Unlearning Classroom

What Is Easter, Really?

heart waterEaster, according to A Course in Miracles, is a purification of our thoughts.  Not in a sinful, guilty, watch-what-you-think way, but as a way to clear your mind.  In ACIM, Jesus offers us a mind training, which is another way of saying purification.

Lesson 151 mentions Eastertide and explains that purified thoughts lead to resurrection.  In Chapter 6, Jesus tells us, “Your resurrection is your reawakening. … rebirth itself is merely the dawning on your mind of what is already in it.  God placed it there Himself, and so it is true forever.”  As we clear the mind of false beliefs (that is, purify our thoughts), we uncover our true Identity, which is formless, infinite and eternal, without the need for crucifixion or human death. Remember, “The body neither lives nor dies, because it cannot contain you who are life.” (T-6.V.A.1:4)

Miracle principle #7 states, “Miracles are everyone’s right, but purification is necessary first.” Purification, in the Course, is a synonym for forgiveness. When we practice forgiveness, we discover that the Holy Spirit removes “all faith that you have placed in pain, disaster, suffering and loss.  He gives you vision which can look beyond these grim appearances, and can behold the gentle face of Christ in all of them.”  The gentle face of Christ is “the great symbol of forgiveness.” (C-3.4:5)  “Seeing” the face of Christ has to do with insight, not eyesight.  It is spiritual vision–the recognition that within, under and behind every form in the world of form lies formless Truth.

But, you have to give Him your belief in pain, disaster, suffering and loss.  This is both the purification process and the practical application of forgiveness–giving your thoughts to the Holy Spirit.  No rituals are necessary; no fasting, no self-punishing atonement.  All that is necessary is the willingness to follow Guidance, to think differently, to change your mind.  Clear directions as to how to do this are all throughout the Course, especially in the 365 lessons found in its Workbook for Students.  Helen Schucman once complained to Jesus that his course did not work!  He asked her to be honest about whether she was actually applying its principles.  Purification can only occur if we actually use the ACIM practices 🙂

Last but not least, let’s be clear that ACIM is a mind training–not brainwashing–program.  We chose to dream a dream of bodies and brains.  Mind training undoes the sticky attachment to the dreamer of this dream, to the ego’s hypnosis that you are a person.  Jesus says in the Course, “The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear: Teach only love, for that is what you are.”  It is not the personal self that is teaching love.  It is opening the mind to God’s Thought and allowing It to move through what seems to be “you” at this point in your undoing that produces miracles by practicing forgiveness and results in recognizing Who you already are.  That is the Joyful outcome of the ACIM purification process.

Happy Easter!

water crown

Previous Easter posts from The Unlearning Classroom are:  From Crucifixion to Resurrection and It’s Easter–Time to Wake Up!

If you need help practicing the Workbook lessons from A Course in Miracles, sign up for my online class, Workin’ the Workbook.

Ask Amy: Grieving While Not Believing In Death

Guy QuestionQ:  After Ken Wapnick passed away, you wrote on Facebook that you will cry as much as you need to.  Why do you feel like crying if you are truly applying the Course, which teaches us that death is not real?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA:  What I wrote on Facebook was, “Only his form is gone, but I will cry as much as I need to, even as my mind remains clear that Ken is always with us, always.”

Intellectually and intuitively I know that we are spirit, there is no death, there is no world, there is no body, and there is nothing to fear.  But I am not yet fully established in this Knowing.  Early in the Text we’re told, “The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world.  Those who [deny its existence] are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial.” (T-2.IV.3:8, 11)

When I heard that Ken had died, there was an immediate reaction in the body.  It could have reinforced the ego’s agenda, but because I was willing to use it for the Holy Spirit’s purpose it became a release from the belief in loss.

Tears came.  I didn’t fight them.  They were sweet with Love.  Somehow, there was a paradoxical experience of sorrow without pain.  The result is an increased conviction that we are a Oneness joined as One.

In Chapter 21 we are asked, “What if you looked within and saw no sin?  This ‘fearful’ question is the one the ego never asks.”  I looked, with the Holy Spirit, at the ache which moved through the human heart, the sense of disbelief that Ken could be dead because he had always been so youthful and healthy.

