[acimlessons_list] WORKBOOK PRACTICE - PRELIMINARY NOTES ON WORKBOOK PRACTICE
sue at circleofa.org
Fri Dec 31 13:26:25 EST 2010
PRELIMINARY NOTES ON WORKBOOK PRACTICE
To begin with, I'd like to share some thoughts about what Workbook practice
really is, and what it is intended to accomplish. From my study of the
Course, I believe the Workbook is intended to train us in the formation of a
habit of spiritual practice. This habitual practice is meant to continue
until we have nearly completed our spiritual journey. Let me try to explain
what I mean by this habit of spiritual practice.
In the Manual for Teachers, Chapter 16, the Course discusses what daily
practice should be like for those who have completed the Workbook. It gives
us a clear picture of what sort of spiritual practice is meant to result
from completing the Workbook's training program.
The discussion of daily practice in this chapter becomes more understandable
if we set it in the context of the various categories the Course discusses
within its curriculum:
teachers of God
advanced teachers of God
teachers of teachers
We begin as pupils or students, those who have begun to study the Course.
Next, after a certain level of "accomplishment," we become "teachers of God"
(M-1.1:1). What qualifies us as a teacher of God? The opening lines of the
first section of the Manual for Teachers make the qualifications rather
broad (please read M-1.1:1-3, 6-8).
By the definition given here, it appears that all it takes to become a
teacher of God is a moment in which my heart unites with the heart of
another person in pursuit of the shared goal of salvation. Another way of
seeing this, perhaps, is that I have experienced a holy instant, or a moment
of true forgiveness. I believe that the mutual goal is salvation because
sentence 7 implies it, yet clearly that aspect of the goal need not be
conscious. Merely making a choice to see my interests as co-mingled with or
identical to those of another person suffices.
And yet, in Chapter 16, there seems to be a different set of criteria. The
Manual states clearly that a teacher involved with teaching the Course must
have completed the Workbook (M-16.3:7). So, although in general a teacher of
God can be said to be anyone who has made a decision that involved common
interests with another, within this particular spiritual curriculum
completing the Workbook for Students is also required..
The Course appears to be making a distinction between a teacher of God in
the general sense, and a teacher of God who is sharing with another person
the specific goal of learning the Course. To be a teacher in that special
sense you must complete the Workbook. Since the Workbook in many places
assumes we have studied the Text (for example, W-pI.153.6:3 and
W-pI.156.1:3), we can therefore deduce that completing the Workbook also
includes completing the Text. To be a teacher of God whose form of teaching
is the Course, therefore, means having completed both volumes. It seems only
common sense that one should complete a course--any course--before claiming
to teach it.
I should note, for people unfamiliar with the Course, that it is all right
to do the Workbook before reading all of the Text, if you feel guided to do
that. I would say that the "normal" order would be to read the Text first,
or at least most of it, before doing the Workbook, but that is by no means a
strict rule. If you have been led to begin the Workbook, it isn't necessary
to read all of the Text first. I would recommend beginning to read it as
soon as possible, however.
Beyond the level of teacher of God lies "the advanced teacher of God"
(M-16.1:1). That phrase describes someone who is nearing the end of his or
her personal journey, living on the verge of or within the real world--that
is, with spiritually clarified perception of the world--as Jesus lived while
on earth. Every student of the Course is in training to become an advanced
teacher of God; Chapter 4 of the Manual describes the characteristics of an
advanced teacher (M-4:2:2), a list of ten very fundamental character traits,
such as trust, honesty, gentleness, patience, and defenselessness. This
chapter also tells of the often-long process a person goes through in
developing these characteristics.
And even beyond that exalted level are the "Teachers of teachers";
enlightened beings like Jesus or Buddha who, having remembered who they
really are, have left behind the limitations of bodily existence. Although
these teachers have left physical existence behind, they in some sense
remain in the world, like the bodhisattva of Buddhism, to help others who
have not yet been enlightened. The Manual says they can re-appear whenever
helpful (presumably in the flesh) (M-26.2:1-3; 3:9).
With this understanding of the various levels of teachers, let's turn back
to Chapter 16. It begins with describing what the day is like for an
advanced teacher of God; to such a person, the question of how to spend the
day "is meaningless." His life is not externally structured; instead,
because he is in constant communion with the Holy Spirit, he is told, moment
to moment, what to do (1:1-10). Of course, we all aspire to such a state,
but few have yet attained it. I don't know of anyone who has.
So the chapter then addresses itself to the more common level of the
less-than-advanced teacher of God, who is still in the process of developing
those ten characteristics and lacks that clarity of communion (M-16.2.1).
This is more applicable to us. Jesus begins to discuss how a teacher of God
(as opposed to an advanced teacher) should conduct his or her spiritual
practice. Unlike the advanced teacher, a teacher of God still requires some
structure in his day (M-16.2:2). What is going to be described here is what
I call post-Workbook practice, the habit of practice that the Workbook is
designed to teach us. This practice is meant to continue for teachers of God
until we become advanced teachers of God, where structure becomes
meaningless and we live in a spontaneous partnership with the Holy Spirit.
