On Sunday June 6, 2010 Rev. Peter Graham addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of his talk.
It’s good to see you all. I was inspired today to title my talk “Change Is the Only Constant.” That in itself seems to be a contradiction, right, “change is the only constant”? However it does seem that when we take a look at it, both in our own mirs and when we look in the shifting world around us – just turn on the news everyday – that’s what’s happening.
We sometimes get ourselves in a place were we think that everything in our life is exactly the way we want it. Everything is ordered the way we want, and the next thing you know it happens. Something changes.
Just ask Barack Obama. Obama was actually the president who was elected on the theme of change. That was his big theme, change, but I wonder today, if when he was elected he could have realized he would be dealing with what they’re calling the largest natural environmental disaster in United States history. I don’t think that he knew that this was going to happen. So he and his administration are now challenged by this event that’s never happened in our country before.
The company that was responsible for it, British Petroleum, said that they had all of the accident systems in place. They didn’t have all these systems in place. Obama, the president of change, has to deal with it. Whether it’s personal or on a larger scale, with our institutions, our companies, our businesses, the people that we work with, the groups that we work with .... It seems that, we often, times have anxieties over change, the change that comes in our life.
A Course In Miracles tells us, “Many stand guard over their ideas because they want to protect their thought systems as they are, and learning means change. Change is always fearful to the separated, because they cannot conceive of it as a move towards healing the separation.” (T.4.I.2.1-2) What is the Course telling us? The Course is reminding us that we have been looking at the world from the perspective of the split mind, from the part of our mind that fears any change that happens in our mirs. This is equally true of the organizations and institutions that we have established.
Now what kind of things do we fear in terms of change. Many of us fear our physical death. Many of us fear a end of a relationship. We fear the change that comes with getting laid off or fired from a job. We sometimes fear having to move just from one apartment to another, or maybe moving from one geographic area to another. We fear getting a new boss or supervisor or, one of my biggest fears, having to learn a new computer program at work. Sometimes we fear the change in the organization that we’re a part of. Just look today in the United States at the auto industry. In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s the U.S. auto industry was the king, the greatest place to work. General Motors was the largest cooperation in the world. Today General Motors is struggling to survive with the other U.S. automobile companies. So why is this the case? Why is it we have fear about change? Why is it, for many us, that there is this sense of anxiety.
A Course In Miracles tells us, the metaphysics of the Course tells us, that in the beginning, when we made this world, that we experienced what would most likely be called the first traumatic stress, and thus now we have a primary, post traumatic stress disorder. We went from an experience of oneness, of perfect love, a perfect communion, and oneness with the source of our divinity at all time, into a world that we manifested, the separated world. We made the ego, our individuality, our god, and all the other gods beside it. However, that experience was one of lack. It was one of separation, loneliness, fear, guilt, and anxiety. What the Course teaches us is when we’re presented with change, in some ways we are encountering those initial, post traumatic stress feelings. This is why it is important that we move through the change with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “Change is always fearful to the separated, because they cannot conceive of it as a move towards healing the separation. They always perceive it as a move toward further separation, because the separation was their first experience of change. You believe that if you allow no change to enter into your ego you will find peace.” (T.4.I.2.2-4)
I must say that as a student of A Course In Miracles, over a number of years, I really believe, in my experience, ACIM helps us to facilitate change. In fact as we study ACIM. It’s changing us all the time. The ideas that we come across in the Course are like that. I was speaking to a Course student just before the service and he was saying that he doesn’t even refer to the word “death” anymore. It’s a transition because that is what ACIM teaches us – right? We appear to be bodies, but that’s not what we are. We all know that. We know that we are eternal spirits. We know that we are one. We know that we go on and mir in communication with one another forever.
At the same time, we have to deal with it. I am thinking about myself, personally. As I was preparing this talk I was saying “Okay, Peter, what are some things that I resist in my own life, in terms of change?” I began realizing that there were certain thoughts that I have that have gone unchallenged for years, and years, and years. Sometimes I am more aware of them than others. Recently this is what my critique is. “You’re not successful enough. You don’t make enough money. You’re not smart enough. You haven’t achieved anything that is long lasting, that’s life lasting. You don’t own a home.” Often times this is what is in my mind. I say to myself, “Okay, so those are there. Why haven’t I worked to change those thoughts? I am a minister of A Course In Miracles. I work on my thoughts each day ...” and so on and so forth. I think some of it has to do with the fear of change. These thoughts, in some way, become comfortable. In some way, they help me stay where I am today. So what is it? Is it that I want those things, perhaps, or is it also that I am afraid of change, of taking a step in a different direction in my career? Am I afraid of taking a step in a different direction in what I do in my personal time? Things like that.
