Friday, May 22, 2015

The Wizard Of Oz And The Truth Of ACIM

At our last Course in Miracles (ACIM) group a friend loaned me a copy of a small little book called The Obvious Secret Lesson of the Wizard of Oz, (ISBN 978-0615607504) by Helen Gordon. It is only about 100 pages and printed with large type, which I am appreciating more and more.
I remember seeing the movie when I was only about 5 years old. Mother told me how I was so frightened of the green Wicked Witch. “Every time the witch appeared on the screen, Donnie, you would drop to the floor and watch the movie through the spaces between the theater seats.”
Ms Gordon has been a long-time teacher of the Course in Miracles and her website is [http://helengordon.com ]. In fact, according to information on the internet, she is the first online teacher of the Course. She has written this book to illustrate the truths of the story of Dorothy that are consistent with the truths of ACIM. The book is available through her website.
It was a fascinating read. Here are some brief highlights:
Dorothy:  She is on a quest to find true meaning in her life and to find her way back home, which she does when she awakens in her own bed. We are all Dorothy – in fact, we are all each character in this beautiful fairy tale. As the movie opens Dorothy is terribly afraid that her dog, Toto, will be impounded because he tramples the flowers in the garden of Miss Gulch. On her way back to the house she hides from a tornado and is hit on the head and passes out. The dream begins.
The Scarecrow: He believed he was a victim, bullied by the crows – “I am a failure because I have no brain.” Victimization was his excuse for ignorance and he attempted to project his perceived failure onto the crows – after all it was the crows, not his stupidity and failure in his job, that caused the destruction to the crops.
The Tin Man: The Tin Man’s muffled cry for help was indicative of how hard it is for most of us to truly ask for help. We stay stuck for so long in our old thinking with no flexibility to do things differently that we “rust.” The Tin Man wanted a heart , but all he could do was sing the “If only” blues. He was depressed by his situation, deep into self pity, and paralyzed by his belief that he was simply not enough.
The Lion: The Lion was just an all-talk bully, hiding behind his façade of bravery. We all can appear to be fearless when hiding our cowardice with boasts, aggression, intimidation, and put-downs.
The Good Witch: Glinda, the Good Witch, gave Dorothy the Red Slippers and the advice to find the Emerald City and talk to the Wizard.  The slippers represented Dorothy’s intuitive guidance, protection, and power.
The Evil Witch: The evil witch represents secrets we use to condemn and imprison ourselves. These secrets are the roots of our guilt that our egos use to devalue our existence, talents and worthiness.
The Wizard: After such a long treacherous journey Dorothy’s small group discovered what they were seeking outside of themselves was no more powerful than they. However, the Wizard recognized the truth about them and proceeded to reveal their capabilities to them in forms they could recognize and accept. The Scarecrow – a diploma; the Tin Man – a heart-shaped clock that ticked; The Lion -  a large medal of courage; Dorothy – hot-air balloon, which she missed getting into. But she learned, with the assistance of the Good Witch that “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t go looking any further than my own backyard [within me]. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” (p. 52)
The Awakening: Dorothy awoke to find herself at home surrounded by love, friends and family.  She realized that each person had played a role in her dream. Only their form had changed. She recognized their love for her. She could appreciate them just the way they were, each with their own needs, shortcomings, and ways of living.
I need to remember I am always wearing my red slippers, determined to find my way back home. The Holy Spirit is always guiding me when I allow my Self to follow the safe yellow brick road. I cannot recommend this little book more highly. It is a true gem.
I have also had discussions with friends in the Course that relate how several movies seem to highlight what the Course describes. One is Forrest Gump (1994, starring Tom Hanks) and the other is Being There. (1979, starring Peter Sellers).  In both of these movies, you witness someone who lives in the Now, responds with acceptance and gratitude, and is taken care of. Worry, bitterness, anxiety, and resentments are genuinely absent. Virtually every encounter with each of these main characters approaches being a holy encounter. Forrest Gump’s favorite phrase is “Life is like a box of chocolates,” while one of the closing remarks of the script of Being There is “Life is a state of mind.”
However, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to start looking for a copy of the 1939 MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz.  It’s been since forever that I’ve seen it.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#4 May 2015
Copyright 2015


