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A Course in Miracles

RIP My Spiritual Teacher Kenneth Wapnick

A great man died a few days ago on December 27, 2013. He was one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth. If you don’t believe me, check back in about 50 years. He’s one of those that will become more famous with time. Like Van Gogh, minus the mental illness. Not many knew him. Relatively few noticed that he was here, or that he left. But if you were a serious student of A Course in Miracles, his name was known around the world to you as Dr. Kenneth Wapnick.

He was the most enlightened person I had ever come across in all my seeking and traveling. And that’s probably why not many people knew him. The enlightened are like that. They don’t seek the limelight. They are unassuming. (Kenneth looked like a junior high school science teacher to me.) They live quiet, yet hugely productive, lives that leave indelible marks on those they touch.

Kenneth profoundly changed my life. He was the greatest scholar and living example of A Course in Miracles that the world has seen, and I considered him my teacher. Much of my book You're Already Hypnotized: A Guide to Waking Up (and my podcast A Course in What?! is based on his work. Kenneth knew I was writing a book, which began in July 1996. The book just became available this July, around the time, it seems, that Kenneth was diagnosed with cancer. Years ago he asked me how the book was coming, and I sheepishly responded that it was a slow process. He brushed it off and said, “It doesn’t matter how long it takes, just write a good book.”

I took those words to heart. I wrote the best book I could, no matter how long it took. I never sent the finished book to Kenneth. I told myself that I would hand him a copy when I saw him in person. But I now know the truth. I had no intention of ever giving Kenneth the book. Deep down, I was afraid of disappointing him. I couldn’t bear anything less than complete acceptance from this man. And yet even if he disagreed with some of my work, which I expect he would since he had told me that he disagreed with me in the past, I know that he would continue to love me unconditionally. Because that’s what enlightened people do. They love you anyway.

I suppose in my life it's no coincidence that I have been laid up flat on my back for two weeks now with a herniated disc in my neck. It's the most excruciating pain I have ever felt (makes broken bones, of which I had a couple, seem like child's play). I realized, while staring at the ceiling for the last two weeks, that I've gotten away from the Course.

A Course in Miracles is always central to my thinking, but I've strayed from applying and practicing its principles in every situation. I've gotten into the habit of applying it when it's convenient for me. I had planned to take two weeks off for Christmas in order to reevaluate and rest. I just didn't realize the rest would come in this form. This is my wake up call to step-up my spiritual practice. So as I am lying on my back thinking of how I feel called to reconnect with the Course in a deeper way and to begin teaching it again (stay tuned), I received the news that my dear teacher of the Course has died. 

Kenneth’s life changed my life. And I intend for his death to do the same for me. I was never the same once I found him, and something deep within me tells me that I will never be the same now that he is gone.

I tell the story in my book of meeting a man named Peter at the Foundation for Inner Peace in 1996 in upstate New York where Kenneth was teaching. Peter and I became great friends, bonded by our deep devotion to A Course in Miracles. And then Peter committed suicide. I remember grappling with how one of the most dedicated students of A Course in Miracles could kill himself. I couldn’t find the peace I needed to move on, so I wrote to Kenneth who also knew Peter. I'd have to dig up the letter to remember all that Kenneth said to me, but I will never forget the sentence, “Do not focus on the separation, focus on the truth that you are still together.” I began to heal after that.

Though it is with great sadness that I write this, I am trying to heed Kenneth’s words and focus on the truth that we are still together.

I join with those who mourn our loss, and join as well in the gratitude that we were gifted with such an illuminating light.

As Ken used to say, "God speed." 

Growing into My Animal Rights Activism and Spirituality



Twenty five years ago on any given Saturday afternoon you could find me on the street corner of Martel and Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, standing behind a beige card table with stacks of anti-vivisection brochures, mostly on cosmetic and household product testing, photos of bunnies with their heads in sockets and their eyes being burned, the usual stuff. I was there representing LCA (Last Chance for Animals, a LA based animal rights organization) encouraging passer-bys to sign my petition and boycott Proctor and Gamble, and the like.

I don't know how I got there. Meaning, I don't know how I got involved in animal rights. There was no defining moment. No person or animal who inspired me. No book I read. No movie I saw. No revelation. Nothing. I don't even remember deciding to become a vegetarian at that time. I just made a sign and showed up at a protest that I somehow heard was taking place. It all happened organically, as if I had no choice but to be carried along the winds of destiny that was my life. It was what was supposed to be.

