Interview with Cathy Eising
- I have been called to practice and teach yoga; yoga teaches me how to live in this world. It gives me the skills to be strong, flexible and focused. It puts me in a place where I can be a good learner of the lessons of spirit. But as far as a spiritual path, or a guidebook, or a map of spiritual learning-to me, that's the Course in Miracles.
- How can you hear God or spirit if you're always restless inside?
- From the Course in Miracles perspective, this is the world of separation. This is an expression from the mind that perceives itself as separate from God, and the whole physical universe, from the Big Bang on, is simply a material expression of the thought of separation. It is not part of eternity, it is not part of truth. It's a part of the illusion.
- You can't connect your will to live with someone else. If your daughter's going on a path to self-destruction, you can't allow yourself to be connected and go there too. You'll die too.
- when you're in service to other people, you get extra help. There are times when I can barely peel myself off the couch to go teach a class. When I walk into the class I'm one person, and when I leave the class, I'm a different person.
- Doing God's work is effortless. It doesn't mean you don't have to do work, but when you're serving in the right way, there's an effortless quality to it. You might be sweating, and you still have to do your homework to prepare. But in that moment of serving, something carries you.
- I like the metaphor that says the light is shining, but sometimes we have the shades drawn. It's our job to open the shades.
Ann: I'd like to talk about the spiritual path of yoga, but this interview is really about your whole spiritual path.
Cathy: Okay, well one thing that I've been thinking about is the idea that my spiritual path is really A Course in Miracles. I have been called to practice and teach yoga; yoga teaches me how to live in this world. It gives me the skills to be strong, flexible and focused. It puts me in a place where I can be a good learner of the lessons of spirit. But as far as a spiritual path, or a guidebook, or a map of spiritual learning-to me, that's the Course in Miracles.
Ann: So your spiritual path is a mixture of traditions and practices. Well, let's start at the beginning. In which spiritual tradition were you raised?
Cathy: None. I consider that a gift, because when I became interested in spirituality I didn't have any negative associations. I didn't have anything I had to undo or relearn. Many of my friends who were raised Catholic had a lot of guilt about things they had done, and they thought they were bad in God's eyes. They already had a lot of baggage, and I didn't have any. I was a wide-open book when I became interested.
Ann: So what spiritual paths have you studied?
Cathy: I think I first started reading things like Hermann Hesse as an adolescent, and Kahlil Gibran, and those gave me a glimpse of ways of looking at life that I hadn't had before.
My first spiritual training was in yoga. I really got connected, and it was very much a traditional yoga path: You do a few postures, a little breathing, meditation, you learn how to quiet your mind, you learn about chakras. That was in the early 1980s, so I was in my late twenties or early thirties.
Ann: So there wasn't a specific name for that yoga?
Cathy: It was Hatha yoga in those days. It's was much more general then. Today everything is much more specifically divided into schools of thought and ways of practice. Back then, it really wasn't so much like that.
Ann: When it first came to be known here, yoga was very progressive for America, wasn't it?
Cathy: Yes. That's where I first experienced my ability to heal myself and get quiet. How can you hear God or spirit if you're always restless inside? Being able to get quiet internally is really an important first step, and with the skills that yoga gave me, I was able to do that for the first time in my life. As a child I always had a lot of anxiety, depression and nervous disorders. Who knows what that was all about, but I wasn't able to find quietness and peace inside myself. It took an external practice for me to calm my nerves enough to be quiet and listen within.
Ann: Have you stayed with that practice since the 80s?
Cathy: I have stayed with it, although rather than making it make my main career, I kept it as a background focus. And then I went into psychotherapy, because when I had my spiritual awakening it really had to do with a path that was being freed up from a past life experience. It was my first major release; it was a major turning point in my life. I wanted to serve humanity, and at that time, I thought the best way for me to do it would be through psychology, psychotherapy, social work. So that's the direction that I went after I had the awakening through yoga-I chose the path of service, and I did that for about thirteen years.
Ann: Can you talk a bit about your past life experience?
Cathy: It was very violent and horrible. They all have been for me, they were all real violent and nothing that I want to repeat. But it has opened me, and there are certain patterns in my life, in my body, in my psyche, that exist today, and still the best explanation for them are past lives. There's nothing in this life that I can point to that helps me to understand and explain certain patterns and attitudes that I have from time to time. So, for me, I'm not saying this is true for everybody, but for me, there is a strong component of healing past lives in this lifetime. It's one of my themes. I don't particularly like it; it's not particularly fun, but it does feel like that's part of my work.
