Remember our formula for a day of Workbook practice: “in the morning and again at night, and all through the day as well”(W-pI.64.5:2)? The nighttime practice time is obviously a basic part of this formula, despite the fact that most of us have a hard time making it a consistent part of our lives. This time is so important that we are meant to see the entire day as preparation for it: “After the morning meeting, we will use the day in preparation for the time at night when we will meet again in trust” (W-pI.92.11:2).
This passages implies that our evening quiet time can be the high point of the day, the time that our whole day has built up to. Even if we do not experience it as the high point, it is still an affirmation that our day really was about the goal of God. It is hard to pretend that our day was dedicated to God when we end it in front of the TV and God has dropped out of the picture entirely. The following passage implies that our evening time is an acknowledgment that what we practiced all day long is what we really want:
And now we give the last five minutes of our waking day to the decision with which we awoke. As every hour passed, we have declared our choice again, in a brief quiet time devoted to maintaining sanity. And finally, we close the day with this, acknowledging we chose but what we want (W-pI.138.12:2-4).
Finally, our evening quiet time will prepare us for a peaceful sleep:
“It sets your mind into a pattern of rest, and orients you away from fear” (M-16.5:7).
For all of the above reasons, this final quiet time is essential.
The Course clearly wants this time to be as close as possible to the time we go to sleep. I want to emphasize, however, the phrase “as close as possible.” With many of us, unless we take our quiet time earlier in the evening, it will inadvertently become the time we go to sleep. The Course makes allowance for this: “Perhaps your quiet time should be fairly early in the evening, if it is not feasible for you to take it just before going to sleep” (M-16.5:2). You will have to decide for yourself when you take your evening quiet time. I recommend, though, that it be at more or less the same time each night.
Some things you may want to do during your evening quiet time:
- Thank the Holy Spirit for His guidance throughout the day.
- Spend time dwelling on your thought for the day.
- Review the events of the day; forgive the painful ones and thank God for the blessings.
- Say a closing Workbook prayer.
- Have a final meditation.
How much time?
And as distraction ceases to arise to turn us from our purpose, we will find that half an hour is too short a time to spend with God. Nor will we willingly give less at night, in gratitude and joy. (W-pI.153.15:5-6)
Morning and night, devote what time you can to serve its proper aim, and do not let the time be less than meets your deepest need. Give all you can, and give a little more. (W-pI.193.10:6-11:1)
We will continue spending time with Him each morning and at night, as long as makes us happy. We will not consider time a matter of duration now. We use as much as we will need for the result that we desire (W-pII.IN.2:6-8).
The Manual’s instructions
The same procedures should be followed at night. Perhaps your quiet time should be fairly early in the evening, if it is not feasible for you to take it just before going to sleep. It is not wise to lie down for it. It is better to sit up, in whatever position you prefer. Having gone through the workbook, you must have come to some conclusions in this respect. If possible, however, just before going to sleep is a desirable time to devote to God. It sets your mind into a pattern of rest, and orients you away from fear. If it is expedient to spend this time earlier, at least be sure that you do not forget a brief period,—not more than a moment will do,—in which you close your eyes and think of God (M-16.5).
Going to Sleep
Just as the Course envisions us waking up with God on our lips, so it sees us going to sleep. It sees its student taking the words he practiced all day long and bringing them with him into sleep:
“Holy indeed is he who makes these words his own; arising with them in his mind, recalling them throughout the day, at night bringing them with him as he goes to sleep” (W-pI.162.3:1).
Our ideal day closes with a final affirmation of what the day was all about, an affirmation that sends us into a quiet sleep in which we rest with God. For many of us, this will simply be the concluding part of our evening quiet time, since we will take that time right before asleep. For those who take that time earlier, this will be an additional moment of dedicating our sleep to God.
There are a couple of things we might do in that brief moment:
- Dedicate your sleep to God.
How you wake is the sign of how you have used sleep. To whom did you give it? Under which teacher did you place it? Whenever you wake dispiritedly, it was not given to the Holy Spirit. Only when you awaken joyously have you utilized sleep according to His purpose (T-8.IX.4:1-5).
- Bring words of practice with you into your sleep.
Fall asleep with words of practice in your mind, perhaps the lesson you have been practicing all day. I find that the following words are excellent for this and for the previous point, for they are words of practice that also dedicate our sleep to God: “And let me sleep sure of my safety, certain of Your care, and happily aware I am Your Son” (W-pII.232.1:5).
More passages about going to sleep and about sleep
And as you give your mind to the ideas for the day again before you sleep, His gratitude surrounds you in the peace wherein He wills you be forever, and are learning now to claim again as your inheritance. (W-pI.rIV.IN.10:2)
It soothes your forehead while you sleep, and rests upon your eyelids so you see no dreams of fear and evil, malice and attack. And when you wake again, it offers you another day of happiness and peace. (W-pI.122.2:1-4)
It blesses you throughout the day, and watches through the night as silent guardian of your holy sleep. (W-pI.189.2:4)
And with this thought we sleep, to waken once again with these same words upon our lips, to greet another day. (W-pI.rV.IN.11:3)
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]