[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
Guidance is one of those topics that most students of A Course in Miracles seem somewhat confused about. One of the many confusions is about how frequently we are actually supposed to be asking for it.
On the one hand, we have nearly fifty Workbook lessons in which we are supposed to ask for guidance every hour: “And we will quietly sit by and wait on Him and listen to His Voice, and learn what He would have us do the hour that is yet to come” (W-pI.153.17:2). On the other hand, we have The Song of Prayer supplement, which tells us that, at the highest level of prayer, we don’t ask about specific decisions. We just ask for God’s Love and trust that guidance for all our decisions will come as an echo of the song of His Love (see S-1.I.2-5).
The question, then, is how do we get from here to there? How do we get from asking what to do every hour of the day to only asking for God’s Love and trusting we will be guided in what to do? One answer is that we treat the frequent asking about what to do as a lower-rung thing, a kindergarten stage that we leave behind as soon as possible.
Another answer, though, is hinted at by guidance that Helen Schucman received from Jesus. In this guidance, Jesus praises Helen for not projecting onto Bill her own failure to ask Jesus if it was time to transcribe “the notes”—the dictation that would become the Course. Jesus says, “The fact that he should have done so does not exempt you from your own omission. Thanks for blessing him with a miracle instead of cursing him with projection.”
Then he says, “Note further – he needn’t feel concerned about it, either. So he forgot! Happens all the time, until the habit of asking becomes involuntary.” So, just as Helen shouldn’t have heaped blame on Bill, so Bill shouldn’t heap blame on himself. After all, forgetting to ask for guidance is just what happens “until the habit of asking becomes involuntary.”
This brief comment says a great deal. In fact, it really implies a whole timeline, which goes something like this:
First stage: Involuntary lack of asking. This is the normal human condition, in which it is an involuntary habit to not ask for guidance.
Second stage: Voluntary asking. Here, we consciously choose to ask for guidance, as often as possible. But the previous habit is still in operation, and so forgetting to ask “happens all the time.”
Third stage: Involuntary asking. Here, the voluntary asking has become so repeated, so ingrained, that it has become a habit. As such, it is involuntary. Now, as we face decisions, our minds involuntarily turn toward the Holy Spirit for a sense of His direction. We don’t decide to do it, any more than we decide to blink when something rushes toward our eyes.
Fourth stage: Involuntary abiding in guidance. This stage isn’t included in our passage above, but it completes the process they begin, and it is implied by another early passage: “It is possible to reach a state in which you bring your will under my guidance without much conscious effort, but this implies the kind of habit-pattern which neither you nor Bill has developed dependably as yet” (original version of T-2.VI.6:1). So here, we simply bring our minds under his guidance, and do so “without much conscious effort,” because we have made it such a habit. It sounds here like we are not asking about specific decisions, we are just putting our minds under his guidance, which implies that everything we think and do is now “under my guidance.” This looks to me like basically the same stage that is described in The Song of Prayer.
This is obviously a very different way to get from frequent asking to no asking than the one I mentioned earlier, where we leave behind the frequent asking just as soon as we can. In this scenario, rather than quickly transcending it as a infant stage, we become super-proficient at it. Asking becomes so ingrained, so habitual, that eventually we ask as an involuntary reflex.
In this sense, asking is much like walking. At the beginning, we had to learn how to walk. We had to really focus on it, and even then were shaky and prone to falling. Eventually, though, we just did it so much that it became second-nature. Now, we can walk and at the same time do all sorts of other things, like carrying on conversations, because we don’t have to think about the walking. It just happens.
So, can you see yourself going through a process like this? Can you see yourself asking so regularly and frequently that it eventually became an ingrained habit that was simply involuntary?