The Early Lessons

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

The past few years, I did what the Circle calls “post-Workbook practice.” I have a bowl in which there are 365 little cards, on each of which is written a number from 1 to 365. In the morning I would ask the Holy Spirit to guide me to the lesson that I needed for the day, then closing my eyes I would pick a number and practice that lesson during the day. Sometimes I was puzzled about why I was guided to a particular lesson, and sometimes I even resisted having received it.

I was always pleased when I got one of the later lessons in the Workbook, but sometimes, when I received one of the very early lessons, the ego would have an attack of spiritual specialness or snobbery. I would feel indignant and impatient with the Holy Spirit, and, thinking I had drawn the wrong card, would even want to pick another lesson! “After all,” I would tell myself, ” I’ve been through the Workbook many times; I taught it every morning at the Circle. I’m beyond needing these early lessons.” Of course, the lesson always turned out to be exactly what I needed that day. Even the idea found in an early lesson would turn out to be a “mighty force, to be used and not held idly by” (T-16.II.9:5), and it invariably proved its power to me. So, after a while, I got to the point of chuckling at myself when I felt one of these reactions coming up, and I eventually stopped having them at all. I had to admit that the Holy Spirit did know what He was doing.

This year, in conjunction with the Circle’s 2008 Workbook Program, I am teaching a Workbook Practice Program, and am doing the lessons chronologically with the students here at Course Oasis. After my first few times of going through the lessons, I tended not to pay much attention to the early ones or practice them exactly as instructed. This year I decided to enter fully into the practice of every lesson, including those early ones, and I am already reaping the benefits. It seems as if the lessons are sinking in much more deeply, and my practices and applications through the day are richer than ever before.

I had quite a reaction the day when we were on Lesson 8, “My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.” I have one of those minds that is always “thinking,” so it wasn’t hard to see that my mind is preoccupied, or that it is preoccupied with past thoughts. I got stuck, however, and couldn’t get past, “So what if my mind is really blank and not really thinking! The fact is that I can’t just stop thinking. I need to think about getting ready for my class, or about answering this email, or about making supper. So, what good is it to know that my mind is just preoccupied and just blank?!”  I wanted to see beyond these thoughts about the lesson, but had a really hard time. I kept practicing, though, and it wasn’t until late in the evening when I was rereading the lesson that something shifted and I got it.

The shift came with these two sentences: “While thoughtless ideas preoccupy your mind, the truth is blocked” (3:2), and “no matter how vividly you may picture a thought, you are not seeing anything” (4:2). I finally saw that no matter how many thoughts fill my mind, no matter how “necessary” they seem to be to my functioning in the world, no matter how real they seem to me, they are still “thoughtless” and meaningless; they are still nothing. It sure put things in a different perspective!

Since then, going about my daily business has been different for me, I feel lighter and joyful, I haven’t been getting caught up in thoughts and worries as much. Of course, I’m still thinking my own thoughts and they still do preoccupy me, but they don’t seem to have the same weight and “reality” they had in the past. I feel my attachment to my own thoughts loosening, and I definitely feel relieved to realize that they mean nothing.