Carol Howe

Joy ~ The Spirit of Christmas
By Carol Howe*
[as it appeared in the December 2010 Newsletter]



           From our earliest days, most of us have associated the holiday season with the message of joy and peace.  ACIM also promises that joy is here now and our part is to find and release all the barriers to our awareness of it.  Many years ago, I was graced with an exceptional experience of joy concurrent with a profound lesson about the obstacles to its constant presence.  In 1985 the Dalai Lama had decreed that the world was in such a state that a Tibetan Buddhist initiation, normally available only to the Buddhist monks, was to be offered to the general public on five different occasions in 1985-86.     No requirements for attending; whoever showed up was meant to be there.  The purpose was not conversion to Buddhism but the offering of an opportunity for anyone so moved to recommit to his/her own spiritual practice, to take another step toward release.  A friend of mine who lived in Hawaii, one of the five locations, had attended and said it was not to be missed should I have the opportunity to go.  On checking, I found that Boulder, Colorado was one of the five locations and several of us from Denver, my home at the time, signed up for the  initiation scheduled for March 1986 at the event center at the University of Colorado.


           The initiation process, worthy of an entire article, lasted for forty hours spread over five days.  After many preliminary lectures in both English and Tibetan, accompanied by other instructions and activities, the time came for the more than two thousand participants to line up, section by section, to pass through the several stages of initiation administered by a dozen or so monks.  We were told that the other monks on stage, whom we were advised to ignore, were busy processing all the energy released by those in attendance as a result of the ceremony’s purifying effect.


           As one might imagine, the slow procession of two thousand plus attendees through the actual ritual took many hours, during which time one could only sit.  We had been instructed not to leave or talk during this long afternoon and evening.  Just sit, when not in line ourselves, and listen to the trumpets, drums, and long horns emitting other-worldly sounds played without ceasing for the entire duration.  Every two hours another shift of monk musicians would seamlessly take over so the first ensemble could rest.  Of course, sleep was impossible because the seats were not conducive to resting and the sounds were both loud and compelling.  One either loved those sounds, which I did, or those who didn’t, I’m told, nearly went crazy. 


           Thus, after several hours of sitting and listening, our section finally proceeded through the ceremony and we were back in our seats waiting for the others to finish.  Through more endless sitting and listening my mind settled, both from lack of stimulus and from all the processes we had undergone.  Suddenly, a great burst of joy filled my awareness like the sun in all its glory rapidly appearing over the horizon.  I was stunned to say the least.  And I found it nearly impossible to sit still.  I finally left my seat and went over to sit next to a couple of friends who were also attending.  I had no particular desire to speak with them about it, but the high was so intense I had to share it if only by sitting next to them, grinning from ear to ear.  It was literally unspeakable.  As I wrote the end of Never Forget To Laugh, recounting Bill Thetford’s last days when he was in such a state of joy he could hardly keep his feet on the ground, I understood exactly. 


           After a short while, I was once again impelled to make a change, so almost as if moved by a volition not my own, I got up and found another seat – this time a few rows up and directly in front of two men I did not know.  There was no reason for my choosing that seat; it just happened.  (The event center held a much larger crowd then we were so there were many empty seats scattered throughout.)


           Then the fascinating lesson began to unfold.  Although we had all been asked not to talk or make any extraneous noise, these two fellows were not only talking but being judgmental and insulting about other participants.  As the line of yet-to-be-initiated slowly processed forward toward the stage far below, these two were laughing and making derogatory remarks and they reeked of alcohol.  Hard to imagine anything less in keeping with the spirit of the event.  I suppose the only reason they were not asked to leave is that the music was so loud they could not be heard unless you were quite close.  In any case, it was clear they were there for my realization if nothing else. 


           As I listened to their ongoing diatribes, I realized that in the state of joy still strongly present in my awareness, I had lost my capacity to judge their behavior.  This was not a matter of being a nice person and choosing not the judge them, it was no longer possible.  The vehicle for judgment in my mind had been effectively dismantled.  It would be like a person without a car saying they were choosing not to drive;  with no vehicle one cannot drive.  Joy and judgment are mutually exclusive states.  Hence, our desperate need for forgiveness.  We are called to release all judgment because it fixates our attention on thoughts and objects, rather than on the pure consciousness that we are.  If judgment is valued in the slightest, joy disappears and cannot be coaxed back no matter how desperately we try, how much we study, or how good we try to be. 


           From the section entitled The Forgiving Dream: “The slave of idols is a willing slave.  For willing he must be to let himself bow down in worship to what has no life, and seek for power in the powerless.  What happened to the Son of God that this should be his wish; to let himself fall lower than the stones upon the ground, and look to idols that they raise him up? – – – A dream of judgment came into the mind that God created perfect as Himself.  And in that dream was Heaven changed to hell, and God made enemy unto His Son.  How can God’s Son awaken from the dream?  It is a dream of judgment.  So must he judge not, and he will waken.”  (Text, Ch. 29)  And he will know joy!


           Indeed, judgment obscures our joy like a cloud before the sun and we wonder why we feel bereft.  This season, let us realize as never before the fierce and absolute price we pay for our habitual judgments and renew our dedication to watching for them, then letting them float away as valueless, cherished no more.  And don’t forget to ask our brother Bill for help.  He reclaimed his joy and so can we.


           So once again we recommit, as we bring this year to a close: 

“This is the time in which a new year will soon be born from the time of Christ.  I have perfect faith in you to do all that you would accomplish.  Nothing will be lacking and you will make complete and not destroy. – – – So will the year begin in joy and freedom.  There is much to do and we have been long delayed.  Accept the holy instant as this year is born and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening.  Make this year different by making it all the same.  And let all your relationships be made holy for you.  This is our will.  Amen.” (Text, Ch. 15)





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* Since 1979 Carol Howe has presented highly interactive seminars, workshops, retreats, classes, and lectures on universal spiritual principles and their practical application — for the general public, health-related and other special interest groups, and corporations – nationally and internationally. Please visit Carol’s website to view her Books, CDs and Tapes.
After the publication of her book, NEVER FORGET TO LAUGH: Personal Recollections of Bill Thetford, Co-Scribe of A Course in Miracles, Carol began to share additional material regarding Bill. This material is currently being shared on her Facebook Group and will eventually be available on her website.