THE HEALING POWER OF
A COURSE IN MIRACLES
A student’s way from Depression and MS to Healing and Awakening
As I see it, the healing power of A Course in Miracles mostly stems from the fact that it helps us overcome our own little personal self for the sake of a greater good and for the sake of others. When we start concentrating silently on other peoples’ wholeness and health and divinity independent of the way they appear this automatically will not only bring them a whiff at least of their immortal inheritance but it also brings forward our own innate perfection. Eventually, and if we really will, this is also being expressed through our own healing example.
This is so because in truth we are not one versus another, but One. We are not bound to the ties of any space-time-frame. We are not restricted to our bodies. We are so much more!
© Christoph Engen, February 2014
THE INNER VOICE
When suddenly the title for this text came to my mind two tremendously big white birds came flying at me from the horizon with the second one passing directly above my head, as I sat there on our little city-porch. They looked sort of like seagulls; however they were at least as big as geese, though with this entirely different elegant seagull-form. I had never seen any birds like that here in southern Germany.
What is perhaps most astounding about A Course in Miracles is that it brings us back to clearly hearing our very own Inner Voice. Not the voice of our separated, little personal self, but the Voice of our Inner Teacher, the Voice of the Holy Spirit or say Universal Intelligence, the Voice of our Innermost Soul.
At the beginning this usually is experienced as something threatening because generally our true Inner Voice tells us to do things we are afraid of or at least do not want and to look at life from an entirely unfamiliar angle. This is normal for our Inner Voice wants to help us get things straightened out and strangely enough we are so used to our upside down, screwed up thinking that, even though we are not really happy, we don’t want to change either.
However eventually after taking the first few timid steps our trust in this good Inner Voice grows and we begin to become familiar with it and even joyfully seek its presence. This is so because we come to realize that the goal of our Inner Voice is nothing but what we are deeply searching for ourselves: Peace of mind, happiness, freedom, inner strength. And of course: Unconditional Love.
The successive healing of our bodies’ ailments and handicaps is interwoven with our commitment to follow what this Inner Voice of Love recommends us to do: Look entirely new and with loving freshness at ourselves, people near us and our whole world. A Course in Miracles is one of the clearest paths available that can train us in this respect.
A SONG FROM THE SHORES OF THE TRULY LIVING
“When we have finally learned: There is but this INSTANT …”
Every bit of us wants to be living. Every cell of our bodies wants to be alive.
Every cramped finger or toe wants to beam with the golden light of thankfulness, yearns to move with the stream of divine Life.
Every deaf ear wants to open back up to the songs of the living.
Every lame eyeball wants to roll round and round seeing but golden light everywhere.
This is a song from the shores of the living.
They truly live, because they have left death where it belongs: behind.
The truly living …
They come from all cultures. Throughout all times. They come from big cities, from little desert villages, from small and big islands, from any shore.
What unites them is their belief in the good, their unwavering, indomitable Spirit.
They are the tough ones and the loving ones and the helpful ones …
Some never believed in the pictures of death, sickness and scarcity from the start.
That’s why they might never have come to planet earth with its topics of limitation at all …
They simply prefer to swim in the ocean of love …
Others like us decided to taste from the honey of space, time and smallness. And here we are. So what now?
Once we‘ve lost ourselves, we’ll have to find ourselves. Eventually. That’s every soul’s, every spirit’s goal.
Then, normally after a good deal of learning, lots of catastrophes and tears, finally one day we find what is called a LIVING TEACHER: And if we stay willing, He or She will guide us HOME. Back to the waters of life. Back to the shores of the truly LIVING …
A COURSE IN MIRACLES is one of these Living Teachers. They are here to guide us home, if we so wish …
Then one day when we really have gone through the curriculum they set forth, we ARRIVE!
Once there, we have opened our eyes again and finally begin to see the wonders of LIFE . . .
Having lost our limitations, we start recognizing each other. We become keenly aware of who is a truly Living One – be it man, woman or animal – and who is still holding on to their shrouds. And perhaps we’ll be able to help – and be it just with a smile.
From now on we could shut the COURSE. No need for walking a path anymore. We’ll only turn back to our path for the joy of finding ever more insights and pearls.
From now on most every moment is experienced as what it is:
A GIFT FROM FOREVER.
All guilt is practically gone and any fear thought that might still arise in our minds will quickly be recognized as what it is and dropped by the power of our SPIRIT. We finally know when it’s necessary to say: NO! Because now we are driven by the divine power of: YES! …
And from now on we’ll just ENJOY being Living Ones too. And to share this one and only true experience with others. Be they near us in bodies … or not.
