On Sunday February 27, 2011 Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the assembly at the “Listen, Learn & Do” conference held in San Francisco, CA. The conference had been three days of talks, workshops, meals together, and social gatherings. This Sunday Service was the culmination of the weekend conference. The following is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
Here we are. A Course In Miracles says, “As you share my inability to tolerate lack of love in yourself and others, you must ...” must “... join the Great Crusade to correct it. The slogan for the Crusade is Listen, learn and do: Listen to my voice, learn to undo error, and do something to correct it.” (OrEd.Tx.1.31) We’ve heard this quote over and over again during this weekend because that’s the theme of this weekend. That’s what we’re here to get into our consciousness. These conferences are guided learning experiences. I charge you, we charge you, to open up to the “Listen, Learn & Do” idea.
The idea of having an inability to tolerate lack of love – it’s been something that I have definitely noticed in my life. I have become unable to tolerate lack of love. If somebody puts anger at me, puts anger in front of my face, it just feels awful, awful. I immediately think, “What have I done to create this image of anger in front of me? What have I thought that this comes up in my dream?” Then I do everything I can to take responsibility, to ask for guidance and to say whatever I need to say that will, hopefully, help the situation even if it’s just, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Sometimes that’s what I am guided to say. I think sometimes we believe the Holy Spirit is going to give us highfalutin words to say. Sometimes, for me, it’s as simple as saying, “I’m so sorry.”
If I get angry and project that anger out onto someone else I feel just as awful, because it’s wrong. It’s wrong inside of me to do that. It’s a mistake that I’ve made. I frequently cry. I’m a crier. I’m so sorry that whatever it is has happened, and I’m so sorry that I have slipped into my ego. It’s not a sin, but it is a mistake. I have an inability, now, to tolerate that. I just can’t tolerate it.
I’m going to read a little longer quote from A Course In Miracles, “[The spiritual eye] pulls the will into Its service and impels the mind to concur. This reestablishes the true power of the will and makes it increasingly unable to tolerate delay. The mind then realizes with increasing certainty that delay is only a way of increasing unnecessary pain, which it need not tolerate at all. The pain threshold drops accordingly, and the mind becomes increasingly sensitive to what it would once have regarded as very minor intrusions of discomfort.” (OrEd.Tx.2.49) This is saying exactly the same thing. We become increasing sensitive to tolerate what we used to think were minor things, minor intrusions into our peace of mind. Now we have become increasingly unable to tolerate them.
We’ve heard a lot this weekend about the slogan of the crusade. What is a crusade? Maybe we’ve let that word rush over our consciousness, but I think it’s a very, very important word. In the dictionary it says this about “crusade,” “... an expedition undertaken for a declared religious purpose.” Students say A Course In Miracles is not about religion however the Course does occasionally use the world “religion” in a positive way. If the word “religion,” or “religious,” doesn’t feel right to you, you can use the word “spiritual.” The definition then becomes, “... an expedition undertaken for a declared [spiritual] purpose.”
I believe that we are all on a crusade. It is an expedition that we are undertaking for a declared spiritual purpose. It’s important. We have work to do. We have something to accomplish. We have charged ourselves with this thing. We are here to do it. It’s not about resting. It’s not about having the peace and just sitting. It’s about doing something. That is the great crusade that we are on.
A Course In Miracles says this over, and over, and over again. Sometimes I think we still miss it. The Course says, “As long as a single slave remains to walk the earth, your release is not complete. Complete restoration of the Sonship is the only true goal of the miracle-minded.” (OrEd.Tx.1.106) Complete restoration of the Sonship is the only goal that we miracle students can have if we are taking the Course message in. We are on a great crusade, and we are going to be miracle minded. All of us want to be miracle minded. That’s why we study ACIM. If we are miracle minded our goal is the complete restoration of the Sonship, not the partial restoration of the Sonship. It’s certainly not just the restoration of our little part of the Sonship. It’s the complete restoration of the Sonship.
Other spiritual disciplines sometimes seem to say other things. Some other disciplines seem to make it okay to have your spiritual work just be about your individual restoration. Some say you could go off into a cave and simply meditate. Maybe your fellow monks would bring you a bowl of rice every once and awhile, but your primary job was to be there, meditate, and find your own internal, eternal peace. It’s almost as if we would be saying to the world, “Oh, the hell with you. To hell with the world. I’m just here doing my shtick and I’m going to be at peace.” We think that. We think that we can say to the world, “Get your own damn enlightenment!” We think we can just sit here and get ours because that’s the important thing.
