A Course in Miracles is interesting in so many ways, one of which is its 3-in-1 Textbook, Workbook and Manual for Teacher structure. The hefty Textbook outlines the Course’s metaphysics and J repeats the same points over and over again to drill them into our ever-resisting mind. The Manual for Teacher is more like an appendix which clarifies various key topics and also sort of provides the answers to frequently asked questions.
The textbook is certainly not an easy read with tiny fonts, countless words, metaphors and written in a biblical-like style to appeal to the generally Christian western intellectuals. Above all, it keeps denying our individual existence. It is clear that ACIM is not for everyone at the same stage. Neither does J claim it to be so. He clearly states that ACIM is one of the many paths that all lead to the same destination.
If the Course resonates with you, then good for you and I hope you stick with it. Few spiritual literature today has the clarity and non-contradictory nature of ACIM. This is the single most important reason why ACIM works for me. I have had enough of the contradicting philosophies from the spiritual buffet before I embarked on the Course. These days, I like the consistency of the pure non-dualistic philosophy presented by ACIM. There is no compromise.
The Workbook, however, is the part which most people struggle with. Divided into 365 lessons that should take at least a year in total to complete, it asks that we go through not more than one lesson a day. Each lesson aims to help us break through the barriers of the ego mind. Nevertheless, the end goal of completing the Workbook is not about reaching enlightenment. In fact, it is only the beginning but an all-important milestone to be able to rise above the ego, i.e. the wrong-minded part of our conflicting mind and achieve a clear communication line with Holy Spirit, i.e. the right-minded part which retains a memory of God and Heaven.
The daily lessons look simple enough. In reality, it is far more difficult and challenging than what we initially envision. At times, we forget to keep to the hourly revisits of certain lessons. On other occasions, we lose interest or get distracted after applying the lesson for a while. Now and then, I found myself repeating the same lesson for a few days. Ever so often, we become so busy in our earthly lives that we simply forget to do the daily lesson at all.
Now that I have completed the Workbook for some time, I would like to share my thoughts on completing the workbook and what happens next.
How long did I take to complete the workbook, You may ask? Well, I took more than 2 years. Fact is I did not even count the exact days as it is the last thing J would have wanted us to do. I also did not apply a strict regimentation or follow the instructions to the last letter. Certain lessons request that we revisit and apply an exercise every hour, sometimes once in the morning and before we sleep. I missed my “appointments” more often than not. But no, I seldom compensated. Instead, I simply moved on most of the times. I will explain this again later.
On the other hand, there is something beyond the Workbook which I almost never failed to do. And that is to apply forgiveness whenever the situation presents itself. My mind is constantly on alert. It feels almost like I am monitoring my own thoughts continuously. If I ever get angry or start the blame game, I will “watch” my thoughts carefully and start applying the advanced forgiveness method taught by ACIM.
On top of that, I also remind myself that the universe is an illusion. It helps. Another helpful device is to recognise that the problem is yet another trick the ego throws at you from its bag of tricks, so as to bind you as a human body. I learnt this from Kenneth Wapnick. Sometimes, the anger causes a lot of pain and took a while longer to subside. Certain life lessons are especially hard — my biggest lesson involving a special hate-relationship with my father. But it is okay. I would forgive myself later if I forgot. The interesting thing is I was also able to forgive consciously in my dreams occasionally when I sleep.
A Course in Miracles is also literal to me. If you remember, J explains that the Course does not aim to be theoretical but it is all about experiences. Moreover, it is our experiences which will validate the Course itself to us during our journey. And miracles do happen regularly to me. While I did not have the dramatic miraculous experiences like Gary Renard who gets “beamed” into another physical location or have Ascended Masters appear to me, there are many little miracles which I have experienced and I have no way of explaining them otherwise. I did not write about them very often in this blogzine or talk much about them to others. The reason is that these are positive side effects of forgiveness and it is important to remember they are exactly that. They are not our final goal, which is to remember who we really are.