And we’ll enjoy talking with birds for instance and listening to the news they bring …
There also are some who swim so long and insatiably in this golden, silvery ocean of love stretching in front of their coasts that out of joy they never return. Their welcoming calls however can be heard throughout eternity.
“You might have achieved a lot here or nothing at all.
That doesn’t change one iota of your immeasurable worth.”
To travel to the desert was certainly the last thing I ever would have wished for. It appeared to me as if all the small and great fears of my life had been lashed and tangled into an almost unbearably painful knot of desperate defense. I didn’t want to be in the desert! My whole life already seemed like a sheer desert of the soul. There was no need to haul my MS-diseased body into the real desert.
Some friends of mine who are students of A Course in Miracles had planned a retreat in the Sinai Desert and suggested it might do me good to participate. That idea felt like an utter threat to me. My mind ran amok. The worst thing was that I couldn’t see any alternative whatsoever. At most there was the option of taking my own life. Yet even that I couldn’t do, although my thoughts were obsessing on all kinds of possible suicide variations. It was the fear of even more pain that made me back off at the last second—pain for myself and the few others who were still close to me.
In the final weeks before my departure, I felt as if I were being led to an execution. If only some truck or bus would run over me before I set out on my journey, or if at least the plane would crash so I wouldn’t have to ever set a foot in that desert!
I was equally as vehement in resisting the desert as in resisting the notion that I was completely responsible for my condition, independent of so called external circumstances.
“What we’re up to today is to actually meet God,” Michael had just said to all of us in the tent. There were about twenty of us participating in a silent retreat centred on A Course in Miracles.
Meanwhile I stood leaning against my rock in the shade and looked at the desert valley in front of me. It was my fifth day of fasting and my seventh day in this isolated desert valley surrounded by rocks, somewhere in the Sinai.
I felt so weak I could hardly remain upright on my legs and my crutches. Due to multiple sclerosis I had gotten used to such standing and walking problems over several years. But this state of extreme physical weakness was certainly also caused by the exceptional desert heat plus the fasting.
A voice speaks within me:
“Look into your mind. Look how you create your very own experience: through your thinking. Give all these thoughts to God. Imagine radiant hands reaching down to you from above. Place all your thoughts into them. All your feelings. All your wishes. All your worries. Then see how you are creating the entire world. Literally the entire world of opposites. It appears as a never-ending cycle, creating itself anew from moment to moment. Each thought immediately brings about its opposite. Each birth leads immediately to death. But that is not your experience. Your mind creates a chewing gum to glue together both ends—birth and death—which then allows you to stretch them apart. This sticky stuff is what you call life, but your real life is so much more—so radiant, so powerful and at the same time inconceivably peaceful, joyful and serene … Go there for a moment …”
I kept my eyes closed and saw how my thoughts, wave-like, created themselves endlessly against an unfathomably dark background.
And then Bhakti and Michael, the two facilitators of the retreat, appeared. They were in my mind. With their help the waves of thought came to a halt.
A dream flashed through my mind—one I had when I was twenty, shortly before I flew to Auroville, India.
In the dream I found myself on a long bridge with no visible end. The bridge was stretched over impenetrable darkness. People in a state of panic were huddled in front of me. It was a bottomless dark abyss beneath them that caused so much fear. I walked over to the handrail and experienced the same panic. I suddenly knew that I was supposed to jump off the bridge into this darkness. My fingers clutched the handrail. It was obvious to me that I could never do this alone. All of a sudden there was a being behind me to the right, then another one behind me on the left. I couldn’t turn my head, but at my back I clearly felt two light presences. They emanated such serenity that all the fear went away. Then the being on the left started spinning. It passed me, spun over the handrail and into the abyss, immediately followed by the second being on the right. And right there I let go and got sucked down with them. Those two literally exploded into light. It touched me and, puff, I turned into light myself. My eyes shot open and I found myself in my little student’s den. Yet now I was looking down from the ceiling. This was such a shock that immediately I spun back into my body in bed.
The two beings in my dream merged with Bhakti and Michael. They were identical.
In a phone conversation that we had weeks later, Michael confirmed that he and Bhakti are mainly operating on the level of the mind to extend forgiveness to literally everything and to help their brothers and sisters into the light.
I felt as if they were silently holding my hands.
A wave of gratitude flooded through me and an incomparable golden light of peace emerged.
In this light, any wish anyone could ever have was fulfilled a thousand times over.
“And this incomparable golden light of peace emerged. In this light, any wish anyone could ever have is fulfilled a thousand times over.”
Everything is healed in this moment, on all levels. The realization occurs that suffering and sickness and death as much as birth and wellness and physical life are nothing but ideas in our one eternally alive, deeply happy, radiant Spirit. And this is the experience. This is God.
