In the introduction to these Review Lessons, Jesus offers to lead us on the journey he took and tells us that he is renewed each time he leads one of us to ". . . the place at which the journey ends and is forgot." (W.RV.7.1) He needs our cooperation, as he asks us to "Help me now to lead you back to where the journey was begun, to make another choice with me." (W.RV.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 that 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 that every wrong choice we believe we have made in our lives can be undone. It was all just a mistake, and mistakes can be corrected. It also means that we need not feel guilty about the wrong choices and decisions we 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 that we have not changed ourselves. Whenever we start to beat up on ourselves , allow doubt thoughts and beliefs to enter, or our unworthiness to slip in, we can 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 the 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 a guide. We heal through our connections with each other, extending miracles so we know that 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.175 ) we are not asking for anything of our brother. It is our own desire that we are expressing to see the innocence in our brother so we can 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 we 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 what we are, as we were created. The light in everyone is all there is to see. When we judge and attack anyone, we are choosing against our own peace and happiness.
We need not be in the presence of anyone physically to do this healing. It is important to remember that 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 heals 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 into 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) Certainly, the Lessons urge that we spend quiet time with God, yet meditation is not an integral part of the Course curriculum. In fact, caution is recommended not to make idols of our spiritual practice. It is not about avoiding meditation if it is helpful to our spiritual path, but meditation should be a means, not an end
In the Manual for Teachers, Section 16, "How should a teacher of God spend his day?" (M.16) 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 do as a routine in which 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.
The Course is different than other paths. "Your way will be different, not in purpose but in means." (T.18.VII.5.1)(ACIM OE T.18.VIII.67) "You are not making use of the course if you insist on using means which have served others well, neglecting what was made for you." (T.18.VII.6.5) (ACIM OE T.18.VIII.68) "All such attempts will ultimately succeed because of their purpose. Yet the means are tedious and very time consuming, for all of them look to the future for release from a state of present unworthiness and inadequacy." (T.18.VII.4.10-11) (ACIM OE T.18.VIII.66)
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.IN.1.2-4) (ACIM OE.T.31.IN.1) He goes on to say that, eventually, we will make the practice into a habit, so the remedy will always be available to us to address every egoic thought. We do this by calling on the Holy Spirit in every situation. Thus, we make 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 that now our only problem 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 quiet time is important. It includes: 1) confidence 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 that 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 the thoughts are to your peace, try to look at them dispassionately and without judging yourself for them. Look at them from above the battleground, and recognize that 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, rather than weaving them into some kind of 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 in which we identify with the false self, which sees itself as a body, and sees value in private thoughts, victimhood, problems, and specialness. Ultimately, we put a value on our separate self, and with it, we value 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 that this Source goes with us wherever we go. Even without our awareness, It is always there! The truth simply awaits our acceptance. This acceptance is of the Atonement, which is the correction for our wrong-minded thinking.
Think of your mind as a big circle. The surface of the mind is our current awareness. It is surrounded by heavy clouds, which represent our insane thoughts that block awareness of the truth of what we are. The purpose of each Lesson is to bring our awareness to 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 that 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 the quiet within. The mind is not in the brain or in the body, but outside of it. The words simply point to the truth and are used to help us focus our attention and enter the silence beyond the words. Here we wait in quiet anticipation for the experience, with the mind at rest.
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, or about using your breath, or using any kind of devices, such as needing to be in front of a statue or 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 that 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, nor 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 in which 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." (W.RV.4.3) Then, we review Lesson 161, "Give me your blessing, holy Son of God." (W.176 ) 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. 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 that 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.176 ) This Lesson is literally the same as "God is but Love, and therefore so am I." (W.RV.4.3) We keep having to be reminded that 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 that we are as God created us. We have become unaware of this truth, but we cannot change it. We think that 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 that 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 that 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! These conditioned thoughts are what we are releasing when we remind ourselves, "I am as God created me." (W.176 ) We enter our quiet time with God to experience the truth that is beyond these words. Our practice times now are a preparation for Part II of the Workbook.