Forward to the New Edition by Donna Issac:
I was introduced to A Course in Miracles in 1999. After quickly
flipping through it, I was not interested–at all. It had that “God”
word in it. A lot. My business partner (we own a gym) had started
practicing the Course and had created a study group at the gym
which met for an hour each Sunday morning. After hearing her
talk about the Course and then watching her practice it, I became
intrigued. I was on my own path of practicing Buddhism, but still
experiencing much sadness and depression. I was also about to sell
my part of the gym and go to school in Boulder, Colorado to study
Structural Integration, and I was full of fear about the changes
beginning to take place in my life. I did go to the group and I did
begin to study A Course in Miracles but I did not complete the
lessons until 2003 and then I did them again in 2006. At that point
I believed that I had completed my studies with the Course and it
was time to “get on with my life”–which brings me to 2011 and
After five years of “getting on with my life” MY way, I found that I
and my life was a complete mess. I had become estranged from my
entire family including a niece who was much like a daughter to me.
My partner (we had met in the ACIM study group in 1999) with
whom I believed I shared a holy relationship with was asking–no,
demanding–that I move out of our home. Her entire family was
supporting and encouraging her 100%. I never felt so alone and
scared. I decided to dedicate one entire year with no distractions
to A Course in Miracles–doing the lessons exactly as they are
required. It was literally the only thing I had any faith in at all. Soon
after I started this journey my partner asked that we stay together
and both of us complete the Course as part of our journey as a
couple in a holy relationship. I still believed that God had brought
us together and we could turn it from special to holy with the help
of the Holy Spirit.
I first heard of Lisa Natoli when my partner mentioned a book that
she liked very much. She said that it really spoke to her in a way that
other ACIM related books did not. She talked about it constantly
and loved how down to earth and “real” it was. I asked her what the
title was and she said, “Gorgeous for God.” My first thought was,
“That’s a ridiculous title! It sounds like it’s probably more about
religion than the Course.” She started to read some of the passages
from the book to me and I liked what I heard. I especially liked the
parts where Lisa talks about drinking alcohol and smoking while
studying the Course (sounds familiar) and throwing the Course
away multiple times in frustration. I could definitely get on board
with that. At that time in my life, I much preferred the “My life is
going to shit” stories than the “Everything is awesome” version that
some spiritual books offer.
Right away I started to google Gorgeous for God and Lisa Natoli. I
found out that she offered a 40-day Online Program. I signed us
up! I thought it would make things so much easier as I was really
struggling with the Course. Lisa made it clear it was going to
require a commitment and that she was not going to do the work
for us–we would have to do it. She said she only worked with
people who said “Yes” to doing the work and being willing to
change because she found through years of working with people
that only the people who said “Yes” got results. We said Yes.
In the first email message, she said, “I’m not a counselor or a
therapist or a self-help teacher. We are not going to talk about your
problems and we are not going to fix your problems. I am going to
help you see you have no problems. The #1 goal I have in mind for
anyone who signs up for this program is to start relying on their
own inner Guide for answers. I am a temporary guide (40-days)
to show you how to start trusting in your own Guide who knows
you inside & out and who is with you always. Your Guide knows
everything about you: the greater Plan, the Big Picture and your
part in it.
So I teach God-dependency, not Lisa-dependency, not
anything-outside-of-you dependency. You’ll start to learn to trust
God and your own guidance. Most people are not used to making
time to listen to that still small Voice encouraging Voice within
them. As you start to live in this way, you will know joy and peace.”
My spirit wanted these promises to be true more than anything, but
my ego was pissed, but I went forward with it anyways.
For 40 days, Lisa guided me with kindness and love through the
secrets and darkness I harbored inside that had kept me paralyzed
for years. Each step was difficult and challenging but transforming.
Each step was a miracle.
