The teachings of A Course in Miracles can be so beautiful, so profound and attractive. Yet even when we have felt that beauty and come to love the teaching, we can remain puzzled about what to do in order to really embody it. As time has gone on I have more and more come to see the Course as composed of two semi-distinct aspects: the thought system of the Course and the path of the Course. The thought system is the teaching of the Course, the ideas it sets forth. The path is the things we do in order to embody that teaching, the activities that constitute being a student of the Course and following its way. In short, the thought system is what the book teaches; the path is what we as students do with the book.
And the more serious we become about the Course, about achieving its goals, the more important that second issue becomes. What do we do with this book? What kinds of activities do we engage in so that we will achieve its goal and find salvation?
This topic is also important for understanding what we are envisioning for the Circle of Atonement, for we are seeing our work here as helping students to walk the path of the Course in all its facets. This vision is reflected in our plan to have three wings, which I described in an earlier newsletter (October 1992), and is also reflected in the school and in the support system we are announcing in this issue.
Because this topic seems so basic and crucial to me, I have chosen in this newsletter issue to set forth my views on it. In this article I will briefly describe the basic shape of the path of the Course as I see it. I will deal first with the fact that it is a path (and not just a thought system), and then deal with the particulars of that path.
A Course in Miracles is a very strange title. Yet it says a great deal about what the book is. Right now I want to focus on the first part of the title. Have you ever thought about those first two words? What does it mean when it calls itself “a course”? This word “course” and the way it is used in A Course in Miracles seems to me to be a giant key to what I am calling the path of the Course. What I find interesting is that the word “course” here means almost exactly the same thing that the word “path” does when we are talking about a spiritual path.
Let us first look at the word “path.” Turning to my Webster’s Dictionary, “path” is defined most basically as “a trodden way,” or “a track specially constructed for a particular use.” Interestingly, it is also defined as a “course”! A “path,” then, is a defined way along which one travels. Moving to a more abstract definition, we are told that a path is “a way of life, conduct, or thought.” A way along which you travel physically has now become a way along which you travel through life. What, then, is a spiritual “path”? It is a way along which you travel to God. This way is not defined by curbs, grass or rocks, as physical paths are. It is defined by a system of belief and practice. The assumption is that if you follow the path outlined by these beliefs and practices, you will reach your goal, you will find God.
Now let us turn to the word “course.” Interestingly enough, my Webster’s Dictionary says that a course is a path, “the path over which something moves.” It then turns this idea into something more abstract, saying that a course is “an ordered process or succession, as a series of lectures or other matter dealing with a subject.” So, rather than a path that something moves along, now it is a process that something moves through. This leads us to the specific idea of an educational course, the idea from which the Course is drawing its title. An educational course is a process that a student moves through, a series of activities set up by his teacher that is designed to teach him a certain body of material, a certain subject. If he moves through the process, if he participates in the assigned activities, he will reach his goal; he will have learned.
So an educational course is a defined path along which you move in order to learn a body of material. A spiritual path is a defined path along which you move in order to reach God. Both are processes, ways, that, if followed, lead you to a goal. True, the goals are different, but this apparent gap is bridged in the case of the Course if you remember that the purpose of its learning (the learning of miracles, as the title indicates) is to awaken the memory of God.
In short, the Course is telling us right in its title, right on the cover, that it is a spiritual path. This theme continues inside the covers, where it reminds us over and over again that it is a defined process, a structured path, that, if followed, will lead to its goal. The following quote illustrates this perfectly: “this course was sent to open up the path of light to us, and teach us, step by step, how to return to the eternal Self we thought we lost” (Workbook, p. 321-322; W-pI.rV.Intro.5:4).
I think that calling itself a “course” adds a special note of authority to this spiritual path. Many spiritual paths have a large degree of self-determination in them. Yet an educational course is one that is usually highly structured by the teacher. The student does not determine his own path in this case. Instead he walks through a prescribed series of activities that have been set up for him in advance. The student demonstrates proficiency not by his ability to chart his own way, but by participating with zeal, intelligence and competence in the prescribed activities.
