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DONALD JAMES GIACOBBE
Donald James Giacobbe recorded his life story in his autobiography, Memory Walk in the Light. He was employed for sixteen years as a case manager serving developmentally disabled clients. The professional nature of his work limited his ability to express his spiritual motivations overtly, so out of necessity he served as an “undercover agent” for God.
A more direct approach to spirituality was facilitated by living with Zen Buddhist seekers and then being part of a yoga community. Later he was the director of the Aquarian Age Yoga Center in Virginia Beach, VA. He served as an instructor of meditation and yoga, teaching college courses and appearing on television. He specialized in providing yoga teacher training certification courses and leading meditation workshops and retreats. Don has attempted in his teaching of meditation to strip away the rituals of Zen Buddhism and yoga practices and transpose only the bare essence into a Christian context. Techniques of meditation inspired by Eastern sources enhance the use of traditional Christian practices, such as the “Jesus Prayer,” and lead to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that occurs in Christian contemplation. These techniques can be found in Don’s book Christian Meditation Inspired by Yoga and “A Course in Miracles”: Opening to Divine Love in Contemplation.
Don encourages the doing of God’s Will, being receptive to the Holy Spirit, and finding Christ within the temple of one’s own heart. While respecting all spiritual expressions, he became a monk by making his vow directly to God, without the stamp of approval from any religious organization. For many years Don used the term “Christian yoga” to describe his spiritual path, which combined following Christ with yoga disciplines. But in recent years he has adopted the term “Miracle Yoga” to describe the specific path of Christian yoga he has chosen. This form of spirituality is a synthesis of yoga and the philosophy of “A Course in Miracles,” encouraging the seeker to see with “forgiving eyes” and to perceive Christ in everyone. Don’s goal is to maintain a balance between opening to divine love inwardly and allowing that love to be extended outwardly to others.
In his autobiography Memory Walk in the Light, Don explains how he progressed through each of the three stages of openness to Christian Yoga that are identified below. He recognized that other seekers may find one or more of these stages to be helpful. To provide encouragement to seekers at each of these three stages, he has been instrumental in establishing three companion websites:
1. http://www.christianmeditation.org for openness to the meditation aspect of Christian Yoga
2. http://www.christianyoga.org for openness to a balanced form of Christian Yoga
3. http://www.miracleyoga.org for openness to Christian Yoga and A Course in Miracles
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THREE COMPANION WEBSITES
This Christian Meditation website is designed to encourage you to consider including using meditation and other options inspired by yoga in your path of following Christ. You are not being asked to join any religious group or accept any specific dogma. This website is only intended to offer you options for enhancing your own individual path. These options can be divided into three general categories, which correspond to three levels of openness to Christian Yoga. These three levels of interest are identified below:
1. OPENNESS TO SOME CHRISTIAN YOGA PRACTICES:
Many Christian seekers are interested in practicing hatha yoga, which includes body postures and breathing practices. Hatha yoga is practiced in order to keep the body healthy and, more importantly, to make the body a better vehicle for spiritual growth. This mild approach to Christian Yoga may include some Eastern ideas and disciplines, such as meditation. Certainly hatha yoga is strongly recommended for Christian seekers as part of an overall plan for spiritual growth.
To be effective meditation requires consistency of practice at regular times every day because the results are cumulative. Of course, the website you are viewing now is designed to help you to learn how to practice the various different techniques of Christian meditation. This website is a companion website of the two additional websites identified below.
2. OPENNESS TO A BALANCED FORM OF CHRISTIAN YOGA
In addition to learning about meditation, what if you are a Christian seeker who is interested in other options of blending of the East and West? If you are one of these Christian seekers, you are expected to include your own spiritual philosophy that draws upon your choices of spiritual ideas from both the East and West. You may want to explore the Christian Yoga website shown below. This website presents the option of adopting a comprehensive framework for encountering Christ through the aid of yoga. This framework includes Christian Bhakti Yoga (love and devotion), Christian Karma Yoga (service), Christian Raja Yoga (meditation), Christian Jnana Yoga (spiritual discernment and understanding), and Christian Relationship Yoga (forgiveness and relationships). The combination of these forms of yoga helps you to work on your connection to Christ in all the areas of my life on a daily basis. Even if you are not interested in the combination of all of these five aspects of Christian Yoga, hopefully you may find some of them beneficial for your spiritual growth. If you want to know more about how to practice the various different techniques of Christian Yoga, you can visit the Christian Yoga website. This website is a companion website of the website you are reading now. To go to the Christian Meditation website, you can click on the link below:
3. OPENNESS TO CHRISTIAN YOGA AND TO “A COURSE IN MIRACLES”
