See complete instructions in separate document. A short summary:
- Read the commentary paragraph slowly and personally.
- Pray the prayer, perhaps several times.
- Morning and evening: Repeat the idea and then spend time in Open Mind Meditation.
- Hourly remembrance: Repeat the idea and then spend time in Open Mind Meditation.
- Frequent reminders: Repeat the idea and then spend a quiet moment in meditation.
- Response to temptation: Repeat the idea whenever upset, to restore peace.
- Read the "What Is" section slowly and thoughtfully once during the day.
Practice suggestion: Think of a past mistake, especially a major one such as long-term lovelessness in a relationship. Then repeat the following lines to God, trying to mean them as much as you can:
I leave this past mistake behind.
I leave the future in Your Hands.
I trust Your present promises to guide my future in their holy light.
Try to feel the freedom from past and future contained in these words. Let your sense of care drop away.
In the ego's perception, the future is only the result of the past; it is little more than the past itself extended beyond the present. To the ego, the past determines the future. In the perception of the Holy Spirit, "The future now is recognized as but extension of the present" (1:2). What we choose to perceive and to believe in the now determines what the future will be like; the future is not determined by the past. "Past mistakes can cast no shadows on it, so that fear has lost its idols and its images, and being formless, it has no effects" (1:3).
By letting go of the past and realizing that it cannot touch me now, I bring into being a future different from the past. My present choice for salvation, my present willingness to accept the Atonement for myself, deprives the past of all its fear. The "idols and images" (1:3) of fear are things such as all the guilt of the past and all the false perceptions of the past. They are no longer available to fear when I have released the past into God's Hands and have accepted forgiveness for myself. I am beginning from this present moment with a clean slate. Without the forms of past idols and images, fear can have no effects.
Based on the guilt of the past my future was certain death. But with the past released from "sin," and life now my present goal, death has no claim on me (1:4). My physical body will still "die" most likely (barring some rare miracle of being caught up into heaven in a whirlwind, like Elijah in the Bible, II Kings 2), although the body does not truly die because it never lives; but since I am not my body, I will not die, and I will not fear death. "All the needed means are happily provided" (1:4). When my mind is straightened out and my goal is life, everything I need to reach my goal is provided by the Holy Spirit. "When the present has been freed" from all guilt and all fear, that present will simply extend "its security and peace into a quiet future filled with joy" (1:5).
The key is in allowing my mind to be freed from guilt and fear right now. I can practice doing this in the holy instant. I can take a moment and allow the peace and security this lesson speaks of to flood my mind. I can bring my guilt and hurt and pain and anger to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to heal my mind. As I do this more and more the peace will extend itself outward into my day. Perhaps the most common testimony of people who have been studying the Course for some time is, "I am much more peaceful than I ever was before." It works. And as that peace grows in the present, as more and more of our present moments are spent in that peace of mind, the future will more and more be filled with joy.
Let me, then, "choose to use the present to be free" (2:1). How many of my present moments are spent grieving or sorrowing about the past, lamenting things lost? How many present moments are spent in fear of something future? Let me choose to use the present differently. Let me choose, every time I am aware of the present, to use that moment for peace and for nothing else. To do so is the way out of hell. Leave the future in God's Hands. Leave past mistakes behind (2:2). Let me lay my life in God's Hands, "sure that You will keep Your present promises, and guide the future in their holy light" (2:2).