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With Rev. Tony Ponticello – Last February a large *A Course In Miracles* conference was held in New York City at the Pennsylvania Hotel. Many *ACIM* organizations co-sponsored the event which was hosted by The Quest Foundation, an active *ACIM* organization that serves the New England and greater New York City region. Early Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m., Rev. Larry Bedini and Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the conference. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of the talk they gave that morning, February 13, 2003. The presentation was about an hour long. This article is much longer than our usual ones but we wanted to present it in it’s entirety and decided not to break it up into two smaller articles spread out over two months. As such, this represent a break from our usual format so we have dropped most of our bookstore listing in order to make room for the article.

Rev. Larry: The very first thing I want to say is, “There are no victims!

Rev. Tony Ponticello & Rev. Larry BediniThis is a unified presentation. Tony and I have been together as a team teaching A Course In Miracles since 1987. That’s a long time. It’s kind of like that marriage where one speaks and the other one says, “Oh no, no, no. That’s not the way it is.” Then sometimes he’ll be saying something and I’ll say “Tony, Tony, no, no. You don’t remember.” So that’s apt to happen. We’ve given each other permission to do that in the presentation this morning. If I forget anything or don’t get something right he’ll correct me — and I’ll know he’s wrong. And I will do the same to him — and of course I will always be right.

We started our group in 1987 and I’m going to let Tony go on now and tell you what the presentation is all about and I’ll interrupt him when I feel like he’s gone astray.

Rev. Tony: Actually I thought my role was just to stand here and look at him adoringly. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do during this presentation.

A Course In Miracles says, “Meaningful seeking is consciously undertaken, consciously organized and consciously directed. The goal must be formulated clearly and kept in mind.” (T-4.V.5.3) That was one of the thoughts that was my inspiration about what we were going to do with the Community Miracles Center. I had been involved with another Miracles organization before Larry and I formed the Community Miracles Center. Something I had noticed with that first organization I was involved with for about two years was that all of these people came to groups, they participated in the study groups, and after about a year or two I really thought about all the people that had come and I could count on my hand, probably one hand, the number of people who had actually read the whole book. People would come but nobody actually had read the whole book and so organizing the Community Miracles Center was in response to that. I thought, “If we don’t consciously organize this, direct this, undertake this with some kind of conscious direction – nobody is ever going to read this book!” It was with that energy. The Community Miracles Center has never been a “laissez-faire” type of organization. We’ve always been quite structured about what we do. We have structured classes; they have curriculums. They lead to certifications. It’s very organized. We’ve caught a lot of “flack” for this emphasis on structure over the years because there is a tendency — you know that little rugged individualist tendency of “Nobody’s going to tell us what to do!” — amongst Miracles people. But actually, I know Larry and I both are very proud of the fact that we’ve done something that is more organized and structured. I now know quite a few people who have actually read the whole book all the way through!

Rev. Larry: The Course says, “You are much too tolerant of mind wandering ....” (T-2.VI.4.1) We don’t allow it. You will not mind wander while we’re speaking. Thank you!

I want to get clear that we do publish a journal named, Miracles Monthly. It is sometimes humorous and there are also very serious things in it. If you want to help yourself later to one of those please do. We’d love to have you on the list. We have since 1984 published 191 monthly journals ...

Rev. Tony: Since 1987 ...

Rev. Larry: Shut up. Since 1987. See ... “How dare he?”

Rev. Tony: Adoringly.

Rev. Larry: Since 1987, 191 monthly journals. We enjoy doing those and we get a chance to say what we really want to say. And — the hell with the rest of them what they think! We also have our Sunday Services. Tony and I alternate cooking breakfast for our people every Sunday. We love it. We always have gourmet breakfasts. It’s never the same. We have great fun doing that just before the Sunday Service. We feed them in their body and we feed them spiritually. What more could you ask.

Rev. Tony: We’re from San Francisco so we love to cook.

Rev. Larry: That’s right. We also have an On-Line Bookstore but then enough of this commercial.

Rev. Tony: Our topic for today is, “The Healing Power Of The Miracles Community.” I always have felt that this community we are involved with, this A Course In Miracles community, does have tremendous healing power and our involvement with it is a great healing resource for all of us. A Course In Miracles says, “Salvation is a collaborative venture. It cannot be undertaken successfully by those who disengage themselves from the Sonship, because they are disengaging themselves from me.” (T-4.VI.8:2-3) Salvation is something we definitely collaborate on which means we join in order to have salvation — in order to have healing. It isn’t going to happen if we disengage.

I know that for many years my spiritual practice was much more of a disengagement than a joining. I retreated. I went to my little proverbial cave, wherever it was, and did my reading, my meditating and I thought I had to enter the kingdom in solitary isolation. However, getting involved with A Course In Miracles was something very different. I believe this is actually something that typifies the A Course In Miracles movement. People start reading this book and they soon, somehow, get the message, “I should get together with other people who are reading this book.” That’s how that whole study group phenomena has sprung up. Everywhere that A Course In Miracles is studied people get together in groups — to read it together with other people. There’s nothing in A Course In Miracles that says you should find other A Course In Miracles students and go somewhere to discuss this book together with them, but somehow everybody who studies A Course In Miracles gets that message anyway.

