On Sunday August 22, 2010 Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
A Course in Miracles is my spiritual path. I always conceptualize it that way. It’s a spiritual road that I am waking down, and I have been walking down this road since 1980. That’s 30 years. That’s three decades.
A Course In Miracles, actually, has a lot to say about our spiritual path and the road we are taking. One of the quotations is, “You are not making use of the course if you insist on using means which have served others well, neglecting what was made for you.” (Tx. Or.Ed.18.68) ACIM is saying that we each have a particular path. We each have a particular course. Other courses do serve other people. Other courses well work very well for those other people. It’s confusing, sometimes, because we see another course work very well for someone else, so we know that it must be a valid course, a valid path, a valid spiritual road. We think it should work for us as well, but the truth is that might not be the case. Just because something works for someone else does not mean it will work very well for us. We have to find our particular spiritual path and that’s the one that we have to travel down. That’s the road we have to take. For me, after thirty years, I have definitely surrendered to the spiritual path of ACIM.
In another place A Course In Miracles says, “This is a manual for a special curriculum, intended for teachers of a special form of the universal course. There are many thousands of other forms, all with the same outcome.” (Mn.Or.Ed.1.4) This course we study is a special curriculum, a particular curriculum, intended for particular teachers. The quote also says there are thousands of other forms, and they all have the same outcome. This is a particular one a unique one. Somewhere along the line we have to decide whether this is the particular one that we’re going to travel down, but we must remember that there are thousands of courses. We need to be very tolerant of the paths other people take.
A Course In Miracles also says, “The learning situation in which you placed yourself is impossible, and in this situation you clearly require a special Teacher and a special curriculum.” (Tx.Or.Ed.11.47) We are in this impossible learning situation. We appear to be bodies; we appear to be in this world. It’s very convincing. Our mind gets totally preoccupied with it. It seems that anything else can’t really be the truth. Yet ACIM says this problem, this impossible situation that we put ourselves in, has a particular answer for us. That particular answer is a particular curriculum taught to us by particular teacher. Over and over again ACIM tells us the same thing.
I looked up “spiritual paths” on the internet to see what people might say about them. I found a very interesting essay about spiritual paths. I am going to read you a paragraph from it. “Varieties of Spiritual Paths – While the real goal of the spiritual path is the same for all, there are many different roads that one can travel and one may even travel without a road. Also the goal may be described in different terms without always recognizing that it is the same goal. This is so because we all have different starting points and different preferences and opportunities. Many spiritual travelers will not expect to reach their goal in their present lifetime, while others may realize that they do not really need to travel anywhere. – Walter Last” (www.health-science-spirit.com/spiritualpath.html) This reminds me of another quotation from A Course In Miracles which says, “The journey to God is merely the reawakening of the knowledge of where you are always and what you are forever. It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed.” (Tx.Or.Ed.8.51) I believe that ACIM has a lot of the thoughts that were found in the internet essay. The Course certainly has the thought that we only seem to be traveling, but actually there is nowhere to go. We’re already in Heaven. We’re in Reality. We just need to wake up to that idea.
What does this mean for me, personally, as I travel the spiritual path that is A Course In Miracles? Every week I read the Text. I read it together with our class, ACIM-1, on Monday evenings. I just got a new student in that class so I am very excited. I have been teaching that class in ACIM ever since we founded the Community Miracles Center, which was in 1987. That’s 23 years. So I have read the Text of the Course at least 23 times. However, there were many years that I taught two sessions of the ACIM-1 class. I think there were about four of those years. Now I’m up to 27 times through the Text. I know I read it at least three times on my own before I started teaching the class, so I have been through the Text about 30 times. Thirty times in 30 years averages to once a year. I know the words in ACIM very well. I try my best to live them.
I do my Workbook lesson every morning. Every morning I read my lesson, and I do all the things that A Course In Miracles says to do. Right now, for those of us doing the Workbook lessons in the daily sequence, we’re doing guided meditations. Today’s lesson is 234, “Father, today I am your Son again.” I spend a little time, no matter how busy I am, meditating on the lesson that I we are on. Then I try to think about it during the day. I have the lesson of the day on my iPhone so I see it every time I check my schedule. I also keep a journal everyday that I have on my desk. In this journal I write down things that seem abundant as the day goes along. I also write the lesson of the day on the top of each daily page. So I see the lesson of the day every time I write in my journal. That’s how I practice my spiritual path. This path does give purpose to my life. It gives me purpose in the world.