This clearly has implications for how we take this particular course. Let me draw them out a little:
- Do it as is; do not try to alter it. You do not go into a course and tell the teacher how to teach it (I know, I tried repeatedly and it never seemed to help my grade). In the same vein the Course says, “Free will does not mean you can establish the curriculum” (Text, Introduction). The Course throughout assumes that you are doing it as is, rather than using it as an inspirational springboard, picking and choosing what feels right to you. I think this latter approach is appropriate when you are not yet sure that the Course is your path. Yet for its committed students, the Course assumes that you are discipling yourself to a complete system, rather than merely mining selected nuggets. It specifically discourages the making of any exceptions, at one point saying that if you retain one aspect of the ego’s system (in this case, special love relationships) “you have retained the whole” (Text, p.334; T-17.IV.6:7). It claims that in taking this course “you are studying a unified thought system in which nothing is lacking that is needed, and nothing is included that is contradictory or irrelevant” (Workbook, p. 66; W-pI.42.7:2), thus implying that it should be followed as is.
- Really participate. You do not learn a course very well by showing up only half of the time, falling asleep in class, shooting spit wads when the teacher is not looking, whispering, giggling and passing notes, gawking at members of the opposite sex, not keeping track of assignments, not doing the homework (bring back any memories?). Similarly, A Course in Miracles encourages you to really engage it. If you look at the over 120 places where the Course refers to itself, much of the basic tone of them is that the Course is trying to teach you the most important thing in the world-salvation—and that you are resisting, afraid, despairing, dragging your feet. These passages show that the Course wants students who will give it their all and thus accept its priceless gift of liberation.
- Center yourself on it. Most educational courses are taken right alongside other courses. Yet there are courses, such as a medical school’s course of study, the nature of which requires that you center yourself on that course alone. A Course in Miracles, I believe, is one of these. As I have written elsewhere, I really think that if you are sure from within that the Course is your path, then you ideally let other paths fall to the background, where they become, at most, peripheral supports for your primary path. This may seem to be a shocking idea in the ultra-eclectic New Age world, but it is a time-honored idea among the world’s traditional spiritual paths. Centering yourself on your path is by no means a condemnation of other paths (unless you intend it to be so), but a simple acknowledgment of what is best for you. The idea of honoring other paths yet centering yourself on the one meant for you is clearly affirmed in the early pages of the Manual (Manual, p. 3; M-1.3:-4). And it is stated even more clearly in the section, “I Need Do Nothing,” where we are told, “You are not making use of the course if you insist on using means that have served others well, neglecting what was made for you” (Text, p. 363; T-18.VII.6:5).
Yet this idea of really participating in the Course and centering yourself on it does not say anything very specific. If we are to be serious students, we need to know what particular activities the Course asks of its students. In other words, what assignments does it make? Just like the title we have been examining, the answer to this question is written right on the cover (or covers, if you have the three separate volumes). The answer is the three volumes of the Course: the Text, the Workbook for Students, and the Manual for Teachers. Clearly, these volumes are patterned after the idea of a course. And it is my belief that each volume represents an aspect of that course, an aspect of the path the Course sets forth. And together, I further believe, they represent a progression that one is roughly expected to go through in walking that path. Let us go through the volumes one by one.
The Text: Study
The first, and by far the largest, volume of the Course is the Text. Now, when you take a college course and the teacher hands you a text, what do you think he expects you to do with it? As obvious as the answer to this is, it is one that has evaded many Course students. The Text is quite likely the least read volume of the Course. I have even heard people advocate ignoring it altogether. I can’t blame them—I spent my first few years with the Course avoiding what I considered the boring Text.