Growing up, we had tons of pets: unneutered and unspayed cats, constantly having kittens (gasp!), a dog, a bird. I loved them all. But I wasn't obsessed with them. I didn't like animals more than people. Though I do remember becoming abnormally distraught because my brother accidentally ran over a bird with the lawn mower. It wasn't love that ignited my passion, it was injustice. And maybe that is love. I don't know. At a young age, I knew something was unjust when it came to the treatment of animals. I'm a Libra, the sign of scales and justice, so perhaps it was bigger than me, after all.

My grandma worked in a slaughterhouse in Omaha, Nebraska where I was born. I remember the unforgettable stench of death wafting through the air. You could smell it on Omaha back then. It was like the whole city had B.O. The slaughter houses were smack dab in the middle of the town. Today they're hidden away, inconspicuously, on the outskirts, so consumers aren't reminded of the horrors behind the slaughterhouse walls, animals discreetly transported at night when no one can see them. Omaha was smellier back then, but more honest.

I spent formative years in Wisconsin, home of cheeseheads, dairy cows, and hunters, like my dad, who eventually became the Head Editor of the Agricultural Department at Kansas State University. (Go figure he'd have a vegan animal rights activist daughter.) It wasn't unusual to come home from school to find two huge deer hanging from the rafters in the garage, blood dripping from their beautiful majestic bodies into dark red puddles on the concrete floor below. I stepped around the blood, trying not to look at them, trying not to feel anything. We ate frogs, squirrels, fish, quail, rabbits, deer, anything he hunted. I hated it all. I didn't like meat except turkey. He never hunted turkeys. Had I grown up on McDonald's or Taco Bell or processed roast beef deli slices and hotdogs I may have loved meat. But I grew up on a different kind of meat. Meat that tasted like the dead animal it was.

The wind eventually shifted directions, and animal activism took a back seat to my first love, spirituality. I had begun Transcendental Meditation in childhood, and had already been a student of A Course in Miracles for four years by the time I was standing on Melrose. As I delved further and further into the teachings of the Course, I continued to eat vegetarian, phase out dairy products, leather, wool, down feathers, donate money to animal rights groups, and shop cruelty-free, but animal welfare was no longer at the forefront of my consciousness. A Course in Miracles was. I lived and breathed the Course for ten years. It somehow required all that I had. It wanted my full undivided attention. And I gave it to it. So much so that it led me to becoming a hypnotherapist.

Then, about four years ago, the winds of change began to blow again. They gently picked me up and set me down someplace I hadn't been before, somewhere between animal rights and spirituality. I'm no longer solely focused on one or the other. I am laser focused on both. My life isn't about animals or people, it's about animals and people. To me, it's all the same. There's really only one of us here and what we do to the smallest of us, we do to all of us. Likewise, when one of us heals, we all heal. I've come to realize that I had to tip those Libra scales one way and then the other in order to find my perfect balance. I now feel more equipped to tip society's scales toward healing and justice for ALL.

The Quiet Mind


In quietness are all things answered, and is every problem quietly resolved. - A Course in Miracles

I have heard it said that prayer is asking for help and meditation is receiving the answer. If that’s the case, we are much better askers than listeners. Everybody has prayed, but few listen. That, however, is beginning to change. Meditation—the process of stilling the mind—has busted out of the closet it’s been hiding in for the last thirty years.

As far as I can tell, its rise in popularity is due to three things.

1. Information. Scientific studies “proving” the benefits of meditation with respect to our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing are making their way into mainstream media. Transcendental Meditation, for instance, is the most widely practiced and scientifically studied form of meditation with over 600 studies to date.

2. Desperation. I’ve always thought desperation was highly underrated. It has been a driving force for drastic change in my life on more than one occasion. When we’re desperate, we are willing to try just about anything to surmount our problems—whether it be stress, illness, or general life malaise.

3. Increased awareness. There is a rise in the collective unconscious moving toward all things spiritual. In other words, meditation is trendy. We can only hope it’s a trend that sticks. After all, it was in vogue in the 60’s and 70’s but definitely kooky through the 80’s and 90’s.

We see and hear about meditation everywhere now, not just in spiritual circles. Television commercials are even jumping on the bandwagon. I recently saw a commercial for yogurt that featured a woman sitting in the lotus position immersed in meditation. You mean if I spend money on eating dairy I’ll start meditating and become enlightened? Oh, don’t get me started….

Some medical doctors now prescribe meditation for their patients, and Fortune 500 companies offer meditation respite programs for their employees, even professional sports teams are participating in various techniques. These corporations and athletes may not be looking for peace as much as to cure ailments, produce happier employees, make larger profits or secure wins, but whatever the case, they have learned what the wisest among us have known for centuries—meditation makes us better.