Ann: Let's talk a little bit about the Course in Miracles.
Cathy: A friend of mine gave me the books in the mid 1980s, and I did a quick, cursory reading of them. I thought, "Wow, that's terrific, but I'll never be able to do that." It really moved me, it really spoke to me, but I thought, "Come on; this is too advanced for me. I don't think I'm ever going to be able to embody those ideas and live like that."
So I put it down for a few years. I continued to practice yoga with friends, and I was involved in our ad hoc meditation meetings. Toward the end of the 1980s I became friendly with a woman who was very involved in the Course, and she was an influence on me. We did energy work, and we worked with the Course in Miracles. She rekindled my interest, and then I wanted company to learn the Course, so I started a study group. I worked with the study group for a good five years or so. That was really helpful because it focused me and it brought together others who were interested in studying. I went often to The Foundation for the Course in Miracles, which used to be in Roscoe, New York. They've now moved to California. I took classes there, and I did a lot of listening to their tapes and books so that I could just deepen my understanding. I learn best by listening, so I bought the whole Course in Miracles on audiotape, and for a number of years I would put a tape in and listen to it every time I got into my car. I would get to the end of a tape and start at the beginning and listen to it again and again. I must have done that six times, and then I read the Course through several times. Practicing the workbook lessons takes a year, so when you do it, you're committing yourself to a year-long training program. I've done that twice, staying as true to the letter as I could.
Ann: Did your husband Larry do this with you?
Cathy: No. Larry's never been involved in any of this.
Ann: So it's just your own path. And you met other people who were deeply involved too. Did anybody stay with it for the whole five years that the study group existed?
Cathy: Yes, I met people who are still my friends today. And one of the women from the group ended up decorating my house. She started to go to a group in Pleasantville, and when I stopped holding my own group, I would join up with them. It's just a study group where you do meditation and read from the Course. You share different experiences related to the idea for that night-how you actually apply the idea in your life, why you needed to apply it, what happened.
Ann: It's very personal, it's not just an academic study.
Cathy: It's very personal. I still meet with a group in Pound Ridge once a month. But it's in me now-it's the language that I use. It's the concept that I use when I talk to God. When I get to my difficult, stuck places. I don't think the principles are so different from any other path, but probably the language and the way it's described is a little different. But that's the language I use-those are the metaphors and the symbols I'm comfortable with and go to when I really need some help.
Ann: Can you describe how it might be different?
Cathy: Yes. The Course in Miracles is more akin to Eastern philosophy than it is to Western religion. It's non-dualistic metaphysics, which means that only heaven is real-earth is part of the unreal world. The very beginning of the Bible says that God created heaven and earth. The Course in Miracles doesn't start that way-God created heaven. God did not create earth. From the Course in Miracles perspective, this is the world of separation. This is an expression from the mind that perceives itself as separate from God, and the whole physical universe, from the Big Bang on, is simply a material expression of the thought of separation. It is not part of eternity, it is not part of truth. It's a part of the illusion.
I think that's also true with yoga. I'm not a scholar in comparative religions, but yoga comes out of Hinduism, and in Hinduism, this world that we see is not the real world. It's called Maya, the world of illusion. So in that sense, the Course in Miracles has more to do with Eastern traditions. I'm not sure what Buddhism says, but I believe there is a comparable concept in Buddhism. I don't know the name of it. The Course in Miracles takes a position like that as a beginning, and it's written in Christian terms. It's meant to correct a lot of the misperceptions from traditional Christianity.
Ann: And it's material that was channeled by a Jewish woman, right? I remember reading that she struggled through many years, but she wrote it down. When was that?
Cathy: In the 1960s. Dr. Helen Shucman was the woman's name, and she had a partner, a Christian man, named Dr. William Thetford. They were both psychologists at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She wouldn't have been able to do it without him. He was the grounding influence. He said, "Helen, this may be nuts, but let's write it down. When it's all down, if it's nuts, we'll throw it away. But if it isn't, we'll have something." He helped her through it and held her hand when it all became overwhelming and frightening to her.
Ann: Has it expanded? I know many people who have used it over the years, but has it gotten really big?
Cathy: Not really big, and it won't ever get really big because it's too difficult; it flies in the face of the world too much, it's too radical. It won't ever be very popular because of that, and that's fine.
It's written in Christian terminology. In other words, Jesus is the author. We talk about the Holy Spirit as being the memory of God in the mind. We're asleep, in a dream; everything that we sense with our ears and eyes is part of the dream, but the Holy Spirit remains in our mind, and that's the connecting link to God.