Only a limited number of Christians will be open to Christian Yoga and only a much smaller number of Christians will be open to combining Christian Yoga with the philosophy of A Course in Miracles. This website mentions some of the principles of A Course in Miracles because its spiritual principles are basically Christian, but also include many Eastern ideas. For example, it teaches that you are already united to God now. Traditional Christianity teaches that your sins have separated you from God and you need to reconcile yourself with God or face the ultimate consequence of spending eternity in hell. The Course maintains there is no hell. The Course teaches that sins are merely mistakes that can be corrected and that nothing can ever separate you from the eternal love of God. You have never lost your oneness with God, but you have lost your awareness of Him. Your challenge in spiritual growth is to awaken to your true nature of love in God. Everyone will eventually wake up in Heaven, but some will take longer than others. You can choose to accept the Course to a lesser or greater degree in your practice of Christian Yoga. In addition to some information on this website, you can learn more about how to incorporate the Course into your spiritual growth by exploring a companion website that provides information on Miracle Yoga. To go to the Miracle Yoga website, you can click on the link below:
MEMORY WALK IN THE LIGHT
When I was deciding on the title of this autobiography, I gave strong consideration to Autobiography of a Christian Yogi because of the book, Autobiography of a Yogi. When I read this life story of the Hindu guru, Yogananda, I appreciated learning about seekers living lives devoted to awakening to God and was inspired by examples of the divine manifested in this world. I was drawn to Eastern philosophy, which encourages inner spiritual seeking, yet I was also firmly rooted in my Western culture with its focus on maintaining outer loving relationships. I was centered in Christ, Who I did not feel was limited to the West. Rather, I felt that Jesus, having fully manifested His Christ nature, had embodied the best of the East through His own enlightenment in His resurrection and the best of the West in His emphasis on forgiveness and loving relationships. However, at that time there was a lack of available literature bridging the gap between the East and West. In this autobiography I have included the information that I would like to have had forty years ago when I was first consciously embarking on my spiritual path with one foot extending to the East and the other foot solidly planted in the West.
Because I have an interest and background in art, visual imagery has played a prominent role in my life. Thus the graphics in this autobiography will help you to visually see my life through my eyes. Interspersed throughout the 678 text pages are 120 graphics pages for an overall total of 798 pages. There are 131 black and white graphics in the form of photographs, paintings, drawings, and diagrams. The color image on the front cover symbolizes my spiritual destiny in the Light, just as it is the spiritual destination of all of God’s children. The color images on the back cover collectively represent the “marriage of the East and West,” which has been an ongoing theme of my life as a Christian seeker open to Eastern methods of spiritual growth.
In writing this book the key question for me has been, “What would be most helpful for you, the reader, in terms of inspiring you to pursue spiritual growth?” I could have taken the direction of some inspirational life stories to create a one-sided picture of a spiritually guided life and to minimize personal shortcomings and dark shadows. But I have taken the opposite direction by presenting an unvarnished version of my spiritual search, which includes unusual and uplifting spiritual experiences right alongside the numerous embarrassing warts of my life.
There are many paths that can be taken. However, I can only present for your consideration the means that I myself have used for spiritual growth. I am grateful for my experience of the Roman Catholic faith that first nourished me in my childhood and then later sustained me in my early adult life. From that starting foundation, I will share with you my spiritual evolution, which has resulted in my current blending of the East and West with Christ remaining in the center of my life. But there was a ten-year period starting at age fourteen when I left behind my focus on Christ. That time period began with sowing the wild oats of youth and ended with a serious exploration of Zen Buddhism, which ironically brought me back to Christ. In my former practice of Zen meditation my goal was the elusive spiritual “gold medal” of enlightenment. I thought that one transcendent peak experience would answer every question of life. But what do Olympic athletes discover after their one-time experience of finally winning the gold medal? They usually discover that the real challenge in everyone’s life is to find peace of mind and thus fulfillment in each moment of everyday life, where no medals are awarded or needed.
How can this peace of mind be obtained? Peace of mind is acquired through a refinement of one’s own mind through a combination of human effort and divine grace. First must come the realization that one’s current thought system is egocentric and inadequate to bring peace to the mind. This awareness leads to the decision to implement spiritual practices and to find a new and better thought system that represents a reversal of the ego-driven thinking of this world. In my own search I have been attracted to a combination of Christian and yoga spiritual practices, including daily meditation, body postures, and breathing practices, which could be called Christian yoga. Such tangible spiritual practices are necessary to calm and purify the mind as a preparation for the direct experience of the divine beyond the conceptual thinking of the mind. On the other hand, within the realm of concepts I still felt the necessity to find a thought system that could be the philosophical foundation for my practice of Christian yoga and could guide my mind in the activities of daily living.
Along the way in my growth there wasn’t a clear, ready-made East/West thought system that I could simply adopt and use as a basis for my practice of Christian yoga. Consequently I had to formulate my own “buffet style” philosophy by picking up ideas here and there from Eastern and Western sources. The development of my philosophical thought system involved studying a variety of different Christian and Eastern philosophies and also reading books by writers attempting to synthesize different philosophies. For example, I familiarized myself with the writings of Aldous Huxley and Huston Smith on the “perennial philosophy,” which seeks to identify the universal principles of truth underlying all religions. In addition, I relied on information from Edgar Cayce, who was both a psychic and a Christian open to Eastern influences. Then after this study I pieced together my own Christian/Eastern philosophy to form a basis for seeking the divine and living in the world of form.