However, if you actually look at some of the teachings of the East there are legends and teachings that say other things. There is the legend of Bodhidharma. He’s the Buddhist monk who brought Buddhism to China. This is a wonderful legend, and it’s great for us A Course In Miracles students to take this in. Bodhidharma wasn’t able to find his enlightenment sitting in the meditation cave. He tried, but it eluded him. Yet, Bodhidharma is the monk that brought Buddhism to China. That meant traveling from India to China, and that meant crossing the Himalayan mountains. Those are really big mountains. They are all full of snow and they are very, very hard to pass. This was in the 5th century A.D. That’s a long time ago. I’ve read it was around the year 480. Realize that it’s a monk who is crossing the Himalayas. He has no resources. He’s taken a vow not to possess anything. He’s an ascetic. Yet, he gets the idea that his enlightenment will not be found by him in a cave. His enlightenment will be found bringing Buddhism to China. How did he do it? How did he hire the Scherpas*? How did he pay for the mule teams to go with him across the mountains? Somehow he did that. The power of his conviction, the power of him being on a personal crusade, that’s what gave him the ability to somehow go from a cave in India, past the mountains of the Himalayas, and into China. He had no idea whether the Chinese would want to accept this teaching that he was bringing them. It was just an idea, a crusading idea, in his mind.
Buddhism was already eleven centuries old when he did this. It was not a new religion. In the 1,100 years no one had yet brought Buddhism to China. Think about the fact that our country is only 235 years old, that’s nothing compared to eleven centuries. For eleven centuries they had been intensely practicing Buddhism in India, but nobody had been personally charged with the crusade of bringing this spiritual discipline to China. Bodhidharma did it because he was a man on a mission. He was a man who had accepted a crusade. It wasn’t about his individual restoration. The myth goes that he had gotten the thought in his mind, while meditating in the cave in India, that he was never going to be able to find the peace that he wanted, the peace that he knew was possible, if it was only about himself. It had to be about everybody else. The complete restoration of the Sonship was the only goal for his miracle mind. I think we can be charged with the same kind of thing.
A Course In Miracles says this over, and over, and over again in many different ways. It says, “Let us not rest content until the world has joined our changed perception. Let us not be satisfied until forgiveness has been made complete. And let us not attempt to change our function. We must save the world.” (OrEd.WkBk.SpTp241.7) “We must save the world.” It’s the same idea, over and over and over again.
We’re all here this weekend for many reasons – to have fun with our fellow A Course In Miracles students. Of course we are here to have fun. We’re also here to listen to teachings. That’s a great part of what we are here for. And we’re also here to truly take within us that charge, to take within us that purpose of bringing the world this idea of miracles, and we won’t stop as long as there is a single slave to the ego that is still walking the earth. That is our purpose. That is why we are here. We are here not to rest content.
For me, personally, this has not been the most welcome message. I have not really liked this message. I wish A Course In Miracles didn’t have this message. I would like a much more easy life. I was a person who had a wonderful and easy life. I had figured out how to maintain my lifestyle by working as a waiter about 20 hours a week. I was good at not spending a lot of money, and I had a lot of spare time. For many years of my life I had a lot of spare time. I cleaned a lot and I cooked. I baked sour dough bread. For awhile I lived out in the country. I took hikes in the woods. I did all these great things because my life had a lot of spare time. I got very used to this life; I got very attached to this.
Then, after I moved to San Francisco, I started studying A Course in Miracles, and suddenly it wasn’t about my own individual peace of mind. It wasn’t about making my own life easy, comfortable, and pleasant. It was suddenly about saving the world. That was a really big thing. It’s really big. How was I going to do that? I just wanted to hang out, (laughter) smoke a little marijuana, bake some sour dough bread, (laughter) listen to some rock and roll.
I was a hippie. I had blue work shirts and blue denim jeans. I had about six pairs of those. It was all I ever wore for years of my life. I had a head band. I had very curly hair – I used to have hair. (Rev. Tony’s hair is noticeably thin on top.) (laughter) The headband would hold my hair down to a place and then my hair would bush out at the bottom. I looked like Bozo the clown. Wear a suit? I wouldn’t wear a suit. That was the symbol of the corporate establishment, the military industrial complex. I certainly wasn’t going to wear a suit, God forbid. I thought I was expressing freedom. I never realized how oppressive that was. Do you know how oppressive it is to wear the same damn clothes day after day, every day, looking exactly the same. How colorless of a life was that? I had no idea. I thought I was happy.
I remember when I got the message that it was time to join and engage in the world a little bit more. That meant I had to cut my hair. It was time. I had to get different clothes. I had to start presenting differently in the world. When I did that, I was amazed. I was totally amazed. It was one of my first truly eye opening experiences. When I presented to the world differently a whole different group of people started to relate to me. I had no idea that a blue work shirt and blue denim jeans would exclude a whole group of people from relating to me.
