Teaching and magic thoughts

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

In my recent CCC blog, “An unexpected holy instant experience,” I mentioned having been inspired by the Manual reading on “How Do God’s Teachers Deal with [Their Pupil’s] Magic Thoughts?” (M-17). I think this topic deserves a blog to itself, hence this one.

To give you some background, here’s what I wrote in my blog:

During the past several days I had been feeling as if something was amiss. I wasn’t at ease, and I felt unsettled. I wasn’t able to identify what it was or what thoughts were behind it. All I knew is that something was off. Yesterday morning I decided to have a talk with Jesus about it, and in my journaling I hit upon what it was all about: a generalized sense of my unlovingness.

The unlovingness that I was feeling was toward my students! I had been feeling ill at ease and self-conscious in my recent classes, and now I saw that it was because I had been feeling judgmental and impatient with my students. I see myself as loving and accepting of my students, so it was a shock and pain to realize that I was harbouring unloving attack thoughts toward them. I may not have been behaving in an unloving manner, but the thoughts were there nevertheless.

Magic thoughts reflect the belief that we can be separate from God, are better off without Him, and can succeed in opposing His Will. Manual 17 talks about pupils engaging in magical thinking by believing that they can solve their problems on their own, by their own will, rather than by God’s. By extension, I think this also means without the help of the Holy Spirit, the Course, or you as their teacher. Magic thoughts say: I know best; I know what I need and what will make me happy; I can rely on myself and don’t need anyone to tell me anything; freedom means I get to choose to do it my way. What does it get the pupil? Confusion, frustration, and depression; being stuck in unhealthy patterns of thought and behaviour; playing the same old worn tapes and wondering why!

As I looked at my thoughts about my students’ magic thoughts, I saw that I was judging my students for doing exactly what I was doing. They weren’t living up to my standards, and that reminded me that I was not living up to them myself! It seemed to come down to a sense of betrayal. I saw them as betraying God and their true Self by not being totally committed, by not turning to His Holy Spirit enough, by not doing what was asked of them, by not getting it or doing it right, by not being who they really were. That was exactly what I saw myself doing. Down deep, on an unconscious level, I thought I was betraying God, my teacher, and myself, and since the pain and guilt of it was too much to bear, I projected it onto my students. The dis-ease I had been feeling was guilt.

I am sharing all this, because I think it’s so important for us as teachers to be aware of our little slips into impatience and slight twinges of annoyance (Lesson 21.2) with our students, to realize where they’re coming from, and to deal with them instantly. The experience I had was a hard one, but it was a good one, because it put me in touch with a part of myself that I didn’t like and didn’t want to acknowledge. Admitting to myself what was going on opened me to receiving that holy instant experience I wrote about, and since then I have felt that my heart has been open and loving toward my students.

I have identified a few things I can do now to avoid reacting to “perceived magic thoughts” (M-17.5:1) with anger. The first one comes from one of our recent Text Readings:

When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself. (T-8.III.4:1-5)

I have reaffirmed my commitment to carrying these words into all my encounters with my students and to “not leave anyone [of them] without giving salvation to him and receiving it [myself]” (T-8.III.4: 7).

I am also looking clearly at the things I judge myself for and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, trying to both deal with them and let go of my judgement and guilt around them. In addition, I am reminding myself that I must “resign as [my] own teacher (T-12.V.8:3)!

This morning I came across this:

If you will accept yourself as God created you, you will be incapable of suffering. Yet to do this you must acknowledge Him as your Creator, (T-10.V.9:5-6)

Acknowledging God as my Creator and myself as He created me seems to be the way to let go of the magic thoughts that cause me to suffer, so I am practicing this lesson with renewed confidence, desire, and determination today.

Given that “there is no one against whom you do not cherish grievances of some sort” (Lesson 68.5:4), I think I’m safe in assuming that I am not alone in this. I hope that you will share what this brings up for you. Do you recognize that you sometimes have unloving thoughts toward your students because of their magic thoughts? What are some of the forms your own magic thoughts take? How do you deal with them? What are they telling you about yourself? I’m looking forward to discussing this with you.