“And you are the one who allows the dream to continue. You are always free to stay completely in the light of peace, in which all conceivable wishes have already been fulfilled a million, billion, trillion times over. Or you can choose to go on dreaming. Realize that it is up to you. Either way, it’s OK.”
It was about the same time of day two days earlier when I had leaned against my “rock of forgiveness” with stiff, rigid legs and a buzzing head. Two meters away from my feet was my sleeping site—suitcase, bag, mat and sleeping bag. I had stood there for quite some time when I decided to get something out of my suitcase. I had to get going before the sun came around the hill at my back and while there was still a bit of shade. Afterwards I had planned on hobbling to the group tent, which was about 40 meters away. In there I could face the boiling heat of the noon. In order to open the suitcase I had to kneel down on the sleeping bag. I sat there for a while resting on my heels and rummaging through my suitcase. I could feel the sun slowly rising up on my back and getting hotter and hotter. I mumbled into my six-day-old beard, “I’ve really got to get going” and tried to get up. I couldn’t move. Sitting in this crouching position had almost numbed my legs. My head, wrapped in a light blue Bedouin’s cloth, was so exposed to the burning sun that I almost fainted. I had been told to simply call out or whistle if I needed help, and one of the other members of the group would hear me. They were usually close by behind their own rock. But this time, nobody showed up, not even after I screamed loudly and whistled the SOS signal three times quite piercingly.
Suddenly I heard Bhakti’s voice in my mind: “Get on your knees”. “On my knees?” I thought, “I am not going to crawl through the sand to the tent. My pants will get even dirtier.” I tried to get to my feet again. At the last moment I lost my strength and dropped back onto the sleeping bag. Again I heard Bhakti’s voice clearly: “Get on your knees”. And again I insisted on keeping my pants somewhat clean. Once more I tried to get up, only to collapse again. I repeated this a third time. And again I heard Bhakti’s voice: “Get on your knees.” The heat was almost unbearable and I felt so weak. Something within me remembered how I could get on my knees anyway. Instead of prying myself up with great effort, I could get there by simply tilting my pelvis. It didn’t take much and I was sort of standing on my knees. In this position I hobbled towards the tent for three or four steps and back again. I finally maneuvered myself into an upright position by leaning on the suitcase. Fevered and very shaky, I headed towards the tent. I just made it in time to sink onto one of the mattresses. I was too exhausted to adjust my warped position and was simply relieved to have made it to the shade. My Bedouin’s shawl covered my whole face, yet countless flies found uncovered skin to tickle and swarm about on. They couldn’t disturb me anymore.
My mother Erika appeared in my mind and I longed to see her as she actually is, leaving behind all memories, good or bad. It was like a prayer that I thought: “Please let me see Mami the way she is.” My prayer was answered at once.
What a light, bright, loving, happy being I was shown!
Joy and gratitude were all I felt. This was the real Erika, cleansed of all memories.
I lay there for a long time, basking in the vision of my mother.
What a terrible crisis I had had. At home in Munich I had already repeatedly stood in high-rise apartments in front of windows and stairwells, ready to jump and finally end this abysmal despair.
Was that my fourth acute, long-lasting depression? In any case it was the second one I’d tried to master with antidepressants, and naturally with psychotherapy as well. I’d already undergone two treatments that had lasted for years. One was a 4-year body and breath centered treatment and the other 3 years of classic psychotherapy. Then there were the three years of training as a breath therapist, which could be regarded as a therapeutic process in its own right. I’d certainly learned and experienced a lot through all that, but the real breakthrough had not happened. Then there were the various spiritual paths that I had tried and sometimes even followed
for a fairly long period—such as traditional Christianity, esoteric Christianity, Yoga, Sufism, Satsangs, Buddhism, Reiki etc. They had often hinted at this breakthrough and even brought me tangibly closer to it, but in my case, they had not succeeded in bringing it about.
So, now I was fifty and forced by ill health to accept early retirement, which I saw as the total failure of my careers, both as an actor and teacher of breath work. Plus I could hardly move anymore, which from the point of view of conventional medicine was due to my MS. Somehow everything hurt, was cramped and stiff. My feet burned so much that I could hardly tolerate socks, let alone shoes. I often ground my teeth and picked at and chewed the skin around my fingernails. The only thing I “enjoyed” was sleeping, except that I was panic-stricken at the thought of waking up and having to face another day of yawning emptiness, feeling ill, feeling paralyzed, feeling sudden urges to pee, feeling dizzy. Worst of all were the unpredictable outbursts of self-abuse. This could take the form of slapping or hitting myself in the bath. Then there was the other extreme of allowing my body to literally freeze up by sitting in one place for hours without moving my feet or legs.
Thank God my wife Evi always stood by me and pulled me through even though she herself was more and more affected by my condition. Of course she had to go to work during the day and so I was left to myself, my physical ailments, and even worse, my increasing mental confusion.