There may be a time when I practice A Course In Miracles differently. Right now, in my life, I have the pleasure and honor of being able to speak about the Course on some Sundays and the pleasure and the honor to teach ACIM in a class. However, I understand this might not always be the case. I may, sometime in the future, not formally teach ACIM any more, but I believe that I will always be teaching and learning the Course myself and sharing what I am learning with the world. This may happen without any particular form that looks like traditional teaching. The Course says we teach just by demonstrating and being an example. “Teaching is done in many ways: by formal means, by guidance, and above all by example.” (Tx.Or.Ed.5.53) We sometimes do teach in formal ways, but we always teach just by holding these thoughts in our minds. We do this because all of our minds are joined. I believe I will be living the Course and teaching the Course for the rest of my life whatever form it takes.
How do I live A Course In Miracles? I live ACIM by seeing my brothers and sisters as all the same, because I believe that’s one of the keys teachings in ACIM. Regardless of what my brothers and sisters do, it is my job to see them all without sin or without guilt. I must forgive whatever it is that they appear have done. I may think that they have injured me, hurt me, or maybe they have only hurt my feelings. Whatever it is, I must see them without guilt, and I must forgive them. I must see them as myself. In the Bible Jesus said this when he was on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) That was Jesus’ way of saying how important forgiveness is. Even while he was apparently being crucified he was asking the Divine Father/Mother principle to forgive these people. They don’t know what they are doing.
A Course In Miracles has a little different idea on forgiveness. The Course tells us, “God does not forgive because He has never condemned.” (Wk.Or.Ed.46.1) It is our job to forgive our brothers and sisters. Maybe the quote from Luke should actually be, “Father I forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Who knows what Jesus truly said. Who knows if Jesus was really even crucified. If he was, who knows that his body was resurrected from the dead. If I had to rewrite the quotation from Luke this is how I would do it, “Father I forgive them because I know they don’t know what they’re doing.” The Course refers to this Bible quote, “Miraculous forgiveness is only correction. It has no element of judgment at all. Father forgive them for they know not what they do in no way evaluates what they do.” (Tx.Or.Ed.3.9) It does not matter what someone appears to have done. We always forgive them.
I think sometimes we, as students and spiritual people, remember to forgive the big things, but we forget to forgive the little things. We need to forgive everything! We need to forgive it all. We even need to forgive the good things. We have to let it all go, all the time, so that we’re always meeting our sisters and brothers as if we were meeting them for the first time. It is important, particular for me, to remember to forgive the slightest irritation. I always remember the big things because the big things upset me so much. I am very motivated to get out of a major upset. I have to forgive those. However, the little upsets I usually just ignore, because I can step over them. I don’t dwell on them that long. I think A Course In Miracles wants us to pay close attention to our minds, to pay attention even to our tiny upsets and little irritations, because they’re going to still be there. They will ruin our peace and healing as much as the big ones. ACIM says, “Regardless, too, of the intensity of the anger that is aroused. It may be merely slight irritation, perhaps too mild to be even clearly recognized. Or it may also take the form of intense rage accompanied by thoughts of violence, fantasied or apparently acted out. It does not matter. All of these reactions are the same.” (Mn.Or.Ed17.3) The slight irritations are going to prevents us from moving further along on our spiritual path. Whether by thought alone or physically acting out the thoughts of violence the results will be the same. Our peace will elude us. The world will not be healed.
It does not matter how irritated we get. It does not matter how angry we are. We have to monitor our minds. We have to be aware that whenever we are out of peace forgiveness is called for. This is our job traveling down this spiritual path. Our job is to practice forgiveness. A Course In Miracles says “You are much too tolerant of mind wandering, thus passively condoning its miscreations.” (Tx.Or.Ed.2.75) We need to be more aware of where our minds are all the time. We need to be much more vigilant with our minds. I know I need to be much more vigilant with my mind. I can be vigilant for moments, but then I know my mind just goes off to the races, because I have stopped paying attention. I do the good spiritual service work that I do, but frequently I am thinking all kinds of crazy stuff. Much of it has to do with things I don’t like, things that are going wrong, grievances that I have. This can go on for days, but I do the best I can. ACIM is my spiritual path and this is what my spiritual path teaches.
