You may remember the recent class I did on the program of the Course. I followed this up with a newsletter article that was a revised version of the notes from that class. In this post, I want to share what doing that class and writing that article has meant for me.
For the last 25 years, I have been hard at it, trying to live up to the dictates of the Course’s program—especially the practice component. This has been a central feature of my life for that time, and I rely on it for my sanity, my peace, my sense of meaning, and for the gradual maturing I feel I can observe in myself over time. At the same time, those 25 years have been marked by a constant falling short. I am rarely truly satisfied with my following of the program in all its aspects. I’ve tried endless aids—multiple checklists, wearing a counter for two years, wearing a timer, sticky notes, pop-up messages on my computer screen, a practice tips card, practice diaries, practice notebooks, etc. And these have helped enormously. But my doing of the program still rises and falls day to day, and certain elements (like evening quiet time) are perennially weak.
The fact is that I am by nature very far from being a disciplined person. Yet at the same time I feel a deep desire that refuses to go away. It is a yearning to fulfill the requirements of the program one hundred percent. And these two factors duke it out on a daily basis. Which will gain more ground on a given day is anybody’s guess.
Which is why it has been a complete surprise to see the effects on me of that summary of the program. In the two weeks since I did the class, I have discovered a remarkable thing: The Course’s program is completely doable. I have been telling myself that I just don’t have time, given all that needs to be done. But what I am finding now is that all it takes is focus. If I just stay focused on doing the program, it fits seamlessly into my life exactly as it is. There is time for the hourly practice—and if there isn’t, there’s time for a brief repetition of the idea for the day. There is time for evening quiet time. There is time to renew my practice when I’ve drifted away for a couple hours. There is time to ask for guidance, and to follow what I get. There is time to do for others, even when it gets in the way of my plans. There is time for all of it. The whole thing is completely doable.
For the time being I’ve simply made a decision that doing the program is non-negotiable. So there is no use asking myself if I feel like doing the program this afternoon or evening, or this hour, or this part of the hour. Or asking myself if I feel like getting myself back on track when I’ve drifted away a bit. I’ve saved myself the trouble of asking those questions, and it’s making a huge difference. I can see now that I’ve been feeding myself various empty excuses. It turns out that what I’ve needed is not more time, but just stopping the excuses.
Of course, I’ve done every aspect of the program endlessly, so I’m not learning any new skills. I’ve gone through a long learning process with each aspect of the program, so that I can do it effectively. What’s new is just the decision to employ all the aspects consistently.
And it’s not that I’m suddenly doing the program perfectly. I’ve got a long, long way to go with it. But I feel that at least I’m keeping all the balls in the air to a reasonable degree. And it feels really good, and is giving me hope for the future. If I can stick with this (obviously, the big “if”!), I feel that I can reach entirely different places in my spiritual development than would otherwise have been possible.
Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you. It’s been a huge deal for me, and quite a revelation too. The Course seems to ask so much—too much. Yet in fact, it is so completely doable, even if your life is busy.