I looked at my concern for Gloria, his wife, and his staff at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles, who had been with him for almost 40 years.  I looked with the Holy Spirit and trusted that, “The Holy Spirit has the task of undoing what the ego has made.” (T-15.III.5:5)  Peace moved through my body with the quiet knowing that all is well.

I remember asking Ken if he missed Helen, and he said no, there was no need to miss her — she wasn’t gone.  I also asked him how he felt about his stutter, and he said it was nothing, he no longer gave it any thought.

Ken and AmyKen and I shared a similar background, both growing up in New York City, and both entering the fields of psychology and ministry.  To me, he’s “Uncle Ken,” the only family member who doesn’t think I’m crazy for knowing I’m not a person.  I speak in the present tense because there is no past and Ken lives in my heart.  His warmth, his wisdom, his humor — still here.

I turned to him many times to better understand and apply Course principles.  He helped me discern the voice of the ego from the Voice for God.  He helped me “get it” that we are a Mind, not a body; that we are Innocence, guilty of nothing.  He helped me when I first began formally teaching the Course.  The joke was that after I turned to Jesus, I double-checked with Ken.

“Within the dream of bodies and of death, is yet one theme of truth; no more, perhaps, than just a tiny spark, a space of light created in the dark, where God still shines.  And as you see [your brother] shining in the space of light where God abides within the darkness, you will see that God Himself is where his body is.” (T-29.III.3:1, 6)

This is how I choose to see Ken.  As he himself says in his YouTube video called Q & A: Death, “You never were in the body.  What happens when you die is nothing.”

Click here to read my interview with Ken Wapnick.

This Q&A appears in the Ask Amy column from the March-April 2014 issue of Miracles magazine.  Miracles is a well-loved  staple in the ACIM community.  To get a subscription, email Jon@miraclesmagazine.org or call 845-496-9089.  To ask Amy a question, email miracles (at) amytorresacim (dot) com

Practice Should Not Be Perfect

A Course in Miracles has an entire Workbook for Students which guides us through 365 days of spiritual practice. Let’s look closely at Lesson 95 which takes particular care in describing how to practice. Once we have reached this lesson, we must be almost four months into our Workbook study. We are told that five minutes of every hour has special advantages at this stage of learning due to our human tendency to let the mind wander. Jesus knows we need mind training because we lack mental discipline. We are forgetful and distracted. So short, structured, and frequent practice periods set us up for success.

Working with Lesson 95, we are advised to use the first five minutes of each waking hour to affirm, “I am one Self, united with my Creator.” We are cultivating a state of mind in which there is no doubt that this is true, saying with all the certainty we can give, “I am one Self, united with my Creator, at one with every aspect of creation, and limitless in power and in peace.” Then, with eyes closed, we say, slowly and thoughtfully, letting the meaning of the words sink deeply into our mind, “I am one Self.” Repeat this several times and feel the meaning of the words penetrate and saturate the mind, “I… am… one… Self.”

We are specifically told that if we forget or are unable to do our practice not to let this be a temptation to quit. “This should… merely be recognized as what it is; a refusal to let your mistake be corrected, and an unwillingness to try again…. The Holy Spirit is not delayed in His teaching by your mistakes. He can be held back only by your unwillingness to let them go. Let us be determined… to be willing to forgive ourselves for our lapses in diligence, and our failures to follow the instructions for practicing the day’s idea…. When you fail to comply with the requirements of this course, you have merely made a mistake. This calls for correction, and for nothing else.”

The ability to tolerate our human imperfection and strengthen our allegiance to the Holy Spirit’s correction is what the Workbook practice is really all about. The practice is about choosing again-choosing God’s Guidance. The practice is about loosening our grip on the ego as savior-undoing our attachment to our personal story and treasured wounds. The practice is about developing a positive obsession with God and running eagerly to practice every hour with a sense of joy and expectancy that we will be greeted with our Father’s Love and swept into His arms joyously.

Spiritual practice, whether it’s A Course in Miracles or any other path, is about becoming Mind-full of God’s Presence all day long and through our sleeping dreams as well. It’s not about ritualistically, superstitiously, and mindlessly repeating words–but if this is the best we can do for now, that is better than mindlessly worrying and fixating over the same old problems. If we try to perfectionistically control our spiritual practice, then we’re playing God instead of accepting His Guidance. For practice to make perfect, we have to be willing to connect to God’s Will and experience His Perfection.

