A Course in Miracles – The spiritual underpinning of my work
Every act of love as an act of leadership
My work, life and teaching, and the Born to Lead project is underpinned by the principles of A Course in Miracles, which teaches how to relinquish a though system of fear and guilt and restore our minds to a thought system of love and peace, which is our natural state. A Course in Miracles is probably the most purchased and least read spiritual books on the planet! Most people who own a copy have their story of acquiring a copy and then having it sit and gather dust for ages and then eventually feeling the call to dive into The Course.
I think of The Course s a love letter from your soul to your ego. At 1,300 pages it is a long love letter! Luckily, The Course is full of amazing one-liners that on their own can engage, inspire and start to transform your thinking.
The Course is really a three-step programme:
Step 1 is remembering your true identity and says we are here to remember who we really are – A Course in Miracles is full of big ideas, and the core one is so simple and yet so big: You are already love; love is who you are; you are already happy and you are already peaceful.
Step 2 is to identify with love in order to “retrain” your mind to think with love and from love. A miracle, according to The Course, is a shift in perception from fearful thinking to loving thinking.
Step 3 is to use the process of forgiveness as outlined in The Course to remove unloving thoughts from your mind and restore peaceful and loving thoughts to your mind
I have been on a spiritual path since 1986, when I was having my first “crisis” – more of a quarter life crisis than a mid-life crisis, as I was only 28! I was struggling to decide whether to remain in my corporate career, so went into therapy and then had a bit of an awakening experience and began an immersion in the world of personal and spiritual growth that continues to this day. I started attending talks at Alternatives in Saint James’s in Piccadilly, then became a volunteer, then joined the management team, then co-led it for several years and then spent eleven years serving on the board of trustees until I left in 2009.
During that time I got to taste and experience the true smorgasbord of what was on offer spiritually and in the wider world of growth, human potential and psychology, much of which I enjoyed, some of which I didn’t. For a number of years I would have described myself as a seeker, and did I do some extensive seeking and researching! It was only when I came across A Course in Miracles in 1993 that I felt an inner sense of relief, and a voice within me said, “You have found what you have been looking for. This is your path.”
Giving up self-improvement
But my starting point was this: I was faulty and that there was so much wrong with me. I was, I believed, broken, even sinful, and needed fixing, so I was still on a path of self-improvement. It helped but I still found myself getting frustrated at myself, being angry and unkind to myself, at times really abusing myself. It wasn’t until I met a teacher of A Course in Miracles called Tom Carpenter that I really made significant inner shift. In a conversation on the deck of his home in Kaui in Hawaii in 1998, I was regaling him with all my frustrations, and with a smile of unconditional love and understanding he said to me, “Nick, there is nothing wrong with you, the only thing wrong with you is that you believe there is something wrong with you that you are trying to fix. There is nothing about you that is unlovable. Your quest to fix yourself is causing you so much pain”
It was one of those life-changing “Aha!” moments when I realised it was actually time to give up self-improvement and give up trying to create a better version of myself. I could adopt a new starting point, I realised that there was a Self within me that was already OK, that needed no fixing or improvement. My job wasn’t to change my Self, but simply peel back the hundreds of layers of programming and conditioning and allow this pre-existing Self to surface more. I could start from the place that I was already OK. So I started to give up self-improvement and embrace self-love and self-acceptance. I am now on a path of loving and embracing all aspects of me, even those that don’t seem very lovable and acceptable.
A Course in Miracles can be so challenging
I wish I could say that my discovery of The Course made things easier ever since, but it hasn’t always. In my mind, much personal growth is about placating our egos and making them feel happier and validated, or trying to create a better ego or a better self-image through self-improvement or self-development. The goal of The Course is Self-acceptance, and ultimately the relinquishment of our ego and its thought system of fear and guilt completely, so is an invitation to face our ego is all its unpleasantness and see past it to our true identity as a loved child of our Creator. It has required me to have brutal self-honesty with myself and keep facing my own shadow, the stories I tell myself and my own self-deception. The Course is an invitation into deeper inner transformation, continually facing and unravelling the unloving thoughts that exist, usually buried, in every mind. The ego is horrible. In The Course, it teaches that the ego is at best suspicious and at worst, vicious, but it also teaches us that there is already a Self within us that needs no improvement and that as we clear our fearful thinking, this Self that pre-exists will naturally start to surface more in our mind.