My old friends still would relate to me, but now there was this other whole group that would relate to me. I felt that new connection. Wow. There’s much more of a world out there. I was one with so many more people. It was a great, great thing.
In college I was a protest person. I was on a number of protest marches and I was at protest rallies. I took part in one building take over at Cornell University where I went to college. That was the thing that we did at that time. (laughter) We did that because we wanted to change the world. I’ve always had that idea in the back of my mind. I wanted to change the world. Protest rallies, signs, painting things, taking over buildings ... we didn’t know how to truly change the world. A Course in Miracles teaches us how to actually change the world. Before we were just trying to change the image, but that’s not changing anything, the problem just crops up over there. (Rev. Tony gestures to the side.) The Course tells us, “[The world] is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but will ...” will “... to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result, not a cause.” (OrEd.Tx.21.1) If we had known the reason why these things, like the Viet Nam War that seemed really horrible, were in our perception of the world we saw was because of our own incorrect thinking we would have spent more time correcting our minds instead of trying to manipulate the world out there. Out there is never really going to change because our minds are just going to project a problem in some other place.
Some people think “How can this be? How can my mind be causing war, terrorism, disease, famine, earthquakes, tornados, ‘natural’ disasters ...?” That’s a good question, but when I look at my mind and I think of all the fear and anger I have in my mind – I’m surprised the world isn’t worse.” (laughter) I’m surprised it’s as nice as it is. (laughter) I’m surprised that people are actually talking, listening, and smiling. It’s amazing to me all the time.
Carl Jung, the great psychologist, who I am sure you all know, during World War II was asked if he thought the world would get through this awful time. He said, “Yes. If enough of us do our inner work.” Wow. That was an enlightened thought.
“I need do nothing” (OrEd.Tx.18.67) is frequently misunderstood. It is thought of as an admonition not to get too caught up in the world. It is not that at all. I’ve talked about that a lot during this weekend. Yes, we need do nothing within but from that rest we will be sent out on busy doings. Here’s the exact quote. “This quiet center, in which you do nothing, will remain with you, giving you rest in the midst of every busy doing on which you are sent. For from this center will you be directed how to use the body sinlessly.” (OrEd.Tx.18.70) So we rest, we do nothing within, and we are open to the busy doings that the Holy Spirit is going to send us on.
This idea of resting in the middle of doing was very familiar to me when I first got into A Course In Miracles because before that, for may years, I had been a Taoist. I studied the Tao de Ching a lot. I read it in many different translations. If somebody asked me what was my spiritual discipline was I would have said, “Taoism.” Taoism had a concept that was very much like, “I need do nothing.” It was called Wu-Wei. Wu-Wei was doing nothing while one rested in the Tao, in the flow of life. As one did this he would allow the 10,000** things to be done through him. His body might be busy doing many things while his mind was in Wu-Wei. This is exactly the same idea that ACIM has.
A Course In Miracles is, of course, three books. Originally, when many of us first started to study this, it was actually three separate books. It confuses new people today because all they see is one book, but we still refer to it as “the books.” They don’t know what we’re talking about. They look up and they ask, “Where are the rest of the books?” (laughter) Then you say, “No. Those are all the books.” Then they look at you like you’ve got three heads. ACIM will always be “the books” for me. The third book in ACIM is, of course, the Manual for Teachers. People frequently relate to this as if it is a metaphor. Somehow, being a teacher doesn’t really mean being a “teacher.” It’s some sort of metaphor. I don’t relate to it like that. The Course says, “To each He gives a special function in salvation he alone can fill a part for only him. Nor is the plan complete until he finds his special function and fulfills the part assigned to him to make himself complete within a world where incompletion rules.” (OrEd.Tx.25.46) We have special functions. Our special functions may very well be formal teaching situations. Maybe those situations are just with one other person face to face. Maybe they’re with many other people face to face. I do believe that we have to truly be open to sharing these healing thoughts, to sharing the Holy Spirit’s guidance, in any kind of teaching situation, whether it’s a large situation, or whether it’s one person. Let me tell you, in my 25 years – I’ve been a minister for 25 years. I was in diapers at the time. (laughter) I used to crawl to my miracles meetings and it was really hard on my knees. (laughter). In my 25 years of being a minister I have spoken to large and small groups. By small, I mean I’ve spoken to two people. You’re an easy group to speak to. You’re hundreds of people. Try keeping up the energy and enthusiasm when you have two. (laughter) But, those are the teaching situations. If you are truly charged with being a teacher you’ll take every situation given to you. You’ll know that it is your special function to be in that teaching situation and you’re there to share the word of God. If you give it your damndest, if you are truly going to be there to be the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, then you will know that in that instant, with those one or two other people, you are saving the world. The numbers don’t matter. You are there on your great crusade. You are showing up. That’s what it means to me. That’s what it could mean for all of us.