Even after completing the Workbook, we are not yet ready for complete lack
Workbook practice is very structured. Post-workbook practice is loosely
structured. And the practice of an advanced teacher is characterized by lack
The post-Workbook practice, in simple outline, is this:
1. Begin with a morning quiet time (see M-16.4:7).
The goal in this time is to "join with God," and we should spend
as long as it takes (the length of time is not a major concern)
until it becomes difficult (M-16.4:4-8).
2. Have a similar evening quiet time, as near as you can to just
before going to bed. Settle your mind on God as you go to sleep
3. Remember God all through the day (M-16.6:1-14).
4. Turn to the Holy Spirit with all your problems (M-16.7:4-5).
5. Respond to all temptations by reminding yourself of the truth
(M-16.8:1-3; 10:8; 11:9).
Developing the habit of this five-fold practice is the purpose of the highly
structured practice of the Workbook. The practice given in its lessons
begins very easily, with just a minute or two in the morning. Very quickly,
it introduces the other practices: morning and evening times; hourly
remembrances; frequent reminders between the hours; listening to the Holy
Spirit for guidance; and responding to every temptation with the day's
lesson. The Workbook verbally sounds a trumpet each time it introduces a new
practice. The duration and intensity of these practices steadily increases
as we progress. We meet first one, then another. There will be a brief
period of intense practice, than an easing up, letting us catch our breath,
before the pace picks up again.
If we follow the instructions of the Workbook carefully we will, at the end
of the year, have formed the steady habit of daily practice the Manual
speaks about. If we do not follow the instructions of the Workbook
carefully, and simply "do it" however we feel like doing it, we will not
develop that habit. Habits are formed by disciplined repetition, and no
other way. Therefore, watch, as you read, for both the instructions for
practice and for the passion with which Jesus urges us to really do the
practice. He isn't casual about it at all! He pleads with us; he cajoles us;
he sympathizes with our difficulties but calls us back to a renewed effort
after failure. And at one point in the Introduction he tells us that "It is
doing the exercises that will make the goal of the course possible"
In the Text, in a section talking about daily practice, he tells us that our
willingness to practice controls the speed of our progress toward the goal
(T-30.Int.1:3). In the Introduction to the Workbook, he says that the ideas
will become more relevant to you as you put them into practice and
experience the way in which they apply to specific situations. You will put
the ideas to the test, and this will validate them for you, taking them
beyond theory into certainty (W-pI.In.8:6).
And in a passage that is reminiscent of a TV pitchman trying to sell us an
amazing slicer/dicer along with a set of knives, he tries to impress on us
the importance and value of the disciplined practice to which he calls us.
Take a moment to read (aloud if you can) W-pI.98.5-6 and you will have no
further doubts about the importance Jesus attaches to our actually doing the
Beyond any doubt, the author of the Workbook really desires and expects us
to make every effort to follow his instructions.
As an aid to those who want to follow the practice of the Workbook, along
with each lesson this book includes a condensed summary of the practice
instructions that apply to the day. (Often a set of instructions is given in
one lesson and carries over for several weeks, without being restated
daily.) Robert Perry wrote these summaries.
Many people jot the idea for the day on a card to carry with them. I advise
you to also jot down the day's practice instructions so you remember just
how you are supposed to apply that day's idea.
Now, I'm not saying that everyone who reads the Workbook must practice the
Workbook in a rigid, disciplined manner. I don't presume to know what you
should do; that is a matter of individual guidance. But I do mean to point
out that, if you want to make the Course your path, these are the
instructions given by the author, and he heavily stresses their importance
within the curriculum he gives us.
I firmly believe that the Workbook lessons were written in a particular
order for a reason, and that there is an intelligently planned approach in
the way they work cumulatively to transform our thoughts as we study them.
Therefore I always recommend that people do the lessons in order, 1 to 365.
Nevertheless, if the imposition of such minimal "structure" or the
submitting of oneself to this very slight amount of authority raises the
level of fear in you, then a compromise approach, doing it however you
please, may be better.
I believe that the resistance we have to following Jesus' instructions in
the book is nothing more than a manifestation of the basic "authority
problem" that is said, in the Text, to be the root of all "evil"
(T-3.VI.7:2-3). Even so, doing the lessons out of order, or ignoring the
instructions for practice to do them in a way in which we feel comfortable,
is certainly better than not doing them at all! And, if trying to force
ourselves to follow the practice instructions disturbs us so much it
threatens to cause us to stop altogether, then let's throw that approach out
the window. In such circumstances, the Course advises us:
You are not ready. Do not fight yourself (T-30.I.1:6-7).
To summarize: I believe that the instructions in the lessons are very
explicit for a reason. We are meant to follow these instructions to the
letter, as much as we possibly can. We will not be able to do so, especially
in the beginning, but the whole intent of the exercises is to form a habit
of spiritual practice that will endure for a lifetime. You can't do that
without some persistent effort over a long period of time.
The Introduction to Chapter 30 of the Text is meant to lead into the
disciple of Workbook practice. I encourage you to read it now, particularly
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