Yet the author of the Course clearly felt otherwise. He places great importance in his Text and in the ideas contained therein. The way he writes demonstrates this. He has a habit of introducing an idea and then referring to it again and again. Once he has introduced it, he assumes that you were paying attention and are now familiar with it. And so in his mind it is now fair game to refer to it, either by picking it up again and developing it at length, or by making brief and sometimes quite subtle references to it. Sometimes after picking an idea up again and again, and relating it to a myriad of other ideas along the way, he will come right out and remind you what a crucial idea this is for his course. A good example of this is the concept “ideas leave not their source,” which in the Workbook he calls “the basic thought so often mentioned in the text” (Workbook, p. 287; (W-pI.156.1:3), and “This central theme…often stated in the text” (Workbook, p. 236; W-pI.132.5:4). Finally he just tells us that “The emphasis this course has placed on that idea is due to its centrality in our attempts to change your mind about yourself” (Workbook, p. 311; W-pI.167.3:7).
Sometimes he will more or less stop picking an idea back up and developing it. He just assumes that by now you know it. For this reason, many of the Course’s most important concepts are found only in the Text (at least in any kind of developed form). This includes such crucial concepts as special relationships, holy relationships, the holy instant and the attraction of guilt.
The Text I think clearly represents teaching, study and understanding. The author is doing the teaching, and we as students are supposed to read and study in pursuit of understanding. By making the Text the first volume the author is making a very important statement. He is saying that studying and understanding the teaching is the first aspect of his course, the foundation of his path.
It is difficult to dispute that the teaching is the foundation of the Course. Not only does the Text comprise almost two thirds of the actual words of the Course, but I would say that teaching makes up about 95% of the Course, the main exception being the specific instructions for daily practice in the Workbook. Yet these instructions comprise a minority of the Workbook, most of which is straight teaching.
The teaching is so prominent in the Course because the Course is basically trying to get you to change your thinking: “…this course aims at a complete reversal of thought” (Manual, p. 58; M-24.4:1). It is trying to get you to give up the ground level ideas that motivate your thoughts, emotions, choices and perceptions, and exchange them for a new set of ideas, the ones taught by the Course. The ideas, then, are the basis for everything in the Course. This is acknowledged in the very first line of the Workbook, which says that “A theoretical foundation such as the text provides is necessary as a framework to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful.”
The implications of this for the student are obvious. The foundational activity of walking the path of the Course is reading and study, aimed at understanding the teaching. There really is no getting around this. It just has to be done. It is part of taking this course. If you find the Text thick going (as I honestly still do), there are options open to you. You can read a little bit at a time, you can join groups that read and discuss the Text, you can get tapes where different teachers read and discuss sections from the Text, you can listen to the Course on tape. You can do all kinds of things. But if you want to be a serious student, do something. For not reading the Text in this course is like neither reading the books nor attending the lectures in a regular course, which no one would dream of doing unless they were dropping out.
The Course’s author communicated this same emphasis on reading and study to his scribes, Helen and Bill, in material reproduced in Ken Wapnick’s Absence from Felicity:
All learning involves attention and study at some level. This course is a mind-training course. Good students assign study periods for themselves. However, since this obvious step has not occurred to you, I will make the obvious assignments now (p. 258).
The Workbook: Practice
The next volume is of course the Workbook. As with the first, the author considers this volume to be absolutely crucial to his course. After telling us in the first line of the Workbook that the text is a necessary foundation for the exercises, the second line goes on to say, “Yet it is doing the exercises that will make the goal of the course possible.” That is a heavy line. You will not achieve the goal of the course unless you do the lessons. And then in the Manual for Teachers, we are told that you do not qualify as a teacher of God within the Course’s framework unless you have done the Workbook: “He cannot claim that title until he has gone through the workbook, since we are learning within the framework of our course” (Manual, p. 38; M-16.3:7). Clearly, the author of this course thinks his workbook is essential.