Now there are some teachers who would say because that’s not in the book we should be suspicious of our tendency to want to do that — but I don’t go there. I think we should just look at this tendency. Isn’t this interesting? This book is teaching us about joining and then we automatically reinterpret that and figure out a way to integrate that teaching into our mirs. People just automatically know they want to get together and they get together in study groups. We get together here at these conferences. We get a lot out of them, and I know that in my own personal times of struggle and challenge it’s not so much the teaching and the theory that really helps me out. It’s the joining, the love, the relationships and the support that I get from the people that I connect with that really help me through those times of personal challenge. In the many years that Larry and I have been doing this, believe me, we both have gone through many personal challenges, many healing opportunities. It’s our connection with the Miracles community that helps us through those times, certainly as much as the theories that are found in A Course In Miracles.

Rev. Larry: In 1993 I went in for my regular physical examination and the doctor said that my PSA [Prostate Specific Antigen] was elevated and he wanted to do further tests on it. I immediately got that chill down my spine that said “Oh oh!” I said “What does this mean?” And he said, “Well, there’s a possibility it might be a benign tumor or you could just have an enlarged prostate.” Oh, by the way, I didn’t tell you we’re having an organ recital this morning. I always love it when we start talking about our operations. Oh, an organ recital.

He sent me in for a biopsy and of course — I had the doctor from hell who gave me the biopsy. For the gentlemen or women who have had biopsies — I don’t know how the women actually go through them, but certainly for the men it’s quite embarrassing for the prostate. Suddenly I had to take six tests, six samples, and somehow or other the machine just punched me on the insides and I would yell out and I could hear the doctor saying to the nurse, going like this, [hitting the podium like it was the medical, biopsy machine]. “What’s the matter with this machine? This machine isn’t good.” Then he’d do another one and I’d yell and he’d say [more hitting] “Didn’t we have this machine fixed?” and so on. This was my first experience with a biopsy for the prostate. Anyway, he went on and then said that he’d have the results in a few days. I waited and waited and finally called a few days later only to find out that he’d gone away on a two-week vacation. Of course, you know how devastated — those of you who have been through this — how devastated you become because you imagine all sorts of things. Two weeks later he returned and he announced to me in a very cold manner “Well, Mr. Bedini, you have prostate cancer.”

Of course, I went immediately into tears. Tony and I, I remember, held each other. We cried. We cried like two babies having lost their parents, and I remember I walked to the window of the office and I looked out the window and I remember putting my hands behind my back and saying “So this is how I die.” I was feeling very sorry for myself, a very tragic moment. I remember I walked outside the building having to get away from the room. While walking and looking at the trees I was saying “Oh my God. I’ll never see these again.” I was doing the greatest Joan Crawford you could imagine. Greta Garbo had nothing on me at that point and I remember thinking that I would soon never see the world again because in a few short months or years I would be gone. You go through this period of course, any of you who have been through this or any kind of trauma.

Then finally I came back and we cried some more. However, I have a little thing about me, where I will allow myself twenty-four hours to suffer. At the end of twenty-four hours, having taught the Course for so many years, I remembered I’m not a victim. I am not a victim. The Course teaches us that. We are not victims. There are no victims, and I’m not one of them, but the Course also says don’t deny your feelings. It’s okay to go ahead and have these feelings. It’s okay to feel what you feel, but move on. So within the twenty four hour period I did, and Tony and I talked it out. We asked Holy Spirit for guidance. I asked. He asked how he should handle himself. I asked how I could handle myself and for me, my particular prayer is “Holy Spirit, help me change my perception that I need to feel like a victim. I don’t need to and I want to shift my perception so that I understand I don’t need this. I know what I have. I have what I have. I’ll deal with it with your guidance, but I don’t need to feel like a victim.”

Rev. Tony: A Course In Miracles says “That is why healing is a collaborative venture. I can tell you what to do, but you must collaborate by believing that I know what you should do.” (T-8.IV.4:8-9) We’re always collaborating. We’re always joining. We join with brothers and sisters, we join with community. Most importantly, we join with the Holy Spirit — that Voice for God within our minds — and you know, God had blessed Larry and I. We had a local Miracles community to join with. We had a community that kept reinforcing those ideas. We had each other to join with, and we knew that the only person, the only voice that could really tell us what we should do — what Larry should do in this instance — was the Holy Spirit’s Voice within our minds, within his mind.

If anybody asks me about A Course In Miracles, you know, “What does it mean to you?” or “What does it mean to you to be a student of A Course In Miracles?” that’s got to be in my answer somewhere. A Course In Miracles is an extremely open thought system and it doesn’t actually tell you how to behave in any particular situation, but what it always reinforces is that you have a Voice for God within your mind that’s going to tell you how to behave in any specific, particular situation and you need to collaborate with that Voice. You need to join with that Voice. You need to trust. That’s the Voice that knows. Then you need to follow that Voice. For me, that is probably the primary teaching for A Course In Miracles, and the one that’s been most influential and profound in my own life.

