The groomer had unceremoniously announced that my little dog was now a senior citizen at the tender age of seven. Leading me to the horrifying calculation of my own age in dog years, as if the many human years I’d put in had not been trying enough! Kayleigh stared up at me, crestfallen, from beneath her graying, glamour-girl eyelashes, as if she understood the sad paradox of the human and canine condition. If we believed the body lived, we believed it could die, and would. Worse, the likelihood that her darling, little body (despite its still robust ability to race around the house like a puppy on steroids) might do so before mine, seemed doubly poignant, given other rapidly declining bodies in my classroom of doom. The sense of loss always waiting in the wings for every body here in dreamland thrust all-too painfully center stage.
I had just returned from visiting my elderly parents on the Canadian border in upstate New York. Although the planes, ferries, and automobiles required to accomplish this feat normally proved daunting at best, my journey from Denver had seemed effortless; buoyed as I was by the firm resolve to make this visit different. To see beyond the surface of our present experience and past history together through the magic lens of my invisible inner teacher, who sees only our common need to recognize the prevailing, invulnerable innocence we continue to share as our Creator’s only, beloved child.
Yeah. I had even bragged about my high-minded resolve to Course friends. But as Jesus, that symbol of the part of our mind outside the dream that never took the “tiny, mad idea” (or the bodies it seemed to engender) of separation from our source seriously has more than once ever-so-patiently pointed out:
“Trust not your good intentions. They are not enough. But trust implicitly your willingness, whatever else may enter. Concentrate only on this, and be not disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant. Come to it not in arrogance, assuming that you must achieve the state its coming brings with it. The miracle of the holy instant lies in your willingness to let it be what it is. And in your willingness for this lies also your acceptance of yourself as you were meant to be.” (A Course in Miracles Chapter 18, IV. The Little Willingness, paragraph 2)
But I must have forgotten again. How I wish I could say that my little fantasy of swooping in to the heart of the family-of-origin unit all right-minded, dispensing kind gazes and the occasional wise word; stepping back when seemingly challenged and letting you know who lead the way went just as consciously intended. But I’m not going to lie to you. Within three hours of arrival, I found myself clutching another inner teacher’s hand with no memory whatsoever of having made the diabolical swap. Deep in dialogue with the grave champion of separate interests about the many problems that needed fixing, bodies that needed rescuing, just in the nick of time no less, by none other than–me!
Suffice it to say my dream costars back home did not appreciate my super-heroine powers or recommendations, deftly ignoring them as they have largely ignored my observations for more decades (that definitely felt like dog years) than any of us really care to count. Leading me within 24 hours to awaken in the wee hours of a chilly morning to find the ego reciting the last lines of a long-forgotten poem I had written at the tender age of ten. Excavated miraculously intact from the Pandora’s Box of my childhood memories and addressing the sad predicament of finding myself completely alone and misunderstood by, well; apparently everyone in the entire world throughout eternity!
“…There is no beginning to being alone/Nor is there an end./It’s just there until someone/quenches that empty feeling./Someone like you who can help/and understand you./Then you will no longer be alone.”
Jesus! I cried, “Please, please, please help me see things differently!” And although I am seldom one to actually “hear” him say much of anything beyond the occasional, “we’ve talked about this,” in response to my pleas for clarity, heard this:
“Seeing differently does not necessarily mean feeling differently. There is an interim step wherein you see your choice for the ego as your teacher and feel the pain, but are still not ready to accept the answer: my perspective.”
“That helps,” I told him, grateful for the reminder. “Because that means I don’t have to blame myself for doing something wrong, right? It’s just part of the process. Just a reaction to my hidden fear of losing the only self I’m familiar with, unreal and unstable as she may be. Like a kid clinging to a dirty, smelly, old blanket that nonetheless symbolizes safety?”
But he only smiled.
Still, I was able to fall back to sleep, and throughout the rest of the trip, as I caught myself feeling frustrated, anxious, worried, discounted, and misunderstood, remembered, at least, that my job as Jesus’ student, willing to learn a better way of relating in this world and eventually awakening from it to our uninterrupted guiltlessness, is not to try to feelbetter. But only to look with him at how much I still want to use my feelings to justify the sense of a unique self at odds with other unique selves, especially those it has held most dear and relied on most heavily to meet its inexhaustible needs. And thereby learn I really don’t want to keep doing this. And could choose again, and would, when my fear of losing the false personal self I had confused with my real safety was undone through the ongoing process of looking at the cost of my choice to defend it.
That little interlude with the inner presence of sanity in the middle of the night also helped me realize the arrogance of the ego at work in my wish to intervene with my family. Presupposing, as it did, that I knew the means they had chosen to learn what would ultimately contribute to leading them back to our one parent’s home in the mind we had never really forsaken. I had no right to judge their path, or their curriculum, when I couldn’t even clearly assess my own, often mistaking progress for failure, and vice versa.
By the time I found myself at 4:30 a.m. in a the driver’s car on board the ferry that would take me back to the Burlington airport to begin my return journey to Denver, humility born of the welcome recognition that I really know nothing as Susan had at least returned. As waves crashed over the sides of the boat and it pitched and rolled in chop stirred up by 50-mile-an-hour winds, I continued to, if not exactly trust, at least entertain the possibility that even as I sat queasily contemplating a turbulent flight to my connection in Charleston (in the unlikely event that we actually made it across Lake Champlain), the strength of my inner professor remained within me. The inevitably of our eventual graduation to all we ever really wanted or needed, guaranteed.
“A miracle is a correction. It does not create, nor really change at all. It merely looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false. It undoes error, but does not attempt to go beyond perception, nor exceed the function of forgiveness. Thus it stays within time’s limits. Yet it paves the way for the return of timelessness and love’s awakening, for fear must slip away under the gentle remedy it brings.” (A Course in Miracles, workbook lesson 341 Section 13. What is a Miracle? Paragraph 1)
“The miracle is taken first on faith, because to ask for it implies the mind has been made ready to conceive of what it cannot see and does not understand. Yet faith will bring its witnesses to show that what it rested on is really there. And thus the miracle will justify your faith in it, and show it rested on a world more real than what you saw before; a world redeemed from what you thought was there.” (Paragraph 4)
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.