Remember, this is just a story...

Imagine an old-style Southern preacher lecturing a crowd. Instead of crying “You are all sinners! Repent or face the fires of hell!” he is saying, “You have been tried in the highest court in the universe and are found not guilty! You are all innocent! ”

Innocent despite all appearances—in fact, just innocent—is the way I need to see my brother if I am to have peace. My experience, even as a child, was of a burning desire for forgiveness to assuage the guilt I felt at my own transgressions against my brothers. I was a founding member of a church boy’s club in my home suburb and suggested that the club adopt a motto. The leader accepted the idea and asked what motto I would have. My immediate response was, “Forgive and Forget.” My understanding of forgiveness even then was the removal of all consequences, which is the essence of forgetting, for if the sin is truly forgotten what consequence could there be? (Nevertheless my suggestion was unacceptable and another motto was adopted).

It was not until I learned of the possibility of true forgiveness, the forgiveness that recognizes nothing ever happened, that I found the key to the “indescribable happiness” promised in Lesson 12 of the Course in Miracles. Here’s how it happened.

Remember, this is just a story. I have a clear memory of the occurrence, but memory itself is tricky. Since it is memory—or Mind capacity—that we are using to create the illusion that we call the world, we need to beware of believing the evidence of the senses. The evidence of the senses is very literally the problem, since believing that evidence gives rise to the fearful idea that I am a body. The idea is fearful because the body, as it appears to us, is destructible and capable of suffering pain. Since nothing real can be threatened, the understanding that neither the body nor the thoughts that give rise to it can be real allows us to discount stories such as the following as being true. At the same time, the awakening of mind that they symbolize is possible, in fact inevitable. This is the first step in the undoing of the dream of space and time and the restoration to awareness of the eternal act of creation—my co-creation with Infinite Being of the Kingdom of Heaven—that continued even while I dreamed of a world where I could die.

Now to our story: I was a business executive, a professional writer and one of two partners in a small advertising and graphic design agency in North Sydney, with a lovely rented house in Willoughby, a rented office, a mobile phone, a suit, expensive ties, and a constant struggle to maintain the income needed to fund the required lifestyle and image of this business, to generate the desired income. To make a long story painful, the beautiful wife decided I couldn’t provide enough for her desires and left.

The emotional upheaval was sufficiently unpleasant to convince me that a fresh approach to life—or even better, a fresh life—would be welcome, and I remembered the meditation class I had attended the previous year. The teacher had promised that 20 minutes of meditation a day, for a month without fail, would change my life. Convinced that any change would be for the better, I embarked on this aim, achieved it, and found that my life did in fact change. I even found a new relationship. When that one too, failed within months, I received a flyer in the mail from my rebirthing teachers. It contained some quotes from the Course in Miracles; and my attention was drawn to the description of a “demonstration of whole mind”, which was to be held at this event in Sydney by someone calling himself Master Teacher,

I had read some of the text of the Course, but put it aside because I gave up on Christianity at an early age (before 20) and the Christian terminology made my head spin. Nevertheless the flyer provoked an intense curiosity about this concept of “whole mind” and what it meant. Did it imply that I had only half a mind, or that I fell short of having a whole mind in some way, even if I had more than half? I really wanted to see whole mind in action.

So it was curiosity that got me into a room in Sydney, in a church building behind the Futures Exchange, not knowing what to expect. Here’s where the story has a bit of a blip, because I still don’t know exactly what happened. All I know is that suddenly everything changed. For some days I was in the happy realization that I had given up all grievance (though old habits later reasserted themselves and my mind had to be retrained to a constant letting go of upset). The underpinning of my life had shifted from sadness to joy, and I knew that I had been lifted up spiritually, despite myself, as though I had been given a reward I did not deserve, and yet with the awareness that I had asked for it when I directly appealed to the Master Teacher to wake me up.

I found out about the Workbook of the Course in Miracles, and had almost daily encouragement from a teacher of God in doing the Lessons as instructed. By Lesson 20, I was in Byron Bay with a number of others of like mind, daily immersing ourselves in the lessons, concepts, insights and literary brilliance of the Course. I eventually moved to Byron to make the Course my full-time occupation, but in the meantime, miracles had begun to occur. Two Mormons in a park recognized the love of God in me, and acknowledged the truth of a paragraph I read to them from the Text of the Course. My car spun out on a wet, steep, slippery road with a cliff on one side and a road barrier on the other, clipping and scratching both the front and rear of the car but doing no serious damage. I drove away. I was able to go to the dentist for the first time in my life without fear of pain and without the need for an anesthetic needle. I was experiencing the miracle of the healing of my mind.

Although not entirely free of emotional upset, I was beginning to learn that God’s care was integral to my daily life, and that as my mind changed through the retraining of the Workbook lessons, the world changed too. Things became easier. Trusting that everything was perfect, and that appearances were always deceptive, and that I need not yield to the constant temptation to fear and to be guilty, began to dawn in my mind and to brighten until it became an unshakeable conviction. As that happened, my joy and peace increased and my tolerance for fear and pain lessened.

Was this a true awakening? I’m not asking you to judge that from these words. I’m saying that is what it was, because that is what I asked for, and the universal law “ask and you shall receive” can only work in your favor if you ask for what you really want. I wanted forgiveness very early in my life, and tried to be forgiving. My limited understanding of forgiveness—as an undeserved pardon for a sin—was not enough to erase the guilt entirely. Much later, as a trainee rebirther, I gained a new understanding of forgiveness as “They did the best they could.” Well, that’s a start, since it means I did the best I could and to some extent that lets me off the hook. I couldn’t have done any better, could I? And yet bad stuff still happened. There was still pain in the world, and, it appeared, people to blame it on, even if they were doing the best they could.

The final insight into forgiveness came with the ideas in the Course. “My sinless brother is my guide to peace.” “My grievances hide the light of the world in me.” “Forgiveness is the key to happiness”. “I am responsible for what I see.” Forgiveness is true now because, 1) I know that nothing I thought my brother did to me ever really happened and, 2) I realize that I am the cause of my own unhappiness, which comes through my lack of forgiveness, and that in turn stems from forgetting that my brother is only me. Not only is he me, but also he is offering me everything I need in order to see that both he and I are innocent!

Forgiveness is the key to happiness, and that while we appear to be in this world it must be practiced constantly. Knowing that, I have a strong motivation to use the tools available to me to respond with love rather than fear to the events and people in my life.

The story serves to remind me that I was once lost, apparently alone, full of fear and unable to understand the feelings I was experiencing. By grace, and by no doing of my own, my connection with Source is restored. The awakening as a past event is of no use to me except to show me how much I have changed. The awakening as an ongoing, continuous, out-of-time connection to eternity is the joyous abundance of happiness promised in the Course. That’s what I’m celebrating now with you.

Stephen Calder

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