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Whose classroom?

Janet (one of my pupils and fellow Course teacher) had quite a powerful insight in our meeting last week, one that holds the key to letting go of a longstanding pattern. She’s given me permission to share it here with you.

Janet started out by talking about a session with one of her pupils and telling me how critical she was of herself regarding her work with this person. From there we moved into talking about her general dissatisfaction with herself, her self-judgment, her too high standards of herself, and her “need” to be perfect––a sure recipe for failure. This sense of dissatisfaction was so vague and she was so used to it that it seemed normal and therefore not noticeable. Of course, this is exactly what the ego wanted, because if it could keep this under the radar, she wouldn’t be able to let go of it.

However, she had been trying to be more aware of this tendency and was stopping herself when she did notice it… but it was still there. As she reviewed her day, she often told herself, “You didn’t pass because your performance wasn’t perfect.”

I asked her what she was afraid would happen if she wasn’t perfect. She said that she was afraid of criticism and judgement. She also realized that she was afraid of failure (she had never thought of it that way before). When I asked her to tell me what that looked like, she said she thought right away of school and having to write exams. “Life is like that… a constant exam that I’m failing.”

I asked her what if life wasn’t like that. Her response was, “Wouldn’t that be a relief!” Then…“I have a picture of myself rushing right into the Holy Spirit’s classroom, saying ‘let me take Your course.’” As we continued in this vein, she said that to do this, “I’d have to give up the ego as teacher, taskmaster, and examiner, as well as the belief that life is a constant exam that I’m failing, and learn the Holy Spirit’s lessons that are loving.”

(Interestingly, we had been reading in the Text about letting go of the ego’s “dark lessons” and learning the Holy Spirit’s “bright lessons.”)

We then talked about her having to stop listening to the ego’s voice if she wanted to learn the Holy Spirit’s lessons. She had to be willing to let go of that side of herself that wants to believe that life is a constant exam and that she is failing at it. She firmly stated that she didn’t have to see life like that anymore and that she didn’t want to.

I then asked her what she could say to herself if she noticed that she was feeling critical of herself. She immediately responded with, “‘I’m in the wrong classroom again.’ Then I have the image of running out of the ego’s classroom and into the Holy Spirit’s classroom instead.” What a great response to that temptation!

If she saw herself starting to feel critical, starting to move towards the door of the ego’s classroom, she could say. “Whose classroom do I want to be in? Whose lessons do I want to learn? Whom do I want to be my teacher?” More great responses to temptation!

I also had the idea of saying a quick prayer:

 Holy Spirit, I sense that I’m starting to be drawn into the ego’s classroom. Here’s my hand; guide me into Yours instead.

 We were totally amazed at the end of all this. What had started out about a report on a meeting with a pupil moved into being a discussion about a life-long pattern and powerful insights into how to let go of it. We ended our time together with her going off to spend more time with this before our next meeting.

This week, when I asked her if she had had any new thoughts about what we had talked about, she responded right away with a new practice that had come to her and that she was using: “Into Your classroom would I enter now.” I marvelled at her clever adaptation of Lesson 157, “Into Your Presence would I enter now.” To this practice she added, “Teach me the mastery of love.”

What a beautiful prayer:

Holy Spirit,

Into Your classroom would I enter now.

Teach me the mastery of love.

 Because I have some of the same tendencies as Janet, I’ve decided to  adopt her practices. As part of my morning quiet time and dedication of the day, I’ve decided to add: “Holy Spirit, it is Your classroom in which I would spend my day today.” Then I can keep coming back to that as I go through the day, and if I get off track, I can say, “I forgot that I wanted to spend the day in Your classroom Holy Spirit. Here I am; guide me back in.”

We wanted to share this with you, because we thought that these practices could be of help to more than the two of us. We hope you will try them out and let us know your experience with them.

With loving thoughts,

Mary Anne