Some of the very few people I remained in contact with were the members of an A Course in Miracles study group that had already helped me a lot during my last year- and-a-half-long bout with depression.
They repeatedly invited me to join them and take part in seminars all over Germany, which I occasionally did.
Then they planned a several-week-long seminar in the middle of the Sinai Desert with the title “Stillness in You” and repeatedly invited me to attend.
The whole thing created sheer panic in me. How was I supposed to survive even the 4 hour flight to Sharm el Sheikh? How was I supposed to get around in the deep sand with my massive difficulties in walking? Not to mention the intense heat there!
Nevertheless, I had already made my decision to go to the desert months before at a seminar I had attended in Berlin. Raising my crutches in the air, I had happily announced, “I am going to the desert!”
But the panic that broke out in me afterwards was sheer mortal terror, for months on end. It got to the point that I would rather commit suicide than let myself in for this seemingly so strenuous journey. How was I supposed to move in the desert? Me—the one who would usually sit in a paralyzed state, fearfully feeling my legs getting stiffer and stiffer.
Again I heard this clear voice of wisdom within me:
“In truth you have spent most of your time repeating your killing mantra over and over again. That is resentment, pure and simple.”
At any rate, there was an angel who came with me to the airport (most of the other participants in the seminar were already in the Sinai) to hand me off to the next caring angel who took me under his wing during the flight to Egypt. And then there were all the other angels who would encourage and support me, mostly over the phone.
Before I knew it, I found myself in a wet sleeping bag one night in the middle of the Sinai Desert under the stars. It was my first night in the desert and in the sleeping bag. There was a cold wind. I was so drowsy that I didn’t hit the peeing jar in the dark. The others were laying spread out behind rocks and gorse bushes. Of course I got help with my wet sleeping bag, but as far as I was concerned it was not enough. I wished for someone who would do nothing but look after me non-stop—someone who would anticipate my every wish and do everything for me.
When I was supposed to get dressed quickly to go to session in the tent at 4:30 in the morning, I lost it and blared uncontrollably, “What is this shit?! I didn’t come here to get more stressed out!” I yelled into the quiet, predawn desert. Here and there, a figure on its way to meditate glided in the direction of the tent. There was no answer. My roars faded into nothingness. All I got were a few words of admonition afterwards in the tent from Michael, the facilitator.
Later on, Ana and Bernhard, who had helped me so often before, and who had slept right near me this first night in the desert, moved their things away from my sleeping area without explanation. Again I had another reason to feel hurt. And of course I did, until the two co-organizers of the desert excursion, Maria and Hans-Juergen, took pity on me and suggested a new sleeping spot about thirty meters away from them.
The next morning at breakfast on the sand dune I had to speak out, “I’ve got to have more help. I can’t cope here.”
Quite apart from the symptoms of paralysis, as a result of my deep depression I had developed increasing difficulties managing the simplest daily tasks. For instance, it would sometimes take me hours to decide which socks I could tolerate with the painful neuropathy in my feet. And I was often overcome with such leaden fatigue that in the midst of doing something, my movements came to a halt and I fell asleep in whatever position I happened to be in at that moment. I had trouble coordinating even a simple series of actions. I had only a suitcase and a bag to keep track of, yet even with these few belongings I was worried and fearful that chaos would take over.
On top of those concerns, I realized that moving on the sandy terrain was much more strenuous than I had thought.
“This situation here is your own responsibility”, was the essence of Michael’s answer when I asked to be taken care of more. “Nobody forced you to come here. I had suggested that you attend just the part of the seminar that we’ll spend on the beach by the Red Sea next week, because we thought—and so did you—that this might be a little extreme for you. Well, you’re here now. But don’t expect to get special treatment from anyone here. There will be help if you need something specific—there are enough people here that you can turn to. But be clear about what you need. It’s not our job to support you in weakness, helplessness and confusion that is of your own choosing. You are just as capable and powerful as anyone else here. If you don’t like it, call a taxi and go back to Sharm el Sheikh and fly home and get care and assistance. You have enough money. Is this brotherhood and love in action?” Everyone in the circle said loud and clearly, “Yes.” Everyone except me.
After a little pause Michael added, “And if you want to be depressed, be depressed.”
“I don’t want to be depressed at all,” I said.
“Good, then don’t try to get our attention with it. You are a whole, holy, perfect child of God like anyone here. All power is given to you. So if you want to mope around being depressed, do it. Feel free. But keep it to yourself, and be assured that it doesn’t bother us if you do.”
With this the conversation ended.
