In the introduction to these Review Lessons, Jesus offers to lead us on the journey he took and tells us he is renewed each time he leads one of us to ". . . the place at which the journey ends and is forgot." (W.R.V.7.1) He needs our cooperation, asking us to "Help me now to lead you back to where the journey was begun, to make another choice with me." (W.R.V.7.5) We do that by undertaking the practice and giving it more time and effort. He encourages our willingness on behalf of our own healing. It means being vigilant in watching our minds and seeing when we have sided with the ego.
When he says we are just being led back to where the journey started, this means nothing is irrevocable. We are being taken back to where we made the wrong choice for the ego and, with it, for sin, guilt, and fear. Now we can make another choice, which means every wrong choice can be undone. It was all just a mistake, and mistakes can be corrected. It also means, for me, I need not feel guilty about the wrong choices and decisions I have made, and there need not be regrets. Each mistaken choice can be undone with the help of the Holy Spirit until the memory of who we really are as God created us is restored to us. Forgiveness is the means for this undoing.
It is always important to remember we have not changed ourselves. Whenever we start to beat up on ourselves or allow doubt thoughts and beliefs in our unworthiness to slip in, we can choose to remind ourselves that these thoughts are not the truth about us. When we start our healing journey, the ego gets threatened, becomes suspicious, and ultimately vicious, warning us of the consequence of this path. We may start to question whether this program works for us and may be tempted to abandon its teaching. We need each other and our mighty companions to strengthen our weak resolve when we are tempted to wander off the path. The wonderful thing about "talking" to you as I write these commentaries is that I am really talking to myself and reinforcing the Lessons in my own mind. It is a gift I receive as I give.
This Course is not just a personal path of salvation for me alone. To undertake this journey alone is to undertake it with the ego as guide. We heal through our connections with each other, extending miracles so we know we have received them, and they are always in us, waiting for our acceptance. Every time we are willing to offer a blessing instead of judgment, we feel renewed. Everything we give, we receive. We are not separate from each other, but part of the whole. When we say, "Give me your blessing, holy Son of God," (W.161) we are not asking for anything of our brother. It is our own desire to see the innocence in our brother, so we could know it for ourselves. Our hearts open to our brothers with love, rather than judgment. In our invulnerability, we have nothing to defend and thus see no attack from anyone. We know our safety and our peace. We share the same light with everyone. The truth is in us all. When we recognize this sameness, we are reminded that nothing has changed from who we are as we were created. The light in everyone is all there is to see. When we do not see it, we are choosing against our own peace and happiness.
We need not be in the presence of anyone physically to do this healing together. It is important to remember there is no world outside our own minds. Thus, as our mind is healed, so is the world, which is a projection of the mind. And since all minds are joined, and we are just one mind, then my healing is for the healing of the world. As Jesus tells us, he is incomplete without us, and we are incomplete without our brothers, because there is only one Self.
The practice we do with these Lessons, both in our meditation times and our daily lives, requires vigilance in watching our thoughts and being willing to apply the teachings throughout the day. When our day is dedicated to healing the mind, it puts God at the forefront and the activities of the day recede to the background. In the Course, meditation is only mentioned twice, although there were apparently a few more references in the original dictation. In the Text Chapter 18, Jesus mentions it by saying, "Nor is a lifetime of contemplation and long periods of meditation aimed at detachment from the body necessary." (T.18.VII.4.9)(ACIM OE T.18.VIII.66) In fact, it is tedious and time consuming. This is in the Section, "I Need Do Nothing." In Lesson 124, he says, "This is our first attempt at an extended period for which we give no rules nor special words to guide your meditation." (W124.8.4)
There is no particular focus on the practice of meditation in the first 40 Lessons. However, in Lesson 41, a new "kind of practice" (W.41.8.6) is introduced. This comes up again in Lesson 44 and, by the time we reach Lesson 153, we are spending more time in extended practice or meditation.
In the Manual for Teachers, Section 16, "How should a teacher of God spend his day?" there is a caution against routines. "Routines as such are dangerous, because they easily become gods in their own right, threatening the very goals for which they were set up." (M.16.2.5) Jesus is telling us not to ritualize our practice into something we just do as a routine, where the form becomes more important than the content. It might make us think that just by doing the Lessons right, we will appease God and make Him happy with our efforts. We think we are doing something to make ourselves good in the eyes of some external judge instead of our own inner motivation to wake up from this dream.
Jesus urges us to start each day right as a way to save time by choosing to spend time with God as soon as possible on awakening. Setting our intention for the kind of day we want is also an important part of the morning practice. "The goal is clear, but now you need specific methods for attaining it. The speed by which it can be reached depends on this one thing alone; your willingness to practice every step. Each one will help a little, every time it is attempted." (T.30.I.IN.1.2-4)(ACIM OE.T.31.IN.1) He goes on to say that eventually we will make the practice into habits so they will always be available to us to address every egoic thought. We do this by calling on the Holy Spirit in every situation, so we will be making no decisions by ourselves; meaning, no decisions will be made with the ego. When we set this intention in the morning, the day will be given to the Holy Spirit and our own judgments in every situation will be suspended in favor of His direction. He says our only problem now is, "You still make up your mind, and then decide to ask what you should do." (T.30.I.3.2)(ACIM OE.T.30.II.6)
When we start the day right, we connect with the stillness of our Being. We are to "Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself." (W.189.7.1) We are being asked to empty the contents of the mind and come with wholly empty hands, meaning an empty mind, and openness to the experience. In fact, the attitude with which we approach the meditation time is important. It includes: 1) confidence we can have because we are uniting our will with God's, 2) desire and determination, because it is our only goal and our only need to end this ancient search, 3) importance, because we are needed for the healing of the world, and 4) holiness, because of its inestimable value to us.