Rev. Larry: The doctor called and said to come into the office. I went in and, as I said, a very insensitive man, and certainly at the time I called him, “the butcher.” I’ve since forgiven him. It’s wonderful about A Course In Miracles people. We always damn them and then we say, “But I forgive you.” So I forgave him later. Anyway, I asked, “What’s going to happen? How do I handle this?” and so on. He said “Oh, well, my advice is to have the operation. Get the radical operation. Get the damn thing out of you!” And I said, “Well, what will happen to me then?” And he said “Oh, well ...” he continued “... you won’t really be a man, but …” I said “Well, will sex be in the picture?” He said “Oh yeah, but it’ll be like firing blanks. You’re not going to really feel anything. Now, when do you want to set up the operation?” I looked at Tony.

I have a system where my red flags come up. These are my little flags that say “Ask Holy Spirit for guidance.” So my red flags were shooting up all over the place and so I went within at that moment and I said “Holy Spirit, please! Help me! Guide me here. I don’t know what to do. Help me.” Then I thought, “Wait a minute. Help me to shift my perception here that I don’t know what to do because I damn well do know.” And I said “Well, doctor, thank you. I will be back. I will call you and we’ll set it up.” We left the office.

At that point I got on the phone, called the American Cancer Society and the woman was very nice, just lovely. She asked if I had a second opinion and I said “No, I didn’t and I don’t know what to do.” She said “Well, look. Dr. Peter Carroll in San Francisco, who is the head of Urology at University of California Medical Center, is the finest man in the city, in the country probably. Go see him. We always send people to him.” So I did. Dr. Peter Carroll said “We’re going to have to take another biopsy.” I said “I can’t go through that again. I’m not going to suffer through that.” He said not to worry, that they’d give an internal injection and I wouldn’t feel anything. Well he did, of course, the moment he gave the injection all of a sudden all of this fluid, this taste came running into my mouth and I got sick. I thought “Well. God, this is as bad as the other one in some ways.”

Anyway, the end result was he said “Well, we have several options.” What the first doctor diagnosed was correct in his opinion. But he spoke of several options. “You can have the radical surgery, which I would recommend. That’s what I would do. But you could also have cryosurgery. We have a new technique now called cryosurgery. [This is a controlled freezing of the prostate.] You can take one of two kinds of radiation treatment or you can have chemotherapy which in prostate cancer is a hormonal treatment. If you choose the hormonal treatment it will mean the end of sexual functioning.” Then finally he added, “Or you can do what we call ‘watchful waiting.’” Instantly the flags went up and I said “Holy Spirit, please. I need guidance. Help me to change my perception that I can’t make a decision here.” Tony and I counseled together. I said “Excuse us here. Can we talk a little bit?” Dr. Carroll said “Yes.” Tony didn’t give me advice, but he said “Let’s ask Holy Spirit. Let’s ask for guidance on this.”

The guidance was that I would take watchful waiting and that was a radical decision because I was aware that I had been told that I had cancer in my body, but I would take the watchful waiting which I did. In taking the watchful waiting the doctor said I’d come in every three months for a PSA test and so on, which I did. All during that time I kept saying “I will not have this. I will not allow this in my body. I am perfect. God created me perfectly. God did not make a mistake. If there’s a problem here, then my perception is off. Something is wrong with my mind, my thinking.”

Rev. Tony: The interesting thing about this experience, for me, was that we’re sitting there asking for guidance and we have two doctors who have said to have a major operation, and yet we’re getting the guidance not to have the operation. Being able to be secure enough in your connection with the Holy Spirit so that you can follow guidance that’s directly against medical advice is something, and I really think it was Larry’s and my years of study with the Course — working with it, teaching it, connecting with the Miracles community, having other people to support us in those types of ideas — that really enabled Larry specifically, but us, to be able to do that. To be able to listen to guidance and say “Well, I hear the two doctors saying that the operation is the best way to go, but having an operation doesn’t feel like what we’re getting. We would go with this other path.” You know, people said that the other path is basically doing nothing. Still, you go within again and that’s the guidance that you get and I really commend Larry because, of course, the final decision was his. He was able to truly follow his heart, his guidance, and do that in the face of medical advice which actually said do something else.

Rev. Larry: I then made an agreement with the cancer. I then said to it “You may mir in my body, but you had better be a good neighbor.” And I did that. I kept telling myself that. I kept talking to “it.” “You may mir in my body, but you have to be a good neighbor. If you are not a good neighbor then I will eliminate you. But if you are a good neighbor and do nothing, create no problems, you may mir there.” And I said it over and over and over and every time I became fearful, I would say it again. My red flags would come up every time. I’d think, “Oh, I’m going to die. I’m going to die.” Then the red flags would shoot up and say, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. No, no. I don’t need t go there. As long as it’s a good neighbor it can mir there and I’m okay with that.”