What A Course in Miracles is really teaching is that we already are and always have been, powerful, loving, creative spiritual beings, wholly loved children of our creator. But we have fallen asleep and have forgotten our true nature, and this whole world is a symbol of our forgetting. Our purpose here is to awaken and to remember who we truly are, always have been and always will be. It teaches that we don’t need to be punished, we simply need to be willing to have our thinking corrected. We are here to relinquish the thought system of fear, guilt and attack that we have created so that our natural loving nature can gently resurface through the process of forgiveness that The Course teaches.
But our ego is clever, manipulative, complex, operates largely out of our conscious awareness. So for me, its daily work to identify, acknowledge and let go of the ego thought system in my mind. The Course teaches that the ego can be insane, vicious, nasty and cruel and doesn’t want to give up its grip on our mind.
A Course in Miracles is not a self-help programme
What I also find so powerful about The Course is that it is actually not a self-help book. In fact, it is quite the opposite, and teaches that we are powerless over much of our ego thinking, but that we can surrender our ego thinking to a higher power and it when we are willing, our fearful thinking can be undone and we can have our mind restored to love and sanity.
So The Course teaches that we are not here to search for love, but to remove the blocks that we have created that blind us to the existence of the love that exists right now. We are here to remember that we are love and restore our own minds to love and helps restore the thinking of the world to love. Love doesn’t come or go, only our awareness of it alters. It teaches that love is constantly inspiring us, communicating with us supporting us and sustaining us.
Even though I have been a student and a teacher of The Course for over twenty years, I am still in equal measure amazed, inspired and frustrated with it. At times I find it clear and totally beautiful, whilst at other times I find it unclear and impenetrable. A lot of The Course can easily justify us throwing it against the wall or walking away from it and some of what it says can seem quite outrageous to our current thinking. I sometimes call it, “English in a foreign language,” I recognise all the words, but don’t always understand what they mean. But I am clear that it speaks of our total lovability, that our sinlessness is a guaranteed by a God that is total and unconditional love and not judgement, and that our ego is simply a false sense of who we are.
My journey with The Course, and my own journey of restoring my mind to love and releasing my own fearful and guilty thinking will take the rest of my life, and probably beyond! But I am happy to sharing my own journey with The Course as I travel it, what I have learned so far, what I continue to learn, and how we can create more leadership in the world that is based on the belief that you are already love. One of the many lines I love in The Course is There is nothing your Holiness cannot do; I like to think that we are all sitting on the greatest power we could ever imagine right now: The power of love and Holiness that is within us at this very moment, waiting to be unwrapped.
A Course in Miracles and leadership
My calling and enquiry now is to bring together A Course in Miracles with leadership ideas and principles. In both the Bible and The Course we are told, “You are the light of the world,” not that you will be one day, or you could be when you have been on enough workshops and read enough books. You are, right now. This means showing up in the world with the grandeur of your spirit, bringing your spiritual Self into what you are doing and your leadership. It is the journey of gradually unwrapping the grandeur that already exists within you and sharing you and your gifts with your tribe or community. This type of leadership is less about getting other people to change and more about inspiring people to their grandeur by your own example. As you shine your light, you awaken the light in others. Because we are all spiritual beings in essence, we can all lead through love and inspiration. We don’t need a position to lead, we can simply choose to respond to the call and offer our love and our gifts to the world. We can be less interested in power over other people, and more curious about our power and impact with each other – making power Holy.
So, as I have moved into the area of leadership, I have come to define leadership this way: Every act of love as an act of leadership. For me then, true leadership is the act of standing in and for a thought system of love in a world that is based on fear and attack. By that definition, we are all leaders or at least are all capable of leadership, even if we are caught up in our own fear at the moment, because love is the essence of all of us. A leader is someone who is committed to the process of removing their blocks to love and is committed to helping other people in their process of removing their blocks to love.
There is a lovely line in The Course that says, “Your part is essential in God’s plan for salvation.” In The Course salvation is simply restoring your mind to love, so I love that The Course tells us we all have a unique and vital part to play in the world, that we all matter and that we are all significant. We are the ones we have been waiting for, we are the miracles waiting to be unwrapped. There are people waiting for each of us to show up.