For a short period of time I practiced yoga. I did this in a local ashram. The class, maybe 12 to 15 of us, used to go upstairs into an attic to practice the yoga. Before we went up to the attic we would gather in a little room downstairs. There would be all kinds of posters and flyers on the wall. There were things that summarized the spiritual teachings of the ashram. I remember reading one. It talked about the necessity of physically removing ourselves from negative people and negative situations. I had already begun studying A Course In Miracles at that time and I was aware of how different this removal idea was from the ACIM teaching. ACIM would not say to remove ourselves from negative people and negative situations, because that negativity is not external. That negativity in our minds. We’re projecting the negativity out “there.” It’s in our minds so there’s no way that we can keep ourselves from it. We may physically change our location, but we bring the negativity with us. We will project it onto something else. No healing will take place by doing a “geographic.” No healing is going to take place just by moving somewhere else or going into a different building to practice yoga with someone else. No healing will take place by switching to another spiritual path because we react negatively to something in the spiritual path we are on. If there is any negativity it’s in the minds we have.
Every student will eventually ask, “Does this mean we are supposed to stay in a abusive situation?” No, it does not necessarily mean we stay in an abusive situation. Movement or non-movement in the physical world is all just a matter of guidance. Move if you guided to move. Don’t move if you not guided to move. Practice behavior however the Holy Spirit tells you to behave. A Course In Miracles says, “In everything be led by Him and do not reconsider. Trust Him to answer quickly, surely, and with love for everyone who will be touched in any way by the decision. And everyone will be.” (Tx.Or.Ed.13.81)
Asking for guidance is an incredibly key element of A Course In Miracles practice. It is a very key element in this spiritual path that we’re walking down. On this spiritual road there is no way we are going to get very far if we don’t ask for guidance. It is key to what this spiritual discipline is about. As a matter of fact, it is key to what forgiveness is all about, and this Course is all about forgiveness. When we think about forgiveness, we usually think of it in terms of form. What would be the forgiving thing to do? We also think we know what form forgiveness is supposed to take. If someone really makes us mad, or grieves us in some way, shape, or form, we usually think we should make peace with them. We believes the spiritual thing to do is to make peace here in the world. That would mean calling them up doesn’t it? Maybe it means writing them a letter and in some way communicating with them until we feel peaceful about the communication. However, that may not be the case. That is just our idea of what forgiveness looks like. The Holy Spirit may have an entirely different idea of what the forgiving thing for us to do is in a situation. Maybe the forgiving thing does not involve a “doing” at all. The Course says, “Do not establish what the form should be that Christ’s forgiveness takes.” (S-2.III.3.1) Don’t think you know in advance what the forgiving thing is. You only know after you have turned it over to the Holy Spirit. Ask for guidance and receive the guidance of what is forgiveness in that particular situation. Then we must follow that guidance. That’s how we will truly forgive and how we are forgiven.
A Course In Miracles says that if someone attacks us, or grieves us, it’s actually a cry for help. We need to be responsive if they are calling for help. “When someone calls for help in any form, [Holy Spirit] is the One to answer for you. All that you need do is to step back and not to interfere.” (S.2.3.5-6) The Holy Spirit is always going to be the one to answer. The Holy Spirit is the one to tell us what to do when anyone calls for help which means when someone hurts us in any way physically and emotionally. We step back and allow the Holy Spirit to answer.
Here is another important quotation, “... do not make demands nor point the road to God by which He should appear to you. The way to reach Him is merely to let Him be.” (Wk.Bk.Or.Ed.189.8) That is another thing we frequently do. It’s very easy for us to point out the way that God would take. We think, “If God is coming to me, He will come along this road. I know its going to look like this.” That is the same thing as saying I know forgiveness is going to look this way because that has to be what Holy Spirit would want me to do. Let us all learn that A Course In Miracles tells us don’t do that to God. Don’t point the road out to God. God knows how to reach us.