If you need help practicing the Workbook lessons from A Course in Miracles, sign up for my online class, Workin’ the Workbook.

The First Lesson Is Humility

Before I discovered A Course in Miracles, the Sufis came into my life.  Actually, there is no “ism” to Sufism. It is the all-embracing religion of Love, encompassing all religions, and all peoples, everywhere.  Even so, there are different lineages of Sufis, and my teachers stemmed from the Chishti master, Hazrat Inayat Khan. Bless his heart, Wahiduddin has been providing the world with a message a day from the master for as long as I can remember.  I love the way they interweave with ACIM.  Here is one of my favorites.

Bowl of Saki, March 13. Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan:

Murshid 3Every moment of our life, if we can see wisely, contains some fault or error, and asking pardon is just like purifying the heart and washing it white. Only think of the joy of humbling yourself before God! … humbling yourself before that Spirit, that Ideal, who is the true Father and Mother, on Whose love you can always depend — it is a spark of His love which expresses itself in the earthly father and mother — and in whatever manner you humble yourself before Him, it can never be enough. To humble your limited self before His Perfection, that is to deny yourself. Self denial is not renouncing things, it is denying the self, and its first lesson is humility.

This is self-denial: that a man says, ‘I am not, Thou art;’ or that an artist looking at his picture, says, ‘It is Thy work, not mine;’ or that a musician, hearing his composition, says, ‘It is Thy creation, I do not exist.’ That soul then is in a way crucified, and through that crucifixion resurrection comes. There is not the slightest doubt that when man has had enough pain in his life he rises to this great consciousness. But it is not necessary that only pain should be the means. It is the readiness on the part of man to efface his part of consciousness and to efface his own personality, which lifts the veil that hides the spirit of God from the view of man.

As life unfolds itself to man the first lesson it teaches is humility; the first thing that comes to man’s vision is his own limitedness. The vaster God appears to him, the smaller he finds himself. This goes on and on until the moment comes when he loses himself in the vision of God.

Thank you, Wahiduddin, for Bowl of Saki! 

From the Heart, Radhika aka Amy Torres.

sufi heart 1

“Of your ego you can do nothing to save yourself or others, but of your spirit you can do everything for the salvation of both. Humility is a lesson for the ego, not for the spirit. Spirit is beyond humility, because it recognizes its radiance and gladly sheds its light everywhere. The meek shall inherit the earth because their egos are humble, and this gives them truer perception.” ~ACIM, T-4.I.12:1-4

My Interview with Ken Wapnick

RoscoeIt was leaf-peeping season in Roscoe, New York in October 2000, when I drove up to spend the weekend interviewing Ken Wapnick (in between attending his workshops) at The Foundation for A Course in Miracles on Tennanah Lake. The trees along the winding upstate roads were raining gold and burgundy leaves.

The air was crisp. Plaid woolen jackets and red hunting caps were the local fashion statement.  Along with fishing rods and wading boots.  Known as Trout Town USA, the Roscoe visitor’s guide bragged, “Come cast a line in our waters–you’ll be hooked for a lifetime!!!”  Well, I was already hooked.  Hooked on God and His Message in   A Course in Miracles.  And I felt driven to ask Ken Wapnick, the first human teacher of the Course, some questions face to face.

Today, February 22nd, is Ken’s birthday, so I thought we could celebrate by receiving some timeless insights he shared with me almost 14 years ago.

While re-reading our conversation, it struck me that Ken exhibited a constancy of good cheer, unshakable faith and generosity that are signs of God-Mind. This quote from a section in Chapter 21 which Ken often referred to, “The Last Unanswered Question,” came to me:

“Happiness must be constant, because it is attained by giving up the wish for the inconstant. Joy cannot be perceived except through constant vision. And constant vision can be given only those who wish for constancy.” (T-21.VII.13:2-4)

Here is an excerpt from the 30-page interview that Ken was gracious enough to have with me over the course of an entire weekend in October 2000.  It was intended to be published in The Sun magazine, as a follow-up piece to Higher Learning by D. Patrick Miller, an interview he did with Ken and Gloria which appeared in Issue 231, March 1995.  For reasons I don’t really understand, my interview stayed between me and Ken … I lost the desire to publish it.  I would apologize to him about this from time to time, and he would always forgive me 😀

Now the timing seems right to surface some of the material, so here goes.

