Practicing with the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is intimately present in our practicing. There are passages which even suggest that while we are repeating the words from the Workbook, He is repeating them right along with us (see W-pI.98.7:3 and W-pI.rV.In.8:2). He is there while we practice, giving us the shifts and experiences that are the fruit of our practicing. He is there whether we call on Him or not. The following twelve categories, however, are ways that we can call on Him, ways that we can consciously turn to Him in our practicing.

1. Asking Him throughout the day for guidance on decisions

This is a truly important theme in the Course. The Course wants us to literally ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit all day long. This theme occurs in all three volumes. In the Text, “Rules for Decision” (T-30.I) lays out a day of practice centered on making all our decisions with the Holy Spirit. In the Workbook, we are instructed for fifty lessons to ask Him what to do each hour. In the Manual, the final section depicts our day of practice as also being filled with asking the Holy Spirit for guidance. The pattern in all three volumes, then, is this: our practice throughout the day is meant to be interlaced with asking for guidance throughout the day. How do we reach the place where we actually do this? It is a habit that must be built up through training. Otherwise, it is not going to happen. And the Workbook, of course, is where we are given this training.

2. Asking Him to guide our practice periods

As the Workbook goes on, it keeps asking for lots of practice periods from us, but gives us less guidance on what to do during them. Instead, it increasingly expects the Holy Spirit to guide them. In Lesson 124 we have “our first attempt at an extended period for which we give no rules nor special words to guide your meditation. We will trust God’s Voice to speak as He sees fit today” (W-pI.124.8:4-5). In Review VI we give our practice period to the Holy Spirit, “trusting Him completely for the way each practice period can best become a loving gift of freedom to the world” (W-pI.rVI.In.7:4). Indeed, the final lessons of the Workbook (361-365) are all about this. “This holy instant would I give to You” means “You are in charge of what my mind does during this practice period.” This pattern holds sway after the Workbook: “He will direct your [practice] efforts, telling you exactly what to do, how to direct your mind, and when to come to Him in silence” (W-Ep.3:3).

The idea of the Holy Spirit choreographing my every practice period is one that I find unrealistic for my current level of connection with the Holy Spirit. I prefer to do the practice I’ve been taught by the Workbook, while remaining open to His inspiration during the practice period.

3. Asking Him for the words we use in practicing

This theme crops up explicitly in the final lessons. Look at this passage:

And if I need a word to help me, He will give it to me. If I need a thought, that will He also give. And if I need but stillness and a tranquil, open mind, these are the gifts I will receive of Him. (W-pII.361-365.1:1-3)

The key here is to realize that this passage is talking entirely about “this holy instant” which we are giving to the Holy Spirit. It is talking about what we do with that particular practice period. In that light, the first line means, “And if I need a word to focus on to help me practice right now, He will give it to me.”

In doing post-Workbook practice, I have found it useful to ask for a sentence that will be the focus of my practice that day. Most times I do this I get something.

4. Asking Him for spiritual teaching; listening to Him assure us of eternal truths

In Lesson 76 we are supposed to listen to Him giving us a stream of teaching:

You will be listening to One Who says there is no loss under the laws of God….Hear Him Who tells you this, and realize how foolish are the “laws” you thought upheld the world you thought you saw. Then listen further. He will tell you more. About the Love your Father has for you. About the endless joy He offers you. About His yearning for His only Son. (W-pI.76.9:4, 10:1-6)

The lessons that speak of this sound as if He is mainly assuring us of eternal truths we can already read about in the Course, such as God’s Love for us. Lesson 97, for instance, says, “He will speak to you, reminding you that you are spirit, one with Him and God, your brothers and your Self” (W-pI.97.8:3). Obviously, some people are more able than others to receive teaching like this from within. But if you do have the ability, the Workbook clearly wants you to use it.

5. Letting Him assure us that the words we practice are true

In some lessons, we are supposed to say the words, then pause and wait for assurance or conviction from Him that the words are true. Lesson 97 says, “Listen for His assurance every time you speak the words He offers you today, and let Him tell your mind that they are true” (W-pI.97.8:4). Lesson 105 says, “So tell yourself, ‘God’s peace and joy are mine,’ and close your eyes a while, and let His Voice assure you that the words you speak are true” (W-pI.105.8:3).