PS: I will be unavailable for the next several weeks. I’ll talk to you later when I return.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Personal Examples Of The Truth Of ACIM

At our recent Course in Miracles (ACIM) group the discussion centered around one of the profound Truths in the Course: Namely, change my perception and the world I see changes. When I think depressing dark thoughts, I’ll see a depressing dark world. When I think thoughts of love, acceptance and oneness I’ll see a world chock-full of love and oneness. A dark fearful world does not make me feel at peace. A world full of light, tolerance and acceptance does.
Why, then, do I continue to think fearful, dark, defensive thoughts?
Answer: Because I think aggressive fear and angry thoughts, I have trained myself to expect attacks, aggression, fear, and anger. Okay, then why don’t I begin to retrain myself to think thoughts of oneness, forgiveness, acceptance and love?
Is it really that simple? Retrain myself.
Yes, it really is that simple because the Holy Spirit only asks that I be willing to really see the world as He does. He’ll do the rest for me. I know this to be true because I’ve experienced it first hand, although I didn’t have the language of ACIM at my disposal then.
As I began my recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous I hadn’t “officially” said to God, “I am very willing to see Your world differently because I can no longer tolerate the world I see and have been trying to escape through the use of vodka.” All I had actually said (and meant!) was “I can’t do this anymore.” That was enough. I still thank the good Lord and His Grace for the openness and willingness I began with as I started AA’s suggested program of recovery. Instead of fighting and resisting and analyzing this simple Twelve-Step Program, I embraced it and all its recommendations.
If the old-timers said “Jump!” I might have asked “How high?” but I jumped. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t ponder it. I simply jumped. I had never done that before.
And…
I began to get better.
Early in my recovery – perhaps 90 days along – someone suggested I stop wondering why others seemed to be having a hard time with this or that Step or suggestion. “They ought to be “this-ing” or “that-ing,” I would comment after a meeting. Their suggestion was that I begin keeping track of all the oughts, shoulds, woulds, coulds, why-aren’ts, and why-ares that I was thinking. It didn’t matter whether I was thinking about someone in the Program, politicians, or thinking about my own behavior. “All those are judgment words,” I was told. Try to stop doing that. It was also suggested I stop apologizing for everything that came up. “Stop saying ‘I’m sorry,’ all the time.” If someone says they’re having a bad day, say “I regret….” Rather than  “I’m sorry …” unless I had really done or said something I needed to apologize for.
So, I did just that. I began keeping track of the judgment words I was using or thinking. I started saying I regret rather than I’m sorry. That’s all I remember doing. And I changed. I wasn’t aware of it, but others were and said so. God bless ‘em. I needed that feedback.
As I became more and more conscious of my use of judgment words, I began to soften around the edges. I began to curtail the use of my tongue and pen. I began to focus on the people in front of me rather than parsing what they said through the filters of my internal (and perfect!) logic. I began seeing more and more of myself in them. As I stated, I softened.
Although I no longer jot down the times I use judgment words, I still use feedback. I remember, recently, after railing to a friend about all the myopic bigotry that seems to exist in our politics, he said, “You really enjoy hating those who hate, don’t you?”
BAM! I am a work in progress.
I remember a woman who would say quite often, “I used to think only in black and white. Everything and everyone (including myself) was right or wrong, good or bad, wise or foolish, appropriate or stupid. Then I began to see myself and everyone else in shades of gray. Now, I’m beginning to see in pastels. It’s quite beautiful. I am quite beautiful. You are quite beautiful.”
That pretty much sums it up.
As perception changes, reality changes. If I don’t like what I see, I don’t try to change what’s out there. I don’t try to change you. I try to change me by asking the Holy Spirit for help in seeing things differently. To help things along I am willing to try to do things differently, as well – like keeping track of my judgment words.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#3 May 2015

Copyright 2015

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Modest Example Of Some Truths In A Course In Miracles