After completing the 40-day Program, I found out she was offering
a 5-Day Teachers of God retreat in Maine. I signed us up! I was
excited because the retreat would coincide with my completing the
365 lessons in the Course. Everything was going well. I was excited
thinking of the peaceful, relaxing week long holiday in Maine at
a beautiful location right on the ocean–until I checked my email
at a layover in an airport in Washington, DC. Lisa had emailed
the group to let us all know about one final detail of the trip. We
would all be sharing a bathroom and shower! That was all my ego
needed. In my mind I imagined 20 people lined up in the hallway
with a towel and a toothbrush waiting to get into one toilet and one
shower. I felt the heat rising and a roar in my head–my mind was
off and running. To add insult to injury, at the end of the message
Lisa wrote, “I guess it will be like summer camp all over again,
LOL.” I was definitely not LOL! My first thought was, “OH HELL
NO! I’m going home. I will turn right around in Portland, Maine
and get on the next flight to Memphis, Tennessee.”
I can’t remember exactly what I wrote to Lisa, but I tried to appear
calm. It was something along the lines of: Are there hotels nearby?
Lisa answered quickly–yes, some lovely hotels right on the ocean.
She even gave me a list! That response didn’t go over well with me
at all. I thought she would catch on to my anger and annoyance.
So, I tried again. I wrote, “I’m not coming. I’m turning around and
heading back home.” Lisa ALWAYS responds quickly to emails.
I waited and checked my email to see how she would respond to
that. Nothing. I checked again and again and again. No response. I
boarded my flight to Maine. In Portland I checked my email again
at baggage claim. Nothing. I wanted her to talk me out of it–at
least try and get me to stay. Nothing. Silence. I was stunned. Where
was the cheerleader coach I had come to know? To add insult to
injury, my partner had decided to stay. I was on my own and I was
pissed! I watched as my partner drove off in the rental car. For the
first time in the whole process of this journey I didn’t know what
to do. The best I could come up with is do nothing. I asked for
guidance. I decided to sit on my luggage outside the airport until
something happened–I didn’t know what, but I decided to sit for
the whole week if I had to. The weirdest thing happened. I became
peaceful. The minute I decided to stop creating fear and just wait
for guidance (no matter how long it took) things began to happen
rapidly. After about an hour, my partner drove right up to me
outside baggage claim as I sat on my luggage waiting. I got up, put
my things in the car and away we drove–as if we had planned it
this way all along. I had changed my mind. I had come to a state of
readiness to accept a miracle.
This would not have happened without Lisa’s guidance. From the
beginning of the 40-day Program that I started with her she led me
to trust my own inner Guide. She would respond to everything I
threw at her with patience, love, kindness and compassion. I never
felt judged. But when it was time for me to find the answer within
myself, she stepped back and let that happen. No matter what I
had decided to do that day, whether I had gone back home or not,
I know that Lisa would have been there cheering me on–saying,
“WOOOHOOO!! Good for you Donna! I LOVE YOU!”
Working with Lisa, reading everything she’s written and being with
her in person has been transformative because she simply stays true
to her one calling and one purpose–to help every person she meets
to know “You are love, you are perfect and all you need is within
you, already perfect.”
Her message is always the same–there’s no journey, there’s only an
Preface to the New Edition
A lot has changed since I published this book in 2007. I got divorced. I moved back to my home state of New Hampshire. I started eating meat again after being a strict (and very vocal!) vegetarian for 10 years. I was healed of my terrifying fear of money. I fell in love after swearing I’d never get into another relationship ever again. I paid off all my debt. This is all surface stuff. The most important change in the past 5 years is that I stopped seeking, stopped resisting and began to allow things to be exactly as they are without trying to change anything. It was like my eyes opened to what was always there, but I had been blind to it. Suddenly I saw how perfect life is, in all its ups and downs. Things change, but I remain forever the same: eternal and changeless. There is constancy in the way I see life now. I see God in everyone and everything, even in chaos. After years of fluctuation between light and darkness, there came a moment when there was only light and I knew I was changed forever and there was no going back.