I think some of it is just a resistance of change even if it’s something that we don’t want. The other thing I have noticed I struggle with is at my work place. I have shared in here before that I supervise a big part of a school, about 37 adults and 240 children, special needs children, “students” I should say – “people.” They’re actually big people, 14 to 18 years old. I supervise this school department, and what I have noticed is that my perceptions have changed over time. In the beginning I had a lot of hope. I had a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I had seen this department as a place where everyone got along. “They’re nice people ...” and so on and so forth. Now, what I see is that it is fractured into cliques. Especially the adults. It’s little groups with little petty fiefdoms, and there seems to be a lot of conflict. This one doesn’t like that one. This one is offended by that one. As the leader of this fractured band, I frequently feel powerless to do anything about it. I realize that I’ve got some of these perceptions.
A Course In Miracles says, “I have said that you cannot change your mind by changing your behavior, but I have also said, and many times, that you change your mind. When your mood tells you that you have chosen wrongly, and this is so whenever you are not joyous, then In every case you have thought wrongly about some brother God created, and are perceiving images your ego makes in a darkened glass.” (T.4.IV.2.1-3) Clearly I am confronted by the Course with the idea that I now have these fixed beliefs, these perceptions of my colleagues, that need to be changed. I have allowed my ego to color the perceptions of the department that I work in and the individuals that are within that department. In some cases that means making some people good and some people bad, some people helpful and some people unhelpful, but who am I to know. Maybe the person that is the most stressful to me, the most difficult for me to deal with, is the person that is teaching me the most. The Course says, “Spirit need not be taught, but the ego must be.” (T.4.I.3.1) The one advantage that we have with the ego is that the ego, against its own best advise, can learn. The ego is capable of learning, even though this ultimately will be the relinquishment of the ego, when we go into Spirit.
Being a member here of Community Miracles Center, and someone who has participated in the Center for over ten years now, the CMC is also undergoing changes as we speak. Obviously one of the changes is Rev. Larry’s recent transition from the physical world to the world of Spirit. The fact that we are having a meeting today is part of that change. We’re going to be talking among the Supporting Members about criteria for new Board Members for the CMC, and that is going to mean different people. That is going to mean change.
Since I have been at the Community Miracles Center there have been lots of changes here. I remember, when I first came here, all the classes met here. We talked, and we read from the A Course In Miracles. Now, since that time took place, there are phone classes that are offered and people from all over the country, including even Hawaii and other countries like Canada, can take the class over the phone. We do still have a class that meets here on Monday nights. That’s one big change that has taken place.
Another big change I remember, a pains taking change for Tony, is when we changed our web site. We went from a static site – remember I’m not a big computer person – we went from this static web site to a more dynamic web site. I can remember Rev. Tony sharing with us he was almost driven to tears one time trying to change this web site, but Rev. Tony and the Community Miracles Center made the change. We change with the times so people can have greater access and use the web site to gain access to the Community Miracles Center.
We also changed in terms of ministers and their participation here at the church. A couple of years ago Rev. Tony, Rev. Larry and the CMC Board decided that they were going to be more aggressive, I shouldn’t say aggressive, I should say they were going to be more active in encouraging the ministers to participate, to get up here, to speak and to share their experience of A Course In Miracles. That took some encouragement from the members. Rev. Tony, Rev. Larry and the Board had to really think about what they wanted the Community Miracles Center to be. It’s been really, really important in terms of that.
What is it then that we, as individuals, as the Community Miracles Center – what is it that we can learn from change? I think A Course In Miracles offers us some bits of advice. We can learn that forgiveness brings more peace and healing than holding grievances. We can learn extending love is better than living in fear. We can learn that being apart of a community is better than living in isolation. We learn that being open minded and willing allows us to learn and grow as opposed to being more ego centered and stagnant. We learn that the dragon that we once feared doesn’t mir here anymore. The Course says “True learning is constant, and so vital in its power for change that a Son of God can recognize his power in one instant and change the world in the next. That is because, by changing his mind, he has changed the most powerful device that was ever given him for change.” (T.7.V.7.5-6) ACIM is constantly telling us about the power of our minds and we can see it. Look at the world that we made. We’ve made a world of powerful bodies. We made a world that appears to have many powerful institutions and other illusions in it. It has so much power because we invested our power in it. However, an even greater power, an even greater force in this world is the power to change our minds about it.
What we encounter in our private mirs and in our public mirs are challenges, things that seem overwhelming, things that seem to be insurmountable. Let us remember what A Course In Miracles teaches us. We have the power to change. We have the power to choose. We have Jesus or the Holy Spirit to turn to in those times and to decide for ourselves what is the right choice.
So today, as I go forth and go about my daily business, I challenge myself to see my coworkers differently, to see my life process differently and not as such a negative and confined process. I also challenge us here at the Community Miracles Center to really be open to the Holy Spirit, to be open to the changes that are now confronting us in our organizational and institutional life. I challenge us to remember that as long as we are choosing with Spirit we will continue to be a light in this world and will lead our brothers and sisters back to peace, love, and wonder. Y
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This article appeared in the June 2010 (Vol. 24 No.4) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members,Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.