So life went on. I’d go in for my PSA tests and the doctor would say “Well, it seems to be okay.” Sometimes it’d be a few points up or a few points down and everything was fine and this went on for eight years. My cancer was a good neighbor and I appreciated that.

Life went on and then in 1999 I began getting severe pains in my back and I thought well, we had just done a retreat and I had brought over all kinds of books, boxes of heavy books. There were something like fourteen file boxes of books and I’d carried them into the car and out of the car and so a few weeks later I got this pain and I thought I’d hurt my back. But the pain was so excruciating and it was a pain that I’d never felt in my life, and I remember suddenly waking up in the night with such a sharp, excruciating pain that I would cry. I remember just yelling out in pain. Sometimes the pain would bring me down to my knees and I just couldn’t stand it. I told Tony about it and he said we should get to the doctor.

So, I went to the doctor and the doctor said “Well, let’s take an x-ray and see what’s going on.” So we took an x-ray and he said “Yes, there’s a mass there, but it looks like arthritis.” He said to get some physical therapy and what have you, so I did. He assigned me to a place and they gave me physical therapy and massages. By this time I was teaching classes in an town called Castro Valley which was about 45 minutes away from San Francisco. I was there twice a week and I’d drive in and do that and so on, and still while I was driving the pain would be so great. Finally I knew it just wasn’t getting any better. One of the members of our church is a doctor, an internist. I’d gone to him a time or two for some minor things, a very wonderful man and certainly on the same path. He would say to me about this pain, “Larry, I want you to get an MRI.” [Magnetic Resonance Imaging which gives a very high resolution, internal representation of tissue.] I’d say, “Oh, I will, I will. I’m just busy right now and I can’t do it.” Finally the pain got even worse to where I would just scream so in the night.

So, I went and got an MRI. I was lying there and they had what they call this new kind of “Oreo cookie” MRI machine. Regular MRI machines put you in a small tube and for me that’s very scary. Now it’s like an Oreo cookie as they call it, an open MRI, so it’s less threatening. I got in there and the technician would say to lie there and I’d be in such pain and he’d say “Mr. Bedini, you’re going to have to lie still” and I’d scream out “I can’t lie still, God damn it!” and he’d say “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Eventually, he took the MRI and the end result was that it was cancer. My new doctor from our Miracles community thought that it might be that the prostate cancer had metastasized.

Of course, you understand the devastation that is felt and again the red flags were going up and again Tony and I were talking to one another. Tony would say, to me — and since I was a very private person Tony would say — “Larry, why don’t you share this with our Miracles community?” I would say “I don’t want to burden them and I don’t want to come across like a martyr.” Then I thought about it and asked for guidance on it and my guidance was, “Talk about it. Share it with the community. You don’t have to approach it as if you’re a martyr. You just share.” That was a new perception for me, that I didn’t have to go in and say “Oh, I’ve got cancer ... blah, blah, blah ...” and wear, what I call, a little tin badge of martyrdom.

So I talked it over with our community, with the people there, very matter of factly. They all received it beautifully. Some of them started to come up to me moaning “Oh Larry ….” and I’d say “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Don’t kill me. I’m not dead yet. Don’t approach me as if I am dying. I am not dying, I’m just telling you what I have. Don’t make me a martyr. I am not a martyr, and that’s it.”

That’s how I communicated with my spiritual community. I wrote an article about it in Miracles Monthly because I wanted to share my process with that greater extension of our Miracles community as well.

Rev. Tony: I think one of the hardest things for any of us who are studying a discipline like this is the thing about personal responsibility, that we’re 100% responsible for everything that happens to us. Then something like this happens, a physical challenge, a potentially life-threatening disease. Of course, it’s that question, “Well, how did I choose this? How did I create this?” If you haven’t gone through that experience yet, believe me, you will sooner or later have some terrible thing that’s going on in your life and you’ll have to confront that question about how did I bring this on and why?

A Course In Miracles is very clear about these things and it’s very challenging. The Course is talking here about the choices we make, actually it’s talking about the choice we make to be sick. It says, “They ...” meaning the choices we make to be sick “They seem to be unconscious but because of the rapidity with which you choose to use them. In that second, even less, in which the choice is made, you recognize exactly what you would attempt to do, and then proceed to think that it is done. (W-pI.136.3) ... But afterwards, your plan requires that you must forget you made it, so it seems to be external to your own intent; a happening beyond your state of mind, an outcome with a real effect on you, instead of one effected by yourself.” (W-pI.136.4) That’s a pretty profound and challenging idea. Not only are we making these choices but that the process is always conscious. We sometimes get solace, comfort, by saying that we make them unconsciously. But what the Course is saying is, “No. You don’t make these sickness decisions unconsciously. You actually know exactly what you’re doing. It’s not unconscious. You know. You make them consciously. You choose to be sick, but then afterwards you choose to forget that you made that choice. That’s all, but you know what you’re doing at the time.” That’s difficult.

