For the past 10 years, my close friend and I have been sharing many aspects of our spiritual journey. One year after we met, and after hearing me mention A Course in Miracles, she asked me if we could read it together. She comments, frequently during our conversations, that it’s apparent that I am an old soul, one who has been on this path for a while, and that I should share my experience with others. “If I had gotten it as fast as you did,” she often remarks, “I would be back “Home,” by now.” “Home” is used in A Course in Miracles to mean the return to our original consciousness, prior to the separation.
What I emphasize, and often to no avail, is that our return Home is not dependent on time. In fact, time is one of the beliefs that makes the journey a necessary one. Whole-hearted desire, not time, is the key. While the spiritual journey has been for many years a subtext of my life, entertaining a no-return journey was something I was catapulted into as a result of finding myself single and living alone 8 years ago.
In the shift to a different life-style, Grace provided an opening, or spaciousness, that allowed for the intensity of self-reflection and a re-examination of reality that the spiritual path demands, and that can be difficult to establish in intimate relationships where, sometimes, the goal of spiritual transformation, is not held in common. I agree with my friend though. In time, I enjoyed an illusory intellectual preparation, but the journey back Home is not traveled by thought or thinking, or books. It is not an intellectual journey. Not linear. The success of spiritual transformation is not marked by steps nor levels, both helpmates of time. Success is an ever-expanding dialogue that takes place in the heart, between the seeker and God.
I’ve often given A Course in Miracles credit for saving my life, as it was the text that informed me that my avoidance of direct relationship with God must come to an end. ACIM, or the Course, as it is often referred to, simply informed me that the journey back home was required, and that humanity has been hardwired for it. The Voice, of ACIM, said that when I returned was my decision, that I could delay, but I could not avoid it. I certainly didn’t understand at the time that I had made the decision, eons ago, outside of time. I reluctantly bought, and, with much suspicion, began studying the Course in 1994. And it would take more than 15 years before I fully accepted its contents.
I had not come to the Course a blank slate: I had taken the vows and the dhikr of the Tijani Sufi Order, Senegal West Africa; I’d studied and practiced yoga, studied Patanjali, the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Old and New Testament, especially the Psalms, Voodoon, the Holy Quran, Lao Tzu, Buddhist texts. I read, and occasionally still do, Alice Bailey. The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ rekindled my affection for Jesus Christ and answered many unanswered questions that lead me away from the Baptist Church. While I now know the distinction between Christ Consciousness, our true identity, and the man, Jesus Christ, who exemplified that identity, I still imagine Jesus’ beauty and his wisdom. His closeness to the Source, revealed in the Gospels of the New Testament, no matter how flawed, distorted, mistranslated and misrepresented, still inspires and motivates me.
My relationship with ACIM came to an end on a beautiful, and ominous autumn afternoon while I was teaching at a community college in Pennsylvania. I was alone in the office that I shared with 3 other adjuncts. Having a lengthy 2 hour break between classes, I had returned from the cafeteria from grabbing a bite to eat, taken ACIM out of my oversized purse to review a section that my friend and I were going to discuss. It was a section that was giving her some difficulty: IV. The Obstacles to Peace, out of chapter 19. Halfway through the first page, a voice told me that I was done. I couldn’t read and study ACIM anymore. I remember feeling sad and disoriented. I was more attached to the text than I had realized. In my heart, though, I knew it was time to move on.
With much relief, and not 6 months later, A Course of Love entered my life. ACOL is to the Heart what ACIM is to the Mind. The latter deconstructs the separation, its component parts, familiarizes students with its origins and how it operates as the world we live in. To know that living life according to the dictates of the separation, a life of judgment, blame, projection, anger, and guilt is not who I am is the goal of ACIM. With the question of “identity” being answered and laid to rest, ACOL guides the new identity (which is actually the true identity) in living in union and relationship with God, on Earth. Or to live in oneness with the I AM Presence, the definitive relationship that is our true guide to living in physical form.
A Course of Love offered some gems of wisdom that liberated me from the heavy burden of regrets that I carried about the past. It reassured me that everything that I had experienced in my life up to the acceptance of my true identity, was designed for the purpose of awakening me to that identity. The past could be forgiven of all that I had unconsciously and mistakenly attributed to it, but mostly blamed it for. Forgiveness is an indispensable tool for spiritual transformation.
