It is tempting to approach A Course in Miracles in an intellectual or scholarly way – taking notes, cross-referencing them, underlining this or that phrase. It is important to have a personal relationship with the Course. If coming to it in this mode is what opens it up for you, then do it. Your teacher won’t fail you.
But I want to suggest there is another way.
Imagine that you are going to the symphony – you are going to hear the world premiere of a piece that’s four hours long. Would you bring a pad of paper and take notes? “It starts with wood winds – odd choice given the theme.” Or “the percussionist looks like he has a cold and isn’t focusing.” Or “wow, those bassoons really need to take it down a notch.”
Or would you just let the music wash over you and save the intellectual response for later?
It may seem antithetical to say this about A Course in Miracles. After all, it is a deeply logical piece of writing and it does ask to be understood. I am simply suggesting that “understanding” is a relative phrase here. I did not begin to piece the text together until my second or third read. And even now – many many reads later – the text still reveals new connections and intimations. I have a long way to go!
I am saying: don’t start with an agenda of understanding or awakening. Just let the Course be what it is for you – and you for it – for as long as it takes.
Here’s another, related thought. Imagine you are sitting on a park bench and Jesus comes and sits down beside you. The Christ is there and he teaches you. Are you going to whip out your pen and paper and start taking notes? “Hold on Jesus: could you repeat that last phrase? What was that again about making decisions? I’m sorry – that last bit about time not being real doesn’t make any sense.”
You might do that. I admit it’s tempting. But maybe we could also just surrender to the Presence. The gentle cadence of the voice, the insightful inflections, the light that seems to seep through and throughout.
If we are paying attention, we can wake up watching Jesus tie his shoes. It’s really not about what our brains do, or can do. There is another level.
Behind these two suggestions, is the truth that A Course in Miracles cannot really be read like most other books. Not if we are bent on Truth. It is a very pure expression of a spiritual truth that has generally eluded us. When we get it, it is not like the Aha! moment of figuring out that two plus two equals four. It is more like watching the sun rise, or stepping outside at dawn and being brought up all at once by the moon, so lucid and clear and bright that you believe you can reach out and touch it.
In a way, we are called to meet the text with the same reverence and attention that we bring to our deepest loves in the world, the brothers and sisters in whose faces and voices Christ shines like a diamond. How gentle and attentive we are in those spaces – how patient and giving. How utterly present we are.
As yet, we cannot sustain this level of attention. And that’s okay. But we can start to attain it more consistently simply by reading while releasing our expectations and demands of what we read. It is never a bad idea to remember that the Course isn’t going to give you anything you don’t already have; it’s just going to remind you of what was always given.
In time, this learning is a process – we evolve and change, our understanding deepens, our gratitude expands by factors of a thousand. We smile easier, forgive quicker, share more generously.
It’s important, then, to take a long-term view of our study: we cannot rush what it is already done! It’s not like driving to some distant state to meet an old friend for tea or coffee. Don’t rush the Course. Each sentence has the capacity to wake you up. Some day that is what will happen: you will read a few words and time will disappear and you will melt into the light of Christ. Don’t miss that moment because you are so intent on reaching “the end.”
Don’t worry about your ego thinks of ACIM: it loves it, it wants to share it, it wants to “get” it, it wants to rip it to shreds, it wants to rewrite it or illustrate it. That’s how things go in the world of form. On that level, nothing ever changes.
Always remember that your healed mind knows what to do and is doing it right now. It is reading the text with you. It is nurtured and nourished by the scripture. There are days when you feel ragged and gutted by all the effort and seeming lack of progress. It’s okay. You are reading – and being read – on another level. Healing can be very wild and mysterious. Submit to it. You know you will someday – why not now?
Remember Jesus’ injunction so long ago when he said goodbye to his disciples the night before he met the cross.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.
We are not bereft and we are not alone. In reading – in the grace of attention loving offered to words – we find a life without end, and a teacher who will never leave.