It’s challenging, but God bless that idea because without that idea we’re victims of things that seem to just fall on us from the sky. With the Course idea there are other options. There are other choices if we can let go of the guilt and, of course, a lot of the Course teaching is about how to let go of that guilt. So, if we’ve been good teacher/students, hopefully we have some helpful techniques for letting go of the guilt and then we can start grappling with the choices that we’re making in our mirs — choices to bring negative events into our mirs, choices to be sick.

I know that I am really grateful that I have that idea of conscious choice and I am grateful that I am involved with a very familiar community that will sometimes directly call me on my crap because I can get off track. I can think about how I’m oppressed by all kinds of things. However, I’m involved with a Miracles community and when they catch me doing that, they’ll call me on it. They’ll tell me, “Tony, come on. You know better than that. You know what’s really up. You know somehow you’re choosing this. You know you’re not a victim.” That is a profound blessing in my own life.

Rev. Larry: I knew exactly how I manifested my next cancer. It turned out that it was not metastasized prostate cancer. It turned out to be lymphoma and the lymphoma had surrounded itself around my spine and paralysis was just days away. The doctor said “Remember that if anything happens in the night …” Well, this was after the biopsy. I jumped ahead of my story here. Let me get back.

I went through two more biopsies. They tried one biopsy in the back and that’s quite an experience again. For any of you who have had biopsies and hated it, let’s get together. Let’s talk about the good times. The good old days. They inserted the needle in my spine and they don’t do it gently. They just go “Ok. Take a breath.” and “vooooommm and the needle goes down! Supposedly they had given me an anesthetic beforehand. He kept saying, “Do you feel anything?” And I said “Yes.” And he said “Do you feel anything now?” “Yes.” “Do you feel anything now?” “Yes.” Then he said “Well, don’t worry. You won’t feel the needle.” Well … hello!

The first biopsy didn’t pan out. They couldn’t enough of the tissue so they said I’d have to come back a week later for another biopsy and I thought “Oh, dear God, I can’t go through that again!” I asked for guidance and the guidance was “Do it. Go ahead. Do it.” I did. Are any of you familiar with an old movie called Nosferatu? [1922 directed by F.W. Murnau] It’s the silent version, the German version, of Dracula. When I saw the doctor doing the biopsy I thought, “Oh, my God. It’s Nosferatu!” He looked like it. He looked like Nosferatu and I thought “I’m in trouble.” He proceeded, very somber, no sense of humor at all and I tried to make a little laughter but no sense of humor. He turned me over and he said “Now, alright. We’re going to do this.” He injected me and they waited a little while and then he put the needle in and it went “VOOOOOMMMMMM! Of course I let out a big scream and Tony and my other friend heard me in the hall and so did everyone else. That biopsy didn’t work either.

Finally they said they were going to have to perform microsurgery on me in order to get a tissue sample. The interesting thing was that while I felt the pain during the biopsies, what I had done by this time — long before this time — was I kept saying “I have to remember, ‘I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me.’ (W-pI.rVI.in.3.3-5) I’m a spirit and I’m this wonderful, beautiful creation of God and God made no mistakes. I am a spirit having a body experience, and if I’m going to have a body experience as a spirit, then I must feel what a body feels; otherwise I don’t know what the experience of having a body is like.” That consoled me through the whole thing. I am not a body. I am not a body. I remember as the needles would go in and I would scream I would remember, “I am not a body. It’s okay. I’m feeling what a body feels, but I am not a body. I am a spirit.”

I took the microsurgery and afterwards they said “It’s lymphoma.” My oncologist [cancer specialist] said “Well, at your age your chances are less than 50%.” I forget how old I was then. I’m going on 71 now and this was three years ago. He said because of my age my chances weren’t that great and I said “Oh, no, no. Doctor, that’s your belief. That’s not mine.” He knows of my spiritual background, so he understood what I meant by, “Doctor, that’s your belief. That’s not mine” He said, “I want you to take chemotherapy” and I said “Okay.” He said “I want you to take eight weeks of chemotherapy.” I said, “Alright, but I tell you what. I’ll do it, but I will be finished with it in four weeks.” He said “Okay. But you’ll do the eight weeks.” I said “I will be finished with it in four.”

Exactly on the fourth week the oncologist took a report, tested my blood and did a PET scan [Positron Emission Tomography, cancer cells consume a radioactive sugar molecule faster than surrounding tissue so small masses of cancer can be detected] and said “Well, Larry, I don’t know what you’ve done, but you don’t have the cancer any more.” And I said “I told you.” But all that time I kept working constantly because in the Course it says, “Your vigilance against this sickness is the way to heal it.” (T-6.V.C.9.6) My red flags went up all day long every day.

Rev. Tony: Being there and observing Larry go through these medical procedures — it was inspirational the way Larry dealt with these. After the surgery, while Larry was in the hospital, the surgeon came in to talk to him about his recovery. Larry argued with the surgeon about what he could do over the next couple weeks. Larry’s argument was that he had to get back to the Community Miracles Center and he had to be there for Sunday Service because there was so much work to do. The surgeon said “No, you’re not going anywhere for at least two weeks.” Larry said “No. I can’t wait two weeks.” The surgeon said “Alright, I’ll give you one week.”