Although I was very happy with my patchwork East/West philosophy, I encountered several friends who had adopted the thought system of A Course in Miracles. For many years I was exposed to this new thought system and resisted any involvement with it. However, as events turned out I have not only accepted A Course in Miracles, but now feel guided to share this spiritual teaching with others. The subtitle of this autobiography is “My Christian Yoga Life as A Course in Miracles,” and this has a dual meaning. One meaning is that my life itself has been a course in miracles, revealing God’s immanent presence in the world and His transcendence beyond the world. The other meaning is that this autobiography is presented here as a way for you to learn about the spiritual principles of A Course in Miracles in the context of my attempts to manifest these principles in the course of my everyday living.
What is A Course in Miracles? It is a course in mind training set forth in three books for personal study and application, now usually combined into one volume. The Text presents the philosophical thought system that is the basis for this course of study. The Workbook for Students is a one-year course of daily practices to provide practical application of the thought system. The Manual for Teachers is for those who have learned the Course principles and would like to share their learning with others. The Course is not a religion and not associated with a church, but many Course students do come together for local study groups.
The Course integrates the ideas of Eastern philosophy into a Western context that can be applied by Christians of any denomination or even by followers of Christ who are not affiliated with any church. However, in addition to being inclusive of Eastern philosophy, the Course also offers a profound understanding of psychology from a spiritual perspective. This unique synthesis of Eastern and Western philosophy with psychology has attracted many spiritual seekers and from its inception in the seventies has had an amazing growth with no initial advertising.
Whatever personal growth benefit you gain from this autobiography will be due to your degree of openness. It takes a certain degree of openness for a Westerner and/or follower of Christ to consider the true inner value of yoga beyond the obvious physical health benefits. An even greater degree of openness is necessary to be willing to examine carefully the principles of A Course in Miracles. These principles can be very challenging for anyone accustomed to traditional Christian thinking. For many seekers the Course is presented in such an intellectual manner that it is hard to understand and seems difficult to apply to daily life. I hope that describing the Course as it relates to my life experiences will demonstrate the practical application of the Course principles.
Just as the Course was gradually introduced into my life, its principles are slowly brought into this autobiography with greater emphasis toward the end. If you have no previous experience studying the Course, this life story can be a good introduction. If you have some familiarity with the Course, yet have been confused by it, this autobiography may provide some clarity. If you already consider yourself to be a Course student, this life story can reinforce your current understanding and can provide insights into how to apply Course principles. If you are a Course student who considers the Course all by itself to be your entire spiritual path, you will find examples of forgiveness and relationships that may inspire you in your own spiritual practice of forgiveness. I respect those purely Course students who have dedicated their lives to mostly or exclusively focusing on forgiveness. However, I have spent my life giving equal weight to making inner contact with spirit and allowing that inner connection to be expressed outwardly, for example through loving relationships, because I want to embody and teach a balance of the East and West. The cornerstone of the Course is forgiveness, and the central message of yoga is opening to the divine presence. As an instructor of Christian yoga based on Course principles, I feel it is my mission to teach and be an example of both practicing forgiveness and opening to the experience of spirit.
The final goal of all spiritual seeking is to transcend the world of form and wake up in the heavenly Arms of God. Nevertheless, living a useful and meaningful life along the way is equally important—not only as a preparation for ultimate transcendence, but also as a manifestation of the divine presence in the here and now. The goal of Christian yoga is to simply live in Christ on a daily basis. What Christian yoga has to offer is an emphasis on finding our divine life in Christ within, with the aid of specific yoga disciplines, and then expressing our divine life outwardly. Christian yoga can lead to becoming what might be called a “spirit vessel”—a seeker who has an intimate experiential contact with the divine within and allows that divine spirit to flow outwardly into the lives of others.
The term Christian yoga can be applied to the practice of any seekers who combine following Christ with yoga disciplines. However, in recent years I have used the term Miracle Yoga to describe the particular path of Christian yoga I have chosen, which combines Christ, yoga, and the Course. Hopefully this autobiography will foster a deeper appreciation and understanding of how to live in Christ through yoga and how to apply the spiritual principles of the Course in order to bring blessings into the lives of others.
The title of this autobiography, “Memory Walk in the Light,” emphasizes my life as a concrete journey of forgiveness leading toward an abstract destination. My journey is different than yours, but in the end you and I will discover the same transcendental Light. This Light is the abstract destination to which I have devoted my life.
Many years ago a total stranger walked up to me and invited me to go on what he called a “memory walk” with him. I accepted his invitation, and since then my life has never been the same. Now I am inviting you to take a “memory walk” with me. This autobiography is a journey into the darkness of the past with the goal of arriving at the light of the present moment. My story bears witness to the truth that with the Love of God all things are possible. Quite naturally God’s Love leads to forgiveness, which has shown me that, “The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.”1
1. T-26.IX.6:1, p. 562.
RADIO INTERVIEW OF DONALD JAMES GIACOBBE
The following is an interview of Donald James Giacobbe, who discusses his autobiography Memory Walk in the Light: My Christian Yoga Life as "A Course in Miracles." This interview was conducted in May of 2010 on the Christian Author's Radio Show. Simply click below and the MP3 interview will immediately start playing: