Post-Workbook Practice

As you complete the Workbook, you need to be asking yourself: What now? Do I do the Workbook again, or do I enter into post-Workbook practice? The Workbook is not meant to be done continually. It is like training wheels on a bicycle; it is just meant to get you started so you can ride on your own. The practice it teaches you is meant to become a mental way of life that you do because it’s your way of life. In such a mode, you wouldn’t need specific instructions for each day. How does one answer this question? Here are some thoughts about that:

  • Pray about it. Ask for guidance from your inner Teacher.
  • Part II of the Workbook is a transition into post-Workbook practice. If you practiced well in Part II, you are probably ready for post-Workbook practice.
  • Be willing to stretch yourself. It might be best to take the training wheels off a bit before you think you are ready.
  • If you try out post-Workbook practice and your practice falls apart, you may still need the Workbook.

The subject of post-Workbook practice is specifically dealt with in section 16 of the Manual for Teachers: “How Should the Teacher of God Spend His Day?” This section should be read very carefully by anyone graduating from the Workbook. It begins by saying that for the advanced teacher of God the question of how to spend his day is a superfluous one, for he has already given each day to God, with Whom he keeps in constant contact. He is beyond the need for any structure whatsoever. Since this question is already answered for the advanced teacher, the section moves on to the beginning teacher: “But what about those who have not reached his certainty? They are not yet ready for such lack of structuring on their own part. What must they do to learn to give the day to God?” (2:1-3).

The rest of the section deals with the needs of the beginning teacher of God. Who is he? He is someone that has completed the Workbook, for that is how one qualifies as a teacher of God: “He cannot claim that title until he has gone through the workbook…” (3:7). Thus, the Course is not expecting us to emerge from the Workbook as spiritual giants, only as newborn teachers of God. We will therefore still need to structure our day somewhat in order to give it to God. We are not yet ready for the totally unstructured life.

The Course’s author then goes on to give what could be called the post-Workbook practice instructions. He only gives a few broad rules, urging that “each one must use them as best he can in his own way” (2:4). He specifically declines to set up a specific post-Workbook routine for everyone, for such routines “easily become gods in their own right, threatening the very goals for which they were set up” (2:5). What he says about post-Workbook practice can be briefly boiled down into the following dictum: Do what you have found meets your needs, while still working within the basic structure of practice laid out in the Workbook. Let us break this sentence in two and take the halves one at a time.

“Do what you have found meets your needs”

In the latter half of the Workbook, the structure falls away in favor of self-direction. Here in the Manual we are told that this process keeps on going after the Workbook. “After completion of the more structured practice periods, which the workbook contains, individual need becomes the chief consideration” (3:8). Our individual need will determine how much time we spend in our morning and evening quiet time (3:5-6), what position we sit in when having our quiet time (5:5), and how we respond to temptation throughout the day—whether we respond with a Workbook-like phrase, with one word or no words (10:5-7).

Of course, we learned what meets our needs by going through the Workbook. Thus, we can apply how we choose our meditation posture to the whole topic of post-Workbook practice: “Having gone through the workbook, you must have come to some conclusions in this respect” (5:5).

“Doing what meets your needs” must also be combined with what the Workbook tells us at its end about letting the Holy Spirit direct our practice. “He will direct your efforts, telling you exactly what to do, how to direct your mind, and when to come to Him in silence, asking for His sure direction and His certain Word” (W-E.3:2-3). In other words, we let our practicing be guided by our experience and by the Holy Spirit. We hopefully have gained some contact with Him, since a great deal of the Workbook practice is designed to establish that contact.

“While still working within the basic structure of practice laid out in the Workbook.”

The general structure of post-Workbook practice given in this section looks remarkably like the kind of practice we do in Part II of the Workbook. There are really only two main differences: First, there are no specific lessons given for each day—presumably, we ourselves choose the ideas we practice. Second, there is no mention of hourly remembrances. You could say, then, that the four-fold structure of Workbook practice drops down to a three-fold structure of post-Workbook practice—unless, of course, you find that doing the hourly practice meets your needs. Here is a summary of that three-fold structure (although I have separated morning and evening quiet times below, I am considering them together as one part of that structure):

Morning quiet times

  • Take your quiet time with God as soon as possible after you wake.
  • Instead of a set duration, spend the amount of time that meets your need (a practice begun in Part II of the Workbook).
  • Instead of duration, emphasize quality.
  • In terms of duration, continue “a minute or two after you begin to find it difficult. You may find that the difficulty will diminish and drop away. If not, that is the time to stop” (4:7-9).

Evening quiet times

  • Take your quiet time as close to bedtime as feasible.
  • If you take it early in the evening, at least take an additional moment right before sleeping in which you close your eyes and think of God.
  • In terms of body posture, use whatever position you found helpful when doing the Workbook. Do not lie down.
  • The same basic rules apply for duration as in the morning.

Frequent reminders

  • Remember a thought of pure joy and limitless release throughout the day (see 6:1-2).
  • Remind yourself of your protection throughout the day (see 8:1-4).

Response to temptation

  • Watch throughout the day for your ways of protecting yourself, and then remind yourself of your real protection (this would be a frequent reminder if you are simply rehearsing the thought, and a response to temptation if you are doing so in response to a disturbance of your peace). Be confident that you will succeed in claiming your real protection, because success is not of you.
  • Respond to temptation in the way you prefer—with a Workbook-like sentence, with one word or with no words (see 10:5-7).
  • Continually recognize and see through all forms of temptation: “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” (11:9).

What ideas should you focus on?

Section 16 of the Manual gives us no guidance about what ideas to focus on. One of the chief features of the Workbook is that each day is spent focusing on a particular idea. What should we do about that now? This is clearly one of those things that must be left up to individual need combined with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Here are some options:

  • Choose an idea from the Workbook to focus on each day.
  • Ask for guidance each morning about what idea to focus on.
  • Pull a favorite line from the Text as your idea for the day.
  • Don’t focus on a particular idea each day, but simply use whatever idea comes to mind each time you practice.

As we practice within this general structure, eventually even it will fall away. We will become advanced teachers of God and go beyond the need for any structure whatsoever. At that point, practice will have truly become our mental way of life. It will not be an effort; it will simply be the way we think. It will no longer be a training, for our minds will be trained. As a result, the basic character of our thinking will have been transformed. Our minds will no longer be filled with thoughts, feelings and impulses that seem to seize us against our will. We will no longer even have an unwatched mind, which carries on its meandering rehearsal of ego outside our full attention. Our ongoing stream of thoughts will no more be an endless rumination on our petty personal interests. It will instead be an ongoing stream of glory flowing quietly through our enraptured minds. Our attention will not spasmodically jump from one promise of pleasure to the next, but will gaze ceaselessly and unflinchingly on the blazing light of Christ in all things. Our minds will be consciously, effortlessly and unwaveringly absorbed in pure joy. The following passage captures well the final state of our practicing:

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. (W-pI.153.18:1-3)

Here, at this stage, when we never cease to think of God, we will have achieved the goal that the Workbook set out. We will have trained our minds “to think along the lines the text sets forth” (W-pI.IN.1:4). We will have acquired true perception.

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Practice Instructions Review I

Purpose: To review the lessons and therefore let them sink in a notch deeper. Also, to see how interrelated they are and how cohesive the thought system is that they are leading you to.

Exercise: As often as possible (suggestion: every hour on the hour), for at least two minutes.

  • Alone in a quiet place, read one of the five lessons and the related comments. Notice that the comments are written as if they are your own thoughts about the idea. Try to imagine that they are. It will help if you frequently insert your name. This will set you up for the next phase, in which you generate similar thoughts of your own.
  • Close your eyes and think about the idea and the comments. Think particularly about the central point of the commentary paragraph. Reflect on it. Let related thoughts come (utilizing the training you’ve received in that practice). If your mind wanders, repeat the idea and then get back to your reflection. This is the same basic exercise as in Lesson 50, in which you actively think about ideas in order to let them sink more deeply into your mind.

Remarks:

  • At the beginning and end of the day read all five lessons.
  • Thereafter, cover one lesson per practice period, in no particular order.
  • Cover each lesson at least once.

Beyond that, concentrate on a particular lesson if it appeals to you most.

 

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]