So Larry was always bargaining, talking and arguing with the doctors about what he could do and what he couldn’t do and I think it was very important for Larry to get back to his Miracles community and to share his process. He was very open about everything that was going on with him and he didn’t only talk like he was a master of it all. He certainly talked about his fears and doubts as well, and I think there is something very healing about that for all of us. Being an A Course In Miracles student doesn’t mean we’re going to only stand up there and project how healed and holy we are and how we’re always able to make the right choice and how we’re never afraid. It’s about truly sharing who you are, what you’re doing and what’s going on with you and then just allowing the process to flow through you trusting it. There’s something about that sharing that is so valuable and healing. A Course In Miracles says, “It is impossible to remember God in secret and alone. For remembering Him means you are not alone, and are willing to remember it. ... The lonely journey fails because it has excluded what it would find.” (T-14.X.10.1,2,7)

The lonely journey fails. I was probably taking a lonely spiritual journey before I got involved with A Course In Miracles. I was off in my cave, but even if we look at some traditional spiritualities we see how this won’t work. Look at the story of Bodhisattva. Bodhisattva was off in his cave meditating and at some point he realized “You know, I could do this for the rest of my life. But true enlightenment isn’t going to happen for me if I just sit in this cave. I’ve got to get out of this cave. I’ve got to start interacting with other people.” Bodhisattva’s guidance told him, “You’ve got to bring Buddhism to China.” So he got out of the cave, crossed the dangerous mountains, started interacting with people and started teaching and being part of his new spiritual community the emerging Chinese Buddhist community.

That’s important for all of us. I think that when we do community building it’s like putting money in a spiritual bank account. It’s like we’re making deposits into this fund, this asset fund, and we will need that asset fund at some time. There’s times when we draw from the spiritual bank account and there are times when we make deposits into the spiritual bank account. It’s these community interactions and it’s our sharing our stories that are the deposits into that bank account. I know that at certain times when I have felt in need the fact that I have done my sharing for so many years means that my bank account has sufficient funds to carry me through the times when there appears to be a little lack in my day to day life.

Rev. Larry: I understood, through a lot of mental examination, why I manifested the illnesses in my body. You know, the Course teaches us that we manifest all of these things and it’s up to us to find out how and why and to make the corrections in our thinking with the Holy Spirit’s help. Well, as a teacher of the Course, of course I had to look at this. I thought, “Well, gee Larry! You’re teaching this stuff. Come on. Practice more diligently what you’re teaching.”

So I began examining why I had manifested this in my life and I knew exactly. It came to me instantly. I knew exactly why I was manifesting these cancers. I’d wanted something. For years I wanted something, and I remember saying these words that appeared so innocent. I would say things like, “Well, I suppose if I were dying you would do this. I suppose if I were sick you would consider me in this.” You know, and we do these things. We spit out these phrases that seem so innocent, but as I tell my students, you have to be very careful. What comes out here [Larry points to his mouth] goes in and registers here [Larry points to his head]. So, the mind says, “Okay. You want to be sick? You want to die? You want some kind of illness? Okay! You need a little pity now. You want to be sick so that you can get pity, so that you can get what you want.” I realized more and more that I was making a trade-off. I was willing to get sick so that I could make you sorry for me so that you would give me what I wanted. Then I thought, “The hell with that!” It isn’t worth it. You know what? Keep it! I don’t want it! If I have to get from you what I want and the trade-off is that I get sick, keep your gift. I don’t want it. It’s not a gift I want.

So I began going through my mind and understanding that I had to change my perception about things, which I did. Instantly. Okay. That’s it. Boom. Let’s get over that idea, Bedini. That’s it. The oncologist said, “Eight weeks” for the chemotherapy and I said “Four weeks.” Four weeks happened, and then he said “Well, would you consider taking the next four weeks anyway?” I said “Okay I’ll do it for you. I don’t need it, but if that would make you happy I’ll do it.” He laughed. He always laughed sort of this, “Hmmmm-ahmmm, hmmmm. Larry. That’s nice — you don’t know. You just don’t understand.” So at the end of the chemotherapy he said, “Now I want to do spinal chemo on you. I want to inject some chemotherapy into your spinal fluid.” I thought “Oh, God. Not another one of those things.” But all the while I kept saying “I am not a body. I am free. I am a spirit having a body experience, and that’s it.” I think I had about four spinal chemo treatments. By the way, you can find that article on the web. “A Spirit Having A Body Experience.” Read it!

At that point he said “I want you to take radiation therapy now. We’ve found that people who take radiation survive much longer.” So I said “You know doctor, survival is not a thing I’m interested in. I’m fine. But if you want me to take the radiation, if that’ll make you happy, I’ll do it.” Because I remembered the quote from the Course that says, “... if your brothers ask you for something ...