Try repeating whatever lesson you are practicing today as you normally would. Then repeat it again, this time pausing afterwards to let the Holy Spirit fill the words with His certainty that they are true. Most likely the second repetition will be more powerful, because what is happening is that your divided, uncertain mind is resting on His complete certainty in the idea you are practicing. You are borrowing His certainty.

6. Asking for the real understanding of salvation

In some lessons we ask Him to help us understand crucial ideas that our minds may grasp conceptually, but we do not really understand. For instance, Lesson 126 says this: “Repeat today’s idea, and ask for help in understanding what it really means. Be willing to be taught” (W-pI.126.10:1-2). The idea is “All that I give is given to myself”—an idea that we have great difficulty really understanding. Obviously, if we really got this idea, we would spend all of our time giving. We need the Holy Spirit’s help.

Have you ever had some idea from the Course that you heard a thousand times and then one day you felt as if you suddenly understood it? That was almost certainly the Holy Spirit at work. When we notice that some idea just doesn’t click inside us, we can ask for help. In fact, we can do that now. Try thinking of some idea in the Course that you may understand intellectually, yet which you do not really understand. Spend a couple minutes asking the Holy Spirit “for help in understanding what it really means.” Open your mind. If you don’t hear anything at first, just keep asking, filled with hope and confidence that you will receive an answer.

7. Asking Him for an experience of peace or of vision

In Lesson 75 we ask for an experience of seeing the real world. We just keep repeating “The light has come. I have forgiven the world.” While doing so we wait patiently for an experience of vision, confident that our forgiveness has entitled us to it. In Lesson 221 we ask the Holy Spirit for an experience of the peace of God. Obviously, from the Course’s standpoint, everything true that we experience when we practice comes from the Holy Spirit. It therefore makes sense to consciously ask Him for it. We can ask Him for every kind of experience, including the experience of the holy instant.

8. Asking Him to decide for us

There is a wonderful theme in the Course of asking the Holy Spirit to decide for us. This is analogous to asking another person to make a decision for us that we don’t feel qualified to make. It takes the decision out of our hands and puts it in the hands of someone we trust. It is yet another example of our divided mind resting on a completely undivided Mind. Here are some examples from the Course:

I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him.
I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me. (T-5.VII.6:10-11)

Say to the Holy Spirit only, “Decide for me,” and it is done. (T-14.III.16:1; italics mine)

Choose, then, for me, my Father, through Your Voice. (W-pII.351.1:6)

You might want to try this with some choice that you have wanted to make but haven’t been able to—either a choice to see a situation or person a certain way or a choice to do a certain thing. After you have picked the choice you want to focus on, repeat to yourself the italicized lines above over and over, applying them to this choice. Try to really mean the words you say. Have the feeling that you really want Him to decide for you, that you are gratefully handing over a job that was just too much for you. Feel yourself resting on His totally undivided Mind.

9. Letting Him purify our thoughts

The Text tells us that the Holy Spirit is constantly engaged in purifying our thoughts. He discards the totally ego-based ones, saves the pure ones, and purifies the ones in between. Lesson 151 in the Workbook, guides us through an exercise in which we make conscious contact with this ongoing process. “We watch our thoughts, appealing silently to Him Who sees the elements of truth in them.” Then we “let Him evaluate each thought that comes to mind, remove the elements of dreams, and give them back again as clean ideas that do not contradict the Will of God” (W-pI.151.13:3-4). The idea is not that He will give you back a thought that is totally different. He is not answering your thought. Rather, He will find some little spark of truth within your existing thought and strip away everything that hides that spark’s light. What you get back is not a completely different thought, but a clean and holy version of the same thought. Notice this line: “And as each thought is thus transformed, it takes on healing power from the Mind Which saw the truth in it, and failed to be deceived by what was falsely added” (W-pI.151.14:2; italics mine).

Please try this out. First, still your mind. Then simply watch it for the thoughts that cross it. When you find one, have a sense of giving it to the Holy Spirit, so that He can give it back in purified form. Once you give it to Him, wait for that purified form to come back to you. Listen for it. If nothing comes, try giving it to Him again, and then wait again.

