I staggered into his office and plunked down across from his desk, hanging my sorry, little head. For a variety of external reasons that still seemed all too real, I could not bring myself to meet his welcoming eyes. “Bless me, father, for I have sinned,” I whispered.
“Oh, come on,” he said. “Not this again.”
“Humor me, please!”
“Story of my life,” he said, smiling.
But I was in no mood for right-minded levity.
“So, pretend you’re the priest again, and I’m the sinner—just one more time.”
“We’ve talked about this,” he said.
“I know, I know. The whole point of A Course in Miracles is to help us remember no one is guilty here, or, for that matter, here at all. There was no original sin of separation from our indivisible, ever-loving source. No flight from abstract love into differentiated bodies vying for survival in a meaningless, mortal world. Attempting to project that unconscious belief in sin against eternity on each other in a desperate attempt to exonerate themselves in the eyes of an imaginary, vindictive father. But that’s not the way I’ve been feeling, OK? You have no idea how many hurt feelings I have had to endure lately. Or how many others’ feelings I have hurt, I am sorry to say.”
His brows shot up and down the way they do.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I said.
“You always do.”
“Feelings lie, right?”
“Go on,” he said.
“I mean, who is doing the feeling? If this is my dream of exile from wholeness, how could I feel hurt or hurtful unless I failed to remember I am the dreamer, not the hero of the dream? But—Jesus Christ!”
“Hey,” he said, eyes dancing.
“Sorry. But I am here to tell you I am so not a lucid dreamer right now. I have completely failed in that regard, completely forgotten I am dreaming. And in my fear-weakened, nightmare-mired state, I am feeling truly, madly, deeply guilty, OK? It really, really, really feels like I need your forgiveness on behalf of, you know …” I lowered my voice. “The big Guy. Please just hear me out, meet me in the condition I think I’m in if you know what I mean?”
“I do,” he said, still smiling that same, confounding, impossible-to-fathom smile, completely immune to apparent incidents in the dream. He swiveled in his chair across the desk, assuming the requisite demeanor.
I pressed my palms together; bowed my head. “Bless me father, for I have sinned,” I repeated. “It has been forty years since my last confession. I accuse myself of …”
But where to begin? In little more than a week, I had managed to break every guideline to inner peace covered in A Course in Miracles. No small feat, really; the ego had been high-fiving me like nobody’s business. I had found myself tossing my allegedly beloved big, blue book into the metaphorical shredder without so much as a murderer’s miniscule backward glance of regret. Worse, I had failed to remember I even had a decision-making mind outside the dream always capable of choosing which inner teacher to interpret my dream with. The ever mindless ego robotically devoted to dreaming a dream in which I am endlessly, helplessly, unfairly treated by other dream figures to prove I exist but it’s not my fault. Or Jesus/Holy Spirit/right mind, the part of our one mind sitting right across this desk from me that never forgets to smile that other-worldly smile at the foolishness of it all, available 24/7 to remind me I am only dreaming.
My wild, reckless defection from the decision-making mind seemed all the more poignant and hopeless having occurred on a week-long vacation in Cozumel with my husband and friends, where I was supposed to be blissfully recreating, relaxing, and sipping fluorescent-hued beverages. Within a little pocket of paradise adorned with sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and azure skies to which I had retreated believing I deserved a break from the troubles and worries of daily life. Only to find them cropping up everywhere (albeit in different forms) like plastic varmints in one of those old Whac-A-Mole arcade games, completely forgetting my only function here was practicing true forgiveness of what never was in all its disguises. From worrisome jelly fish to rental car debacles to conflicted group dynamics (are there any other kind?). Culminating in a colossal case of tourista that left me cursing a country I love for an apparent inability to solve the problem of water purification. A condition from which I still suffered now, having barely subsisted on a diet of rice, bananas, and saltines for several days; talk about fear-weakened states!
Although I had reached for the big, blue, book each morning, attempting to sit with it in meditation on the little balcony to our room overlooking the pool below and the translucent waters and coconut palms waving surrender in the breeze across the street, the workbook lesson the book kept opening to—Lesson 131: “No one can fail who seeks to reach the truth”–appeared to have been rewritten in a foreign language, mostly likely by malevolent forces, as unattainable as a note curled inside a bottle bobbing off shore, always just beyond my reach.
The unspoken message seemed clear. I must be the exception to the rule. Because I was a failure, all right. Despite having devoted nine long years to studying and practicing and teaching forgiveness of what never was, I was somehow right back where I started, firmly, deeply, miserably rooted in a dream from which I doubted I could ever awaken. Consumed with doubt, judgment, discontent, and neediness. Banished for eternity to repeat the same exhausting, mistaken choice to believe the “tiny, mad idea” of separation had real effects. My only hope? To seek temporary solace from the crushing weight of that constantly resurfacing guilt by attributing its cause to someone or thing seemingly “out there” over and over again.
And yet, here I was, right now, sitting across the desk from the welcome visage of another point of view. “In the end it doesn’t really matter how many times I run away from you, does it?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Not so much.”
“Because I always end up right back here at the threshold of the place I never left?”
“I might get scared—for more than a week, even—but it doesn’t really matter. It’s like you say:
‘Be glad that search you must. Be glad as well to learn you search for Heaven, and must find the goal you really want. No one can fail to want this goal and reach it in the end. God’s Son can not seek vainly, though he try to force delay, deceive himself and think that it is hell he seeks. When he is wrong, he finds correction. When he wanders off, he is led back to his appointed task.’ (Paragraph 4)
No exceptions, then, not even for me?”
He threw back his head and laughed.
I had to laugh, too, sooner or later. Funny, now I couldn’t remember any of my sins, or theirs. There was really nothing left to talk about.
“OK, father, I guess you can knock it off,” I said.
He turned back to face me, gazed into my eyes where he had been all along. I’d almost forgotten. I rummaged in my pocket, handed him the package of teeny, tiny worry dolls I’d bought in the square at San Miguel, the kind I had given my daughter when she was little to help her sleep.
He stared at them resting in the palm of his hand, awaiting explanation.
“Magic,” I said. “I you have a worry, just whisper it to one of them before you go to bed and put it under your pillow. In the morning your worry will be gone. I don’t think I’m going to need them anymore. After all, I have you.”
He nodded; holding them over the small trash can at the side of his desk. “I guess I can toss them for you then?”
I thought about it. “You might want to hold on to them for me a little while longer,” I said, smiling. “You know, just in case.”
“No one remains in hell, for no one can abandon his Creator, nor affect his perfect, timeless and unchanging Love. You will find Heaven. Everything you seek but this will fall away. Yet not because it has been taken from you. It will go because you do not want it. You will reach the goal you really want as certainly as God created you in sinlessness.” (Paragraph 5)
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.