Ann: What does the Course say about why we came here? Why do we need to go through this?
Cathy: It doesn't give a logical answer. It says it's "a tiny mad idea, where the Son of God forgot to laugh." That's the explanation for the entire world. And then, there's an explanation in the clarification of terms section-because everybody asks these questions, they're the normal questions to ask, and there's no logical answer. But Jesus says only an ego would ask a question like that.
Ann: Wanting to make it concrete.
Cathy: And he says, "If you let me teach you, I will bring you to a place where that question has no meaning." And then you can decide for yourself. That's not going to satisfy your rational mind, but it doesn't leave you there because that would be kind of harsh. So we all believe that we are here. We can feel, we can taste, we can see; we believe that we're here. So there are a couple of very nice metaphors that we have in the Course. If you think of a sleeping child having a nightmare-the kind of sleep that we normally think of-you wouldn't want to wake a child up in the middle of a nightmare, because they wake up very shocked and frightened and disoriented. So the gentle teacher changes the dream from a nightmare to a happy dream so that you wake up slowly and gradually. That's part of the process of changing it from a nightmare to a happy dream.
One of the other metaphors we use is that when things get difficult and we get stuck, there is always a choice to be made. The dream is a classroom, and you can either learn the lessons of love or the lessons of separation, the lessons of fear. There is always a choice of one or the other. And when something difficult happens, by setting your intention you can either come out at the other end having learned more compassion, more love, more warmth, or you can come out at the other end being bitter. That's one of the ways to look at whether you're growing spiritually. Say you go through something terrible. My daughter and I had a very difficult situation, and even though I wasn't able to get beyond being depressed and heart-broken, I think now I can say that it did open my heart. I do feel more compassion for people who go through painful and difficult times. I feel more compassion for my daughter, for myself. I didn't come through the experience feeling victimized or betrayed or angry with God or the world. I had to fall back on my tough love kinds of principles in order to make sure that I went that way. And during the times when I wasn't able to do that, when I was giving in to judgment and feeling victimized and in pain, at least there was an observing part of my mind, and it was able to watch and say, "Cath, you feel that way now, I know you do, but it isn't really where you want to go. You're off track right now. It's okay, you can't seem to do anything about it; I'll take care of you right where you are, I'll do my best to make you feel better." But that observing voice was able to say, "You know, this isn't really where you want to be.”
Ann: And the five years of training with the Course, and your higher self, is the voice.
Cathy: Right, it's the voice of the Holy Spirit in your life, which is another way of saying your higher self.
Ann: But it's also the training, because I think some people can have a mystical experience of, say, a sense of protection. But having an intellectual understanding from some sort of scripture, some sort of spiritual training empowers that sense.
Cathy: That was really important for me, because I wasn't able to realize any of the fruits. When I was really depressed, and my daughter was in serious trouble over this protracted period of time, I wasn't able to experience the fruits of love. I wasn't able to be in a whole, happy place. I was in a damaged place, and I was more judgmental, and I was more crabby, and I was more fearful. I was more of all the things that I didn't want to be.
The only good thing that I can say was that I did maintain that place of neutrality. I don't even know if that was my higher self, perhaps it was just an observing self who was able to say, "I can see where you are now, and I can also see the holiness." At the time I wasn't able to reach that holiness and bring it into myself, but at least I wasn't justifying where I was. I knew I was in a hurting place, and I needed healing and it wasn't the place I wanted to be, but it was something that I seemed to need to experience.
That's very different from what I see in the world today. It's very popular to justify revenge-they did this to us, so we have the right to hate and attack and destroy them. Even though I had times when I had feelings of anger and attack, I certainly wouldn't act on them, and there was a part of me that knew it wasn't okay. Sometimes I can't help feeling those things, but it's not justified, it's not okay. It's really not part of the holy plan. It's a step into the illusion, into darkness. It happens sometimes, and I'm not going to judge myself for it or further berate myself for being there, but it is not where I want to be. I think there's a big difference between that and justifying.
Ann: Oh yes, and if you are with people who are thinking on a higher level, you're supported. If you are with people who are caught in the illusion then they say, "Get them," whether it's a terrorist or a child. And then there are people you can just be with, not to get advice or judgment or attack yourself.
