One of the blessings of studying A Course in Miracles are the study groups that naturally evolve. Making contact with men and women who are studying and practicing the Course can be a real benefit to one’s own practice. But what if you’re in an area that doesn’t have an active group? How do you start A Course in Miracles group? And related to that, perhaps, is how to run A Course in Miracles group.
If you’re set on creating a new study group, I think there are a couple of details that are worth keeping in mind. First, be sure that you take a long-term view. A lot of groups take a while to get up and running, to gain any momentum – and all study groups go through phases and ups and downs. Committing to the process for more than a few weeks or months can help see you through the challenges.
Next, have a clear sense of how your group will function. Some groups start by reading the introduction aloud together. Some start with a moment of silence. Others go for an extended meditation – fifteen minutes or more – before opening up the floor to conversation and reading. It’s nice to have some loose concept of the format at the outset, but it’s also important to be flexible. As the group changes in time, a new approach to form might be desirable.
In general, study groups seem to work best when there is no clear leader. In some ways, this is reminiscent of David Bohm’s ideal of dialogue. Everybody is equal. You don’t have to raise your hand to be called on. A sense of quiet respect is implicit – others for you and you for others. Sometimes people come to the group needing to be heard and sometimes it’s important to just be a good listener.
The standard joke when it comes to running an acim study group is that they’re nothing but opportunities for forgiveness. And it’s true! The ego does indeed love to study A Course in Miracles and show off what it’s learned. That’s okay. We all do that from time to time. When others seem to be coming from an egoic place, treat it as a learning opportunity. Be gentle. Be kind. You’ll be there too at some point.
When you start a Course in Miracles group, you really have two options. One is to do it in your home (or a friend’s home) and the other is to do it in a public setting – a library, a church, a yoga studio. There are pros and cons to each. Private homes can be very comfortable (and the tea and eats can be amazing!), but public settings often make people feel more comfortable. There’s no sense of impinging on somebody. That’s a question of judgment and what’s available.
In general, starting and running a group whose objective is to study and help others study A Course in Miracles should be grounded in prayer. Ask your inner guide for clarity. What does Jesus have to say? What is the Holy Spirit calling you to do? Take some time to be sure you’re clear – or as clear as you can be. Travel a little to get a sense of how other teachers are conducting their groups. You’ll soon learn that there are as many approaches to public study groups as there are students.
I do think that ACIM asks us to be sensitive to our brothers and sisters. Within reason and with as little ego as possible, we want to be helpful. Study groups are a great way of doing this. If you feel like it’s something you want to do – and there’s a need for it – why not give it a shot?