The Workbook I believe represents the second aspect of the path of the Course: practice. The only hope that the Course sees for us in exchanging our current thought system for an entirely new one is to practice the new one repeatedly, incessantly, constantly. “Over and over this must be repeated, until it is accepted” (Workbook, p. 159; W-pI.93.6:2). Practice makes perfect. The great mystics, masters and saints throughout history have recognized that there is no real spiritual attainment without real practice. The Course, I believe, recognizes this same thing. In fact, it uses the word “practice” and its variants over 350 times.
In line with our earlier comments about taking the Course as is, I really believe that the author of the Course intended his students to do the Workbook as is, to follow the instructions—as he says several times in different forms—”as closely as possible” (Workbook, p. 107,118-119; W-pI.65.4:2, 70.6:3), “just as closely as you can” (Workbook, p. 197; W-pI.rIII.Intro.1:3). I think that most students start out with this intention, and then, as the instructions begin to get increasingly demanding, they find this to be just too difficult. And then as the instructions also get more subtle and cursory—since they start taking off from the previous instructions, which they assume you followed—students begin to lose touch with what is being asked of them. And eventually we all begin to ask the question: Is it really possible to do the Workbook as is?
The author of the Course seems to think so. All he expects of us, it seems, is to do it roughly as is. He makes it clear that he understands we will miss a lot of practice periods. Yet he is very concerned that we not use these missed practice periods as excuses to miss more. And so he discusses the issue of missed practice periods several times, each time giving a variation of the same basic message: When you notice you have missed practice periods, just start practicing again. Don’t feel guilty, don’t try to make up all the ones you missed and don’t give up. Just resume your practice.
In the same vein, he is in the habit of urging us to not forget our practice—he does so over a dozen times. He also urges us to give our time and effort to this practice: “…do not let the time be less than meets your deepest need. Give all you can, and give a little more” (Workbook, p. 358; W-pI.193.10:6-11:1). And he frequently gives incentives for practicing, especially when the practice demands get a little heavy, reminding us of the phenomenal benefits it will bring—to ourselves and to others.
And when the Workbook is over, we keep practicing, making our mental dance of willingness more and more frequent until it becomes constant, until it becomes our habitual state of mind. I like how Allen Watson has characterized the Workbook: “an introduction to practice.” It is a beginning; it sets us on the long road to perfect practice. Many times the Course reveals that practice is meant to someday become continuous. In fact, the Manual deals directly with this issue of what practice to undertake once we have finished the Workbook. Part of its answer is this:
All through his training, every day and every hour, and even every minute and second, must God’s teachers learn to recognize the forms of magic and perceive their meaninglessness (Manual, p. 40-41; M-16.11:9).
This theme of the importance of every minute and second is repeated over and over in the Course. The logical implication of this is obvious: The Course eventually wants us to practice every minute and even every second! In the end it wants “total dedication all the time” (Workbook, p. 328; W-pI.181-200.In.1:2). This is the final state of Course practice.
In time, with practice, you will never cease to think of Him, and hear His loving Voice guiding your footsteps into quiet ways….Nor would you keep your mind away from Him a moment, even though your time is spent in offering salvation to the world (Workbook, p. 279-280; W-pI.153.18:1,3).
The Manual for Teachers: Extension
The last line of the above passage reveals how the Course sees our time being spent: “in offering salvation to the world.” This, I believe, is the third and final aspect of the path of the Course: extension.
Over and over again the Course tells us in many, many ways of the importance of extending forgiveness and healing to others. It tells us that this is our function while on earth, our part in God’s plan for salvation. This is what we are supposed to be doing with our lives, what we should be doing in every single interaction, every encounter, every situation. Being instruments of this extension is, it seems, the only purpose of our bodies. In fact, it is the only purpose of everything on earth; it is what everything is for (Text, p. 479-480; T-24.VII.5-6).
