I just couldn’t bear her, or living there.
The house was a glaring testimony to sickness and struggle.
Everything spoke of her ‘condition’, from the ‘special chair’, to wrist warmers left on the kitchen counter, to dust in high places where she couldn’t clean, to the stool by the washing machine, so she could sit to fill and empty it. Conversation was liberally spiced with “I can’t”, “I don’t”, “I’m not able to”, “my back…”. She had a tremendous devotion to her limitations.
All was tired and cluttered, with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, regret and grief hanging heavy in the air. I lived in that house for 3 and a half years, a housing benefit claimant with seemingly nowhere else to go, grateful that someone had taken me in when I was homeless.
I began studying the Course one month after moving in. It is deliciously funny now to see the perfection of my Holy Spirit lessons there, which brought such healing. It was a brilliant invitation to dive into the teaching. My landlady had a son, 6’7” tall, mildly autistic and simmering with wild incoherent fury. Quite a package – my projected sickness and anger, both under one roof. My roof… I screamed and screamed inside with the pain of being brought face to face with my choice for separation and death.
‘Death is the one idea which underlies all feelings that are not supremely happy.. All sorrow, loss, anxiety and suffering and pain, even a little sigh of weariness, a slight discomfort, the merest frown, acknowledge death’. (Lesson 167)
At the time of living in this house, I was on Job Seekers Allowance benefit. I was still recovering from a long period of illness, and not feeling fit enough for work, so it was a horrible situation. I had to sign on every 2 weeks and report on my efforts to find a position. It was a perfect reflection of my belief in weakness and poverty, and a dread of being trapped in a boring job, which had been a terror all my adult life.
‘Death is the central dream from which all illusions stem. Is it not madness to think of life as being born, aging, losing vitality, and dying in the end?’ (M66, paragraph 1)
It was madness to want to hang on to my frailties in order to be unfit for a ‘mainstream job’. How persuasive I was in telling the Job Centre about how my eyes couldn’t tolerate computer work, and how my voice wasn’t strong enough for a teaching role. Such energy and pleading invested in the story ‘I’ve been sick, don’t ask me to be strong’.
‘All such thoughts are but reflections of the worshipping of death as saviour and giver of release’. (Lesson 163)
I was very practiced at ‘worshipping death’: my mother had been a chronically ill and grief stricken person, an omnipresent symbol of my fears about being irredeemably broken. In my 40’s I shifted the belief in chronic illness to my body; I spent 6 years bedridden, and for 5 of those years I couldn’t see or speak. Life as I knew it stopped. From the outside, and often from the inside, it seemed a ‘living hell’, with death being the expected outcome. I became so emaciated that I was close to organ failure, and would have been sectioned if I hadn’t agreed to go into hospital and be fitted with a peg feed.
Yet, as the physical seemed to be dying, Life was offering the most compelling invitation to heal. Through developing a deep inner connection with Spirit (what else could I do?) I was choosing again, and welcoming the support to release an extravaganza of pain and guilt.
‘When you accepted the Holy Spirit’s purpose in place of the ego’s you renounced death, exchanging it for life’. (Ch 19,C, paragraph 2)
As I first lost the ability to stand up, my reaction was – God, this is perfect, it sure doesn’t feel perfect, so show me how it is perfect! It was a fierce declaration of being determined to see the gift, and without this inner fire I would have sunk without trace..
On my 50th birthday, at the end of these 6 years, in nappies, fed by a tube, hardly being able to move even a finger, not able to see or speak, I ‘heard a voice’ ask – if this is your life from now on, will you accept it? In my mind I said yes. It was a bleak day, but I recognised that there was still a ‘viable life’ in me, despite the condition of my body. I could feel my Presence/the Presence, and I knew it was ‘me’. It was supreme blessing to be shown that the body isn’t necessary for ‘Life’. That was the Holy Spirit lesson to be learnt before I could begin the process of physical recovery.