I know a lot of people, as I said, take this teaching thing as a metaphor. And, it’s interesting that in the Original Edition of A Course In Miracles, which is the earlier edit – in the earlier edit of ACIM there is this quote, which is very different than what is found in the Foundation for Inner Peace edition. It says, “Teaching is done in many ways: by formal means, by guidance, and above all by example.” (OrEd.Tx.5.53) In the Foundation for Inner Peace edition it says, “Teaching is done in many ways, above all by example.” (T-5.IV.5.1) So the FIP edition left out, “... by formal means” and “... by guidance.” Why were those edited out? I don’t know why those were edited out. It’s nothing personal to Helen and Bill. We were told for years that the personal material was edited out. There’s nothing personal about, “... by formal means.” I don’t know why this was edited out. I’m glad that it’s now in there, because it’s telling us that if we are opening ourselves up to being teachers we might have formal teaching situations.
I am so very, very, very proud of my ministers who are here being staff at this conference, because they all accepted the challenge of getting up here and being formal teachers for a few minutes, to share who they are, and to tell you whatever it was that they wanted to tell you – that was the Holy Spirit working through them. There was only one thing I told them about what they would say. I told them, “I do not what to know what you are going to say.” Don’t tell me what you are going to say. Just say it. I trust you. Say it. This is your formal teaching moment. Go for it. They all perfectly accepted that and I am truly grateful. (applause)
The “Great Crusade,” “an expedition undertaken for a declared religious purpose.” I don’t believe teaching is symbolic. Now, I have heard some well known teachers talk about teaching this way. There are probably a lot of good reasons to talk about teaching this way. Maybe you don’t want people to feel bad because they don’t have formal teaching situations to which they can apply themselves. I hear well known A Course In Miracles teachers downplay this idea of being a teacher. I also hear this idea reflected in students. It seems almost like well known teachers don’t want there to be other teachers. I don’t understand that. The third book is a Manual For Teachers. It’s right in the titles of the books. (laughter) How can you avoid that idea. Sometimes I think that maybe the well known teachers don’t want there to be other teachers because they don’t want the competition. Maybe they just don’t want the competition.
A Course In Miracles says, “No one with a personal investment is a reliable witness, for truth to him has become what he wants it to be.” (OrEd.Tx.11.5) I would be aware of this, especially many of your who are study group leaders, and those who go other ACIM groups and classes. You hear this idea of teaching as a metaphor floating around, and it does float around, the idea in the Course the word “teaching” is symbolic. It doesn’t truly mean teaching by formal means. If you hear that idea maybe you could remember what I’m saying here right now. Maybe you can add this other thought. It can be by formal means. I can mean teaching while being up in front of people, being in a position where you are asked to formally talk to somebody about what you have learned, what it means to you, what the Holy Spirit wants you to share with people, and to not be shy about it.
We do not have to meet in church basements anymore.*** We do not have to wear blue work shirts and blue denim jeans, like I did, anymore. We can show up not only in suits, but in tuxedos if we want to, **** if we feel guided to, if it feels appropriate to us. We can do that.
Bring to your A Course In Miracles groups, classes, and workshops these ideas that you have listened to this weekend. Bring to these groups these ideas that you have learned. Bring to these groups ideas of what you intend to do. The slogan, “Listen, Learn and Do” – “Listen to my voice, learn to undo error, and do something to correct it.” (OrEd.Tx.1.31) Do something. Do something. Do something. Do something. (laughter) Don’t fight it. It is the slogan for the crusade that we are on.
I certainly do not care if you become so wonderful of a teacher that I don’t have a job anymore. Great. I can go back to baking sour dough bread and be perfectly content. I do not care about the competition. I welcome the competition. I love the competition. It keeps me on my toes.
Thank you very much. (applause)
* “The Sherpa ... are an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal, high in the Himalayas. ... The term Sherpa is also used to refer to local people, typically men, who are employed as guides for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas.” Wikipedia
** In some translations of the *Tao de Ching* the metaphor of “10,000 things” means a great number that is beyond counting.
*** Earlier in the conference Rev. Tony had talked about the early days of *A Course In Miracles* study when miracles group were relegated to small, dark rooms in the basements of churches.
**** Rev. Tony and the staff have been wearing tuxedos all throughout the conference. ♥
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This article appeared in the February 2011 (Vol. 24 No. 12) 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.