Amy:  Early in the Text, we’re told purification is necessary and it is our thoughts that are being purified. And we’re also told that “This is a course in mind training.”  Can you speak about purification and mind training?  It sounds to me like choosing to be brainwashed in the nicest sense of … washing your brain.

Ken:  Washing your mind.  Purification is not a word which is used very often.  What purification really means is to undo the guilt that’s in our minds.  The guilt is the impurified part of our mind.  The impurity.  And forgiveness is what undoes that.  It has nothing to do with purification of the body.

Amy:  It’s all about forgiveness.

Ken:  It’s all about forgiveness.  That’s the great purifier.  And guilt is the impurity.

Amy:  And when we reach the state of forgiveness, what happens to us?  Do we just evaporate in a sense?

Ken:  You remain Amy, just as lovely as you are now, the only difference is that you would be happy all the time, there would be no anxiety, there would be no fear, there would be no guilt, there would be no depression, there would be no concern for anything, and you would be happy and peaceful all the time.

Amy:  But does the dream evaporate?  The dream is an illusion …

Ken:  Yes, it does.  But it doesn’t do it immediately.  The Course has the concept of the happy dream and there’s one passage that says you could not waken from the nightmare into reality because the terror would be so enormous and therefore you have to take small steps and those are the gentle, or happy, dreams of the Holy Spirit.  So, in the very end when you totally accept the Atonement, and you’ve forgiven totally, then you do awaken from the dream.   Which doesn’t mean that your body goes “poof!”  It just means that you know for certain that you are not your body.

Amy:  And then do you stop dreaming?  Do you die?

Ken:  Well, physical death has nothing to do with it.  It’s totally irrelevant.  But before you reach that point you become less anxious, less fearful, less angry, less judgmental, less guilty, etc., etc., and it’s a process.  Within the illusion of time, it’s a process.

Amy:  Does the branching of the road come before the happy dream? [The Branching of the Road is section IV in Chapter 22]

Ken:  The branching of the road, in a sense, would represent your choosing the happy dream.  When you basically make the choice, “I’m not going back this way again, and I may still be afraid of the final awakening because I would lose this individual self but I’m really making a commitment now, not to go back to my old ego’s ways but continue to look forward.”

Amy:  Does the branching of the road correspond to that part in the Course where Jesus talks about how it may seem very painful that you have to let go of relationships or habits in your life?

Ken:  Well, yes, in the sense that when you make that choice, the branching of the road, you’re really making a commitment to really let go of yourself.

Amy:  The small self?

Ken:  Yes, the small self, and that’s where the pain and fear becomes more acute because your ego recognizes that you really mean business.  I’ll be discussing that in the workshop tomorrow. [The workshop was called “The Scissors of Duality”]

Amy:  Speaking of the small self, I’ve noticed in my own life that as I have developed ego strength that I’ve been able to relinquish my ego.

Ken:  Mm hmm, yes, that’s the way it works.

Amy:  Can you talk about that a little, because it’s so paradoxical.

Ken: If the person doesn’t have ego strength it’s because there’s too much fear.  Or anxiety, or guilt, or whatever form it takes.  So how could you let go of your ego which is all about guilt and fear anyway?  Developing what psychologists refer to as ego strength is really a way of letting go of a lot of senses of inadequacy, anxiety, fear of death, etc.  That’s how it works.

Amy:  So there’s a real logic to it.

Ken:  Oh, yeah.  You can’t let go of your ego until you first have one.

Amy:  You can’t let go of your ego until you first have one.

Ken:  Yes.  And not having ego [strength] is basically autism, ultimately.  And that’s really intense fear.  Because that’s what the ego is.  Jung talks about two stages of life and the first stage is developing an ego.  And Jung said that the second stage is that every problem over the age of 35 or 40 is a spiritual problem.  What he meant was that the first part of your life is learning how to adapt to the world and how to get by in the world.  And the second part of your life you spend learning how to let all that go.  I don’t agree with a lot of what Jung said but here I think he was right.  The East says the same thing.  With men, anyway, you spend the first part of your life raising a family and having a wife, and when the children are grown you leave, and you go on your spiritual search.  The form seems a little odd to us in the West, but the idea is that you spend the first part of your life developing your ego, which really means learning how to undo a lot of fear, and that’s the first step.  The second step is, you can now take a step beyond that, and let go of this ego stuff entirely.

