At first, I was very anxious to attend a class at the Unity of New Orleans Spiritual Center, since I have never been exposed to anything of this nature before. I am Jewish and grew up in a predominantly Jewish area, attended Jewish day school and sleep away camp and had primarily Jewish friends growing up. Although I have always been accepting of other beliefs and ideologies, the truth is, I have not been exposed to different spiritual practices very often and I have never had the opportunity to attend a prayer service of a different religious group prior to this visit. The visit to this center took me out of my comfort zone and left me unsettled knowing I would feel out of place.
When I first got to Unity, I was not sure what to expect at all. The building is very generic looking: it’s round and tan, a pretty mundane outer appearance. When my friend and I got to the front gate, we were almost convinced there was no front door. We could not find a place to enter the building. After some searching, we found the side door tucked away from plain sight, which a congregation member held open for us. The room in which the class is held on Wednesday nights is very plain as well. All members of the class were regulars at the church and took their positions sitting around a long table, each in front of a few sheets of papers (that would later guide the teachings). My friend and I introduced ourselves to the teacher, and she promptly welcomed us in and offered us some of her homemade snacks. We took our seats around the long table as well, looked around the table at the different types of people in the room and waited for the class to begin.
We began reading from the top sheet of paper about our intentions for the evening and goals of the course in general. We went around the table in a circle and each member of the class had to read a line or a section of the writings. Since my friend and I were new to the teachings, the teacher had veterans briefly explain what “A Course in Miracles” is and what the book teaches its readers to believe. The way it was explained to us seems as though this is more of a mind training than a religious experience, however, there is reference to a God or higher power often in the course. Based on this teaching, we are to understand that God, the Son and Daughter of all Consciousness, the Holy Spirit and eternity all exist and individual beings, time, space, matter, energy, miracles, sin and fear all do not exist and are merely a dream. There are 365 exercises in the book, one for each day of the year, and a person who is studying these teachings consistently will do an activity each day to help their mind associate the teaching with an act and in order to get the teaching ingrained into their minds and everyday habits. This book highlights forgiveness and love for all people in the world, along with meditation and clearing the mind of all things that do not exist and can limit the thought process’s freedoms.
The teachings were very interesting and I had never thought about using my mind to manipulate how I felt about the world in this manner before. The most intriguing part of the class was the discussion portion, in which members of the class commented on the lessons and told the rest of the group how they felt about the words or how the teachings could be incorporated into every day life. Each member of the class was very different from the next and the perspectives shared were unparalleled; the uniqueness of each member made the class engaging and easy to sit through (even though it was an hour and a half long).
I found this experience to be helpful for my future teaching career in many ways. It exposed me to a new way of thinking and understanding the religious or spiritual practices of someone else, which I believe is important for empathizing with students in a classroom setting. I also thought that some of the teachings themselves were very interesting and could be incorporated into a classroom setting. In “A Course in Miracles”, there is a lot of discussion about internal power, love and forgiveness, which is important to teach students in order to lead them to success in the classroom and in their everyday lives. I think that although these teachings can be seen as a little bit over the top or all consuming if taught as they are intended to be, if incorporated into everyday life piece by piece can be very helpful for the healthy developing minds of students and teachers alike.