The other essential ingredient was the forgiveness of my father, who I had hated since a child. Endless ‘psychological work’, and releasing with gusto over the 6 years, culminated in a moment of pure grace: the hatred left and was replaced by overwhelming love. This happened a few days before a 3-day secular mind training which had me speaking, seeing, eating and sitting up within 24 hours.
‘The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love. And They come quickly to the living temple, where a home for Them has been set up’. (Ch26, paragraph 6)
From the human perspective it was a whoppa of a miracle, and I went on to enjoy a beautiful relationship with my father for the remaining few years of his life.
This forgiveness was, of course, of myself, and I could never have imagined what extraordinary preparation this whole episode would be for studying the Course, which found me 5 years later.
I’d like to change tack now and look at the ideas presented in the Song of Prayer pamphlet (3. Healing, 11 False versus True Healing), which offer a practical and peaceful way of approaching the passing of the body. There’s no doubt our bodies will go, but we have absolute choice about our experience of them going, and can choose Life irrespective of the body’s condition and it’s ceasing.
‘Yet there is a kind of seeming death that has a different source. It does not come because of hurtful thoughts and raging anger at the universe. It merely signifies the end has come for usefulness of body functioning. And so it is discarded as a choice, as one lays by a garment now outworn. This is what death should be; a quiet choice, made joyfully and with a sense of peace, because the body has been kindly used to help the Son of God along the way he goes to God’.
The section goes on to talk about ‘This gentle passage to a higher prayer, a kind forgiveness of the ways of earth’. Here we have the answer: as always it is forgiveness. This quiet laying aside can only be chosen when true healing blesses the mind with ‘loving pardon for the sins it dreamed about and laid upon the world’. Forgiveness not only gives more peace and joy while in the body, it also paves the way for a more gentle passing. Even if the script is one of disease at the end, forgiveness allows for transcending identification with the diseased body, with suffering minimised or absent.
Recently I was given the most unexpected gift of leading a workshop on ‘there is no death’.
My preparation time was a couple of days, I had not facilitated on death before, and so the only option was to fully focus on guidance. A beautiful format came, and the day was totally held by Spirit. The following is adapted from this day, and I hope it may be of some use to you. I suggest setting aside a couple of hours quiet time to work through the process.
Silence: 5 minutes, offering this process to the Holy Spirit.
Writing Exercise 1: 10 minutes about people you have loved and that have passed.
Your feelings now, their physical absence, the way they passed etc.
Silence: 5 minutes, handing the story over to the Holy Spirit, clearing the mind.
Writing Exercise 2: 10 minutes about people you are close to who may pass, either those who are ill, or those who you fear passing.
Silence: 5 minutes, handing the story to the Holy Spirit, clearing the mind.
Writing Exercise 3: 10 minutes about ‘this body passing’. Contemplating your own ‘death’.
Silence: 5 minutes, again, handing the story over..
Read lesson 167 slowly, ‘There is one life, and that I share with God’.
Drawing Exercise: 15 minutes, allowing free expression of whatever is in you after the writing exercises and the lesson. Notice any ego thoughts of ‘I can’t draw’ and trust that your drawing will show you something beyond the intellectual and of value. Look with the Holy Spirit at what you’ve drawn. What is the gift?
Writing Exercise 4: 10 minutes about the forgiveness work in your life, and how finding peace with your relationships and circumstances could contribute to a quiet passing when the time comes.
Silence: 10 minutes, contemplating all brothers alive and free, beyond all thoughts of death.
‘What dies was never living in reality, and did mock the truth about myself’. (Lesson 248).
Death is a fiction, a thought we are separate from our Source played out in our illusory world with horrifying conviction that it is inevitable and often very painful.
‘Nothing you made but has the mark of death upon it’. (Ch13, V11)
With the help of Spirit, we can choose to acknowledge this mark of death, and be less and less seduced by physical images that seem to offer life. By looking at death in form, we can recognise we could never be form, and never die.
We are Life!
We share one life because we have one Source!
All blessings for your choice for Life!