* * *

There’s more to this interview, but I’ll stop here for now.  Happy Birthday, Ken!  Your personal identity and body was born into the dream on February 22, 1942.  And, hopefully, in the words of the East, you achieved moksha, liberation from the ego, on December 27, 2013.  You are alive and well in my heart and the Universal Heart.  Heart within Heart

Namaste~  Amy

Copyright © 2000 Amy Torres.  All rights reserved worldwide.





A Happy Conversation About Death

My friend and mentor, Jon Mundy, took time out from his ACIM tour here in Florida to chat with me about something which is always at the back of everybody’s mind–the Grim Reaper, Angel of Darkness, Father Time, death!

The Course explains, “The death penalty is the ego’s ultimate goal, for it fully believes that you are a criminal, as deserving of death as God knows you are deserving of life. The death penalty never leaves the ego’s mind, for that is what it always reserves for you in the end.” (T-12.VII.13:2-3) 

So we decided to have a happy conversation about death.  Yes, you heard me–a playful, irreverent, happy conversation about death!  Smudges found it entertaining, and you’ll see Gatita’s response in the video.

Jesus tells us, “When you are tempted to yield to the desire for death, remember that I did not die. You will realize that this is true when you look within and see me.  Would I have overcome death for myself alone? And would eternal life have been given me of the Father unless He had also given it to you?  When you learn to make me manifest, you will never see death. For you will have looked upon the deathless in yourself, and you will see only the eternal as you look out upon a world that cannot die.” (T-12.VII.15:1-6)

Jon, who has eluded death several times, speaks from experience in the YouTube video below about timelessness, our inner Light, and the true purpose of the body.

If you need help practicing the Workbook lessons from A Course in Miracles, sign up for my online class, Workin’ the Workbook.


Emotional Intimacy ~ Sacred Discomfort

This piece “Emotional Intimacy ~ Sacred Discomfort” by Zahava is vulnerable, courageous and inspiring.  May it open you and guide you.

ZahavaI’ve spent a lot of my life believing that people are busy and I’m lucky if I get their attention because other things are more important than me.  I grew up as an only child, latchkey kid (came home to an empty house and my parents got in late.)  Now I live in New York City, where the rhythm of life often means I don’t see dear friends for months.  So this story started to really feel true.  I believed it’s safer not to need other people emotionally because they aren’t emotionally available.

The incredible men in my life have started to crack open this story.  They have been vulnerable enough to need me.  They have pointed out when my “independent feminist persona” comes out as a guard to shield my heart and push them away.  And it often gets expressed as “I’m busy.”

Cracking this open has been uncomfortable.  It feels awkward when I don’t know how to receive what I’ve asked for.  Why do my eyes dart to the ground, my breath stop?  Why do I back off my requests or suddenly leave the room because staying feels too vulnerable?  And when I come back in the room, and he’s there looking into my eyes… how do I release my pride… because being right is so much less fun than being loved.  I wish I could write the answer.  All I know is that when I breathe and I remember he loves me, the discomfort feels less relevant.

The things I remember are not necessarily the orgasms.  They are the ways my beloved sees me.  He sees where I stop myself from receiving love and he gets angry at me.  It’s the most loving anger… because he’s actually on my side, he’s speaking for my heart.  He’s trying to get my fear to back off so I can receive his love.  The things I remember are not necessarily the orgasms, no, I remember where he listens from when he asks me how I’m feeling before and after the orgasm.

Now you may ask, “But Amy, what does this have to do with A Course in Miracles?” and my reply is this quote from the Course, “You are the work of God, and His work is wholly lovable and wholly loving.”  Embodying the love which you are, though seemingly paradoxical, is one way to recognize that you are not a body, you are free, for you are still as God created you.

Thank you, Zahava, for your work and for being you.  Visit Zahava’s website:  http://lovemakingdances.com/

Ask Amy: How to Maintain Peace of Mind When with Your Mother?

