I am a recovering Methodist. I was raised Christian, read the Bible in Sunday School and went to church every Sunday with my parents. It wasn’t until I went to college and began my journey into philosophy courses that I began to evolve. Although this isn’t the right time or place for that story, let’s just say I began to see the hypocrisy of what many Christians in the world preached and how they acted in reality. I didn’t want to have any part of that. Practicing what you preach is very important to me, and the experiences I had the first 20 years of my life pushed me further from what I was taught to believe as a Christian. I liked the messages behind the stories of Jesus and the way he loved. But there were too many other pieces that just didn’t feel right to me.
Over the past 4 1/2 years, one of the best healing strategies I’ve found is to take classes that help me grow emotionally and spiritually. There have been courses on forgiveness, how to care for myself, and renewing life, which encompassed a variety of topics compressed into nine weeks of self-exploration and sharing. I’ve taken meditation, soul collage, and art as a way to heal. And as I continued on my journey, I was introduced to a woman who would open up a path for me to see my Methodist upbringing in a new light, literally. I had heard about “A Course in Miracles” from some of my spiritual mentors like Marianne Williamson and Neal Donald Walsch, but I had no idea what it was. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it would lead me right back to the teachings of my childhood, yet taught from a very different perspective. So it has been interesting for me to engage in a weekly exploration with a few other women in “A Course in Miracles”, a text that was dictated by the spirit of Jesus to a woman named Helen Schucman over a period of seven years beginning in 1965. While at first, I was uncomfortable with the language of “God” rather than “a higher spirit,” I think my fear was that if I used the term God, I would be embracing the hypocrisy that I deplored when I had that “Ah-ha” moment my freshman year of college. There are times when I need to meet my hesitancy head on, let my jittery legs climb that ladder to the high dive, and be open to seeing what happens when I come up for air.
So why am I writing about this on a blog devoted to chronic pain? The ability to discuss deep issues and find support within our small community has been incredibly healing. The course brings up challenges that we have in our lives, and our goal, as our facilitator says, is to “join with ourselves”. To become whole so that we feel peaceful…To see through the eyes of love…To accept the innocence in each and every person…To distinguish between the illusions we see with our physical eyes and the reality that we experience through the eyes of the Holy Spirit…It sure sounds easy, but it takes a lot of work to become aware of old patterns and to change our beliefs accordingly.
When I am not feeling peaceful, my stress levels activate my pain more intensely. Chronic headaches are more apt to occur, and my neck spasms more consistently. But when I take the time to sit with my emotions, without judgment, without expectations, it is a process of helping me become more whole. To realize that I don’t need to defend myself to anyone was a huge awakening. All I need to do is speak my truth. And if there are people in my life who are just too far from this feeling of peace, the place where I want to live, then I make the decision to surround myself with the people who have the energy that nourishes me. This will result in having to give up some relationships and needing to be aware of new people who show up in my life who do have that energy and will give me what I need.
Here’s a recent example. I had a very negative experience on a Facebook thread where the only person I knew was the person who wrote the post. As I sought to encourage her and bring awareness of other points of view to the conversation, I felt abandoned. Completely invisible! Not one person wrote in support of what I was saying, and in fact, a lot of judgmental opinions and defensiveness emerged. As I thought about what I was really upset about, it wasn’t so much the topic itself, even though people were making negative comments about public schools. Since my friend knows I’m a teacher, I finally realized my pain stemmed from the fact that I didn’t feel supported by my friend. So the next day, when I saw that one of the activists in an online group had responded very rudely to another person and no one called the rude person out on it, I wrote to the woman who was trying to help. I thanked her for everything she did for the group and told her I noticed how rudely she’d been treated. We had this experience in common, I shared, and I gave her the support she needed to know someone stood by her and recognized she was only trying to help. This exchange has led to us getting to know one another better via private messaging, even though we’ve never met. Sometimes we just have to give what we want, and the people who belong in our lives will appear. And sometimes, giving others what we want is enough to help us feel at peace.
My Hopes: My biggest hope is this. We all know life is a process, an opportunity to grow in so many ways every day. Finding that nourishment in others and learning to give it to myself does lift my spirits as I often feel alone in this small universe called cervical dystonia. But I will take every chance I have to learn and discern who and what are good for me. It takes a commitment to examine my own patterns and those of my family and friends to see if they are working for me. A Course in Miracles is helping me see through a very different lens than the one we’ve been brought up with and are exposed to each day in our society. In this way, my hope is to make the decisions I need to make (some leading to a certain level of unwelcome discomfort) as I learn to put my health needs first. I also hope that you will get to a point in your life where you will want this for yourself. Being at peace, finding the innocence in others, and shining your light outward (as well as inward) are not easy tasks. It takes a higher level of awareness and your willingness to bring this to the world, your world. To feel peaceful and loving towards everyone including yourself…can there be anything better to aspire to in this lifetime?