As an example, one of my thoughts was, “I’m glad that so-and-so showed up for class tonight.” I offered that up to the Holy Spirit and what came back was a purified version of that thought: “I love him as a brother.” The sense it gave me was that there is some “holy me” that is contributing a small element to my thoughts, so small that it usually goes unnoticed. What this exercise does is draw out that small element, stripping everything else away, and by doing so reveal this “holy me.”

10. Bringing our life situations to Him and asking for His perception of them

This is a favorite one of mine. One example of this is in “The ‘Hero’ of the Dream” (T-27.VIII.9), where we bring a terrible appearance we see outside of us to Him so that He can show us its cause-which is a mad idea-and then laugh with us a while. My favorite example of this is in “The Obstacles to Peace” (T-19.IV), which gives us this practice:

Take this from me and look upon it, judging it for me.
Let me not see it as a sign of sin and death, nor use it for destruction.
Teach me how not to make of it an obstacle to peace,
but let You use it for me, to facilitate its coming. (T-19.IV(C).11:8-10)

What you are giving to Him is something outside you that is distressing you. You are seeing it as an obstacle to peace, but He can use it to facilitate the coming of peace, by guiding you to see it rightly. I find this practice is especially effective when it seems as if there is no way for me to see some situation differently. Even if I can’t, I can believe that He can. Again, I am resting on His undivided Mind.

11. Bringing our dark and secret thoughts to His light

This theme runs throughout all three volumes of the Course. It implies that we have a tendency to keep things from the Holy Spirit, hiding them in “shame and secrecy” (W-pI.185.8:6). Instead, we should open up to Him the book of our mind and heart, even to the point of searching our mind for things we have kept from Him. We bring these dark thoughts to Him and let Him shine them away. Here are some passages that speak of this:

Lay before His eternal sanity all your hurt, and let Him heal you. Do not leave any spot of pain hidden from His Light, and search your mind carefully for any thoughts you may fear to uncover. (T-13.III.7:4-5)

And as we practice, let us think about all things we saved to settle by ourselves, and kept apart from healing. Let us give them all to Him Who knows the way to look upon them so that they will disappear. (W-pI.193.11:4-5)

The Holy Spirit asks of you but this; bring to Him every secret you have locked away from Him. Open every door to Him, and bid Him enter the darkness and lighten it away. (T-14.VII.6:1-2)

12. Sharing our pains and joys with Him

This category is closely related to the previous one; you’ll soon see how. There is a passage in the Clarification of Terms which has become very meaningful to me. It is talking about Jesus, but we can also apply it to the Holy Spirit, since They are usually interchangeable in the Course. It says,

He would help you yet a little more if you will share your pains and joys with him, and leave them both to find the peace of God. (C-5.6:7)

This is equated with “accepting him into your life” (C-5.6:6). This is such an interesting passage. It suggests that we treat Jesus as some sort of diary, sharing our pains and joys with him without censorship. Yet this is a very unusual kind of diary, for its pages, once written on, ask us to transcend the very drama we just recorded—something that our usual diaries and confidants do not do. We share our pains and joys with Jesus, and then let him take us by the hand and lead us beyond the drama of our little self being buffeted (the pains) or being stroked (the joys). He leads us to a peace that is not dependent on how our separate self got treated today, a peace that just is.

For me, this takes the form of sharing the events of my day with Jesus, and then asking him how these events look to him. How does he see that same event? How can I see it differently? How can I in this situation transcend my little drama and find the peace of God? You may want to take a moment and try doing this practice now. Again, you can use either Jesus or the Holy Spirit, whatever feels most natural to you.

Conclusion

The message I take away from this is that I can make the Holy Spirit a true practice partner, opening my mind and heart to Him and calling on Him for everything, both inside and outside. One thing that strikes me is that I am supposed to call on Him for a number of very inward things, such as experiences, thoughts, understanding, even the act of choosing. The very inner motions and conditions that I thought were up to me, He can place in me. Another theme that strikes me is how many of these categories involve my divided mind resting on His undivided Mind. Ego and truth are contending in my mind, but if I can shift the weight ever so slightly toward truth, then I can use that weight to turn to a Mind that is beyond this struggle, a Mind in which only truth exists. I can reach beyond my uncertainty and draw upon His complete certainty.

 

 

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