Cathy: When I was having such a difficult time with my daughter, I could hear the beautiful words of the Course in Miracles intellectually, but I couldn't absorb them into my body. I just couldn't. I needed to drink a cup of tea, and have a friend make me a little sandwich, and enjoy the flowers, and find some silly little joke to laugh at for five minutes or maybe go shopping and be distracted. I needed to create windows for the Holy Spirit to come in. You know, if you can have a moment of lightness it allows the spirit to come in the door, and then healing takes place on its own. I was thinking about that the other day; if you're happy and joyous-about anything, it doesn't matter what it is-you are automatically closer to God. That's the natural state, that's the state God would have us be in if we weren't so messed up. It doesn't have to be about something spiritual or something important or serious; laughter and humor about the silliest, lightest things can create very profound openings.
Ann: I remember going to one Hindu center, and whenever work was being done, people were singing. And it was hard work-they were washing floors, peeling carrots, doing dishes. But the lightness with which they did the work was lovely.
And there's something about making a container for someone, making a space, as you say, just for someone to be with you. You can hold that space, and the person knows that for that period of time they're just being loved and cared for. There's no expectation, there are no demands. If someone is having tremendous pain, just being with them is so important.
Cathy: Yes, and I like that idea of the container. There is something very powerful about that, and we can do that for one another, and we can do it in groups. Even a yoga class is a kind of container.
Ann: Yes, people stop their lives for a while. They come in for an hour and stretch everything, right?
Cathy: When I got over my depression last August, I was at the Omega Institute taking a yoga workshop for a week. And I told the teacher on the very first day that this yoga class, for me, was really about reclaiming my will to live, because I had lost it to my daughter who was going down the tubes and couldn't help it. But I was losing it-that's what depression is in my mind, it's the loss of the will to live. So I just told him that I would be taking the yoga class on the most basic level, reclaiming my will to live. And being able to verbalize that, and having him be able to receive that provided a container. The container would have been there anyway, but that fact that I was able to verbalize where I was and he was able to receive it, custom-made the container for my needs. I don't even know how much he did different. Maybe he was a little bit more aware, a little bit more tuned in, but I don't think that was the important part. I think it was the container-the fact that he was able to receive that and hold it as part of the space.
Ann: You told your truth.
Cathy: And that was powerful.
Ann: Yes, rather than just going to the class. Because I think that when you're in depression, you do feel like you're not being seen. And how was it, did it work?
Cathy: It worked. Just like that-it turned just like that, but it took several days to begin to trust it and actually begin to feel better. Because it comes out of you in waves; once you've been depressed for a long time, it gets deep in the body. It really took months of lightening and letting go, and I'm still in that process. But it turned on a dime, just like that. It was just like when I had that past life experience from when I was a kid, my attitude towards life turned on a dime. Then there was development in the new direction, and stabilizing and confidence building. But the shifts seem to happen for me instantly.
When things happen for you, do they happen instantly?
Ann: Certain things, and I may not have gone looking for change, but all of a sudden something just shifted. Now, looking back at sixty-eight, I know the bigger picture, and I can see that these moments of change are kind of like plug-ins. My body says, "Yes!" and it gives me the energy to move forward in a new way. I'm more stabilized in myself, there's something connected that wasn't connected before.
Do you think it was actually the movement of the yoga that made a difference?
Cathy: It was the decision. It had to do with the dialogue with the teacher, and he was firm and very clear. He said, "You can't connect your will to live with someone else. If your daughter's going on a path to self-destruction, you can't allow yourself to be connected and go there too. You'll die too." And at that point I was willing to hear that and to go in my own direction and rebuild my own will to live. He was helpful-I don't want to cast him in the role of the big healer or anything, but he was good. He wasn't afraid, he didn't give me a lecture. He received what I had to say, and he told me very clearly that unless I separated my will to live from my daughter's, I was going to continue to go down the tubes. You have to disconnect and admit what you have done, and from there you can heal.
That was really all I needed at that point, besides being at the Omega Institute by myself. I had a wonderful mixture of time spent with women friends if I felt like talking, and time by myself. I was given three delicious meals a day. I had wonderful morning and afternoon yoga sessions for strengthening my body. And the other really important thing was that I didn't have anybody else's needs to attend to. I was completely on my own, and didn't have to worry about whether anyone else was happy or unhappy or fed or not fed, or whether anyone else's needs were met. I just had to take care of myself. I let that combination of factors work for me and it did.
Ann: Also, I know you have such a connection to your garden, and to the earth in this beautiful place where you live, and Omega is another beautiful place, with the lake and the garden. When you remove the stress of cooking and cleaning and worrying about other people, I think nature can feed us at a higher order.
Cathy: Yes, you can take in the beauty of the garden and the flowers.
