Exciting Enlightenment

I have been a student of A Course in Miracles (ACIM) for several years. Also, for the past 6 months, I\’ve been slowly plowing my way through Plotinus\’ Enneads. I am not even half way through, up to the third Ennead.

Every few days, I find some gem of an idea buried in Plotinus. Often, these gems overlap with a principle of ACIM. My understanding of Plotinus, who was a Platonist (studied the Greek philosopher Plato), is framed in principles which overlap from ACIM. I\’m taking the principles themselves to be general truths and as such should be true for all humans and all religions and philosophies.

Not Christianity, but Christ Himself. (imo)

A key principle of ACIM is \”forgiveness\” which doesn\’t have the same meaning as most people think. It means looking beyond to the Christ Principle within, beyond this world. If this idea is translated into Platonism using Ideal Form, Reason Principle, Authentic Existence, and others; we get a unified explanation of ACIM. So truth is true and completely practice-able by ordinary humans. (er, or anyone who really wants to).

I can\’t offer a sound bite of two books, each of which is over 700 pages. I offer my excitement to know I am happily on a path of truth.

If you are a student of ACIM, you will recognize Christ Vision and forgiveness in the following key cut from Plotinus 3.8.7:

\”All the forms of Authentic Existence spring from vision and are a vision. Everything that springs from these Authentic Existences in their vision is an object of vision-manifest to sensation or to true knowledge or to surface-awareness. All act aims at this knowing; all impulse is towards knowledge, all that springs from vision exists to produce Ideal-Form, that is a fresh object of vision, so that universally, as images of their engendering principles, they all produce objects of vision, Ideal-forms. In the engendering of these sub-existences, imitations of the Authentic, it is made manifest that the creating powers operate not for the sake of creation and action but in order to produce an object of vision. This same vision is the ultimate purpose of all the acts of the mind and, even further downward, of all sensation, since sensation also is an effort towards knowledge; lower still, Nature, producing similarly its subsequent principle, brings into being the vision and Idea that we know in it. It is certain, also, that as the Firsts exist in vision all other things must be straining towards the same condition; the starting point is, universally, the goal.

When living things reproduce their Kind, it is that the Reason-Principles within stir them; the procreative act is the expression of a contemplation, a travail towards the creation of many forms, many objects of contemplation, so that the universe may be filled full with Reason-Principles and that contemplation may be, as nearly as possible, endless: to bring anything into being is to produce an Idea-Form and that again is to enrich the universe with contemplation: all the failures, alike in being and in doing, are but the swerving of visionaries from the object of vision: in the end the sorriest craftsman is still a maker of forms, ungracefully. So Love, too, is vision with the pursuit of Ideal-Form.\”

I am happy I continue to shamelessly follow Jesus. I am excited and enlightened. The Compassionate Spirit has worked within my heart and brought me a vision of The Real World.

Stability

Benedictines take vows of Obedience (to a prioress), Conversatio (conversion of morals) and Stability (to the monastery). I was in Benedictine formation and completed my novitiate. So even though I didn\’t make profession, I was completely formed by the Benedictine method. Regardless of public witness of vows, which I lack, I did write these vows out formally and make them to God. So in my heart, I made these vows.

And I\’ve never been able to escape thinking about them for more than 10 years since I made them.

I was thinking about stability this morning. I need stability in the cave of my heart and stability of intention and action. Being stable on the inside seems like it should manifest as stability on the outside. In some areas, like the engineering profession, I\’ve been an engineer my whole career. But not one employer.

So this morning, my small mind was continuing a struggle which is not a struggle. See, I\’m a process safety engineer. I live in Houston where job openings abound. I\’ve almost been with my current employer for 5 years. My small mind wants to apply for a job or two, just to see how much more money I could make. That is a ridiculous idea. I make enough money and I have a great job.

As I type this, I can feel the agitation of my small mind that continuously struggles. Why does it do that? What is the root cause?

For one, there is a dopamine reward cycle involved with achieving change. another dopamine reward cycle involved with self importance, and winning. It is very difficult to resist the lure of dopamine.

I don\’t want to make a change. But I don\’t know how to calm my small mind. Usually, I follow the small mind\’s dictates eventually. But this goes against stability at the present moment. And I want stability in order to continue putting my energy into contemplation and stability of heart. I don\’t want to waste my energy making job changes. My intention is spiritual growth and my actions should be in that direction; not following the small mind and achieving in the world.

