Purpose: To ask for grace, and the temporary experience of Heaven that comes from grace. And then to return and bring to others the gifts that you received from grace.
Morning/evening quiet time: At least five minutes; ideally, thirty or more.
Today you are again asking for the gift of grace, which will momentarily lift you into the knowledge of Heaven. Begin with this prayer: "By grace I live. By grace I am released. By grace I give. By grace I will release." The first half of this prayer asks that your mind be raised up into the daylight of reality, where you will experience pure oneness. This is the "experience we try to hasten" (7:1). This is not the final revelation that will one day come to you, in which you finally disappear from time and space altogether, but it does signify that that day is coming. This is essentially a meditation in which you are going for it all, so bring to it all that you have learned about meditation, as well as all of your desire for God.
The second half of the prayer speaks of the aftereffects of the moment of grace. Once you emerge from your instant of timelessness, people will "see the light that lingers in your face" (13:2), and you will give them the miracles that were laid in your mind in that holy instant.
Hourly remembrance: One or two minutes as the hour strikes (reduce if circumstances do not permit).
Repeat the prayer used in the longer practice, asking again for God's grace. And then thank God for whatever reflections of grace came your way in the previous hour. And ask Him how, in the coming hour, He would have you give the gifts you received in your meditation.
Grace, Jesus tells us, "is an aspect of the Love of God which is most like the state prevailing in the unity of truth" (1:1).
I suppose one might say that to live by grace means to live with full, conscious awareness of Love's Presence while in the world. In that sense, it is equivalent to living in the real world.
This fits in with the rest of the first paragraph. The state of grace, or living by grace and constantly receiving grace, is something beyond learning. Learning only prepares us for it, for learning is purely in this world. Really, what we are doing is unlearning all our denial of the truth about our Self.
"It is…the goal of learning, for grace cannot come until the mind prepares itself for true acceptance" (1:3). Learning prepares us to accept grace. It does not give us grace, but it prepares us to receive it, to accept it, which implies that grace is already available but we are not able to accept it.
"Grace becomes inevitable instantly in those who have prepared [a place in themselves where it can be] willingly received" (1:4). Grace is simply there, instantly, whenever we are ready to receive it. Learning is necessary to produce the state of willingness; then the grace just pours in. We don't have to do anything to bring it, but we do have to progress through (un)learning to remove our unwillingness to receive.
There then follows what is perhaps the best definition of grace in the lesson: "Grace is acceptance of the Love of God within a world of seeming hate and fear" (2:1).
Grace means seeing through the illusion. I am still in this world of "seeming hate and fear" and yet, somehow, I accept the Love of God. I accept that He is wholly Love, not angry and vengeful, not something to be feared because of my sin, not someone to be blamed for the seeming ills of the world: God is Love. Instead of seeing the world as solid and real, and wondering how God can be loving when all this is going on, "those whose minds are lighted by the gift of grace can not believe the world of fear is real" (2:2). Those who know grace know that God is real, love is real, and it is the world of fear that is the illusion.
Grace is not learned. The final step must go beyond all learning. (3:1-2)
This is not something you learn. It cannot be learned. It must come from outside the context in which learning occurs, which is purely the ego context. The Course often says there is no learning in Heaven, or in God. How could there be learning where everything is known?
Grace is not the goal this course aspires to attain. Yet we prepare for grace in that an open mind can hear the Call to waken. It is not shut tight against God's Voice. It has become aware that there are things it does not know, and thus is ready to accept a state completely different from experience with which it is familiarly at home. (3:3-6)
So, since learning is the goal of the Course, grace is not; it is beyond what the Course teaches because it cannot be taught. But the learning of the Course, which is really unlearning, prepares us for grace by loosening the tight grip of the ego on our minds. The goal of the Course, as seen in this paragraph, is an open mind and an awareness that there are things we don't know.
We do not realize the extent to which our minds have been closed, "shut tight against God's Voice." That is what we must learn. What we learn is all the ways we shut God out. When we learn that completely, there is nothing left to shut Him out and He is simply there, as He has always been.
The lesson then goes on to talk of the state of Heaven or oneness. I don't have time to comment on it here; the lesson speaks for itself when it says, "We cannot speak nor write nor even think of this at all" (6:1).
Yet forgiveness, taught and learned, brings with it the experiences which bear witness that the time the mind itself determined to abandon all but this is now at hand. (7:2)
In other words, forgiveness is what we now teach and learn, not grace. Forgiveness is the learning process, the preparation for grace, and it gives us witness experiences, foretastes of what it is like to live in grace.
Now we have work to do, for those in time can speak of things beyond, and listen to words which explain what is to come is past already. Yet what meaning can the words convey to those who count the hours still, and rise and work and go to sleep by them? (10:3-4)
We are still in time. Let's be real and practical here. Talking about "things beyond" and trying to understand how "what is to come" (enlightenment or awakening, which is in our future, as we perceive it) "is past already" (that is, the journey is already over, we're already enlightened, and oneness is a constant state which is here now, forever as it always was)—talking about these things can be fascinating, a little encouraging perhaps, but how on earth can we understand it? We can't! The words convey very little meaning to us while we live and order our lives by time, by counting the hours.