Ann: Were you able to keep your garden going while you were in this depression?
Cathy: Yes, I was able to do it. I was sometimes out there digging a hole with tears pouring into the ground but I did it. I kept up everything, I kept up my classes. But I'm sure that my vibes were off, and I felt bad for the students on some days. What they were picking up energetically wasn't so nice. But I was able to keep going. I took medicine, I went to a psychiatrist; I used every form of help, traditional and nontraditional, in order to maintain that ability to function, because that helps. If I can just keep the structure rolling, it's better than completely giving in to feelings and losing the structure.
Ann: I think that's an important thing to say, because sometimes people believe that if somebody has a spiritual path that should be enough, but it's not. Doctors are from God, medicine is from God, support is from God, or the divine, or whatever you want to call it. All of those things are aspects of the divine, so you can use anything that's around.
Cathy: Sometimes the only kind of help I was open to was the medicine. In the Course it would say that my fear level was such that if I received healing from a higher order of things, it would have been so disruptive to my belief system that it would have triggered a greater reaction of fear, and then it wouldn't have actually been healing. So I wasn't open to receiving healing in those other ways, because I was already too frightened. So I had to take something like medicine that didn't shake my belief system. I'm a body, and medicines work in bodies, don't they? I couldn't receive spirit help, because I didn't see myself as a spirit. The medicine wasn't a threat to my structure, so I was able to receive it without fear, and experience it as healing.
Ann: But medicine is actually a vibration. It's interesting-we see it as a little pill, or a little shot. But it's a vibration, and so it actually helps change our vibration, the chemistry in our body.
Cathy: And it was the frequency of the medication that resonated with me. If you think about it energetically, it had to be something at least close enough to my vibration to vibrate with me. It has to be close enough so that there's some kind of frequency overlap. If the frequencies of a person and a drug are just too different, then they won't interact, the drug won't work.
Ann: No, but it creates a movement in your being. I once had a terrible time, I was sick for a whole month. I didn't have any money, so I decided I would medicate myself, and I took three different kinds of over-the-counter medications-three different types of cough medicines and other things like Tylenol. And when I finally went to see a healer, she could see the three vibrations, and how different they were, and she said, "What have you done to yourself?" Isn't that interesting? All the medicines were sold over the counter; they weren't anything dynamic. But in trying to heal me, this woman pulled those divergent energies out of my body, and then rebalanced me through esoteric healing. I remember I took those pills, and I finally went to the doctor, and he gave me another pill, which he said would throw everything off. I had to lay them out on the counter because I couldn't remember what I had taken. I couldn't even think.
Cathy: Yes, depression compromises and impairs you mentally.
Ann: How wonderful that you have trust in all those things. It's so important for people to know that there are so many ways to heal. You've got an intellectual way of healing-which of course is also spiritual, the Course. You've got a physical and intellectual way of healing with yoga. You've been a therapist, so you have the psychological way, right? And you're also incredibly connected with nature.
Cathy: I've got a lot of good things going, and I still think it's hard. I still think life is so hard, and I've got it about as good as it can be. I really think so. I've got it about as good as can be.
Ann: What was it you said?
Cathy: I live in the magic kingdom.
Ann: Right, you walk in and there are these beautiful flowers and dogs and birds. But even so, life gets hard, right?
Cathy: I think it's tough, I really do. There's always something out of balance, we've always got to work on something.
Ann: Do you think that's true for most people?
Cathy: Yes, in different ways. I think my challenges have always been about internal regulation. It must be something with my nervous system or my moods or something. I'm always off and trying to get back. It's very rare that my engine runs smoothly. Very seldom do I just get up and go. This breaks, and then I've got to go fix that, and then this other thing goes out of whack. It's just never smooth sailing for me. And I have wonderful support from all kinds of areas, wonderful training, wonderful education, wonderful experiences, wonderful helpers. But for some reason, my own internal regulation is still challenged.
Ann: So would you say in this illusion that that is your learning? That that's what you came here for?
Cathy: Yes, to somehow learn to regulate it or to learn to accept that it's not regulatable. One or the other. As long as I can be happy about it, then I'm learning my lessons. As long as I'm happy about it, and I'm growing in compassion and loving people, then I think I'm doing the right thing with it, whether it ever gets fixed or not. I don't know if that's the important part.
Ann: So what are the spiritual practices that help you follow your path? There is going to be dark and light no matter what, and you know of the possibilities of getting stuck, so what do you do?