Guy QuestionQ:  I love my mother, but she is hard to be around.  Everyone agrees she is very critical and demanding.  How can I apply Course principles to maintain my peace of mind when I am with her?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA:  For so many of us, mothers are our greatest challenge!  Actually, as obvious as it may be to you (and others) that your mother is critical and demanding, it is your interpretation.  “It is always an interpretation that gives rise to negative emotions, regardless of their seeming justification as what appears as facts.” (M-17.4:2)

To apply Course principles to maintaining peace of mind with your mother, you must give your relationship with the Holy Spirit first priority.  This means confiding in Him all the time.  How easily we forget that we are not alone — the Holy Spirit is always within us.

Begin by observing with Him what you are feeling when your mother pushes your buttons.  “You will become increasingly aware that a slight twinge of annoyance is merely a veil drawn over intense fury.” (W-21)  Under that fury lies a broken heart — on the worldly level we all want to feel loved by our mothers.  But remember, the memory of God within you predates your mother!

As you get upset with your mother, give every feeling to the Holy Spirit.  Hold nothing back: you might wish she were dead, want to cry like an infant, or tantrum like a two-year-old.  In addition, notice your yearning to love and protect your mother.  We humans are contradictory creatures.  Allowing contradictory feelings is liberating and restores true empathy and innocence.  Inevitably, guilt will come up, but when you observe with the Holy Spirit, He undoes the judgment that leads to guilt.  Be willing to feel all your feelings without guilt.

As you allow your awareness of the Holy Spirit to increase in your mind, you will view what you experienced as criticality and demandingness as a call for Love.  The Holy Spirit will use you to deliver loving miracles.  To paraphrase T-18.VII., you need do nothing, except not to interfere with the Holy Spirit’s communication.  This is the forgiveness practice that leads to inner peace.

young-mother-renoir 1898Both you and your mother are calling for Love.  By entering into a holy relationship with the Holy Spirit, you transform your special relationship with your mother into a holy encounter.  Expect to be happily surprised by your new responses to her.

To review, put your relationship with the Holy Spirit first; give your feelings to Him; be honest; receive His guidance; and open to experiencing your feelings without guilt.  Peace of mind is your God-given inheritance — who better to practice with than your mother?

This Q&A appears in the Ask Amy column from the Jan-Feb 2014 issue of Miracles magazine.  Miracles is a well-loved  staple in the ACIM community.  To get a subscription, email Jon@miraclesmagazine.org or call 845-496-9089.  To ask Amy a question, email miracles (at) amytorresacim (dot) com


How to run harmonious A Course in Miracles study groups and classes.

Let’s start with the obvious: A spirit of cooperation is essential because “Salvation is a collaborative venture.” (T-4.VI.8:2)  Therefore, begin by invoking the Holy Spirit and placing the ACIM class or study group in His Hands. “The Holy Spirit speaks with unmistakable clarity and overwhelming appeal.” (ACIM Preface) Salvation is a collaborative venture

The teacher or facilitator of the group* can make a statement such as, “Holy Spirit, we place ourselves in Your Hands, please guide us.” Another suggestion is that the group can hold hands in a circle and recite a prayer from the Course, for example:

I am not alone, and I would not intrude the past
upon my Guest.
I have invited Him, and He is here.
I need do nothing except not to interfere.

This intention opens the way for loving communication.  The “Guest” refers to the Holy Spirit, Who invites us into the Eternal Present in which we encounter our True Identity.  It is the ego who keeps bouncing between past and future in order to avoid the One Self we really are. oval blue doveIn order for us to feel safe, and maintain a beautiful spirit of cooperation, it’s best to share experience rather than state opinions, lecture or pontificate. An ACIM class or study group is not a debating platform. Those of us who choose to practice A Course in Miracles resonate with its teachings. Sincere questions are welcome–argumentative ones are not. Nor is it a place to preach to the converted–quoting the Course at each other is not necessary or loving; usually it is just the ego showing off and taking charge. And please, do not give advice unless it is asked for. Rather than being “truly helpful,” this ego-driven urge to “help” is what I call “horribly helpful” and is rarely welcomed.

Using “I-talk” is the best way to “own our stuff.” Some of you are well-acquainted with “I-talk” and others are not. I-talk is using the first person (me, I, myself) when communicating. Paradoxically, rather than being narcissistic, “keeping it on me” undoes me and results in being more loving and attuned to others.

When responding to another, you can ask, “Do you just need us to listen? Or would you also like feedback?”