I have not been able to give this message proper thought. We are in the midst of having to decide to put our oldest dog to sleep.
From the novel, In Pursuit Of The Proper Sinner, Elizabeth George, Bantam Books (Random House), 1999, pp. 80; 271:  This is a great, complicated, well-written mystery set in England. The detective is a gentleman named Thomas Lynley. His partner is a detective constable (DC) named Barbara Havers. She has recently been demoted from a detective sergeant for an action, which saved a child’s life, but violated all kinds of police chain of command protocol.  Lynley had been away on a honeymoon when this occurred. However, when he received the details of Havers’ incident, he had agreed with her demotion and had assigned another DC to assist him in his current murder investigation.
Since his newly-wed wife, Helen, also new Barbara, they had a tiff over his support of the police reprimand and his subsequent reassignment of Havers.
“Helen, … there’s no place for friendship in a situation in which everything depends on an officer obeying an order. Barbara didn’t do that. And what’s worse, she nearly killed someone in the process.”
‘But you know what happened. How can you not see ––“
“What I see is that there’s a purpose to a chain of command.”
“She saved a life.”
“And it wasn’t her place to determine that life was in danger.”
… She said, “I don’t understand this. How can you be so unforgiving? She’d be the first person to forgive you anything…. You’ve bent the rules before. You’ve told me so.”
… He was beginning to get angry and he should have held his tongue. Why was it, he wondered, that Helen could push his buttons in ways no one else ever could? “Then I’ll ask you to see this as well. Barbara Havers doesn’t concern you. Her behaviour in Essex, the subsequent investigation, and whatever medicine she’s asked to swallow as a result of that behaviour and investigation are none of your business….”
She was as quick to anger as was he and just as capable of expressing it. “I’m not that sort of woman. I’m not that sort of wife. If you wanted an obsequious sycophant to marry ––“
“That’s tautology.” He said.
And that terse statement finished their argument. Helen had snapped, “You swine,” and left him [to gather the rest of his luggage for an out-of-town trip back to the scene of the crime he was investigating].
[Several weeks later, back in London, Lynley tried to apologize to his wife.] He said, “I’m sorry about the row, Helen. You were giving your opinion. That’s more than your right. I jumped all over you because I wanted you on my side. She’s my wife, I thought, and this is my work and these are the decisions that I’m forced to make in the course of my work. I want her behind me, not in front of me blocking my way. I didn’t think of you as an individual in that moment, just as an extension of me. So when you questioned my decision about Barbara, I saw red. My temper got away from me. And I’m sorry for it.”
Her gaze lowered. She ran her fingers along the edge of the stool and examined their route. “I didn’t leave the house because you lost your temper. God knows I’ve seen you lose it before.”
“I know why you left. And I shouldn’t have said it.”
“Said…?”
“That remark. The tautology bit. It was thoughtless and cruel. I’d like to have your forgiveness for having said it.”
She looked up at him. “They were only words, Tommy. You don’t need to ask forgiveness for your words,”
“I ask nonetheless.”
“No. What I mean is that you’re already forgiven. You were forgiven at once if it comes to that. Words aren’t reality, you know. They’re only expressions of what people see.”
Several things in this back-and-forth reminded me of truisms from A Course in Miracles (ACIM). First, I am never upset for the reason I think. Initially, Lynley was angry because he believed Helen was ignorant of police protocol and thought friendship trumped that. Then it became obvious to him that he simply wanted Helen to be on his “side.” Secondly, Helen’s forgiveness of him because words are only expressions of what people “see,” or perceive – and that’s not reality.
Although both Lynley and Helen are still functioning from their egos, the movement of their thoughts in this argument is very much an example of the truth of the Course. My perceptions are of my ego – and they are not reality. I am to “see” the same Christ in others that I see in myself: I am an already-loved eternal spirit. That’s what I am. That’s what you are. That’s reality. What God loves is the only reality. All else is fear and a nightmare created by my ego. When I forgive others because I see them in myself, then the Christ in both them and me becomes a little more real. As old-timers in AA say, it’s all about spiritual progress not spiritual perfection.
As the introduction to ACIM summarizes: “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite. This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way: Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#2 May 2015
Copyright 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Living In The Now – An Illustration