Cathy: Since I perceive that the things that throw me off track a lot are physical, I've learned over many years to be very regulated about my body. I go to sleep at the same time, I get up at the same time, I eat three meals a day. I'm not a fanatic about food, and I'm not a vegetarian, but I eat healthy food, fresh food. When I eat meat it's meat without hormones and antibiotics, and it comes from animals that have been raised like natural farm animals, not ones that are standing in cages. The yoga is a blessing in terms of keeping me well. I stopped being a therapist mostly because I couldn't stand the sitting. I love physical activity, and that does me a tremendous amount of good.
Ann: And you teach how many classes a week?
Cathy: At this point I have four regular classes, one private class, and now I'm adding a breathing class, so that's about six.
Ann: And on top of that do you come home and do yoga?
Cathy: Yes. On top of it I have my own practice. I do yoga every day. It doesn't mean it's a three-hour, strenuous practice every day, but I do some form of yoga every day, and I take classes too. So those things help a lot to keep me balanced and going.
Ann: Do you practice meditation, chanting, reading or anything else?
Cathy: Well the physical asanas are certainly a practice. They're very regulating. It's the intention behind them that's so important. I don't do a yoga pose so that I can do a perfect yoga pose; I do a yoga pose to observe the inner relationships and become a really skillful learner. And I mean that in a big sense-not just a skillful student, but also a skillful learner. Someone who is able to respond to lessons that come to me in a variety of ways. I have a lot of skills that I can apply to a new learning experience. I can look at myself and see what's working, what's not working, what I need to bring in more of, what I need to relax, what I need to fortify. That's important.
I'm teaching a pranayana class. Pranayana is yoga breathing. I do a breathing practice two or three times a week, and that's very calming to my nervous system. The important thing is that it quiets me, and when you're quiet you can think clearly and make good choices. I can be quiet and listen to what the guidance is in a particular situation and follow it. I don't have to be running on at the mouth, or saying or doing things that are unnecessary. So those are important things. Do I read from A Course in Miracles? Sometimes. Not on a regular basis at this point in time. But the principles and ideas are already in my mind, so if I need a concept I just have to remember it.
Since I have a background in psychology, I have a tendency to try to unravel things, to understand them, to find a solution, to get to the bottom of something. What the Course tells me is that none of that is important-all I need to know is whether something is making me peaceful or unhappy. If something's making you unhappy, it's not something that you want, and you might as well forget about it. If trying to unravel the reasons behind something helps you to let it go, by all means go ahead and do that. But don't get hung up on understanding or unraveling for itself. The only purpose of trying to understand is to help you let go, to help you move on. So it's been very valuable to learn not to take things so seriously, even when I'm wrapped up in them.
Ann: I understand what you're saying, but how do you do that if there is a death, or during this struggle with your daughter? You are wrapped up in it, and it's very real-there's pain, anger, hurt, fear.
Cathy: Well, all the normal ways of dealing with things were inaccessible to me. I wasn't able to do any of the things that work on easier issues.
But at this point I know that I don't have to analyze the little things that might bother me; I don't have to go over them twenty times, I don't have to understand why someone did something, or why I did something. All I have to do is let it go. If it helps me to let something go, then distraction is fine-thinking about something else or going on to something else.
Ann: That's wonderful. I think a lot of spiritual practices have that same desire, that same intention.
Cathy: When I got to the really hard stuff I just had to try to be patient with myself and not judge myself about being in pain or fear or anger. I had to remember that I wasn't in a healed place; I wasn't in my right mind right then, and I had to forgive myself for being in this unhealed state.
Ann: And you've been in your right mind at other times-you have a basis for comparison.
Cathy: Yes, there's a difference.
Ann: And you can also look at people you love who are in their right minds. So that gives you some balance. Those people who come and sit and have tea with you.
I was going to say something about the yoga teacher too. When you go to a class with a fine teacher, it's helpful to be with that higher order of energy. Words are nice, but it's so important to be next to somebody who shines with that energy at that moment.
Cathy: Yes, it's wonderful. And the next week they may not be shining, and you may be in a different place-you may be the teacher.
Ann: The light enters us when we're teaching-sometimes I'm surprised by it when I'm teaching. But then I really know I'm being guided. It means that I'm really open, and that is a wonderful thing about a spiritual journey.
Cathy: Yes, it's true that when you're in service to other people, you get extra help. There are times when I can barely peel myself off the couch to go teach a class. When I walk into the class I'm one person, and when I leave the class, I'm a different person.
