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When the student is ready, the teacher appears

April 28, 2011

When I was 24, I walked into Mary Hill’s afternoon A Course in Miracles class. It was a warm sunny afternoon. A group of about 8 people sat around a table in a church classroom, taking turns reading paragraphs from a big fat book. There wasn’t much discussion and the reading felt endless. My mind started wandering and I fought my droopy eyelids to stay awake and I tried to do that thing where you yawn with your mouth shut. When the 90 minutes was up, I walked out and thought I would never go back. It just wasn’t for me.

Fast forward 11 years. I was hurting so bad from emotional wounds that I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think, struggled to get a breath. Once again, I stumbled into Mary Hill’s A Course in Miracles class, which was still going on, all those years later. She had been holding class, week after week, all those years.

This time it was like someone plugged me into The Power and The Glory. The thick text about love and forgiveness was like a deep-tissue massage for my soul. That class became one of several strands in my unravelled life that led me up the path back to sanity and happiness.

It wasn’t just the massive 600-page text, either. Mary Hill sat at the end of the table like an elderly, lightly perfumed 90-pound guru. She didn’t talk a lot, but she was a great listener. You could say as much or as little as you wanted, as long as you stuck to the general subject matter, and she would always listen with gentleness and good humor.

Mary Hill was a retired school teacher, but she never quit teaching. She just transferred her abilities to a new group of students, a motley bunch of dropouts from other religions, seekers on the path. We all had our own sufferings – mental illness, a recent divorce, a terminally ill spouse. We shared those pains and held each other up with Mary at the lead.

She was the first person I met who seemed to have her ego firmly under control. She offered the class with an open heart, but she didn’t mind if people stayed or left – she was only interested in how much it helped people, and she knew it wasn’t for everyone. She didn’t fret about much. She sailed through each day as calm and happy as anyone I have ever met.

It was her example as much as the book she taught (and she encouraged us not to get attached to the book either, telling us “There will come a day when you can set the book aside”) that led me along the path toward a peaceful heart. She taught me important lessons, mainly 1) show up and 2) pay attention, two things that have served me exceedingly well. When I met her, I felt like a shell of a human being. She filled me up and put me back on the road to life with her calm, patient love.

She passed away at 90 about 10 years ago. I still miss her all the time, but I know she is doing just fine. She often said “You don’t know how many times we have laid down our bodies and risen up, laughing.”

Clever Girls Collective asked me to write about a woman who helped me as part of their promotion for the Shop for a Better World/Heart of Haiti collection from Macy’s. These handcrafted items help support artisans in Haiti and Rwanda. There are some beautiful items:
Colorful bowls from haitiMetal Wall Art from Haiti

They’re offering a special discount for Mother’s Day
Discount: 15% off Heart of Haiti and Rwanda Path to Peace products
Timeframe: 5/3 – 5/8
– To view the Shop for a Better World / Heart Of Haiti collection in its entirety (including just added items for Spring), visit: Shop for A Better World.

I was not paid for this post, but I will receive a nice gift from the Heart of Haiti collection.

I was selected for this very special “CleverHaiti” opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity. All opinions are my own.

  1. April 29, 2011 11:38

    what a wonderful tribute. and i will try to remember to show up and pay attention.

  2. May 20, 2011 15:39

    I think she taught you not only by her word, but also by her actions.
    Loved your post.
    Thank you for supporting the women and artisans with Heart of Haiti.I work at Everywhere and we’re a member of the team that helps promote Macy’s Heart of Haiti.


    Marsha Whitehead

    • May 21, 2011 07:56

      Thanks for coming by, Marsha. Yes, Mary Hill was definitely an actions kind of gal. I’m so thankful to have met her.

      And thank you for your work, too.

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