“A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it. It does not depend upon itself for anything except its adequacy to fulfill the plans assigned to it. It is secure in certainty that obstacles can not impede its progress to accomplishment of any goal that serves the greater plan established for the good of everyone.” (W-135.11)
When I immersed myself in the Course years ago, I was visited by an inclination to teach its message at a medium security prison for men in a neighboring town. Never before had I even considered doing anything related to prison work. But every time I had followed other inclinations in my life, they led me to great things. So I didn’t hesitate to follow this one, too.
I researched the opportunities for volunteering at the prison, and to my great surprise and delight discovered a program that was based on the Course and its teachings of forgiveness. I made some inquiries, and found out that the path to becoming a participating volunteer was quite long—about six months given all the hoops that had to be jumped through. On top of that the leader of the program had no interest in sharing any part of her leadership with another volunteer. I was welcomed to join as a participant, but nothing more.
I felt deterred. The urge that kept prompting me included I lead such a program—and soon—and not go through a protracted period to end up as just a participant. But the urge remained strong, and no other paths in a similar direction had opened themselves to me at the time, so I moved forward despite the obstacles that appeared.
Somehow what took six months for others happened almost immediately for me, and I soon found myself inside the prison as a volunteer for a tangential program that welcomed new leaders.
My path crossed with that of the leader for the Course based program, and when she invited me to participate in her next twelve-week series, I said yes, despite her intention to lead the program by herself well into the foreseeable future. I entertained the idea of abandoning this path, but felt a discernible sense of loss when I did. This sense of loss, like a sort of bereavement feeling for me, had always been the indication for me to stay the course. When the next series began, I joined as a participant along with the incarcerated men.
Four sessions into the series the leader took me aside and said I had an excellent understanding of the program’s principles, and that she was considering retiring, and would I be willing to take over the leadership?
Thus began an intense period of teaching and learning I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else in such a short period of time. Both the men and I gained insights into ourselves and each other that led us to experience the profound unity underlying appearances. It was a time of seeing the truth of everything that the Course teaches, including that I needn’t plan anything myself, that I need simply wait and listen for what to do, and then do it, even when it seems like insurmountable obstacles are in the way.
When I’d been leader for a while and the prompt came to stop, I stopped. Stopping left an empty space, though, and one day while driving near the prison I wondered if maybe I should go back. I looked across the busy intersection to the prison on the far side, and as I did so saw a hawk rise up from the prison parking lot, gather itself, and fly directly towards me. It didn’t waver as it headed straight for my car with me in it, and when it got close enough , it swooped overhead, and flew off and away. Message received. My time of volunteering at the prison was over for now.