It is good to think of these things a little, but to do so is not our main task. In fact, it can be a waste of time if it distracts us from the fact that "we have work to do" here, now. Forgiveness work. Sitting around discussing what it means to live constantly by grace, in the real world, or what follows in the experience of Heaven, is meaningless without that very real and practical work of forgiveness going on in our lives.
We won't understand Heaven until we get there. Grace foreshadows Heaven, and we can't even understand that yet, not fully. We can have tastes of it, though, in the holy instants in which we connect with God and with Love in our minds. So,
now we ask for grace…Experience that grace provides will end in time…[it does] not replace the thought of time but for a little while. (12:2-3)
The experiences of grace come, and they go. We experience being outside of time "but for a little while." These experiences, which come in moments of true forgiveness, are all we need for now. "The interval suffices" (13:1). The holy instants, the "little while" of each forgiveness experience, is enough. It is all we need.
"It is here that miracles are laid" (13:2). In other words, the holy instant opens us to miracles. It is the way that miracles flow into our lives, "to be returned by you from holy instants you receive, through grace in your experience, to all who see the light that lingers in your face" (13:2). When you "come back" from the holy instant, there is a light that lingers in your face. Other people see it, and to them, you bring the miracles you received in that moment.
What is the face of Christ but his who went a moment into timelessness… (13:3)
This is talking about you and me. The face of Christ is your face, my face, when we have received a holy instant and "return" to the world of time; our faces glow with the light of Heaven.
…and brought a clear reflection of the unity he felt an instant back to bless the world? (13:3)
That is our function here in the world: to bring a clear reflection of Heaven's unity back to bless the world. To ask for grace, to open our mind to receiving grace from God, to choose, as often as we can, to "go" into that holy instant in which we feel the unity of Heaven, and then to return with a reflection of that to bless the world. Notice that the unity is "felt" and not just intellectually accepted and understood. It is felt. That is what happens in a holy instant.
We hear about living the in the real world, or what it must be like to live in a constant state of oneness (Heaven), and we want it. We want it now. We get frustrated because the holy instants come and go, they last "but for a little while" and we find that disappointing. Jesus is explaining here that the learning stage is absolutely necessary, and we should not feel frustrated, we should not think we are failing in our work if the holy instants don't last.
How could you finally attain to it forever, while a part of you remains outside, unknowing, unawakened, and in need of you as witness to the truth? (13:4)
Your brothers around you in the world, "unknowing, unawakened," are your own thoughts in form. They are "a part of you" which "remains outside." You have a mission here, a purpose to fulfill. Awakening must be communicated. You want a steady state of "holy instant-ness," but Jesus asks, "How could you attain that if part of you is outside that state of oneness, unknowing, unawakened, unaware?" Your oneness must include them.
Jesus says we should actually be grateful to "come back" from these holy instants, back to the world of time. Listen:
Be grateful to return, as you were glad to go an instant, and accept the gifts that grace provided you. You carry them back to yourself. (14:1-2)
If the holy instant is a moment in which you are aware of oneness, in a sense you have to come back. You have to come back because you are aware of your oneness with those who haven't seen yet. They are part of you, and so you have to "go back" to bring the gifts of grace to that part of yourself that is still not awake, as you see that reflected in your brothers.
Jesus tells us clearly to be content with this, to "not ask for the unaskable" (14:7). To want Heaven for myself while leaving my brothers behind is to fly in the face of what Heaven is: the awareness of oneness. A private salvation is unaskable. We go together or we go not at all.
Some might react to this as though the mass of humanity is holding us back and preventing our full enlightenment. Such a thought is still based on a consciousness of separation and so is totally alien to grace and Heaven. The world you see is not a force separate from you, restraining you. It is a reflection of your own self-restraint, your own resistance which has yet to be overcome or unlearned. The world is not outside your mind, but in it. You are the world, that is what you are learning.
You become what you always have been by accepting your role as savior to the world. Your salvation is the world's salvation. They are not two things, they are the same.
We "come back" to save the world. That doesn't mean that we have our little moment of bliss and then come back to preach to the world about it and tell them how enlightened we are, and why don't they get with it? If your salvation is the world's salvation, the reverse is true: the world's salvation is your own. You save the world by working on yourself. "The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself" (T-2.V.5:1). You save the world by changing your own mind, because that is where the world is, in your mind. There is only one mind, only one of us here.
When you are at a movie, if there is a problem on the screen you don't run to the screen to fix it; you find the projector and fix that. Those "unenlightened people" you see out there are parts of your own mind that you haven't recognized as part of you; you don't bring them with you by trying to work to fix the screen (those separate people out there), you do it by working with the projector, the cause (your own mind).
Be glad to go an instant, and be grateful also to return, to bring the light of God to the world. You bring it to yourself. It is in seeing that fact that you will be saved. The returning is not a step back into time. No, it is a step forward in your own awakening, the means by which you bring all the world with you into timelessness, there to be the oneness you have touched and known.