Michele O'Donnell, a Christian spiritual healer, says you can watch your thoughts go by like birds in the sky, but you don't have to invite them to build a nest in your hair. It is not about having no thoughts, but about letting each thought that comes up simply go, releasing these thoughts to the Holy Spirit. No matter how obsessive and challenging to our peace the thoughts that come up are, try to look at them dispassionately and without judging yourself for them. Look at them from above the battleground, and recognize from this place, outside of the dream, there is nothing serious going on here in this illusory world. With the help of Jesus, we can let them go, before weaving them into some kind of a story. Remember that the natural state of the mind is to be in a state of stillness, peace, and joy. If we are not at peace, we are doing something to stop the mind from taking its natural course.
The ego mind fears this experience. Why? Because we identify with the false-self, which sees itself as a body, and sees value in private thoughts, victimhood, problems perceived outside of its own mind, and specialness. Ultimately, this is the value we put on our separate self and with it the value we give to our opinions, our beliefs, and our concepts. It is our attraction to the self we made, which is our attraction to guilt.
In the center of our minds is perfection, truth, God, holiness, and the Source of all joy, of which we are not wholly aware now, but we are assured this Source goes with us wherever we go. Even without our awareness, It is there! The truth about ourselves is here always awaiting our acceptance. This acceptance is of the Atonement and the correction for our wrong-minded thinking.
Think of your mind as a big circle. The surface of our minds is our current awareness. It is surrounded by heavy clouds, which represent our insane thoughts that block awareness of our perfection. The purpose of each daily Lesson is to focus our awareness on the thought for the day. We start the meditation with this thought and use it to pull us back when our minds wander. It is not intended we say the thought over and over like a mantra, but to use the thought to focus our minds, and then sink down and inward into our minds. The mind is not in the brain or in the body, but outside of it. The words simply point to the meaning, and we use them to focus our attention and enter the silence beyond words, where we wait in still anticipation, with the mind at rest and our awareness focused on the anticipation of the experience.
The important thing is to do what works for you. Practice what is most effective for you. The Course is not about rules, and you will not find anything in the Course that speaks about having to be in a certain body position while meditating, nor about using your breath, nor using any kind of devices, such as needing to be in front of a statue nor a lit candle. However, there is no injunction against any of that either. If these actions are helpful to your process, all is good. This Course is not about form, but only about the content of our minds.
Remember the earlier comments about how Jesus takes this journey with us. He tells us when we visualize taking his hand and walking with us, it is no idle thought. He is really there because he is already in our minds. He is not remote or distant from us. He does not dismiss our uncertainty as irrelevant. He understands. He has taken this same journey. That is why he knows the way and why he is described as our elder brother. If this relationship bothers you, it is an area for healing, just like any other relationship where you project your discomfort onto someone. If the thought of Jesus, as a symbol in the mind, does not bring comfort as your chosen friend, call on the presence of the Holy Spirit, Love, God, or whatever symbol is helpful to you.
The central thought, which begins and ends our day today, as well as each practice throughout the day, is "God is but [only] Love and therefore so am I." Then, we review Lesson 161, "Give me your blessing holy Son of God." We recognize that the people in our lives can offer us a blessing that can transform and enlighten us. The blessing comes when we recognize they are not who they seem, as the symbol of fear and hate, but are really our saviors. Why would that be? That is so because behind their appearance as a body and an ego is the Christ. This brother reflects the love of God showing up in this specific form. Jesus reminds us our minds are naturally abstract, but right now we don't understand abstraction, so we need specifics on which to focus forgiveness. All forgiveness is the release of judgments and grievances our brothers seem to evoke in us. They are the reflection of our own unhealed thoughts.
Our next Review Lesson says, "I am as God created me." (W.162) This Lesson is literally the same as "God is but Love and therefore so am I." We keep having to be reminded, no matter what we think we have done, we can't change the truth about our being as created by a loving Father. Our state is love. God is only love. He is nothing but love. That is His nature and His nature establishes our own. We can't change what we are as we were created. It is a fact, and it is the Atonement Principle, which affirms we are as God created us. We have become unaware of this truth, but we cannot change it. We think we have changed the truth by making ourselves into something unique and special, an individual living in a body, but it is impossible to depart from the truth of who God is and who we are.
What we have come to believe about ourselves are only wild imaginings. We give them power because we believe them, but it does not make them true. We think there are lovely good parts to us and many parts that are vicious and hateful. Neither what we think is good nor what we think is bad is the truth. They are only concepts we have accepted as true. The truth is beyond these self-made concepts, which are reinforced by the world and accepted by us. As Ken Wapnick says, just because billions of people hold something as true does not mean it is.
We need to support each other on this path, as it is outside of the collective thinking of the world. Thus, it can be a challenge for us because our minds have been conditioned by the beliefs held by the majority. We have bought into the cult of the ego. We drank the Kool-aid! It is these conditioned thoughts we are releasing when we remind ourselves, "I am as God created me." (W.162) We enter the meditation time to experience the truth beyond these words. Our practice times now are a preparation for Part II of the Workbook