Where taught: Initially, in Lessons 41 and 44, where it is hailed as “our first real attempt” to experience the light within, “a major goal of mind-training,” and a practice “we will utilize increasingly.” After these two lessons, it becomes a staple of Workbook practice.
Three aspects: I have found it useful to break this method down into three aspects, the first of which is the basic process or motion, which is then enhanced by the second and third aspects.
I. Sink deeply into the center of your mind
Repeat the idea for the day a few times, then let go of it. Clear your mind of all normal thoughts, then try to sink towards the center of your mind. Sink down and inward, toward the truth in you, the core of you, the heart of you. My favorite sentence about that is this: “Try to enter very deeply into your own self.”
Rather than specific words or mantras, this sinking toward the quiet center is the focus of this method. This is what you do with your mind while meditating, rather than repeating anything, focusing on your breathing, or just sitting there and trying to keep your mind blank.
Please note that this does not mean going to some place in your body or anywhere in physical space. It means going to the center of your mind. As an experiment, close your eyes, and focus on yourself as a mind—try to forget about your body. Then say to yourself, “Try to enter very deeply into your own self.” Do you get a sense of where that is? Did that evoke any kind of feeling or sense? Personally, this sentence evokes a very specific sense for me, but not of a place in my body; rather, of a place that lies at the heart of whatever I am.
At the beginning of the practice period, repeat today’s idea very slowly.
Then make no effort to think of anything.
Try, instead, to get a sense of turning inward,
past all the idle thoughts of the world.
Try to enter very deeply into your own mind,
keeping it clear of any thoughts that might divert your attention. (W-41.6)
Try to sink into your mind,
letting go every kind of interference and intrusion by quietly sinking past them.
Your mind cannot be stopped in this unless you choose to stop it.
It is merely taking its natural course. (W-44.7)
Try to reach down into your mind to a place of real safety.
You will recognize that you have reached it if you feel a sense of deep peace, however briefly. (W-47.7)
From time to time, you may repeat the idea if you find it helpful.
But most of all, try to sink down and inward,
away from the world and all the foolish thoughts of the world.
You are trying to reach past all these things.
You are trying to leave appearances and approach reality. (W-41.7)
Let go all the trivial things that churn and bubble on the surface of your mind,
and reach down and below them to the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is a place in you where there is perfect peace.
There is a place in you where nothing is impossible.
There is a place in you where the strength of God abides. (W-47.7:3-6)
II. Use concrete methods to pull your mind back from wandering
It is absolutely essential to bring your mind back from wandering or your meditation will not accomplish anything. You must be willing to constantly pull your mind back again and again. The Course says, “Do this as often as necessary. There is definite gain in refusing to allow retreat into withdrawal [drowsiness] even if you do not experience the peace you seek” (W-74.7:4-5; italics mine). Here are three methods for pulling your mind back.
- Observe distractions dispassionately and slip quietly by them.
“Try to observe your passing thoughts without involvement and slip quietly by them.” (W-44.7:5)
- If your mind wanders, repeat the idea for the day. This is the Workbook’s most common method.
- Repeat: “This thought I do not want. I choose instead [repeat idea for the day]” (W-Re.6.In.6:2-3).
III. Hold a heightened sense of intention
This method is very flexible on the level of form. You may visualize yourself going through clouds to a light (Lesson 69), or sinking under churning waters to peaceful depths (Lesson 47), or going through a doorway in your mind (Lesson 131). The form you use is not important. What is crucial, however, is the attitude or intention you hold about reaching your goal.
While no particular form of approach is advocated, what is needful is a sense of the importance of what you are doing, its inestimable value to you, and an awareness that you are attempting something very holy. (W-44.8:1; italics mine)
For this kind of practice period only one thing is necessary: Approach it as you would an altar dedicated in Heaven itself to God the Father and God the Son. For such is the place you are trying to reach. (W-45.8:1-2; italics mine)
The following categories are the particular mental attitudes most encouraged in the Course’s meditation instructions. I find it helpful to begin my meditations by focusing on one at a time.
- CONFIDENCE, because God wants you to reach this place in you and so do you
- DESIRE AND DETERMINATION, because reaching that place is your heart’s desire
- IMPORTANCE (of what you are doing), because this is your salvation and the world’s
- HOLINESS (of what you are doing), because reaching this holy place in you is a holy thing