This book is the story of my own spiritual awakening. It is very ordinary. Things happened slowly for me – there were no bells or whistles. No going into the light. I didn’t have a near-death experience. Instead, one by one, things that were no longer serving me dissolved and fell away – alcoholism, cigarette-smoking, fear, conflict, doubt. I found that as time went on, the ego-identity that I had built up over the years started to crumble, slowly, very slowly (at times painfully-slow!) and I found myself having almost no interest in the things I used be interested in.
This was a disorienting time for me – the old has fallen away and the new has not yet arrived – and I got through it because of the teachers in my life who told me to trust the empty space, that what I was experiencing – my life falling apart – was NORMAL.
So I share my story because of its simplicity and because it didn’t progress in a straight line. It didn’t happen all at once. It was messy and not at all graceful like some of the enlightenment stories I’ve heard. My moments of clarity didn’t stick. The ego continued to lurk around. I thought I must be the slowest learner on the planet. I’m glad I kept going. I’m thankful for all teachers in my life who have shared their own stories which encouraged me to keep trusting when I thought I was failing horribly.
I have heard thousands of stories of people awakening and no two stories are alike. There is no formula. There is no one right path. The end result is that you remember who you are. Some awakenings are dramatic and some happen so slowly that the person doesn’t realize it until one day they realize they are completely changed. Some people have spiritual awakening who weren’t even looking for one and who don’t believe in God, while others struggle and struggle for years on a spiritual path trying to reach enlightenment, reading every book and taking every workshop and nothing seems to happen. For other people, it’s one step forward, and then two steps back – an experience of light, followed by darkness and disorientation and confusion.
What does it mean to “awaken from the dream”? In my own experience, it is a shift in perception from fear to love. The fear-based self-constructed “I” (that worries, plans, plots, controls, lives in the past, lives in the future) dissolves and becomes the “I” that is Christ. This is the “I” that is used in the greeting “Namaste”: a salutation with hands pressed together as you greet another and bow slightly and means: I bow to you. That “I” is the Divine in me, honoring and bowing to the Divine in you. The gesture represents that there is a Divine spark in each of us that is located at the heart chakra, and it is an acknowledgment of the soul in one to the soul in another: I bow to you. I honor you. I see you.
So to be “awake” means to live from the perspective of Spirit, or God or Christ or whatever name you want to call your inner true self. It’s like shifting gears, and the false self dissolves. So when you say “I”, it’s the Divine speaking, and there is an understanding/acknowledgement that everything is part of you, one with you, Divine like you. There is no separation. You see the world and yourself entirely differently from before. People make a much bigger deal of it than it actually is, as if it’s some kind of nirvana and the whole world disappears. This is true in a sense, your whole world WILL disappear, but not in the way you might think. You discover who you really are. The best definition I know of enlightenment is from A Course in Miracles: “Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all. Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. The light is in them now.”
For me, enlightenment was to stop seeking ways to improve myself. It was to recognize that my old way of being was not working. I needed to see myself differently, and not try to come up with a new improved identity. For most of my life (after the age of 6 or 7), everything I did was to avoid pain and please other people. I was caught up in striving, achieving, seeking – I was very goal oriented – and I rarely let myself just “be.” I did not love myself, so I came up with tactics to try to get other people to love me. My life was driven almost entirely by fear. I was never good enough in my own mind, and one day, I realized: this is just frigging crazy! Am I going to keep living my life this way? That’s enlightenment: the moment you snap to your senses and realize you’ve been sleeping. You’ve been working a job you hate or you’ve been staying in a relationship you know isn’t working or you haven’t been expressing what is true for you. You’ve been sludging along, going nowhere, and suddenly you realize it. That’s enlightenment to me: a Whoa! Moment. On that day, you start making new choices, not because you’re trying to get anywhere but because you want to live life authentically, in a way that brings you joy. Enlightenment showed me that it was time to start loving myself and loving my life because no one else was going to do it for me.
