Spiritual Practice

I occasionally ask myself what is the value of studying the text of A Course in Miracles, doing the lessons, writing and teaching about it, reading the work of other teachers . . . Depending on how one approaches this activity, it can quickly degenerate into just more mind clutter. The ego does love a spiritual journey. It will happily and deftly use awakening to keep us asleep.

Defining the value of this process has to do with goal-setting. That feels like a trendy phrase – management speak – the sort of thing I hear in workshops about how to teach better. But it’s true. The goal that we set for our learning will determine the way in which we use it and the way in which we apply it. If our goal is awakening – and if we maintain contact with that goal, if we enlist and accept Jesus’ help with it – than that is the goal our learning will serve, the ego’s agenda be damned.

When I was a kid I wanted to learn to play guitar. I took a handful of lessons, but mostly I learned by watching other people play, listening to records and reading beginner guitar books. And I practiced a lot. It took me a long time but eventually I became a good player. I still have a lot of fun with my guitars.

When you learn to play music, part of what you are doing is training your muscles and your intuition – your musical intelligence – to work in harmony without your conscious brain’s intervention. For a long time you have to think about this scale or that chord. You have to concentrate. It’s clunky and rough. But then one day your fingers reach for the chord without you having to “do” anything.

In other words, our learning integrates with us. It becomes us and we become it.

I don’t think spiritual learning is any different. As I engage the course with more commitment and intensity, I recognize the progress I have made. Let me be clear – in the truest sense of the word, progress is an illusion. But the purpose of time and the world and this body is to learn that all of them are not real. I am committed to that lesson. I don’t want anything else anymore.

The result? I am more peaceful and joyful than I have been at any other time in my life. Problems that would once have occupied days and weeks now dissolve in hours or minutes. Stuff that would have set me off doesn’t. My ability to make contact with Jesus –¬†with God – use whatever symbol you want to use there – has become reflexive, almost second nature. It’s easier to sustain. I laugh a lot in prayer. It’s funny.

The value of deep and sustained study then is that the lessons become part of us – and we become part of them. I wrote earlier today that as we recollect God, God recollects us. There is a spontaneous outflowing of grace – of miracles – as this happens. It’s beautiful, the only gift worth giving or receiving.

Don’t fall for the ego’s trick of minimizing your gift for learning – demeaning it as intellectual busy-ness, as a distraction from “real” spiritual practice. If you are a student of A Course in Miracles, then you are called to be a¬†disciple in the truest sense of the word. That is, you are called to understand this particular belief system, to learn it so well that the line between you and it disappears altogether.

So take it seriously. Jesus is inviting us to a very intense, very joyful and very transparent relationship, one that will result in the literal salvation of the world. This is real – it’s not words on a website, a silly idea that you and I share in anonymity, in doubt. There is no other, no better time. We can do this.

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