I’m not proficient enough to discuss what living in the “real” spiritual NOW means. I can only relate to one of the principle maxims expressed by AA old-timers: One Day At A Time. This is linked inexorably to the truism that I cannot get drunk today if I don’t take a drink today. I just need to get through today by going through today by doing as best I can – without a drink.
After a meeting at my AA home group this week I discussed with a trusted and respected member of the Fellowship the idea of “one day at a time.” As we were talking, I was reminded of an after-meeting discussion I had with a commercial pilot when I was about 6-months sober. It, too, was about one day at a time. He told me how he flew a commercial airliner. He said he really didn’t fly the plane according to his registered flight plan. He said the FAA controlled the flight plan and his air space.
His plane was assigned a space – he called it a shoebox – that was about 2 miles long, 1 mile wide and ½ mile thick. His job, as the pilot, was to simply keep his plane centered within that “box.” As the whole box moved, he moved. If he just kept his plane within that box, it would arrive at the destination airport safely. The only time he was truly flying the plane was during take-off, landing and if an emergency occurred.
He went on to say that’s how he used the principle of one day at a time: Just do the right thing today as best you can (including not taking that first drink and using the Twelve Steps), and yesterday and tomorrow will take care of themselves. Then he laughed and stated: “I’ve learned that most of the things I think about my life are none of my business.”
After about two years of sobriety, I built a scale model of Colvin Run Mill, a historic site in Virginia’s Fairfax County. It was an early 19th Century mill with two-grinding stones. It was large and had very steep stairs that many elderly and small children simply could not negotiate. I was a docent there and was asked if I could build a model of how the gears worked so those who couldn’t tour the whole building could still get a “feel” for the entirety of the engineering that went into making the mill operate.
I said I’d try, but I couldn’t make a model of the gears that were in proportion but still strong enough to have a guest “operate” the mill by turning a crank. So I decided to make a scale model. The powers-that-be agreed.
I spent over 500 hours drawing and building the parts of the mill. There were no architectural drawings of the mill. I had to create my own. It was at a scale of ¼ inch equals 1 foot. It was a cut-away model. Much of the front was missing so people could see the water wheel, gears, axles and grinding stones. It was fun. Many weekends I spent in my spare room cutting, trimming, sanding, and fitting together all the tools, equipment, grinding wheels, gears, chutes, and bins that comprised the original mill.
At one point I realized that I must have made a mistake because a vertical shaft, that went to one of the grinding stones, was going to run right through a 12x14 inch beam that was one of the upper floor joists. I couldn’t get into the mill to double-check my measurements because it was some holiday. So, I notched one side of my beam to allow the vertical shaft to pass. The next weekend, I checked that problem in the mill. The beam there was also notched – but on the other side! I was a very happy camper. I had experienced the exact same issue that the restorers had experienced – although we had notched opposite sides of the beam. The manager of the restoration confirmed that was exactly what had happened.
At a county award ceremony I was presented with an ornate certificate of appreciation. I was asked how I managed to stay focused for so long. I told the audience how I simply worked on my model – doing the best I could – One Day At A Time. By doing each piece (AKA “day”) as well I could, the whole seemed to take care of itself.
Earlier, as I was making some notes for my acceptance remarks, I had recalled the words of the pilot. It was his message all over again. Stay in the box. Stay in the day. That was the message of the pilot. That was the story of my model. That has been the story of my life for the past 28 years of sobriety in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I repeat – when I take care of each day the year takes care of itself. I don't drink. I ask for help - especially from the Holy Spirit.
I’m certainly not perfect. Sometimes I really do want to harbor my anger, frustration and self-pity, so I can focus on anything but today, because these feelings are comfortable and familiar, and they make me feel special and unique. But I do know that if I allow my attention, energy and internal conversation to focus on thoughts that contain words such as should, ought, would, or could, then I am not focused on today. If I am not focused on today – what is right in front of me – then I am not living as I have learned to live.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#1 May 2015
Copyright 2015


PS: Although I thought I’d be back in time to publish a message last week, it didn’t happen. For those of you that inquired, thank you for your concern.