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Q: I have been a student of A Course in Miracles for over 20 years, and in that time I have noticed that my active involvement waxes and wanes significantly. I find that my ego is once again getting the upper hand, and apart from some very useful self-insight, I’m more or less back to where I started. I sometimes wonder if my little willingness perhaps is a bit too little. I understand that our investment in our egos is far greater than we realize, but I sometimes get frustrated that after all these years my mind still wanders so easily after so much effort to train it. In the end, I’m still looking for even an inkling of the peace of God. Do you have any comments, or advice, or encouragement to help me (and perhaps other students like me) see this from a broader perspective, and maybe get back on track?
A: There are several thoughts that might help you “get back on track” and put your experience in a positive perspective. First of all, you are not alone in this experience, it is “normal,” and the process of forgiveness is difficult. It may not seem particularly comforting, but we are clearly told that we are learning impaired, and so we should not be surprised when we have difficulty in our Course practice.
“You have learning handicaps in a very literal sense. There are areas in your learning skills that are so impaired that you can progress only under constant, clear-cut direction, provided by a Teacher Who can transcend your limited resources. He becomes your Resource because of yourself you cannot learn. The learning situation in which you placed yourself is impossible, and in this situation you clearly require a special Teacher and a special curriculum” (T-12.V.5:1-4).
Please remember that this message applies to all students of the Course, and the obvious implication is that the training program the Course teaches is difficult for us. It is simple and clear, but it is not easy. The Course teaching ultimately leads to the undoing of everything we believe about everything, including, and especially, about ourselves. It is very understandable that we would be inconsistent, and even quite resistant, in applying its principles to our lives. As has been stated on many occasions, if the Course were easy we wouldn’t need it. It is designed by a very wise Teacher as a life-long study, with good reason. In the process, it is very important not to judge yourself for apparent “failures,” as this will certainly result in more guilt, and would accomplish the ego’s plan to defend itself against the learning of the Course.
It might be helpful to consider all the thoughts you have about the degree of your willingness, and your feelings of frustration, as typical ego ploys to keep you off track (or off course, if you’ll pardon the pun). If you think it would be helpful, you might introduce some structure into your study, either by using the guidelines in the workbook lessons, or setting aside a specific time of the day to read a passage of the Course. Sometimes it is helpful to make a practice of reviewing the day before going to bed—to identify the thoughts that caused any discomfort, or often stronger emotions. These thoughts and feelings represent the judgments that are making peace impossible. The review also seems to help keep us in tune with ourselves, and keep us more vigilant the next day. Any attempt is worth the effort, as it will rekindle the tiny spark of willingness.
Another important thing to remember is that our usual understanding of time does not apply to our practice of the Course. Since all there is is the present moment in which I choose either to listen to the Holy Spirit or the ego, in one sense we are always at the starting place. Furthermore, whenever we apply any of the Course teaching to our lives, or to our relationships, however “little” it may seem to be, time becomes irrelevant. It may be heartening to realize that whether 20 years, or 20 minutes have passed since the last practical application, the time lag has no effect on the efficacy of our learning. No doubt you are aware that the entire thought system of the ego can be undone in an instant. And when you make the mistake of turning again to the ego, it is possible to start over, free of judgment, and confident that One goes with you as you wax and wane, unconcerned with your detours or meanderings.
When the ego proffers its interpretation and evaluation of our progress it is helpful to remember that the Course does not qualify “little willingness.” No willingness is too little, and we are not equipped to judge our progress in the first place. We do well to remember: “Your little effort and small determination call on the power of the universe to help you, and God Himself will raise you from darkness into light. You are in accord with His Will. You cannot fail because your will is His” (W-pI.69.7:2-4).
Excerpted from Q&A
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