Each of you can request specific feedback by letting people know, “Right now I only need sympathy–no opinions.” Or, “Please share similar stories with me, but don’t comment on mine,” etc.  Or you can set up a “No Cross Talk” rule which means that people share and no one else comments on what was said. (This is not ideal in a class or study group, but can be a good experiment just to see what happens and how it feels to practice no cross talk. Out of this experiment may grow a customized approach to your group.)

See if you can express yourself in less words. There is a Buddhist saying, before you speak ask yourself, “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” Remember, less is more.  This is not about repression–far from it.  If something is charged up for you and you can observe that you are triggered with the Holy Spirit, than rather than spewing your projections (like projectile vomiting) onto others, or repressing them (like swallowing your own vomit) you can learn these practical ways of sharing in a way that does no harm, to others and therefore, yourself.

In general, it’s good for all of us to share our experience without pushing it on anyone else. Ways to do this include, “What’s coming up for me is … ” or in response to someone else, “I feel an inner pressure to comfort you (or encourage you, or clarify the teaching for you, etc.). The reason we would choose to describe the pure sensation, for example, “inner pressure,” is to own our experience without interpretation. The inner pressure is yours–it should not necessarily be shared, or taken as spiritual guidance to help another. Just observe your internal experience.  And do  your best to stay in the present moment, rather than getting into lengthy stories about your past (always a telltale sign that the ego has taken over).

The Holy Spirit doesn’t actually tell us what to do in the world–He simply shifts our perception from fear to Love, and the form in which Love is expressed is a symbol, or reflection, of God’s Love. We learn by practicing with each other. It doesn’t matter how the other person reacts or responds. All that matters is that you practice forgiveness by following the Holy Spirit’s guidance, which by definition means that you step back and get out of your own way. This does not result in people walking all over you; to the contrary, your presence will become calm, powerful, impersonal, and full of loving Authority.

You can also offer, “Here’s an experience from my life that I hope offers you comfort.” Or, “Let me know if I can be of help.” But before you go rushing in to offer help (which can often be a codependent reaction) it is much more healing to share pure body sensations. This invites a healthy habit in the group of observing without defining, and opens an inner space for the Holy Spirit to lead.

Last, but not least, protect each other’s privacy by practicing, “What we say here, stays here.” Respecting each other’s confidentiality heals wounds and ultimately results in dissolving the personal story that maintains ego identification.

You must embody what Safe Ways to Share says if you want it to work, just as we must practice A Course in Miracles and not just read it. Interestingly, the definition of “embody” is to be a living demonstration of an idea, quality, or feeling–in this case, forgiveness and its resulting miracles.

To teach is to demonstrate.
There are only two thought systems, and you demonstrate that you believe one or the other is true all the time.
From your demonstration others learn, and so do you. …
You cannot give to someone else, but only to yourself, and this you learn through teaching. (M-Intro.2:1-3;6)

These guidelines are can be used in all your relationships, not just in a group. I highly recommend practicing them with everyone, everyday. Practicing emotionally responsible ways of communicating is a great undoing process. Feel free to ask me questions about this–you can email me at miracles@amytorresacim.com

* A class has a teacher who is the leader of that group and is the guide and protector of the group. This teacher should be humble and open to getting out of his/her way and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach the class–this is an ongoing process; the teacher does not have to be “perfect,” just honest, kind, with good boundaries, and hopefully, well-versed in the subject being taught.

A study group has no teacher, but instead is a group of people getting together to discuss a subject, in this case A Course in Miracles. Most study groups have a facilitator–someone who organizes the class schedule, contacts the participants, and facilitates the meeting by providing some guidance (e.g., “Let’s begin by invoking the Holy Spirit.” and “Here are the Safe Ways to Share used by this group.” etc.) without taking on the responsibility of teaching.

Many thanks to the Foundation for Inner Peace who provided the image for “Salvation is a collaborative venture” from their free series, ACIM Weekly Thought and to Harper Wood for her illustration of an ACIM study group.


