With 2020 just around the corner, I’d like to invite you to a webinar we’re hosting on the topic of how to begin or renew your Course practice. You can find the details by clicking on the button below.
As a lead-up to this gathering, I am also sharing some thoughts about the Course and the New Year in a series of emails to our subscriber list, which we are posting below as well.
ACIM and the New Year #1: Freedom from Past Patterns
While it’s true that New Year’s resolutions are generally superficial—lose weight, exercise more, get organized—there is still an impulse behind them that reflects a central aim of the Course: getting free of the past.
We all feel haunted by past events, but what’s particularly relevant here is that we feel trapped in past patterns. We hope our lives will get better, yet in the rush of daily life, we continually repeat the same choices that keep us stuck. We blame circumstances and bad luck, yet somewhere inside we know that we are choosing to place our feet in the same ruts, even though we know exactly where those ruts lead.
The teaching of the Course—which is echoed in our New Year’s resolutions—is that we can choose to leave all past patterns behind. We don’t have to repeat our same mistaken choices again and again. We have chosen to stay in them; we can choose to step out of them.
In this regard, there is a particularly relevant phrase in the Course, in which it calls the miracle an “out-of-pattern time interval” (T-1.47.4:5; see also T-3.II.1:2). Think about what that means. It means the miracle is a moment that doesn’t fit the normal pattern. It is an interval in which we have stepped out of the rut. The past had sentenced us to live perpetually in certain chains, but we have cast off those chains.
We can do that. We can step out of past patterns. We can have an “out-of-pattern time interval.” We can experience a miracle. Nothing can take that power away from us. Thus, as we approach the New Year, why don’t we take hold of it?
ACIM and the New Year #2: “Try again”
As the New Year approaches, even while part of us wants to muster a renewed sense of dedication and hope, another part of us thinks, “I’ve done that so many times and have always failed soon after. What’s the use?”
In response to that seductive voice, we should realize the emphasis the Course puts on a simple idea: Try again. It may surprise you to learn that the phrase “try again” is repeated twelve times in the Course. For instance, “If you forget, try again. If there are long interruptions, try again. Whenever you remember, try again” (W-40.1:4-6).
“Try again” is hardly a radical or unconventional idea, but it does encapsulate the Course’s attitude that the past, being over, need not cloud the present. “Try again” says that however many times you have failed, however often you have fallen down, that cannot stop you now. All of that is in the past. This is a new moment, and in this moment you can simply try again, unencumbered by any previous mistakes. If the past is over, why give it the power to cloud what you do now?
While we consider whether to do this for the New Year, we can take heart in the fact that Jesus is always willing to do this with us. We might assume that we have exhausted all our chances with him and that he has lost his patience. But in talking to Helen and Bill, he made it clear that he always wills to make another try with us.
“There will never be a time when I do not will to try again. You might be gladdened by remembering that.” (T-4.IX.10:4-5)
If Jesus wills to try again with us in the New Year, why wouldn’t we join him?
ACIM and the New Year #3: Rebirth
Our aspirations for the New Year are reflections of our larger yearning for rebirth. Don’t we all feel weighed down by a lifetime of scars and burdens? Wouldn’t we love to emerge from this tomb and feel as fresh and new as a baby, knowing that the past is behind us and a new future stretches brightly before us?
Lesson 109 captures this desire. It pictures a scene in which “worn and tired minds” (8:2) witness a rebirth around them and feel suddenly renewed, “with hope reborn and energy restored to walk with lightened steps along the road that suddenly seems easy as they go” (8:3). Isn’t that what we want—hope reborn, energy restored, lightened footsteps, an easy road?
Yet that is not all we want.
We want a deeper rebirth, in which an ancient awareness in us that has slumbered for eons stirs to life, lights our minds, and looks through our eyes. We want a spiritual rebirth.
The question is, can we have it? Is it within our reach?
The Course states that it is far more than possible; it is inevitable. In its teaching, God promises us “that rebirth is man’s inheritance” (M-11.1:5). Think about that: Rebirth is your inheritance, your birthright. It is yours by virtue of the fact that you exist.
Rebirth is available to us because, as the Course puts it, “rebirth itself is merely the dawning on your mind of what is already in it” (T-6.I.13:2). For this reason, the possibility of rebirth is always there: “every instant can you be reborn and given life again” (T-26.I.6:5)
It is certain that we will walk out of our tomb. The time is of our choosing. Why not, then, use the coming year to claim the rebirth that is ours?
ACIM and the New Year #4: Why Renew Your Spiritual Journey?
I have been talking in these messages about using the New Year to renew your journey with the Course, and there is indeed a widespread desire to do exactly that. But why? Why do so many of us feel the need for spiritual renewal?
The simple reason, as the Course says, is that the ego tries “to join the journey with us” (T-8.IV.9:2). It would prefer that we stay off the spiritual road altogether and simply bury ourselves in the world. But if we insist on embarking on this journey, it can deal with that. It simply stays by our side as our self-appointed advisor, constantly renegotiating everything the Course asks us to do. It’s as if we are on a football team, and every time our coach tells us to do something, the opposing team’s coach is given airtime so he can undermine our coach’s instruction.
We see an example of this in the Course. In talking about the beginning of a holy relationship, the Course says that here at the start, “the goal of the relationship is abruptly shifted to the exact opposite of what it was” (T-17.V.2:4). Then, as if answering our thoughts, the Course says, “It would not be kinder to shift the goal more slowly, for the contrast would be obscured, and the ego given time to reinterpret each slow step according to its liking” (T-17.V.5:1).
Can you hear that voice in you, the voice that says, “Let’s change things a little more slowly,” so that it then has “time to reinterpret each slow step according to its liking”? How much have you let that voice water down your whole journey? How much have you undertaken a journey away from the ego “with the ego as guide” (T-5.IV.6:3)?
This is why we feel the urge to renew our spiritual journey. Something in us wants to set aside that seductive, insidious voice and let our spiritual longings stream forth in pure, undiluted form. We want to kick the opposing coach out of our locker room, so we can listen only to our Coach and win this thing.
Let’s ask ourselves, then, “If I did this in the New Year—if I fired the ego as my advisor on this journey and followed only my own true spiritual longings—what would that look like?”
ACIM and the New Year #5: How can we really change?
When we contemplate the idea of making a fresh start in the New Year, we naturally come up against the question of whether we can really change. Sure, we can make a new choice in December and a new start in January, but how can we sustain it? How do we bring about permanent change?
The answer is that we form a new habit. It really is as simple as that. Perhaps surprisingly, A Course in Miracles is quite concerned with our habits. It wants us to form three main habits, each of which it mentions several times:
- the habit of giving miracles (expressions of love) to others
- the habit of applying the Course’s ideas to everything that upsets us
- the habit of listening to and following guidance
How we form new habits like these is no mystery. How do we form any habit? We give it a lot of consistent effort at the start and thus lay down a groove that we then naturally run along.
The Course is quite aware of this. When it wants you to have a “new beginning” (T-30.I.1:1), for instance, it says that you need to take “specific methods” (T-30.I.1:2) and then “practice them awhile” to turn them into “habits,” i.e., “rules by which you live” (T-30.I.1:7-8).
In the Workbook, the Course speaks of seeing a certain idea as so valuable that you will “give as much consistent effort as you can, to make it be a part of you”—to make it into a “habit” (W-194.6:1-2).
To have the treasure of permanent change, then, we merely need to form new habits. And to form new habits, we just need to give them consistent effort for a while. If we are willing to do this in the New Year, a new future awaits us.