It is not just that Jesus wants to get everyone saved and so is trying to press us into service as his workhorses. He does want this, but he also wants to get us saved. He repeatedly tells us that we will be saved as we save, that “I will be healed as I let him teach me to heal” (Text, p. 24; T-2.V.18:6). “Forgive and be forgiven. As you give you will receive” (Workbook, p. 213; W-pI.122.6:3-4).
Extension, according to the Course, has a tremendous psychological effect on the one extending. Whatever idea he gives out will be strengthened in his mind. Thus, it is only when we see forgiveness go forth from us, changing our perception of others and their perception of themselves, that we will be fully convinced that there is something truly holy within us, that holiness is at the center of our being. Extension, it seems, gives the ideas we are seeking to learn their final reinforcement in our minds.
Why do I say that extension is the final reinforcement? There is a running formula in the Course that is expressed particularly clearly in lessons 154 and 159. The formula is that you first receive from the Holy Spirit: you learn a lesson, shift a perception, acquire an aspect of right-mindedness, let in a holy idea. Second, you give this to another, which you cannot do unless you first received it: “No one can give what he has not received” (Workbook, p. 293; W-pI.159.1:1). And then third, through giving you come to fully understand that you have received. You gain greater awareness of the gift you already have. “No one can receive and understand he has received until he gives. For in the giving is his own acceptance of what he received” (Workbook, p. 282; W-pI.154.8:6-7). Clearly, I think, study and practice are step one here. It is through them that we initially receive. Step two is extension, giving, which provides us with step three: full awareness of the gift we originally received.
Even though extension is dealt with throughout the Text and Workbook, I believe that the Manual for Teachers as a volume symbolizes this final aspect of the path of the Course. After all, it is a manual for teachers of God, for those who are ready to devote themselves to extension (teaching, extension, healing and giving are all virtual synonyms in the Course). And, in fact, most of the Manual deals directly with the question of how one can best carry out the function of being a teacher of God, an extender, a savior.
This function is not an amorphous, nebulous thing. Throughout the Course we are told that our particular function as a teacher/healer will take a special form especially designed for us. This form will be crafted by the Holy Spirit, based on our “strengths exactly as they are, and…where they can be best applied, for what, to whom and when” (Workbook, p. 281; W-pI.154.2:2). The Manual assumes that for some people this will mean being a kind of faith healer and/or shepherd of new students on the path of the Course (see my article in our last newsletter). The Psychotherapy pamphlet assumes that for some people this will mean being a professional therapist. Obviously one’s function can take any one of hundreds of forms, many of which may appear quite ordinary and not at all like a “spiritual” purpose. Yet whatever one’s function is, it will not be a totally nebulous thing that one can never put one’s finger on. It will take a form concrete enough for us to consciously and intentionally devote our resources of time and effort to it.
And the Course does encourage us to devote ourselves to it. Just as practice eventually becomes continuous, so extension eventually becomes full-time. “Teaching is a constant process; it goes on every moment of the day, and continues into sleeping thoughts as well” (Manual, p. 1; M-Intro.1:6)). Since we either teach God or the ego every moment, our goal, of course, is to teach God every moment, so that, as we saw earlier, all of our “time is spent in offering salvation to the world.”
I find it interesting that the Course specifically points out many times that there is a great deal for us to do in fulfilling our function of extension. After saying that to receive the holy instant “you need do nothing” (Text, p. 363; T-18.VII.5:5), it says that after you have received the holy instant, there will be many “busy doing[s] on which you are sent” (Text, p. 364; T-18.VII.8:3). In speaking about our special function, our part in the Holy Spirit’s plan, we are told that “there is so much that must be done before the way to peace is open” (Text, p. 404; T-20.IV.8:)). Elsewhere, we are told: “There is much to do” in fulfilling “your place…in the Great Awakening” (Text, p. 306; T-15.XI.10:9-10). And again: “Yet while in time, there is still much to do. And each must do what is allotted him, for on his part does all the plan depend” (Text, p. 493; T-25.VI.5:9-10).