How will I contain the constant agitation of my small mind? There are more agitations than job changes. I will continue to return to my prayer word. I will continue to stick to my habits of Conversatio, spiritual study, contemplative silence. I know this is obedience to the Spirit and not the small mind. I am spirit, not a small mind.

Loftier Thoughts

Today is day 17 of having one leg out of service. It is day 4 of going back to work. I recognize that the rest of my body is tired of hauling around the one bad leg. But work hardening is occurring and already I notice my hands are not as sore from the crutches and I\’m not a tired when I go home.

This morning, I was noticing a mental component to all this; which gave me an insight for my spiritual journey. The past 4 days I have wanted to use my disability as an excuse to work fewer hours. It is an attempt to feel sorry for myself and slack off; even while there isn\’t really a need for this. At the same time, I notice a governing drive which gets out of bed anyway, gets me into the shower anyway so I am sweet smelling and gets me to work on time anyway, and keeps me here for 8 hours anyway.

As I worked on my spiritual study this morning, I noticed the friction going on between the slacker attitude and the governing drive. I realize that the governing drive always wins even though the slacker chews at the governor\’s edges. It is a friction, a tension. But I realize that while it became apparent in reflecting on my disability, it is actually a life long issue. The same friction is apparent in the struggle to get out of bed everyday or exercise everyday or practice contemplation when I have free time.

Some people might even say that the slacker is sin and the governor is virtue. The slacker is not sin. The slacker is also not my essence. It is just a function of the illusion of this world.

Now that slacker is identified, I can use it as a tool to raise my thinking. Now I have got to the crux of the matter. A monk has a desire to know God. Over the ages, monks have retreated to deserts, hermitages and monasteries as environments that provide space to think spiritual thoughts more than worldly thoughts. As a monk in the world, I can now consider how slacker drags back governor and prevents contemplation (loftier thinking) even when I have time available for it.

When I thought about being out of commission due to leg surgery, I thought it would be an opportunity for contemplation as I would be off work. But that didn\’t turn out.

Now, with the new insight on slacker vs. governor, I want to refocus on contemplation. I want to make it happen even if I have to be a monk in the world. It must grow more each day; no excuses since I don\’t live in a monastery. Even when I did live in a monastery, I noticed all us nuns were often wrapped up in non-contemplative thinking.

Adoration

Yes, I would like to fall on my kness and be in abject awe of The Divine.

I don\’t do it by sitting in front of a piece of bread. Just the thought \”Adoration\” causes me to pause. And then contemplation springs up. Contemplation of anything.

Yes, contemplation of Jesus crucified is a worthy image. Be silent when you do this. Do not repeat to yourself anything you may have read in the Bible or in church.

The Endless Path

If I had stayed in the convent, I\’d be spending the weekend sitting in this room with these elderly nuns:

I pretty much hate sitting around rooms going through namby pamby discernment exercises. It is not like manufacturing groups don\’t also have meetings and set goals. Its just that things move along quicker. We don\’t have to ask who we are.

I am gathering my things and packing my bags. I have an ultra-marathon on tap this weekend. I\’ll be here, doing this and looking pretty much like this:

This is a picture from 3 years ago; the last time I was in this race.

Instead of being a nun with no possessions. I am an engineer with a six figure salary, a car, a home and everything else. My own treadmill, elliptical, nordic track, ex-bike and weight set. I have a stock of 4 new pairs of running shoes in the closet.

Instead of practicing Roman Catholicism and sitting in Adoration before the holy eucharist, I practice A Course in Miracles and sit before the inner altar where Christ is. And long distance running is my prayer. Endurance is my meditation. The endless trail is my contemplation.

How long can I go? What will it feel like?

When I left the convent, I didn\’t give up Christ, or silence or contemplation. But a part of me can\’t forget them. If you asked me if I am better off where I am now, I\’d answer yes. But I still look back. I still look back.

And then I look forward. I look forward. The path is long. The path is my conversation with God. I am spirit, talking through Spirit in communication with Source.

The Cliff

It is a point of contemplation: I am on the brink of my Friday evening workout. Why am I doing this? I am not exactly and ultra-runner at this time. I have no need for training per se. But yet again this week, here I am about to spend 2 hours on strength and aerobics.

And so I pause, on the brink and become very still. I compose myself into a contemplative statue. Quiet inside and out. I ponder and wait. Silence descending into my being is the greatest gift. Silence is my fuel. Silence is the language of my inner power and motivation.