Ann: I haven't interviewed anybody on a spiritual path who doesn't say, "Service is exceptionally important." That's what we're supposed to be doing. Not service beyond what we can do-I think some spiritual paths may not mean to demand service, but people interpret it as a demand and do too much. So the balance is important.
Cathy: Yes, and if you are doing too much, then you are doing a disservice, or even violence, to yourself. One of the beautiful lines from A Course in Miracles is, "Doing God's work is effortless." It doesn't mean you don't have to do work, but when you're serving in the right way, there's an effortless quality to it. You might be sweating, and you still have to do your homework to prepare. But in that moment of serving, something carries you.
Ann: Now, can you hear the divine speaking to you? Do you hear a voice? Do you have an understanding of communication between you and the divine?
Cathy: I usually get a feeling. Sometimes I hear a voice, but more often than not I'll get a sense of direction, a feeling, an experience. My intellect can give me lots of good pros and cons for both sides of a question, but I'm completely confused. So I ask the Holy Spirit what I should do, and I get quiet and let go of all my ideas. When one of the alternatives comes to me with a feeling of peace, I just know that's the right direction. That's how it usually happens for me.
Ann: Now I know there are philosophies around yoga that come out of Hinduism. Do you see them in as being in harmony with the Course?
Cathy: You know, I don't study yoga philosophy. I use the tools of yoga to make me skillful in living in this world. They sharpen my mind, they strengthen my body, they tone my nervous system, and they stabilize my emotions-all of those really good things. And then when I have a really big question, I switch to the Course in Miracles, and I look at it in that context. And then I have a friend who studies the yoga sutras, and she's learning more about the way yoga looks at the big questions in life. And I'll listen to the way she says something, and I'll say, "Oh, well in the Course we say it this way."
At this point in time, the way I understand healing is that it is that quality of being able to witness whatever is going on inside you without judgment. In the Course in Miracles, there's the ego mind, and the Holy Spirit mind. There are two separate minds, and then there's this Son of God in between, who can choose one or the other. Most of us are back and forth all the time, and that's why we're so confused. But when you're able to join this observer with the Holy Spirit and observe whatever painful thing is going on, that is the healing. And it isn't something that is done by you. Your job is to say, "It's in me; it's not out there, the problem is in me. And I wish to bring that problem to my holy teacher. That's my job, and then my holy teacher does the rest of it."
Ann: Is your holy teacher inside of you?
Cathy: Sure, it's part of my mind. Sometimes I'm not aware of it, sometimes I actively block it out, but if I don't block it out it's there.
Ann: Some theories say we must go up to God; it's outside of us. And some teachings say it's inside of us; God is within.
Cathy: There is no real distinction between within and without. There are lots of things that we've blocked. I like the metaphor that says the light is shining, but sometimes we have the shades drawn. It's our job to open the shades. The Course in Miracles would say it's not your job to seek for love, because love is already there. But it is your job to seek and find all the obstacles you have placed in the way of your awareness of love's presence. The love is there-God is there. I have done a lot of things to cover it up, so my job is to find the things that are in the way, and ask that they be undone.
Yoga gives you skills-they're very practical skills. Holding tension in your throat, in your neck, in your body-those are good ways of holding out the light. So on a very practical, physical level, you learn how to release the tensions. The more you relax the more you can receive the light.
Ann: But when I get depressed it doesn't feel like tension. There is nothing there. It is like the life has been pulled out.
Cathy: And when I am like that I go for external structure-I can't go within when I'm depressed. Then I take a yoga class that somebody else is giving.
Ann: So that they are feeding you?
Cathy: Yes. Or I do something active. Whether I have to take a medicine or whatever, I get myself to a place where I can do something, or I put myself in a place where something can feed me, because I can't do it-that internal space is gone. I don't have access to any of the good.
Ann: What does the Course say about a community? Or yoga? Do you need a spiritual community?
Cathy: I think a sense of community is a very human need. The Course in Miracles doesn't talk about it so much, but there are a lot of communities developed around teaching centers and teachers, because people need it. People need like-minded people to share their journey with.
I don't know if yoga so much talks about community, but I love being part of the yoga community. I had a brunch to which I invited different yoga teachers, just to help develop a sense of community.
Ann: You're already in tune because your goals are similar.
Cathy: Yes, you're doing the same kinds of things and dealing with the same issues; you see a lot of the same people.
Ann: So it sounds like you know how to create community. You said you hold classes here, and you're the one who held the brunch.
Cathy: Yes. I do think community's important, and I'm seeking it out more now than I have in the past.