Over and over the Course tells us that extension is our purpose while on earth. The Psychotherapy pamphlet says, “He stays but for this” (Psychotherapy, p. 21; P-3.III.1:9). If we are sticking around only for this, what else would we do with our time?
The Process as a Whole
So we have these three aspects, three activities: study, practice and extension. It seems clear to me that these are not disjointed pieces, but actually make up an integrated progression, a path, a course. This progression goes, as you would expect, from volume I to volume II to volume III. Isn’t this the implication of using the college course model? In an educational course you first read and study the text. Then you use the workbook and by doing its exercises apply the ideas you have learned, to learn them more fully and intimately. Finally, you graduate to teaching the course yourself and so use the teacher’s manual.
A Course in Miracles makes clear that it has this exact same progression in mind. The volumes clearly are written in order, each one consciously looking back on the volume or volumes that preceded it. The Workbook mentions many times the Text that went before it, and the Manual mentions both the Text and Workbook. On a more substantial level, the Workbook says that for it to be meaningful the Text is required. The Manual says that to be a teacher of God the Workbook must be completed.
And since this is a spiritual course, Text-Workbook-Manual implies not just the order of the volumes, but a rough process that one goes through in one’s spiritual development. It is actually a process of taking in and embodying the thought system that the Course teaches. This thought system is so radical, so utterly contrary to our current thought system, that it must enter gradually.
First, the ideas must simply enter your conscious mind in the form of intellectual concepts. And so you read and study the book. This is not the end of the process, but this is the foundation for all that follows. Then, the ideas become more deeply accepted into your mind through practice, through frequent rehearsal and application. And lastly, the ideas receive their final reinforcement in your mind through extension, through seeing them go forth from you and heal your world, convincing you that the ideas are yours and reinforcing them through sharing (see diagram).
I do not believe, though, that as you move into a new aspect you drop the one before it. That would be like stepping onto a higher rung on a ladder and then sawing off the rung you just stepped off of. As you extend, you obviously keep practicing, for your practice makes possible your extension. And as you practice, I believe you keep studying, deepening your understanding of the thought system, so that you can practice more effectively, so that you can extend more generously, so that you can remember God more quickly.
In summary, if we are really going to be honest, I think we have to admit that taking this course as its teacher laid it out means a lot of work, in the end a great deal more than going to medical school. It means really giving ourselves to this course. To begin with, the teacher that set this thing up intends for us to do a lot of reading and studying. It would take a lifetime to mine a tenth of the wisdom contained in that Text. He intends for us to do a lot of practicing, first twice a day, then graduating to several times an hour, working its way down to every minute and finally to every second. And he intends for us to do a lot of extending, beginning with a single choice to see our interests as not separate from one other person and ending with devoting our every moment—waking and sleeping—to extending love to the entire Sonship.
But now for the question we all have been asking: What about me? How can I possibly do this? I realize that what I have said here sounds very difficult and demanding. But please do not misread it because of its challenging nature. For instance, I am not suggesting that someone who works hard at the Course is more special in God’s eyes, or is even more spiritually advanced. I am simply suggesting that that particular individual will get more out of the Course than he would if he had put less into it. I think it is also tempting to perceive what I am saying as being a projection of my particular personality, thinking I am the kind that likes demanding regimens and is inclined to foist them on others. Of course, it is up to you to decide for yourself what the Course actually says. For myself, I am clear that the basic shape of the idea I have presented is not my invention, but Jesus’. From my perspective, he put it right there on the covers and pages of the Course for everyone to see.
