I want to point out a two-step process that has been very helpful in my practice of A Course in Miracles specifically and, more generally, in my practice of becoming happy and peaceable to a Christ-like degree.
The first step is learning to discern between the Voice of the Holy Spirit and the voice of ego. They truly are two different teachers, and we are listening to one or the other all the time, and seeing this, and knowing the difference is incredibly helpful. Without knowing the difference, we can only stumble and flail about. A rigorous spiritual practice begins with our ability to discern between helpful and unhelpful teachers.
This “rigorous spiritual practice” is the second step because it is the step of choosing to listen to the Holy Spirit rather than the ego. That is hard to do. It is hard to do it once or twice a day, let alone retrain our mind to hear only and always the Holy Spirit. But that’s the path.
So those steps go together, like a dance or a recipe.
Sometimes people ask how do you tell the difference between the two voices?
Ego always argues and its case always involves the body’s welfare, one way or the other. Ego changes tone a lot – it cajoles, flatters, debates, teases, belittles, rages. Its only value is whatever gets the job done.
The ego is nothing more than a part of your belief about yourself. Your other life has continued without interruption, and has been and always will be totally un affected by your attempts to dissociate it (T-4.VI.1:7-8).
Holy Spirit does not argue because it does not recognize any conflict. It does not try to force anything because it respects our decision-making power. It isn’t trying to sell anything because it knows we have everything. It is always calm and confident, and it will always share with us its confidence.
[The Holy Spirit] is in complete and direct communication with every aspect of creation, because it is in complete and direct communication with its Creator. This communication is the Will of God. Creation and communication are synonymous (T-4.VII.3:4-6).
Ego basically argues that you’re vulnerable and in need of help, and only it can help you, and it works frantically – without any consistent ethics or morals – to keep you scared and dependent.
The Holy Spirit always reminds you of your fundamental innocence as a condition of being Creation Itself, thus teaching you how to create like your Creator.
Ego breeds an endless cycle of conflict / temporary solution / conflict. The Holy Spirit blesses you with happiness and inner peace that is unconditional. You have to actively refuse it in order not to know it.
Therefore, it is natural to ask: why is it so hard to hear only the Holy Spirit? It offers us everything. Shouldn’t it be easier to give attention to it?
It’s hard because you and I are on the fence. We are willing to consider – mostly intellectually – that we’re not bodies and the world isn’t real, but we don’t actually believe it. Basically we are hedging our bets. And there is no middle ground in salvation (T-28.VII.2:7).
And the further truth is, we’ve been indoctrinated by ego. So the Holy Spirit’s suggestions and directives can seem illogical or even dangerous. We are so attached to ego’s endless litany of reaction, attack, defense, et cetera that anything else sounds alien and foolish. It feels right to ignore it.
So, you know, you lose your job and ego starts shouting “hire a lawyer! Beef up your resume! Polish that Linked-In profile! Call so-and-so and complain loudly about how you were treated! Revisit your anger at your father/wife/partner!”
And the Holy Spirit says, “do nothing.” Or “ask your neighbor if they need a hand with anything.”
Or maybe you’re fixated on ending war. Ego has ideas about this. “Tweet more! Argue with strangers on Facebook! Go to a rally! Tear down your neighbor’s political sign! Obsess about how wrong people can be! Pick a fight! Pick two fights!”
And the Holy Spirit says, “you haven’t gone for a walk with so-and-so for years – give them and call and see if they’re up for a hike.”
You are trying to save your house and family, or establish world peace, and the Holy Spirit seems oddly uninterested in these noble pursuits. It just nudges you to be a better friend or to sit quietly with tea watching birds at the feeder or wash the bathroom floor or whatever. Its priorities seem ridiculous.
It takes a long time to trust that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, the Voice for God, and that its suggestions always bring more peace both to you and all your brothers and sisters. But this is the way, and there is no other. “All other traits of God’s Teachers rest on trust” (M-4.II.1:1).
Right-mindedness listens to the Holy Spirit, forgives the world, and through Christ’s vision sees the real world in its place. This is the final vision, the last perception, the condition in which God takes the final step Himself (C-I.5:2-3).
Ego is still the default, which is why conflict remains so pervasive, and why happiness and peace are always coming and going. But ego is not inevitable. Violence and suffering are not inevitable. And there is something that is inevitable – our union with our Creator. “God is inevitable, and you cannot avoid Him any more than He can avoid you” (T-4.I.9:11).
Learn to distinguish between the two teachers, and you will see how only one offers anything you actually want. Then listen only to that Teacher and follows Its guidance, no matter how seemingly insignificant or silly. It asks so little of us, and offers so much.