I was told later on that I didn’t show much reaction on the outside, but all hell broke loose inside of me. It felt as if all the negativity of my life had narrowed down like a spearhead and concentrated in one single tiny spot. It was the essence of hurt and humiliation and the helpless rage at feeling that way. I could have killed them all—those seemingly healthy ones who tell you that you are responsible for everything. They were worse than those who bombard you with well-meant advice.
All I wanted was to finally die. Finally leave this cursed vale of tears called “life”, where everything was futile in the end. Where everything has to die eventually.
Every now and then this disastrous multiple sclerosis had seemed to me like a slow death—like taking leave of one healthy bodily function after another in a kind of slow motion which offered the hideous privilege of experiencing every bit of it in detail. I abhorred every bit of it.
I lay in my sleeping bag seething with rage. I brooded over how I could manage, in my debilitated state, to arrange an early flight back. But what would I do back home in Germany with my little bit of severely disabled life? To drop out now wouldn’t change any of my despair. It would be sheer poison.
The very next moment I wondered how I could manage to climb one of the high rocks in the area and jump off. But it was no use. In my condition I would never muster the strength to even get up on the rock.
Then I again felt this bottomless rage towards the people here and especially towards Michael and the cool, matter-of-fact manner in which he had flung his wisdom at me.
In my mind’s eye I saw how I wiped everybody out with a big machine gun.
Days later Michael said to me, “You have no idea how much Bhakti was with you in spirit after our conversation.”
The Holy Instant
“This ‘I’ who hates is exactly what we call the ego. In the end, it’s none other than a savage attack on yourself. And the task of the spiritual teacher is this: to make you aware of all your negativity and all your grievances, to show you that it is all of your own making, and to show you the tool that you can use to repair this false construct of your infinitely free and loving spirit: forgiveness. This is the practice of the Holy Instant.”
“Sooner or later you must see that the ultimate goal of this hateful ego is to kill your Self. But that’s not all. You can only achieve true liberation through the realization that you alone brought this ego into existence. This is why we repeat over and over that you are responsible for everything in your experience. This includes death, of course. It is your ultimate personal choice to experience a world in which everything dies. Strictly speaking, you are here because you want to die. You are here because you want to experience limitation. That is the only reason, and the ego is the faithful agent of your divine will. Do not forget that your will is given to you by God.
So what is the solution? Bring all of your grievances to the Holy Instant. All this turmoil. All this nervous excitement. Bring all your despair and all your self-loathing.”
Michael had repeatedly mentioned that in the sessions, but it wasn’t clear to me how it was supposed to be put into practice. When he talked about it, Michael had often gestured upward with his hands and eyes, so I visualized releasing all my thoughts to someplace up above me.
It was the only thing I could do. Every other course of action was blocked. Again and again, I made the effort to envision myself handing over all my rage and inner fury to God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit or a loving higher consciousness.
“Yes, that’s right. That’s the way. Imagine light-filled hands that come to you from above. Place everything in them. You don’t even necessarily need to see that it is your own mind that creates all of your feelings and all of your desires and all of your distress. It is sufficient that you no longer keep anything for yourself. That is what letting go really means: you release all of your thoughts and feelings, whatever their nature, to the Intelligence that knows the way to the light, the way to freedom.”
All of a sudden a touch of completely detached serenity came into my mind.
How I could suddenly start to grin was completely incomprehensible to me.
At least I fell asleep while I was doing it.
Of course, when I opened my eyes at about 4 in the morning the sheer panic was back. How would I get dressed, how would I get myself together, how would I endure all of this without freaking out?
After the following session, which I again barely understood, Michael once again made the suggestion that anyone who so desired could make use of the time by fasting for five days—not for physical reasons, but as a way to free ourselves from the mental knots that are nearly impossible to undo in any other way.
I was game, admittedly only because I was certain that during the eight or nine days in the desert I’d be constipated anyway. Surely that would be more bearable with an empty stomach. Yet they had made a special “throne” just for me—my friends had sawed a hole in the seat of an ordinary plastic chair …
“I am responsible for what I see. I choose the feelings I experience and I decide upon the goal I would achieve.”
A Course in Miracles
”And don’t forget to steer clear of Christoph. He really needs solitude.” Those were Michael’s parting words after our group breakfast on the deep sand of the dune. He had said it once before during his morning talk, and the words were like a punch in the gut.
Solitude—you’ve got to be kidding! I’d had more than enough of that at home. It was the last thing I needed now.
Since my depression had set in over a year before, I had gotten myself so wrapped up in the symptoms of my MS that loneliness was the logical consequence. My thoughts constantly revolved around all the things that were going wrong, all the things I couldn’t do. Of course everyone soon got tired of hearing about it. At the same time, I couldn’t stand the people who did want to hear about it because they saw it as a validation of their own suffering.