To really look objectively at this whole issue, I think we need to come to terms with our resistance. It seems to me that we have a tremendous resistance to what Jesus is saying to us, not only to the transformation he offers, but to the specific activities he advocates. In fact, when we resist doing the specific activities, he considers that the same thing as resistance to our transformation. For those activities (done with the right intent) are the means to our transformation. At one point he discusses the connection between means and end: “And when you hesitate [to give the means], it is because the purpose [the end] frightens you, and not the means….remember that if you think they [the means] are impossible, your wanting of the purpose has been shaken” (Text, p. 410; T-20.VII.3:4,8). True, he does expect us to resist his assignments and he is very forgiving about it. Doing so is not a sin. But he does regard it as a mistake: “When you fail to comply with the requirements of this course, you have merely made a mistake. This calls for correction, and for nothing else” (Workbook, p. 165; W-pI.95.9:1-2).
I think that it is definitely appropriate for some of us to do the Course as intended by the author, but not for all of us. The Course does make abundant room for individual differences. There are many thousands of paths, it tells us. Most people are not called to make the Course their path. Even for most who own the Course, the most appropriate relationship with it may be a much more casual one in which they take from it what really grabs them. Even those who have taken the Course as their path may find it most appropriate to approach it in a very individual way. The Course plainly says that you can start with any volume, that you need not go through the volumes in order. The Workbook does assume you will do its lessons in order, but even it makes allowances for what works for you. These allowances increase, until we finally are told: “After the completion of the more structured practice periods, which the workbook contains, individual need becomes the chief consideration” (Manual, p. 38; M-16.3:8).
All of this is abundant evidence that the Course realizes we will each have our own relationship with it. The section in the Manual on the levels of teaching (p. 6-7; M-3) is instructive here. Its talk of different levels of human relationship can be directly applied, I believe, to different levels of relationship with the Course. Therefore, some of us will have a very brief encounter with the Course, like two strangers running into each other in an elevator. Some of us will have an intense relationship with it, like two lovers, and then, as many lovers do, move on. And some of us will stick with it for life, like (some) married partners. Yet “These relationships are generally few, because their existence implies that those involved have reached a stage simultaneously in which the teaching-learning balance is actually perfect” (Manual, p. 7; M-3.5:3). In other words, there will be generally few of us for which the Course will perfectly meet our learning needs for the duration of our lives. And as the next sentence tells us, even these few “generally do not” recognize the “unlimited opportunities for learning” (same paragraph, third sentence) held out by the relationship. In other words, there will be even fewer who do the Course as intended by the author, who complete all the assignments and get an A+.
So what about the rest of us, the majority who are simply not going to study, practice and extend like Heaven depended on it? I think we simply do our best without guilt. We realize that the benefits come more fully the closer we get to really taking the Course as its teacher intended. And at the same time we look honestly at what we are willing to do and what feels appropriate for us at this point in our lives. And then we “Give all [we] can, and give a little more” (Workbook, p. 358; (W-pI.193.10:6-11:1). And, most importantly, we do so without guilt, without berating ourselves for our lack of perfect study, practice or extension. We are not bad; we are simply on the path. Additionally, I think we also walk this path without judging the goal to be difficult or ourselves to be incapable of learning it. Both judgments are arrogant from the Course’s point of view. “If you maintain that you are unworthy of learning this, you are…believing that you must make the learner different. You did not make the learner, nor can you make him different” (Text, p. 355; T-18.IV.4:8). “He does not judge it either as hard or easy. His Teacher points to it, and he trusts that He will show him how to learn it” (Manual, p. 36; M-14.4:7-8).
Yet while we honestly assess what we are capable of doing right now, I think it is also essential that we honestly admit what the Course is asking; not so that we can force ourselves into anything or beat ourselves up with guilt, but so that we can aspire to what we one day will attain. And this refers both to attaining to the Course’s goal of salvation and to doing the Course as it asks. For I think honesty would compel us to concede that the gap between our current condition and the lofty states promised by the Course is the same gap as that between what we are currently doing with the Course and what it is asking us to do. Seeing this will enable us to make the transition from poor learners to happy learners, to more and more fully and joyously complete the teacher’s assignments and find salvation.
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]