Frosty the Buddha by Will Johnson

Will Johnson is one of my spiritual teachers, and I love how he uses the body to undo the body.  His wise and witty missive below embodies (forgive the pun) his philosophy and will enliven your practice of the Workbook for Students in A Course in Miracles (ACIM).  Enjoy!

snowmanAt the recent Urban Retreat in Victoria, which took place in the midst of an unseasonal winter storm (this is coastal British Columbia, after all; it’s not SUPPOSED to be cold and snowy), the image of Frosty the Buddha, the Bodhisattva of Alignment, was born. The aspect of our sitting posture that we first want to tend to when we sit down to meditate is the alignment of the upright spine, just as the Buddha suggests in his earliest instructional texts. Alignment–with its revelation that the gravitational field of the earth functions as a source of support for objects that are primarily aligned around a central, vertical axis–is a great benefactor and promoter of the dharma. It lets us relax and let go.

The first thing to remember about bringing alignment into your meditation posture is that it can’t be imposed from the outside in. It’s far more of an inside job. It needs to be felt into, first through kindling awareness of the sensations and feeling presence of the major segments of the body, and then through allowing these segments to begin spontaneously to self-adjust in relationship to one another. And this is where Frosty the Buddha comes in.

Consider the snowperson: three balls of snow of decreasing size, placed one directly on top of the other. Frosty’s lower body and base is the largest, providing a natural foundation for the upper segments. Frosty’s upper torso is much smaller in comparison, and his/her head is smaller still. And it doesn’t take a Buddha or the proverbial rocket scientist to know what every small child who has ever built a snowperson knows: if Frosty doesn’t want to self-decapitate, or lose the whole of his/her upper body, you better make sure that each of these snowballs is placed precisely one on top of the other. Indeed, Frosty’s very existence professes the wisdom of alignment.

So…, when you go to sit down, the first thing you might want to do is kindle the feeling awareness of the three major segments of the meditational body. Begin by paying attention to your largest foundational base which consists of your legs and pelvis, extending energetically even into your lower abdomen. Bring the sensations in every cell of this lower “snowball” to life (what the great 20th century meditation teacher U Ba Khin called “activating annica,” the bringing to felt awareness of the constantly changing vibratory experience of the body), and then feel this entire segment, as a unified field of sensation, all at once.

Now bring your awareness to your version of Frosty’s second snowball which forms your torso. Give yourself permission to activate the felt awareness of sensations, and then feel your entire torso all at once. And then do the same to your version and experience of Frosty’s head. As you sit in meditation, mindful of the image of the Bodhisattva of Alignment, feel how these three primary segments can be felt to start relating to each other, lining up, one on top of the other, naturally, effortlessly, spontaneously. Long live Frosty!

With your meditating body playing with upright alignment and the ever present dance of balancing that ensues (everything that you feel continues to shift and change from moment to moment), you can truly start to relax, again just like Frosty (s/he also moonlights as the Bodhisattva of Relaxation), no resistance, no holding yourself up or bracing against gravity, just dropping your weight through an aligned body. And, then, in order to stay relaxed, amoeba-like movement can start occurring at every joint of the body, expanding, contracting, in response to breath’s endless wave.

At this point, Frosty, being the eminently wise manifestation that s/he is, realizes that s/he’s done her/his job and that now it’s time for you to move on from his/her static image as you continue on your meditative inquiry and your body keeps relaxing and coming ever more unfrozen, as you begin to soften and melt the tensions in the body and the contractions in the mind, as you keep allowing the current of the life force to animate you through subtle movement. Frosty is, after all, frozen, and the next instructions from these earliest texts of the Buddha point us in the direction of coming alive through our breath and, ultimately, feeling how breath can cause subtle motion throughout the entire length of a deeply relaxed body.

Frosty can’t allow these motions to occur, but you and I can. So, thank you, Frosty, for all your inspiration, your sound advice, your insistence that alignment is a great supporter and propellant of the dharma, your implicit promotion of relaxation, your vision that ultimately we all melt away. And thank you as well for your insight in knowing that it’s now time to summon your good friend, compatriot, and tag-team partner, the Bodhisattva of Resilient Motion, to step up, take over, and be our guide as we continue on our way.

Now who might that Bodhisattva be, and what might s/he look like? Hmmmmm…, well, how about the image of the little Buddha figure I recently saw stuck onto the dashboard of a friend’s car; the neck and head of the Buddha were on a coiled wire so the Buddha’s head was constantly bobbing, moving, really going to town…?

All the best and greetings of the season,
Will (and his good friend Frosty)