At times, the people who I am supposed to find and meet will present themselves to me, saving me the time and effort to have to look for them. As J explains, one key benefit of applying forgiveness is to save time. When we no longer need the lessons, He will collapse the illusions of time and bring the moment of enlightenment closer to us.
Very often, my dream as a human also gets better and easier as I unexpectedly get hotel and flight upgrades. Issues with other people also get resolved with unexpected resolutions. Solutions to problems also present themselves if I remember to ask Holy Spirit. And often, I find that I do not even need to ask. I can attest to the fact that life does get easier when we apply forgiveness regularly.
Back to doing the Workbook. I sometimes only read a lesson, think about it for a while and moved on. I feel strongly that different people will do the Workbook in their own unique ways. The lessons need not be taken literally. Some individuals will find a particular exercise very meaningful and will want to repeat it more often. Others will just move on quickly, without applying it much. And that is perfectly fine in my opinion. We often hear ACIM students feeling guilty about not following the lessons faithfully and that is, in my opinion, totally beside the point of doing the Workbook. The lessons are there to help us remove our subconscious guilt. How can we therefore entertain any guilt while doing the Workbook. I can almost hear J laughing in the background, “Move on! Silly…”
To me, doing the Workbook should be relaxing and effortless. So do whatever you can to make it easier. From my own experience, the biggest obstacle will be your ego mind putting up all kind of resistance to doing the Workbook, thus delaying your progress. Practising the lessons leads to its eventual annihilation and that is what makes the ego so afraid. So, if doing the lesson in the bath makes it easier, do so. If the only time you will remember communicating with God is while moving your bowels, do it! J or Holy Spirit, as I picture Him, is an abstraction of perfect love with a sense of humour. He will never have taken our human activities seriously.
Talking about communicating with Holy Spirit or J. I call him J because I was never a Christian nor from the western culture. So J works for me. Most of the times, I will refer to him as Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit also does not have a face to me. I know many Course students like to personify J as Jesus in the biblical sense and I think it is perfectly fine. Use whatever works for you as long as you remember that J is the right-minded part of your mind and we are one with him.
What motivates me to complete the Workbook, you may ask? I think the source of motivation does matter. It is very different if you are motivated by fear, worrying about lagging behind or if you do not complete a lesson in a day, you feel you are not good enough. Again, it brings up the guilt issue. The ego mind can be very devious and even try to take control of how you do the Workbook.
On the other hand, if you are motivated by love, your intention is to join with others, you no longer want to be angry or upset, or you want to speed up your enlightenment and overcome the ego, then I think you are in good shape. The key motivation for me is that I desire peace, the end goal that ACIM promises. If not, why do we even want to be enlightened?
Upon completing the Workbook, I realise there are a few purposes of doing it. One is to have our mind getting used to seeing the world as what it really is. Instead of a beautiful world, we see through the delusion and realise that it is a dog-eat-dog world where problem after problem arises as long as we have a conflicted mind. We simply cannot escape from this illusion if we are attracted by it.
Secondly, the Workbook gets us in the habit of applying forgiveness readily. We forgive the other not because of what he or she has really done but because it is our own external projection of guilt and that it all boils down to the separation from God.
Last but not least, it is to learn to differentiate the Holy Spirit from the ego mind. The untrained mind would most probably not be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit since the ego is always “louder” and fighting to “speak” first. Now that a clearer line of communication has been established with the Holy Spirit, He takes over as our personal teacher for the rest of our journey, offering us comfort and gently telling us that it does not matter whatever happens.
Does it mean I am much closer to enlightenment now? Not necessarily so. But I am getting better at forgiveness and when the next time I get upset about something, I am quicker to forgive. And when unsure about what to do, I feel that I can listen better to the guidance of Holy Spirit and respond with the right-minded approach.
We do not have to be alone in this journey. And I wish you God-speed in completing your Workbook lessons.