I sat in my office, eyes shut, contemplating the searing possibility–gradually morphing into an inevitable probability–that “I do not perceive my own best interests,” as A Course in Miracles workbook Lesson 24 indisputably asserts. As my imaginary inner professor–that bearded wonder, ventriloquist extraordinaire–has mentioned innumerable times. Without ever moving his holy lips or seeming to exercise his holy voice.
There seemed nothing left to do. My daughter and her boyfriend had just left with my husband to retrieve her boyfriend’s car from the tire store in a community in the Front Range foothills. My husband had picked them up in the wee hours of the morning after the car blew out three tires in a freak accident resulting from chunks of ice and rock falling onto I-70 on otherwise clear roads following a heavy spring snowstorm earlier that day.
After dining with us the previous evening and stocking up on camping gear, the kids had planned to bunk at a friend’s house located just past the accident before making the eight-hour drive through the Rockies to Lake Powell–a gigantic recreational area nestled in a red-rock canyon on the border of Utah and Arizona. They planned to rent a boat there for a night before joining other members of their soon-to-be-graduating college class for a celebratory trip to the enchanting Canyonlands National Park.
I sat watching the trajectory of my relief that the kids had emerged unscathed from the highway debacle involving some 30 vehicles alongside my anxiety’s as we all pulled out our computers, banged away at search engines, and realized the National Weather Service had extended the previous day’s storm warning for the mountainous area they intended to traverse to reach their destination. Even though several cockeyed-optimistic highway “cams” pictured clear roads in, you know, “real time.”
The kids started frantically googling alternative routes, my daughter biting her lips and gnawing at the edges of her thumb as she has since she was little. My husband rooted around in the cellar and emerged with our dusty Forest Service maps, souvenirs of our own past calamitous and miraculously-survived wilderness adventures. They could go through Durango where the weather looked fine but it would take additional two-and-a-half hours. They could leave tomorrow, only they had a $400-nonrefundable deposit on the boat they had just pushed back a day and the tires had already cost them $1000—ouch! Besides, they had to return to school Wednesday and it was already Saturday.
I-70 really didn’t look bad, my husband kept saying, mesmerized by the dubious promise of multiple web cams conjuring safe passage. They could just cancel the whole freaking trip, stay here, and binge on pasta and House of Cards episodes with me; I happily did not venture to add. Not that anyone was listening to anyone else anyway, eyes and ears riveted on the screens of our personal devices.
Somewhere during this convoluted seeming conversation (really, are there any other kind here in dreamland?) it again occurred to me, at least at the level I think I am, facing multiple choices in form—none of which guaranteed a passing grade–that the tires blowing might have been a blessing in disguise, forcing the kids to come home and delay their travel that morning. And although none of the alternatives currently circulating in the split mind seemed acceptable to the worried mother I still see when I look in the mirror, I nonetheless sensed the eternal flame of a safety beckoning far beyond any of these meandering roads, emanating from the perpetually open door of my inner teacher’s office in our one mind.
The kids left with my husband, still unsure about which route to take. As they headed out the door and I embraced them, I uttered words that left me entirely gob smacked. “Do what feels best to you,” I said. (I know–what the?) I held my daughter close. She was 22 after all. These were her illusions to choose among. In truth, they always had been. “I love you,” I said.
“What the hell was that?” I thought, afraid again, as I shut the door, aware I had no control whatsoever about the choices to be made, the dream figures making them, or the consequences of those choices. Not in this situation. Not in any. Although we are not asked to deny our experience in form and will always find ourselves choosing among illusions as long as we seem to inhabit a body navigating a treacherous world, ultimately choosing among forms is like trying to rearrange seats on the deck of the Titanic, as our beloved external teacher Ken Wapnick so graphically put it. We will never find protection in a venue imagined to defend against the preposterous idea of endangerment. Only choosing to align with the perspective of the inner teacher of invulnerability will bring us the unwavering comfort and security of our enduring, all-embracing true nature beyond this dualistic mortal dream of individuality realized.
I glanced at my watch. I had to leave for a lunch meeting with alumni of the School of Reason for A Course in Miracles in half an hour. Enough time to come to this chair, heart once more heavy, stomach churning. To simply sit with the alternative to the fear again rising in my throat, born of the same old guilty belief in problematic personal lives purchased at the cost of eternally peaceful, innocent, undifferentiated union. And I entertained the possibility that I did not know my own best interests in this situation seeming to involve the fate of a body I cherished above all others.
After a few moments I realized I just couldn’t have it both ways. I couldn’t keep trying to bargain with Jesus to assume the role of superhero for me (as fetching as he looked in that costume). To somehow swoop down and envelop my daughter and her boyfriend in a magic bubble, and still experience real peace. Because if he joined me on my own terms, like any other body, like the unreliable body I think I am, for example, how could I possibly rely on him? I really would have to let the form of what I desired to happen go and ask only for the content of mind-healing. And so I did, breathing deeply, in and out, through the free-fall of that thought. Reminding myself I know nothing of truth but am willing to learn. Willing to trade my body’s urgent, rollicking instincts for the quiet center of certainty I am beginning to taste and trust above and beyond all other experience.
And you know what, peace came, or rather, I came to peace. I went to my meeting where the topic du jour along with the soup turned out to be, go figure, Chapter 18, VII. “I Need Do Nothing.” My daughter sent me a text later that afternoon. It was indeed sunny in Grand Junction! They forged on to Lake Powell and I assume are on their way to Canyonlands as I type. Of course, they do have to return Wednesday on the same roads and the weather looks, at best, well—as predicted on these pages before— “cloudy with a chance of projection.”
“In no situation that arises do you realize the outcome that would make you happy. Therefore, you have no guide to appropriate action, and no way of judging the result. What you do is determined by your perception of the situation, and that perception is wrong. It is inevitable, then, that you will not serve your own best interests. Yet they are your only goal in any situation which is correctly perceived. Otherwise, you will not recognize what they are.
If you realized that you do not perceive your own best interests, you could be taught what they are. But in the presence of your conviction that you do know what they are, you cannot learn. The idea for today is a step toward opening your mind so that learning can begin.”
– (A Course in Miracles workbook lesson 24, “I do not perceive my own best interests.” Paragraphs 1 and 2)
Susan Dugan’s books Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, Forgiveness Offers
Everything I Want, and Forgiveness: The Key to Happiness are available at
RMMC and on Amazon. She writes about ACIM based on Ken Wapnick’s teachings at ForaysInForgiveness.com and teaches Tuesday nights at RMMC.