The first time I did the ACIM workbook – all three hundred and sixty five lessons – I was a bit of an overachiever. Which – at least in my case – is a way of saying that I didn’t achieve much. It was all I could do to limit myself to one lesson a day. But I studied them, read blogs on each lesson, did what was asked me, and tried to do a little more.
That’s okay. It was earnest. But there aren’t any ACIM merit badges out there! You don’t get points for being a good doobie – or, rather, you do. But so does everybody else. And the secret to being a good doobie is that you don’t have to actually do anything. You just are a good doobie. In fact, you’re a perfect good doobie.
Being so aggressive with the lessons was actually a matter of “doing,” not “undoing.” For me, being very course-centric creates expectations. I start to judge my behavior. I start to decide in advance what a good lesson experience is and what a bad lesson experience is. And when that happens, I’m just in my way. I’m stepping all over Jesus and the Holy Spirit, elbowing them to the floor in my eagerness to reach the Gates of Heaven.
That method came to a stop at the 130th lesson for me. “It is impossible to see two world.” Who knows why. But I remember doing that lesson and realizing that despite my good intentions, my crazy super ACIM-student was just the same crap I’d always been doing, just with a new cover. The form appears to change but we are always dealing with the same content. I believe I’m separate from God, that it’s my fault, that God is angry at me, and that my best defense is to keep that separation intact lest I get a thunderbolt in the ass.
I can’t have it both ways. Maybe that’s what Lesson 130 taught me, or suggested. I can’t both have the separation and heal the separation. It’s one or the other. All that is mine is the power of decision, the power of choice. What world will I see? With whom will I travel? With whom will I decide?
After that, I began to slow down. I started to try and find the heart of the lesson – I tried to experience it. I didn’t want to merely be able to talk about it (or write about it), but to actually bring it into application (as Tara Singh might say) and be changed by it. I believe that each lesson has the capacity to end the perceived separation and unite us wholly and perfectly with God. And even though that wasn’t happening so much, I wanted it to be my goal.
Some lessons I lingered on for more than a day. Lesson 221 – “Peace to my mind. Let all my thoughts be Still.” And 268 – “Let all things be exactly as they are.”
And so forth. I even had days where I took a break, trying simply to practice forgiveness, to not become attached to A Course in Miracles.
Now, in my second go-round, I find myself taking even more time. What is the result I am after? It is right here. It already happened. Is that my experience, all the time? It’s not. I don’t want to lie. I drift and I wander and I forget and I do. Do do do. But each lesson helps me undo. It helps me forgive yet another obstacle to love. It lets me bring yet another dark thought into the light. I think often of my friends who practice Buddhism. This it it!
Find your way through the lessons. The only “rule” I have observed is the one established at the outset: don’t do more than one lesson a day. That seems to be a good amount of time to digest the idea the lesson contains. But beyond that, I don’t see a right or a wrong. If you find that you’ve lost your way, go back. Start again. Or pick up where you left off. Want to do them with a study group? Go for it!
I know people who approach the course without doing the lessons. That’s fine. That’s okay. Please hear me say that. But hear me say, too, that I think the lessons can really help make the abstractions and apparent complexity of the text clearer. More importantly, they effectuate the change of mind that the course aims for. They put us into conscious direct contact with the Holy Spirit, the medium of communication (however you define it) between ourselves and God.
I have been thinking a lot lately about Wendell Berry. He says in his essay “A Native Hill” that “it is not from ourselves that we will learn to be be better than ourselves.” What does the course say? “You cannot be your guide to miracles, for it is you who made them necessary.”
The lessons crack the door, budge the window. The light that saves us in us but not of us. For me – maybe for you, too – it is the lessons that bring that light to the fore.