As a result, I’d gradually broken off most of my social contacts, and I mostly sat or lay around the apartment and observed myself gradually losing my mind.
On top of all that, my physical capabilities were deteriorating. I’d lost not only the ability to walk—I now used crutches all the time, and occasionally a wheelchair—but also, due to the buildup of excess urine in the bladder, I was incontinent. This had so often landed me in embarrassing situations where I couldn’t hold it and had to pee somewhere in public that I had become pretty thick-skinned about it. I always carried a so-called “Uribag”, a small plastic bag that you could fold up and put in your pocket, ready to use when the urgent need arose. Once, standing in the checkout line of a supermarket, I even managed to pay with one hand while I did my business with the other. I did this without anyone noticing—at least I don’t think anyone did. Of course, that was during a period when I wasn’t depressed; otherwise I wouldn’t have dreamed of pulling such a stunt …
So—I had begun to fast. I pulled the list of contraindications for my anti-depressants out of the packet and once again read how dangerous it was to abruptly cut them off, that you shouldn’t do so without consulting a physician. Then I crumpled the whole thing up and threw it in the small trash bag that lay on the sand beside my suitcase.
The meds hadn’t changed my feeling of isolation one bit anyway, and they couldn’t fulfill my desire to die.
My wife Evi claimed that my state of mind had brightened since I’d started taking anti-depressants nine months before, but I hadn’t noticed much of anything. I just kept yearning to finally be more involved in social activities again, and I was sure that it was the only way I’d be able to truly defeat my depression. Yet when the social events took place, for example a get-together with friends, I felt all-too-quickly overwhelmed, and was happy to be alone with Evi again, not havingto talk about something that didn’t interest me. Most conversation focused on the ephemeral anyway, without offering an imperishable alternative.
“What is loneliness, then? It is not a thought of God. God has no thought of suffering. The entire divine creation is God’s thoughts. You are a thought of God. Loneliness is not a thought of God, yet there seems to be someone who experiences it. Is it you? As a perfect child of God, can you possibly experience anything as other than perfect? No. You need something to do that for you. An instrument. That which you call the ego. And since God doesn’t provide this agent, this instrument, you’re forced to do so. That is to say that the ego that perceives itself as separate from others is of your own design. This construct makes it possible, through yourown will, to perceive a world full of imperfection. So it is only through the ego that you can possibly experience something like loneliness. Then what is loneliness, really? Your will. What is impermanence? Your will. What is hate? Your will. “
At home,how often I had envied small children being pushed in strollers by their parents—children who seemed to know nothing of a hostile world and who had their whole lives before them.
How often I had been watched anxiously by seemingly healthy people as I laboriously dragged myself around on my crutches. Their looks said: “I hope that doesn’t happen to me someday.”
”And all this self-pity … Know that it is you who calls it into being.”
Again I recalled that it was indeed entirely my own doing that I now found myself in this sick and hopeless state.
A good year before I had let some promising career prospects slip through my fingers, as translator and reader/performer of poetry by Rumi, the renowned Sufi mystic. I’d been unable to publish a book of Rumi’s poems that I had translated from the American version of his works by Coleman Barks. And I’d subsequently backed off froman appearance at an “Evening with Rumi” that a friend Claudia Matussek, an overtone singer, and I had already put on twice before. I had cancelled for fear of another attack of dizziness or incontinence, or so I told myself. The reality, very well concealed behind a wall of insecurity, was that I just didn’t feel like making the effort any more. After all, I could justify all my failures with two words: multiple sclerosis.
“This unconscious refusal to pursue your project—where would it take you? To feelings of guilt and failure. And where would your guilt take you? To solitude. And where would your loneliness take you? To death.
Mission accomplished. MS is a great means to that end, because what really happens with it? Your capabilities shrink more and more. Remember, the more your belief in your illness grew, the less you were able to do. Hence your fear of this trip. It forced you—literally and physically—to be once again capable of more than someone who’s on his deathbed.”
Lying in my sleeping bag the following night, for the first time in a year I felt like moving and stretching my limbs, even doing a few light muscle-building exercises. In the cool of the desert night it was much easier than in the heat of the day. While I was doing that, I got the idea of arranging a seminar for Michael and Bhakti in Munich if they wanted, and all at once the long yearned-for feeling was back: joy in being alive.
“This was the first time in a long time that you’ve given a thought to someone other than yourself.”
In the days that followed, I gradually recovered the ability to organize myself better and with less effort.Just as I’d experienced with my two previous bouts with depression, it was an uneven process—a brief ray of hope followed by longer periods of fear and confusion. Then another bright spot that lasted a little longer this time. Then the darkness of the soul, then brightness again.
It went like that for the remaining days of the fast, but with increasingly longer periods of brightness. Little by little, I regained confidence in my ability to keep my belongings in order.