As I said, we might be really upset about what somebody did. If we want to practice forgiveness we may think we need to call them and talk to them about the upsetting thing, but the Holy Spirit may say, “Go to the beach and look at the sunset.” That may be the way to be forgiving in that particular situation. That may be what sets up an energy that heals the problem. We don’t know. We really don’t know. We have to go to the Holy Spirit, offer it up, and ask for that guidance.
This is what my spiritual path teaches me. This is what Community Miracles Center teaches, and I hope this is what Community Miracles Center demonstrates. I believe that we have demonstrated this since 1987, since we were formed. It is my goal that we continue to demonstrate this in the future. There are very few places like us that exists in the country or even in the world. There are very few A Course In Miracles centers with a physical building that people can enter. We are one of the few. The fact that we had continued to keep the doors open and fulfill our function, for all of these years, is a miracle to me especially if you look at the size we currently are. I know that the local congregation is small in number. I know that many of us would like to see more people here. I, certainly, would like to see more people here. There is a temptation to think that something must be wrong because there are not more people here. However, what I know is there is a miracle that has continually taken place for twenty three years that allows us to keep functioning, that allows us to pay the rent even though we seem to be small. I don’t know how that happens sometimes, but miraculously it always seems to happen.
Currently, there is another organization that is renting our meeting room from us for three days a week. We generate enough income from them renting the place to pay a large part of our rent. It’s a miracle. We did not go seeking them. They just miraculously appeared. Things like that keep happening that make Community Miracles Center work. I believe that things will keep happening to make the Community Miracles Center work in the future. The common idea that large numbers are needed is us pointing the road to God by which he would appear to us. We think that God must appear to us in the form of large numbers, a big congregation and a minister that can be sinless better than I. I guess that’s not the way it’s going to work either. Our road is not about numbers. Our road to God is not about the perfection of the minister.
A Course In Miracles is my particular path. I am well aware of other paths that served others well, but their path is not my path. I am well aware that the path that I study is not one of the big religions of the world, or any other of the large, well known spiritual paths that exist in the world. At least, ACIM is not one of those paths yet. ACIM is a small, little niche of a spiritual path, but it fits me just fine. I have always had a small, little niche of a lifestyle. It would only be fitting that I study a spiritual path that is a small, little niche in the world. I will go where my spiritual path is leading me. I will allow time for my spiritual path to be practiced.
When I first studied A Course In Miracles and we did not have the Community Miracles Center. I tried to go to places that seemed similar. I went to Religious Science churches. They were similar, but they were not quite the same. They did not teach the thought system of ACIM. Religious Science made the world a lot more real. Religious Science had more of a focus on prosperity. Numbers made a big difference in a Religious Science church. I went to Unity churches. Unity churches were great. Unity has a lot of similar principles to ACIM, but Unity was not quite the same either. Unity churches always studied the Bible and reinterpreted the Bible from their new thought perspective. A lot of time was spent with that Bible study and reinterpretation. ACIM is not about that. ACIM is not about studying the Bible and giving it a new age spin. The Course is about reading the Text, doing the Workbook lessons, practicing forgiveness, letting things go, asking for guidance. That’s what ACIM is about. The Course is not the same message as Religious Science or Unity. There are similarities, but the are not the same thought system and teaching. It was out of this realization that Reverend Larry and I formed Community Miracle Center in 1987. We wanted a place where we could go that studied and practiced the spiritual discipline that we embraced. We didn’t want a similar discipline. We wanted our discipline.
This is what the Community Miracles Center will continue to do. We will do it if there are 30 people here on Sundays. We will do it if there are 10 people here. We will continue to do it if there are only four people here. I will continue to study A Course In Miracles as long as I am guided to, even if I am by myself, living a hermit’s life in my own little cave somewhere in the world. I don’t believe that is going to happen, but if it did so be it. I will still be practicing ACIM because it’s my spiritual path. It’s my way home. I have embraced it. I have now embraced it for three decades. Until I get some vastly different guidance I am going to study it. Here’s to the past 30 years. Here’s to the next 30. Thank you. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the October 2010 (Vol. 24 No. 8) 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.