I think a lot of the difficulty people have with awakening is because of all the misconceptions of what they think it is, what it’s supposed to look like. There is an idea that once you wake up, your life will be one big bliss party with no problems and everyone’s happy, and that’s the biggest lie that will keep you seeking the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. As everyone finds out, it’s not there. It’s an illusion.
I realized: This is it. This is my life. This is what it looks like. This is it. That was a turn-around day for me – to see that wherever I am, wherever my feet are is where the pot of gold is. Not “out there” and not “later” but right here in this spot.
I realize it is just plain not worth it to carry judgments, guilt and grievances around anymore. It happened to me when I was running a Bed & Breakfast in Wisconsin and mowing the lawn on a huge John Greene tractor, trying to cut the grass but mostly to get rid of the yellow dandelions. It took me a couple of hours, but I did it. I was proud of myself and very surprised to look out the window a few hours later to see the entire lawn covered in, you guessed it, dandelions!!!!
I went outside to get a closer look and that’s when I discovered that a dandelion is not a flower, it’s a root, a strong big root with many little buds. So when you chop off one of the yellow flowers, there are five more buds just waiting to sprout. The only way to get rid of a dandelion once and for all is to dig out the root. I wasn’t able to do the entire lawn, but I did do the area right in front of the house near front walkway and gardens. It took several days, but I did it – and I realized this is a great analogy for digging conflict out of our lives. It takes time and effort, but it’s definitely do-able.
Conflict is the gigantic root of all our problems. This is the reason when you “fix” one problem, there are five more problems by afternoon or the next day. You didn’t get the root out. It was evident to me that I still loved defending myself, still liked being the occasional victim, still enjoyed that I didn’t have to take full responsibility for my life, and that I got to wait and procrastinate instead of fully living life on purpose for God.
After I saw this, I made a decision: “I am done with conflict. I am going to be happy, no matter what” and within a very short time, my whole life fell apart. My marriage fell apart. My car died. My hearing aids broke. My computer broke, and both my cats – Sam and Enzo – went missing, never to return. At the time, I felt: OH MY GOD. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I cried for months in frustration. I mistakenly thought this journey was supposed to be smooth sailing once you dedicated your life to God, and boy was I wrong.
And then one day, in spring 2010, it struck me that I could, despite it all, be happy. I could “grow up” (stop being such a cry baby) and see all the possibilities for something new to occur. I could stop blaming other people for my lack of motivation. I could start participating and interacting in new ways. I could shine a light in the place I was standing in, instead of striving to find the light. Nothing external changed, but it was instant of recognition that showed me there is no good or bad, no right or wrong. I saw the complete unreality of this world. That everything is simply my observation and perception of it. When I don’t resist, that which I am looking at disappears. Judgment becomes meaningless when you know that you are looking at your own thought projections.
You have the power to choose how you feel moment by moment. You can begin to see how magnificent your life is, how beautiful, and simple and ordinary and lovely and how much there is to be grateful for.
You don’t need to struggle. You don’t have to listen to the doubting voice inside you anymore. There is an encouraging voice you will recognize if you are still and listen. Let that inner voice be your guide.
Gorgeous for God can provide the motivation, inspiration and support to help you recognize the light that you are and awaken from the dream, if that’s what you want.
It’s always good to find a teacher who can be a temporary guide until you recognize your real Teacher, the one that lives inside of you. No one knows you better than you. No one can do the work for you. No one can walk the path for you. YOU HAVE TO WANT IT, and allow your footsteps to take you where you are meant to go.
Nothing can stop you, except your own self-imposed imagined fear.
You have everything you need to find what you are looking for, but it cannot be seen while there is a veil of fear covering your eyes. The veil has to be lifted and that’s what this book is about – simple practical tools to see things differently.