future. and actually now is all there is. now is where God is. and so where I Am.

  14. Way to go, Aileen! Simple, but not easy, right? Thank you for your ongoing work and attention to peeling away whatever distorts or distracts. Irene and I love Howard Roark, and enjoy associating actions, behaviors, and things as "Roarkian." Gotta love Ayn Rand and The Fountainhead. Of course, the book is far better than the movie! Best wishes, Dancin' Rapids

  15. I love this piece. I keep coming back to re-read it. My favorite part is your realization that there is no one out there to do things for ...and how that made you feel drunk with Joy. It sounds like such a delicious moment. Also how Howard Roark said he had "nothing to forgive." Thank you so much for this window into your experience.
    Gotta read The Fountainhead!!