[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
I find the frequent repetition practices — frequent reminders and response to temptation — to be an absolute lifeline. The morning and evening quiet times and hourlies are vitally important as anchors for my practice, of course. But as Robert and I were discussing the other day, the frequent practices are where “the rubber hits the road”: where the Course’s transformative ideas come into direct contact with my day-to-day life. This is the place where the Course and my ego collide. This is where the Course has the greatest opportunity to really change my habitual thought patterns and the behaviors that stem from those patterns.
I’m trying to do frequent reminders — brief, thoughtful repetitions of the idea — about five or six times an hour, and responses to temptation immediately once I become aware of any upset. I can’t say that I always hold to this schedule, but I can see a real difference in my day when I do. These practices really do lift my mind to a higher place, and I find that my day goes much more smoothly.
For instance, lately my practice theme has been anxiety. Robert recently did a class on the historical Jesus in which we discussed his famous biblical discourse (in Matthew and Luke) on the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. The theme of this discourse, which the Jesus Seminar calls possibly “the longest connected discourse that can be directly attributed to Jesus,” is that we should let go of worry about the future; instead, we should be happy and carefree, because we trust that God will take care of us. This theme is paralleled in many places in the Course, for instance:
“Do you really believe you can plan for your safety and joy better than He can? You need be neither careful nor careless; you need merely cast your cares upon Him because He careth for you. You are His care because He loves you. ” (T-5.VII.1:3-5)
“Your healing Voice protects all things today, and so I leave all things to You. I need be anxious over nothing.” (W-pII.275.2:1-2)
“In Him you have no cares and no concerns, no burdens, no anxiety, no pain, no fear of future and no past regrets.” (W-pI.109.5:1)
I’ve been using variations of these lines and lines from those gospel passages as the basis for my practice. My goal has been to live a truly carefree day, free of the constant worries and anxieties about things large and small that come up in the course of the day. What I’ve discovered in the attempt to reach this goal is that I am a veritable anxiety machine. I hate to admit it, but anxiety seems to be the constant background hum of my life, like the traffic noise that all of us in this modern world have become so accustomed to that we don’t notice it unless it is absent.
This is why those frequent reminders and response to temptation practices are so crucial. They give me an opportunity, moment by moment, to notice that background hum and put a stop to it. I’ve been making a concerted effort to watch my mind and use those practices to address that constant anxiety head on, especially when I become aware of a particular upset.
And you know what? They really work! I can’t say the hum is gone, but I can honestly say that it is getting fainter. And there are moments when it is silenced, startling moments that remind me of the odd sensation I had in Venice when I noticed that I was in a large city without the hum of car traffic. I’m catching glimpses of what life would be like without anxiety, and it is exhilarating. There is a lightness and freedom that is so joyful that I want more of it. But if I want more, I’ll need constant mental vigilance and practice to make it a habitual state of mind instead of just an occasional peak experience. Thank God for those frequent repetition practices!