During the sessions—Michael’s talks—I also began to understand what he was talking about more and more. Then one evening I began to mentally translate Michael’s words into English as he spoke. After all, during our long telephone conversations in Germany before this trip, one of the reasons that Michael had tried to persuade me to come along was so that I could act as an English interpreter later on in Israel. So—I decided to get some practice.
Silently translating Michael’s words in my head, I sometimes felt almost euphoric. I saw how the mental activity not only strengthened my ability to think, but also that “right-mindedness”, as the Course called it, returned to my conscious awareness. As Michael spoke, I could feel how he was accessing an inner voice that was whole, holy, truly healthy, truly loving, and able to distinguish the difference between truth and illusion. As I took in his words, they began to awaken my own whole, holy, healthy, happy inner voice. In other words, his love called my love to mind, and it was clear that it was not a case of two different loves. Just as God is One, genuine love is One.
Then there were situations where I was wild with rage and desperation. For instance, the time that, in the middle of a session, I suddenly had to pee. I somehow managed to struggle to my feet, tottered outside and staggered around the corner of the tent—and there sat two of the Bedouin attendants looking over at me. So I went off to find someplace in the open desert. I just made it to a gorse bush that I could hold onto in a pinch. Wobbling precariously, I did my business and was attacked by the usual insane swarm of flies that were attracted by the yummy urine and mucous. The crowning glory was that I lost my balance and fell in the deep sand of the desert.
No one came to my aid, but in the light of the luxuriously setting sun wise words sounded softly from the nearby tent …
”Forgive … ”
“It’s beautiful that we have come so far. From here on, from now on, our two voices will join and be one. Therefore let us put the past completely to rest; let us put to rest all the thoughts that want to make us believe in the importance of finishing this report. It is already written in the heart of God. Everything is already fulfilled. There truly is nothing that needs to be accomplished. In reality, no effort whatsoever is necessary. What could be more important than fulfillment? More important than being completely filled with peace and joy and life?
To extend them.
“Who says so?”
A Course in Miracles.
“What does A Course in Miracles say? At the end it says: ‘Forget this Course’. It is not about the Course any more than it’s about this story.”
Unless … you do something simply out of joy. And because it brings joy to others.
As I said, in my sleeping bag at night I’d resumed my simple stretches and easy isometric exercises for building muscle. To lie awake in the cool desert night, making plans for seminars and feeling the muscles in my own body—muscles I had refused to move for so long—was like waking from a long nightmare that I had stage-managed in order to experience it myself.
Waves of gratitude filled me as I chewed my first date after six days of fasting and listened to Michael during our shared breakfast. Gratitude for the great clarity in which Michael would let this whole, holy, joyful, earnest inner voice come through. Gratitude for this wonderful spiritual teaching A Course in Miracles. And gratitude for this small, determined group of seekers and finders who had gathered here somewhere in the Sinai Desert to be free.
Of course, A Course in Miracles also consists of concepts and ideas and is therefore disputable. As such, it might be nothing more than a basis for discussion. And yet—when those concepts were allowed to unfold within the mind, when they were accepted as a possible truth and taken to heart, or better yet, one’s own heart is set in motion by them—then these concepts offered an inner grounding, a peace and freedom I had never experienced before.
The crucial idea is to accept total responsibility for literally everything we experience. Which should not be confused with being guilty. Yes, we made mistakes, but they are over. Yes, we make mistakes, but the next moment they are past. Lightning-fast we make a sort of recording of an event we just experienced and replay it in our minds over and over like a movie. This is the only reason that a past event affects a current situation. Once we become aware of that process and stop the recording—which is what forgiving is—we experience the present moment completely without judgment and everything can flow into it that is true life, whole life.
This cyber speed recording that we do in our own mind is usually concealed in a fog of unconsciousness, and we are even less aware of the fact that we are compelled to judge the experience. We divide into good and bad: positive and negative memories, light and dark, black and white. We create our entire world from this judgment game. We are also unaware that all this arises from our conscious decision to experience separation.
“What seems to be the fear of death is really its attraction.”
A Course in Miracles
So many people had prayed for my healing or at least an improvement in my mental and emotional state during the time I was so doing so badly.
First and foremost, Evi, my wife. She didn’t expect to be patted on the back, but quietly showed her love and compassion by keeping the whole practical side of our lives on track. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for her to deal with my illness-fueled mood swings and unpredictable outbursts on top of her professional duties. And I am eternally grateful for her unwavering determination to withstand the strong negative pull with which I attempted to bring down everything in my environment.
My intent to commit suicide had called forth all the demons of the underworld. Of course, they were all creations of my own mind, but at the time I didn’t know that.