The remaining vestiges of the separation are addressed in ACOL’s trilogy that ends with 40 days on the mountaintop, The Dialogues, in direct communication with Presence, or God, whatever name turns you on. Accepting both of these courses and their teachings is what “assisted” me in the journey back Home. That’s the short of it. But the short of it that I speak of spans about 45 years. This is what I attempt to explain to my friend. 45 years outside of time is not even a mere dot in eternity, but in time? I dragged on for years.
I picked up The Way of Mastery over 3 years ago on the suggestion of a friend who is also studied ACIM and ACOL. It reviews the ideas in ACIM and paves the way for a life lived in service to Presence, in a text that concludes The Way of Mastery: The Way of the Servant: Living the Light of Christ. I should attempt to explain that the “Christ” in the books that I have discussed here is an archetype. That is not to say that a man named Jesus Christ did not walk the roads of Galilee, heal leapers, perform miracles and hang out with ho’s. I don’t want to offend anyone or ruffle any feathers. Christ is who we all are: One with the Father, and we are all as holy as Jesus the Christed One.
There is not space here to detail all the experiences that come with the journey back Home: the dark night of the soul which is a staple of the return did not elude me! I often refer to my experience with it as the dark “nights” of the soul, as I confronted my demons over a long period of time. I have had my share, as have most wayfarers, of months that included weeks of disillusionment, depression, disappointments. I have resented God and resented the day I ever heard the word, “separation.” Some mornings I have not wanted to get out of bed, being fatigued from the nights that concluded days beset with forgetfulness and bad fucking luck. I would often go to bed and awaken to “what the fuck have I gotten myself into?”
Last year, I was guided to take monastic vows, new monasticism, a vow which has brought with it some major upheavals, reversals and shifts in lifestyle. While I continue to live my life, doing the things I have always enjoyed doing, there is a conscious infusion of “beingness” into doing that comes from monastic living. The present moment encourages us to know ourselves as the experience rather than one having an experience, ending the separation between the experience and myself as the experiencer.
Monastic life, now and as it has always been intended to do, asks us to accept a solitude that safeguards and ensures the flow of communication between us and the Presence. It is the guide to the dissolution of the “and” between me “and” Presence. Being alert to the intrusion of obstructions that function to veil the awareness of union with Presence is a dominant practice of monasticism. My writing, now, is a way of service, art making and gardening, meditative practices. The monk lives in each of us, in a monastery of consciousness committed to the moment to moment awareness of Presence. The indwelling monk who resides in the monastery of consciousness, automatically and effortlessly, creates a physical reflection of the monastery in which to express in physical form. This is what physical monasteries, no matter the tradition, have always intended to represent.
Finally, I have few beliefs now, and the ones that I do have do not serve me or any of all the life forms on this planet. Beliefs require unbearably heavy maintenance, not to mention a military that enforces its rule; and beliefs, every one of them, are unsustainable. One has only to look at the world that we’ve made with them to know that. The return Home graces and gifts us with the freedom and the power to express who we truly are, and is inaccessible with a plethora of beliefs. Expressing our true identity serves as a new definition for planetary living and as a replacement for what passes for living under the separation.
I’m discovering as are those who have laid aside the separation narrative that the return Home via spiritual transformation is not about seeking a guarantee of happiness. The peace that passeth all understanding is a condition of Home from which the rivers of joy and happiness flow in uninterrupted abundance. Accept what is and what is is the Present Moment and the Present Moment is God.
Afternote: Another reason why I am sharing something of my experience on the path is a reading of Bernadette Flanagan’s Embracing Solitude: Women and the New Monasticism. It alerted me to the challenges of having taken on the body of a women of African descent and taking part in the creation of a new path, and the inevitable shift and transmutation of an old monastic tradition, that welcomes all who, regardless of spiritual orientation, desire an intimate relationship with Divine Presence. Apparently old narrative voices are being raised in defense of the tradition of “patriarchy, white supremacy, homophobia,” and a “politically induced and sanctioned” form of Christian monasticism, that has dominated and defined the monastic tradition in the western hemisphere until now.