Rev. Tony: “… something ‘outrageous’ …” (T-12.III.4.1) I always remember that quote from when I was listening to a Course teacher some years ago. He told the story of an A Course In Miracles student that he knew who was a very shy man, who mird in a little rural community, got turned on to the Course, and who studied very diligently for many years. Eventually, he was gaining some courage and power. After years of studying A Course In Miracles and memorizing many of the important passages he decided that he would take a big trip. So he took a trip to Paris. It was his first time out of the country and he went to Paris where he had always wanted to go. He was enamored with it and he was sitting in a cafe in Paris and enjoying all of the beautiful Parisian women. He was just looking at them because he was a very shy man. All of a sudden this absolutely gorgeous, very sensual Parisian woman walked into the cafe and he was just staring at her. He was in awe of how gorgeous she was and then she started to walk over to him. He couldn’t believe this woman was walking over to him. She got right up to him and she said, “Oh Moissuer, I have seen you notice me ever since I am here. I feel your desire for me. I want you to come back to my room and I want you to make beautiful love to me.” The man was just shocked and the only thing he could remember was the line from A Course In Miracles which says, “... if your brothers ask you for something ‘outrageous,’ do it it does not matter.” (T-12.III.4.1)

Rev. Larry: My doctor asked me for something outrageous, but he didn’t ask me to go to bed with him. But I remembered that quote and the later one which says, “I have said that if a brother asks a foolish thing of you to do it. But be certain that this does not mean to do a foolish thing that would hurt either him or you, for what would hurt one will hurt the other.” (T-16.I.6.4-5) I felt that it was harmless for me to take the radiation because as I blessed the chemotherapy fluids that went into my body, I figured I could also bless the radiation. There was nothing harmful in it, contrary to the world’s belief. So I went in for the radiation and they wanted me to take about twenty treatments of radiation. At that point we were getting ready for our big “Bringing A Course In Miracles Into the New Millennium” conference in San Francisco [February 2000]. I was still teaching down in Castro Valley and still cooking the breakfasts. People kept telling me I was going to feel this and that. The doctor said I may feel: weak, nauseous, tired ... and I said, “You know what? Keep those beliefs to yourself. Thanks for sharing, but keep those beliefs to yourself.”

So I went in for the radiation and walked into this Hollywood extravaganza version of an x-ray room which was just so technologically incredible. There’s this ominous machine looking at you and so I thought “Well, here’s an experience. I’m a spirit having a body experience.” So I said to the technician “Okay. Come on. Zap me with that energy.” And they looked at me like, “This guy’s nuts!” Then I got on the thing and they put the machine under you and they go “Zap!” and I got up and she said, “Now take it easy. Are you going to be alright?” I got up and said “I’m fine. Thanks. See you tomorrow.” I walked out and this went on and on for over a month. We were doing our conference during that time and I’d go there and participate. I spoke at the conference and ran the huge bookstore. By the way, by that time I had lost all my hair. Tony was kind enough to buy me a wig. When I finally went back for my last treatment of radiation — and every time I went in I’d say the same thing, “Okay. Come on. Zap me with that energy” — so when the radiation treatment was finished they gave me a lovely party and they were having a wonderful time and I’d made them happy.

Rev. Tony: The Course says, “To heal is to make happy. I have told you to think how many opportunities you have had to gladden yourself, and how many you have refused. This is the same as telling you that you have refused to heal yourself.” (T-5.in.1.1-3) The healing the Miracles community provides is participation with it make us happy! I’ve always loved this quote because it doesn’t talk about a profound transcendence, or a spiritual, blissful unearthly joy. It just says, “gladden yourself.” It says, “mir in the world” to me and see all the many opportunities you have just to make a simple choice to be happy – like hopefully that man made in Paris. Just make the happiness choice, take the opportunities.

Some people really have a different way of looking at spirituality, but for me, it has always been about engaging in the joy of life. It’s not about a retreat from anything for me. It’s about an engagement. It’s about an advance.

Rev. Larry: To cut now to the end of the story, the lymphoma, of course, is gone. It’s been almost three years now and I go in for tests and the doctor says, “There’s nothing there” and so on and so forth. One day a friend of mine said, “Oh, Larry. How’s the prostate?” I thought, “Oh, my God. I forgot about that.” I really did. I forgot all about it. I thought, “Well let me get working on it.” So it was time. Six months had gone by so I started working on it, and it was another six months before I had the examination and I did the same healing things I did before.

What was going on in my mind about my prostate? I remember thinking back on so many years of saying “Well, people talk so much about sex all the time” and I remember saying, again this innocent little remark, “Oh well. I’ve had so much sex in my life, if I never had any more sex what difference would it make?” I remembered that and I then thought “But I didn’t mean it! You got it wrong!” Well, He’s not perfect and He got it wrong. So I started working on it. I went in for the test and there’s a Japanese doctor who gives me the ultrasound sound test. [This is a sonic mapping of the prostate.] A very charming man and I said “Now look, doctor. You will not find anything.” And he said “Well, you know, I’m only the doctor.” All in his broken English. I said “Well, I’m telling you you’re not going to find anything.” At the end of the test he said, “I don’t know. You told me not to find anything. I do not find anything.” I said “I told you.” So my urologist, Dr. Carroll came in and said “Larry, I don’t know what you’re doing, but there’s nothing there. But I want to see you in a year.”