When I was initiated into the Transcendental Meditation program, meditation was not commonplace. I learned the technique, but I wasn’t quite sure why I was doing it. I was only seven. I did know two things. 1. It somehow felt meaningful and 2. My family were the only meditators on the block—maybe even the whole city. Meditation embarrassed me. I told my friends it was just about “relaxing.”

Meditation is about relaxing, but it is much more than that. In quietness, we reconnect with our Source. Call that God, truth, love, universal consciousness, or your higher self--it doesn’t matter.

But in those moments something magical happens. We transform.

Quieting the mind redirects our worldly focus within. Through this process, we reach deep levels of heightened awareness. The attainment of this awareness is very important because it reminds us of what is true. Truth is not found in the world. Truth is within. The world gives us a false identity; we look within when we want to know what is real.

In those moments, we break free from the onerous chains of false ideas imposed upon us by ourselves, others, and society. The more we are reminded of that truth, the more freely we demonstrate it in the world. We become different; as a result, our life becomes different.

David Lynch is a good example. You know, the enigmatic filmmaker of Twin Peaks fame and movies like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. He’s different, for sure. And his creativity is beyond. Mr. Lynch has been practicing Transcendental Meditation for over thirty years. We get an insightful glimpse into his world through his short and immensely enjoyable book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity.

As he says, meditation is the key to life, peace, and creativity.

I don’t believe we can achieve anything truly innovative, interesting, creative, lasting, worthwhile, or meaningful without first going within. In stillness, our mind expands. We tap in to a well of infinite possibilities, and we listen. Everything is realigned, giving us a proper perspective. When we come back to this world, we can’t help but make better choices because we are in our right mind. And by the way, meditation as I speak of it here is only one way to accomplish that.

Although we access what I like to think of as our natural state in meditation, it doesn’t come easily. First, you have to want it, and not many do. Second, you must place the quest for truth above all else, and only a few are willing. Third, it takes practice, which nobody has time for.

Stilling your mind feels counter-intuitive. We are taught to go out and make it happen. Take the bull by its horns. Be the fastest, the quickest. Get up and get going. The world doesn’t teach us to stop and meditate. This world is a world of ego, and the ego’s edict is Seek and do not find. It’s the opposite of truth’s motto: Go within and find.

If you are looking to quiet your mind, here are a few tips I've learned over the years. By the way, these tips are based on a mantra (word) style meditation, which I find to be the easiest.

  • Pick a time when you will not be disturbed and turn off the phone.
  • Find a comfortable place to sit. Always sit up. Otherwise, you will fall asleep.
  • Take a few deep breaths and with each exhale sink deeper down into relaxation.
  • After a minute or so, introduce a mantra or word such as “peace” “love” or the universal mantra“om.” (“Amen” is actually a mantra as well.)
  • Repeat the mantra in a friendly, relaxed way. Other thoughts will interfere, that’s fine. That's just what your ego and your conscious mind does. Don’t fight them, don’t favor them, don’t try to ignore them, don’t hope they go away, don’t get frustrated, don’t judge yourself, be with the thought, and then when you're ready, gently bring your mind back to repeating your chosen mantra-word.
  • When you get antsy and want to open your eyes, hang on and meditate for another minute or two. I find that’s when I go the deepest.
  • When you’re ready to stop, gently bring yourself back into the room.

Your smallest attempts will change you. Every effort is meaningful. Try at first to meditate for just five minutes a day. A Course in Miracles tells us that five minutes of a stilled mind will save you thousands of years. Begin there. Then extend that practice to as much as twenty minutes.

I think it’s better to be consistent for a shorter amount of time—five minutes every day—rather than longer durations less frequently, like twenty minutes twice a week.

And then forget about it until the next meditation. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder, along with Guru Dev, of Transcendental Meditation, says meditating is like taking a bath. When you take a shower in the morning you don’t keep thinking about the shower throughout the day. You have done it, you’re clean, now you are free to move forward and focus on other things.

Stilling your mind can be frustrating at first. The ego will constantly interfere, proclaiming your efforts a waste of time. The ego thrives on chaos because it disappears in peace. Meditation means death to the ego. And the ego will do anything to stay alive. When you make any attempt to loosen its stranglehold, it will offer all kinds of distractions. Taking out the trash becomes all-important. Do not be discouraged. Starting anything new is difficult at first. Quieting the mind is no different. It’s like building a muscle that has atrophied.

With time, you will see and feel the results. With consistency, meditation moves from being a chore to a gift you give yourself.

The problem is not one of concentration; it is the belief that no one, including yourself is worth consistent effort.
--A Course in Miracles.