There's another aspect of community that I've been thinking about since I saw a show Oprah Winfrey did about women in the work world. There's an older generation of women who were trailblazers and got jobs that only men had held in the generation before, and now there's a younger generation of women who have had many fewer obstacles to overcome. The younger generation can just walk into work situations and get good jobs, but the older generation had to struggle and build a path.
There was tension between the two generations represented on the show. Some of the older women were hesitant to share with the younger ones, because it seems to them that the younger ones have it too easy. The older women don't want to just give away what they had to work so hard for, and the younger ones were saying, "But isn't that why you worked so hard, so we wouldn't have to? Didn't you blaze that trail so that we would be able to come in with our new ideas and begin at a whole new level?"
What I took away from that show was the concept of mentoring, and how important that is, and the idea that I want to be a mentor in the yoga community. Even though I haven't been a teacher for that long-seven years-I still have the authority of age. I'm fifty-one, which makes me older than many of the teachers in that community, and I have a lot of experience from other parts of my life. And I like the idea of myself as a mentor, reaching out to newer and younger teachers. I think that's one more way to give and serve and share what I've learned.
It would be easy for me to be competitive and say, "Well, I've had the training, and I took this test and that test and studied with this teacher. You only got your certification in a weekend, so what do you know?" I could pick other teachers apart. But I'd rather like them and try to nurture them and share what I know and honor what they've learned and what they bring to a class.
Ann: Yes, it's their right to learn. So that's real love and compassion.
Cathy: Yes, and I give Oprah and that one television show all the credit for that.
Ann: What does the Course say about bad things happening to good people? Why does that happen?
Cathy: Well, you have to go back to the metaphysical teaching-it's not really happening. Although that's not necessarily what you tell people when they're having a bad time. Instead you might talk about what it means when bad things happen. Well, this is a place where bad things happen because we made it up. We made up this world in which bad things are going to happen because we made it up based on our fears and our belief in separation. So bad things are going to happen in this world whether you're a good person or a bad person.
Ann: So it's not about good or bad, it's about life?
Cathy: It's about the purpose of the world-the purpose that we gave it!
Ann: We chose to come here as a school, or as a place of learning?
Cathy: We chose to come here, and we can make it a school or we can make it hell. That's about the best I can say on that. Being good isn't an insurance policy against bad things happening according to the Course in Miracles. And being bad doesn't mean that bad things are going to happen to you.
Ann: No, you can be very bad and have good things happen. In fact, I've seen people who have been very bad, and they've become very enlightened.
What does the Course say about after we die?
Cathy: The Course in Miracles would say that nothing happens when we die. There's nothing much that happens at physical birth either. Heaven isn't a place, it's a state of mind-"It's the awareness of perfect oneness." I suppose there's a consciousness that lives beyond the physical body. I don't know how that works-the Course doesn't speak a whole lot about reincarnation. Actually what it says about reincarnation is that if it helps you to expand your concept of life, it's a good idea. If the idea of having multiple physical lives helps you to expand your idea of what life's all about and helps you move toward eternity, it's a good thing.
Ann: Do you think about death yourself?
Cathy: I do, because I think it's going to be a relief not to have a physical body. I think there's going to be some kind of consciousness. I don't think my learning is going to end when I die, and I don't think I'm going to be in heaven, because I think I'll still have more things to do. But I'd really like not to come back to earth; I'd like not to come back in this physical form if there are other planes of existence. Emmanuel and Bartholomew talk about a plane of color and harmony-I think I'd rather go through my next learning phase on the plane of color and harmony. Something gentler. The earth is very rough and difficult. I don't know what that means, maybe that's my challenge. Maybe I have to see it as refined and wonderful before I can leave.
Ann: That is the mystery. No one knows.
Cathy: But I don't think physical death is going to be an end.
Ann: What would you say to somebody who is looking for a spiritual path? Is it important to have one? Can you make it through life without a spiritual path or religion?
Cathy: Well if somebody is looking, they're probably feeling called, so I would encourage them to explore. I would encourage them to look into a lot of different paths and to find what speaks to them.
Ann: Is there anything else you'd like to say in closing?
Cathy: I feel very lucky to have been blessed with so many wonderful teachers and experiences and opportunities to learn and grow spiritually. I feel very blessed and grateful.
Cathy: In closing let me share this thought about The Harmony Project...The Course in Miracles says " a universal theology is impossible but a universal experience in not only possible but necessary.” I know you have expressed this idea in other ways but I thought clarifying from this perspective might be useful. It is for me.
Ann: Thanks for sharing that - it is my hope that The Harmony Project will help with that understanding.