A year goes by. I just had another ultrasound, and I said the same thing to the Japanese ultrasound, Doctor, “Now last year you were wonderful. You didn’t find anything. Now make sure you don’t find anything this time.” He came back and said there was nothing. Saw my urologist and he said “Larry, you don’t have prostate cancer any more.” I said “I know. I know.”

Was I frightened in between? Did I get insecure in between? Did I have fears in between? Constantly! But you know, it says “... consistent vigilance against it.” (T-6.V.C.4.1) I always think of the ego as a Pac Man. Remember the Pac Man video game gobbling you up? The Holy Spirit is the another Pac Man doing this. [Larry makes open and closing mouth gestures with his hands.] And that’s my little Pac Man system. I know that I have Holy Spirit as my Pac Man against the ego’s Pac Man. That’s it. That’s my story, “The Healing Power Of The Miracles Community.”

Rev. Tony: The Course says “Thus is your healing everything the world requires, that it may be healed. It needs one lesson that has perfectly been learned. And then, when you forget it, will the world remind you gently of what you have taught.” (T-27.V.7.1-3) The main reason we should be sharing our stories of healing and overcoming is because that is the way we put that healing asset into the spiritual bank account. When we share our healing then later on when we need healing, the world will just give it right back. Over and over again, after more than twenty years of being involved with the A Course In Miracles community I have found this to be true. In those moments when I am in need there are always Course people around me to give it back to me, to hold the thought about who and what I really am. And I do need it and I hope you get that from Larry’s and my presentation. There are moments when we are in need and we count on the Miracles community being there to remind us.

The Course says “Forget not once this journey is begun the end is certain. Doubt along the way will come and go and go to come again. Yet is the ending sure.” (C-ep.1.1-3) As clear as this quote is, I don’t think Course students read it. You know, doubt comes and goes and goes and comes and comes and goes and goes and comes and comes and goes! Frequently when I get together with Course students everybody seems so certain. Everybody’s just so — they’re just so beautiful in their understanding of the Course and their acceptance of it in their mirs and I wonder, “Where are those moments of doubt?” Because I certainly have them and maybe because I’m so sure that I'm going to be healed by my Miracles community, by the Holy Spirit, I don’t mind sharing them. That’s part of the process and that’s why I want to stay involved with the Course community. That’s why Larry and I were so happy to be asked to be here and to present because it’s part of that process. I trust that because we share our healing stories then we will get that healing back at those moments when we need it.

Rev. Larry: Do I have doubts? Do I have fears? Yes. Plenty of them. But my wonderful red flag system takes care of me and I love it. That was my manifestation and I love it and I have Holy Spirit as my guide.

Rev. Tony: The Course says “Your brothers are everywhere. You do not have to seek far for salvation.” (T-9.VII.1.4 ) We are that Miracles community and the brothers and sisters that we can share with are everywhere. Certainly today, here this weekend, we’re all surrounded by wonderful loving brothers and sisters. The Community Miracles Center, the organization that Larry and I run, is there for you to share with any time as well. Please interact with us, read Miracles Monthly or come to our website. Email us and if you’re ever out in San Francisco, please visit. Consider coming sometime when we do weekend retreats. We’ve got one coming up in May. It would be great to see you there.

Rev. Larry: Take us out to dinner.

Rev. Tony: Yes, Take us out to dinner. That’d be nice.

Rev. Larry: We have lovely restaurants in San Francisco.

Rev. Tony: We’re having Miracle Experience Number 20 in May. We’d love to see you there.

Rev. Larry: There’s a quote in the Course that says “Those who are healed become the instruments of healing.” (W-pI.137.11.) I know that we are the instruments of healing, but first we have to give up something. We have to give up our victim status. We are not victims. There isn’t one of you in this room who is a victim, so give it up. We have a choice. We can wear the little tin badges of victimhood. We can polish them every once in a while and say “Look how much of a victim I am. Look at the terrible things that have happened to me.” Or, we can go to Holy Spirit for guidance. Holy Spirit will remind us that we are the most beautiful, the most perfect creations of God. We are incredibly wonderful and we are incredibly beautiful.

Rev. Tony: And well-dressed, don’t you think? [Tony steps out from the podium to show off his outfit.] I think we are!

Rev. Larry: No victims! That’s it.

Rev. Tony: Thank you for coming at 8:30 in the morning to hear us. We’re really, very grateful. Thank you very much.

[Tony and Larry get a wonderful, enthusiastic standing ovation.] Y


© 2014, Rev. Larry Bedini & Rev. Tony Ponticello, San Francisco, CA – All rights reserved.

 

Rev. Larry Bedini & Rev. Tony Ponticello
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415)621-2556
miracles@earthlink.net
www.miracles-course.org


This article appeared in the April 2003 (Vol. 17 No. 2) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.