My own death-oriented thinking, which was for the most part unconscious, had called these demons into existence. And I didn’t know how to stop this negative self-talk, or rather, I didn’t want to. I wanted death. I wanted to be dead. Not to be dying anymore, but to finally be dead. How well I could understand all the fragile, lonely people who, perhaps without realizing it, wanted to finally be dead in order to have a fresh start.
What a tremendous pull those death fantasies had for me. New lives flashed through my mind. Unhappy lives. They were forged from scarcity thinking, seemingly irresolvable conflicts, and irrational longings, and they played out in disadvantaged, underdeveloped regions of the world. As negative as they were, such images had a magnetic attraction for me.
I could actually feel how, in them, the next incarnation of my mind wanted to be pre-programmed.
At the same time, it was those images that kept me from killing myself. I knew that nothing good could come of a suicide that would only bring pain and grief to my family and friends. As confused and miserable as I was, I did know that one should only take one’s own life when in a good mood, at peace with all fellow men.
Along with Evi there were others who stood by me during this difficult time, in both visible and invisible ways. They sent me their good thoughts and prayers. Among them were certainly my father and my mother, and also my son Gwendal, who always wished only the best for me in his own special way. Other friends and acquaintances helped as well: for example Helga who voluntarily looked after me twice a week, and Dr. Bumm, a psychotherapist.
I am also so grateful to Michael and his group. Michael repeatedly told me how he had had visions of me at the edge, ready to leap, and he had held my hand in spirit. And his friend and event organizer Wolfgang Bernardo and his wife Ana had often done so in reality by repeatedly getting me out of my hole and inviting me to their home and to seminars.
Since I had gotten to know Michael four years ago at one of his seminars, he had felt committed to helping me through this crisis. Three, four time per week I received letters from him and so often we had talked during seminars and on the phone. At a time, when apparently many others had turned away from me.
Through the Dead Sea
“There is a change for the trip back,” said Michael two days before our departure from Camp Zman Midbar, in the Israeli desert close to the Dead Sea.
“On the way to the airport we’ll stop for a couple of hours at the Dead Sea. It will be good for Christoph to take a dip in it.”
Here we go again: I was panic-stricken.
The last two weeks after our stay in the desert—first in a simple camp on the Red Sea, then a short week at another seminar with Bhakti and Michael in Israel, near Arad—my mental state had become more and more stable. Most importantly, I had gotten my fears around packing my suitcase under control. Now I had thought that there was only one more time that I needed to get my stuff together, and after that the long journey back would be a snip. The drive of a few hours to Ben Gurion Airport and the waiting period before the flight, which would leave after 10:00 PM, were not daunting.
Now all that had changed: I had to get ready for two legs of the trip, and they demanded different clothing. How was I supposed to cope … an excellent thought for producing fear again. My glands obeyed my unconscious command to the letter, and sure enough, my body broke into a cold sweat. At the same time my brain got another chance to produce the state of mental paralysis.
Then at the Dead Sea …
The blazing heat at this lowest spot on planet earth. The steel blue sky. I only made it into the jelly-like sea-salt concentrate by tottering over the burning sand in slow motion.
“Just think,” Michael had said before our departure, “the Dead Sea is really dead. Dead as a door nail.”
Deeper in the gooey liquid, at the place where you couldn’t stand up anymore, Michael and Bhakti were showing me treading movements that I imitated with great effort.
How happy and alive those two were, and the others as well.
At one point I lost my balance and was dunked completely under water because of the powerful upwelling of the Dead Sea. At that point I was apart from the others. The acridly salty water penetrated every opening in my head. All my muscles contracted abruptly; I became stiff as a board. I kept my eyes squeezed shut, they burned so hard. To breathe through my nose was unthinkable. It was just oozing. Thank God dear ole Felix, a young computer wiz, had just waved cheerfully at me and I could hear him on his way to rescue me. Floating face-up, I bobbed up and down in this Sea of Death, stiff and rigid and incapable of improving my position in any way. In my head it burned like fire.
As Felix pushed me toward the beach like a log, the intensely salty water poured out of all the openings in my skull. All I craved was clear water. All the while, Felix and I chatted animatedly in different languages and dialects about various questions concerning enlightenment techniques. Above all, I remember how grateful I was for his safe conduct.
On the beach Bernardo was waiting for us with a bottle of water. It didn’t take long till I could open my eyes again and take a shower under the curious gaze of some of the beachgoers.
Again I heard my inner voice:
“Yes, my dear, now you have written it. This is the power of memory. The whole of human culture consists of memories. Yet it is about moving on beyond memories to find your way to the Life that extends on and on.
If you let go of your memory in every moment, you open up to the formless.This is a joy beyond compare.”
END OF PART 1