Slowly, the elliptical begin to turn. I start to work on my thoughts. I allow the days annoyances into my consciousness that I may work on them.

Daily life begs a declaration: Let me not forget my function.

I can\’t afford to attack with my thoughts. I cannot afford to allow my thoughts to spiral around the temptation to hate. And so I declare: Love holds no grievances. Grievances, attack thoughts, the temptation to hate are all one thing: my ego diverting my attention from Love and Silence. I cannot afford this. And so I repeat my declaration: let me not forget my function.

Endless Running – Now

See that map? Pretty hot prediction for Friday night in north central Kansas. That temperature causes me to pause and weigh my options, ponder my goals, discern my limits. Then there is nothing left but to go running right now.

See, I signed up for a 50k race which was to start Friday night. But I really do not think it will be very fun to: drive 4 hours to the race site, run in that heat at night for 7+ hours, get back in the car about 5 am, and drive 4 hours home, then crash in bed for half the day. What was I thinking?

I was thinking about endless running. See, I do long slow distance runs for the contemplative time. To do it on a lonely Kansas farm road in the middle of the night added a mysterious dimension since I can\’t actually see where I am going and my world gets reduced to the tiny circle of light my head light puts out. I wanted to do this in the race environment because there would be a definite distance and aid stations every 5 or so miles.

Unfortuately, the extreme heat takes the endeavor somewhat outside my physical capability. I\’ve been a distance runner for 39 years. I don\’t lie to myself about my limits. Its unlikely I\’ll make it to the race.

This morning, as I was out running at 4 am, I decided to accept the dark mystery which was surrounding me right at that very moment. And that I could do the same every morning this week. A darkened suburb is not quite the same as a cornfield, but for contemplation, the dark suburb is enough.

And so I just ran, unthinking, up here, down there, around there and again. The endless night of the long distance runner started for me this morning and will continue every morning just as it has for many years. Its up to me to remember that I\’ve been given the contemplative gift now. I don\’t have to wait for Friday night, or a race. Just run. That is the goal.

God and Engineering

I am off on a seemingly different topic; at least different from running and A Course in Miracles, sort of.

11 years ago, I was working as an engineer completing highly technical calculations for sizing relief valves on chemical reactors. I was doing this work for the company I currently work for. 11 years ago, I had begun to practice silent contemplation. I was filling my head with the works of John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Thomas Merton and some Buddhist monks. I was convinced that to carry out my mission to know God, I had to go live in a monastery. So, I engineered a project and quickly found myself confirmed Roman Catholic and installed as a Postulant in a contemplative Benedictine religious order.

4 years later (on the day I was supposed to take vows), I found myself suddenly on the streets. Next, I found myself in a parish and working as a cashier at a bakery.

1 year later, I returned to my engineering profession as I had obtained a job at an ethanol plant located in a small town in Kansas. So I lived there for 5 years, practicing contemplation, solitude and running alot. I worked my way through leaving the Catholic Church, divorcing myself from most of society and adopting A Course in Miracles as my spiritual text.

Last June, I got laid off the ethanol plant job, but obtained a job at my former employer. I have been there for over a year as a Process Safety Engineer. And now, I find myself slowly returning to involvement with pressure safety. Today, I am at a DIERS workshop in San Diego, learning more about the complicated calculations needed to design relief valves for chemical reactors.

I am also reading a book called \”The Hermitage Within.\” Last night I had these thoughts: When I am alone, I have the opportunity to block out the world. And then, simply wait for God; sitting quietly, completely available, listening. I recognize The Presence here and now.

I find it must be my task to integrate a life in the world with contemplation. I must integrate the intricate design of relief valves with the massive silence of God. This idea takes my breath away. People think only monks can be intensely spiritual or that monks have some special place in God consciousness. Read Vatican documents on the place of religious in the world and they clearly state that contemplative nuns are closer into the heart of God than the rest of us.

It simply can\’t be true if God is love. It must be true that God comes to whoever wants Him and is willing to give up everything else. So, as I sit in class for the next few days, I\’ll be making prayers of equations for bubbly two phase flow.

I find myself in the heart of God whenever I consciously recognize the fact. Everyone is there with me; but many don\’t know it. If God is love, so are we. There is nothing else. And so I sit before the massive silence and feel awe; even as some teacher drones on and on about two phase flow.

