The start of the year is traditionally a time to make resolutions and to refect on our goals for the coming months. A Course in Miracles suggests that we have only one function here. It describes this function variously as "forgiveness", "healing", "happiness", "peace" and "accepting the atonement for ourselves" - all these being essentially the same thing. Forgiveness gives rise to peace; and true peace is impossible until we accept our oneness with All That Is - which equates to healing or remembering our Wholeness. Happiness cannot be our enduring experience while we see ourselves as separate, bound within a body, and at the mercy of forces outside ourselves.
What would it mean to accept the Peace of God as my only goal? How would I organise my time?
As I'm beginning to understand, I wouldn't do so much organising! I'd step back and let my Inner Guide (the Holy Spirit, in the language of the Course) lead the way. There are several things which I would like to do this year, but if I notice I'm becoming attached to outcomes (a sign of this is getting flustered, or doing things in a rush) it means I've given the task itself greater importance than my primary goal of Peace. When I notice this happening, it's time to pause.
Am I doing this activity for my self, or for the good of the Whole? If I'm doing it largely for my own agrandisement, I probably shouldn't be doing it at all. If I am doing it for the greater good, I need to remind myself that the results of my actions are up to the Holy Spirit, not up to me. It may be my part to facilitate a workshop, or to write a book or a blog post, but how it's received is not for me to fret about. It's the ego that asks, "What feedback will I get? How many copies of my book have people bought this month?". Releasing attachments to results will return me to Peace, my primary goal.
I wish you all Joy, Peace and healing in 2017.
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)
My favourite music, books and films tend to be those I find uplifting or inspiring... I prefer things which complement my good mood if I'm already feeling happy, or perk me up if I'm feeling a little down. I've never understood the attraction of violent movies (especially gratuitously violent ones), or books that lack a message of hope. Why would I want to spend my time watching or reading something that will depress me? (That's why I don't tend to read the newspapers either - apart from the refreshing positive Positive News.)
It's a similar story with music. I thought I'd share a few of my favourite tracks and pieces of music... They're a mixed bag, from classical to modern, but what they have in common is a 'high-vibration'. I find them life-affirming, and a few minutes of listening to these invariably lifts my mood. In no particular order...
Hymn by Vangelis (have a listen to this version on YouTube).
Enya: Only Time; Trains and Winter Rains
Katrina and the Waves: Love Shine a Light
Sandra: Everlasting Love
Midnight Oil: Beds Are Burning
Housemartins: Caravan of Love
Elizabethan Serenade by Ronald Binge
Cecilia: Silver Wings
Forgiving and Letting Go (free CD available from Inner Talk)
Stand by Me (Song Around the World version)
The Beatles: Let It Be
John Lennon: Imagine
Mr Mister: Broken Wings
Texas Lightning: No No Never (backing track to this minigolf trick shots video)
Curtis Mayfield: We Got To Have Peace
John Farnham: You're The Voice
What are your own uplifting favourites?
Thanks to YouTube, I've discovered the joys of Slow TV. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been experiencing a driver's eye view of the 9-hour train journey from Trondheim to Bodo in northern Norway.
Originally filmed for Norwegian television, it's an epic without a word spoken - where the only drama is when the sun breaks through the clouds. (Having said that, the train does skip a few red lights, so I suppose there's always the possibility of a head-on collision - though five hours into the journey it hasn't happened yet.) I simply sit. And watch. And enjoy the stunning winter-wonderland scenery without worrying about the destination, or how long it's going to take to get there.
Programmes like this - or the two-hour reindeer sleigh ride I watched over Christmas - are an invitation to slow down, take a deep breath, and forget for a while the stresses of fast-paced modern living.
At work, there are usually 101 things to do, and I find myself having to cut corners, to accept 'good enough' when my instinct is to be thorough. From what I gather, it's a similar story in most workplaces. Even in the so-called caring professions, doctors or counsellors are asked to see more clients in less time. As they battle to meet targets, how present can they be? How much time is allowed for them to stop to listen to their clients' needs - spoken or perhaps unsaid? How much loving attention can they give?
Outside of work too, there's a danger in us taking on too much - in filling our leisure hours with so many activities and responsibilities that we're always dashing from one to the next, and never fully present where we are. Rushing seems to me like a subtle form of violence. How much consideration do we show to others when we're so focussed on our never-ending lists of tasks and goals? Is there a risk that we'll end up like the Priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan - both busy men on important errands, no doubt - and pass by on the other side?
I'm now discovering that 'less can be more'. That one unhurried conversation with a close friend nourishes both of us more than any number of rushed chats. That joy is not related to the number of things I do or to how many places I visit, but is a function of my inner state - my being present in the moment whatever I'm doing and wherever I am.
So I take a break. Board again the slow train to Bodo. And let myself enjoy the views.
What makes an amazing story? Rounded, believable characters, certainly. An intriguing plot with sufficient conflict - which can be outer or inner, or ideally both. Descriptions which engage the senses, drawing readers in to the characters' world and bringing the tale to life.
Another ingredient I look for is transformation. Do the characters grow as the story progresses? How do they find redemption, or become kinder people, concerned about others and not only themselves? Perhaps they experience a spiritual awakening and end up more aware than they had been at the start of the story, which reflects in their outward choices and behaviours.
Visionary fiction is beginning to be recognised as a genre in its own right. It covers stories where growth in consciousness is a central theme, driving the protagonist or other important characters. It brings forth gems of wisdom in story form. Examples range from Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, through James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy to books where the spiritual component is more subtle, a gentle but integral undercurrent flowing through the story. Recently I enjoyed the Course in Miracles-inspired Dreams of Dying by Shaman Elizabeth Herrera and The Guardian Angel's Journal (Carolyn Jess-Cooke).
Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love - an amazing read - and The Shack (William P Young) are also transformative books. They are written from a Christian perspective however, whereas Visionary Fiction as a genre is universal in its scope and not aligned to any one religion.
At its best, visionary fiction inspires its readers. It prompts them to reflect on life's bigger questions and may spur them on to make positive changes in their own lives. But (as with good Christian Fiction) it needs to do this in a way that doesn't come across as preaching, or make the story appear forced.
The Visionary Fiction Alliance aims to raise the profile of the genre. You can find out more by visiting its website.
Peter Parr: Quaker, writer, A Course in Miracles student and former member of the British minigolf team. (Actually those are all just roles I play. Words can't describe who any of us really are.)