Running Salvation

I am a troubled soul. Maybe all souls are troubled but they keep quiet about it. Most alcoholics I know think that they are troubled because they have an \”alcoholic personality.\” I know this idea comes from Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, but I do not agree with it. I think to be human is to have a troubled soul; and alcoholics use alcohol to deal with it.

My spirituality has been what I use to deal with my troubled soul. And I\’ve come to believe it is not my soul that is troubled. It is my ego. So every morning, I have to do something about my ego. My ego is always pissed that life hasn\’t been that great for it. My ego always hates the people around me. My ego always thinks God is not there.

I did my spiritual work this morning with exactly this outlook on the world. Its funny to spend the evening before feeling the strong call of God to inner silence and then wake up in the morning a complete bear. But, I asked for divine help, \”I need to see the light in me.\”

And so I went running: extremely warm out there, full moon, no T-storms, freshly cut slit in the cuff of my CWX capris made them finally comfortable, not very energetic so I ran slowly. I had about 80 minutes for this run. My mind was mulling over my emotional states and wondering if I am hopelessly depressed, again reviewing the impossibility of re-joining society.

And then the miracle. I can\’t remember exactly all the thoughts but I\’ll re-cap. I realized I can only go further into the belief that the world is an illusion and not worry about it. Then I was uplifted with the thought that I would be given whatever I needed for today. So my fear of the future and my difficult employment disappeared. I entered the now and realized God was with me now.

I am in transition from thinking this world is real to know this world is an illusion and identifying with my true self, which is in God. I am in transition from ego relationships to the one real relationship which we all have and are, the beloved Son of God.

Then, I thought, \”all I\’ve wanted for a long time was a life of contemplation of God.\” Contemplation of God is the call I heard at the age of 22 when I was in Israel watching Hassidic Jews pray. Contemplation was the real reason I sought monastic life. Contemplation is the reason I began ultra running. Then the thought came that everything was a gift and contemplating the gifts was contemplating God. This completely diffused my hatred and fear of a certain person. They became gift not enemy (which is the point of spirituality IMO). Nothing more need be done than to realize this. Then it struck me. The reality of God is that I am now in a total embrace of love and everything is gift.

I totally believed this for a brief instant. I saw the light for a brief instant.

Now that was a successful run and it is for enlightenment that I run.

Personal Multi-days – Dream

Today I ran 27 miles in the park. Doing 9x1s at about 11.9 min/mile. Today, I recited Hail Mary\’s during the 9 minutes of running and the Our Father during the one minute of walking. This was like the Japanese monk who does 1,000 daily marathons and prostrates at shrines located along his path. The park where I run has no shrines, but I made a shrine out of time with the one minute of walking.

Now I have a fresh memory of what it feels like to run more than a marathon 2 days in a row. I had not really planned to run 27 miles today. I just went to the park with a large amount of sports drink and Gu and decided to go as long as I felt like it. I actually went fast the last 2 laps because it was very hot. I made the decision to do 10 laps during the 8th lap. And I wanted out of the sun, so I went faster. Go figure where that speed came from.

I started running ultras because I was inspired by the 3,100 mile Self Transcendence race (about 12 people run/walk around a block in NYC for 16 hours a day and try to run 3,100 miles in 52 days). What inspired me was the meditative aspect of doing endless miles in this manner.

My inspiration lead me to try ultras. I\’m still fascinated by the idea of mentalling spiralling inward to Silence as many boring miles are completed. Earlier this year, I completed 80 miles in 20 hours in one mile laps. My mind does find such a thing soothing, but the body is pretty whipped after about 50 miles. I\’m trying to practice contemplation, not worry about whether my foot is broken.

I\’ve been in the habit of attempting personal multi-days whenever I have a long weekend. Last summer when I was laid off, I ran/walked upwards of 6 hours every day.

Today, as I was running I sort of got an idea of what I would like to do for my next vacation, 11/20 to 28: 10 ultras in 10 days. The plan would be to run/walk around the park 10 laps (27 miles), 10 days in a row. And see where my mind takes me. The physical part is hard but not that hard as running is slow. The mental part is very hard. Most people undertake their endurance feats in the venue of an organized event. This helps them to honestly finish without \”quitting.\” Part of my mental journey is to do a thing without the measurements of other people.

This plan is tentative. As always, if I complete it, it will be one step at a time.