The whole Workbook has been building up to this point, where we are ready to enter Part II. For the last 200 lessons, we have been slowly ushered in to an overall framework of practice. This framework is what I have called the pyramid of practice, the base of which is our longer morning and evening practice periods. Then come the hourly practice periods. Then the frequent reminders-brief repetitions of the idea for the day. And finally response to temptation, in which we repeat the idea in response to upset.
For the preceding 50 lessons—since Lesson 153—we have been focusing on the bottom two layers of that pyramid—morning and evening, and hourly practices. And of course we are always (since way back in Lesson 4) focusing on response to temptation. So what's been missing in this last stretch is frequent reminders.
Here in this final review, we add in those frequent reminders. You can see that in the very first lines of the review: "Besides the time you give morning and evening, which should not be less than fifteen minutes [there's the morning and evening practice], and the hourly remembrances you make throughout the day [there's the hourly practice], use the idea as often as you can between them [there's the frequent reminders being added back in]."
What he wants us to do, then, is enter Part II with the full pyramid in place. So it's time to look at how that pyramid is going in our own lives. Let's ask ourselves, then, some direct questions: How are our morning and evening practice periods going? Are we asleep for our morning meditation? Do we skip our evening quiet time? Likewise, how are the hourly remembrances going? Do we miss most of them because we prefer to use the time for other things?
How we are doing with response to temptation? Are we responding to our upsets, or are we letting them stew? And finally, how are our frequent reminders? How frequent are they? Are they moments of real focus that noticeably affect our state of mind? Or are they hasty and hollow?
These kind of reflections are difficult. Undoubtedly, we will not like some of the conclusions we come up with. Yet the success of any endeavor depends on honest reflections like these. Imagine you're captain of an ocean liner that is heading a thousand miles off course. Unless you assess this and correct your course, the voyage is going to be a bit of a disaster.
I suggest for the time being picking one part of the pyramid and focusing on improving that. Where do you feel your practice is most crucially falling down? Just zero in on that and spend the next week or so really working to raise it up.
One more thing: As you no doubt know, we are given some additional comments for each lesson being reviewed. Some of these are real gems. One example is in Lesson 205, which is a review of Lesson 185, "I want the peace of God." The additional comments for this lesson are priceless. It helps to lay them out in iambic pentameter:
The peace of God is everything I want.
The peace of God is my one goal; the aim
of all my living here, the end I seek,
my purpose and my function and my life,
while I abide where I am not at home.
I highly recommend not just reading these in the morning. In fact, I recommend making them an integral part of your practice throughout the day. Say each line very slowly. Imagine it really being true, regardless of whether you currently realize its truth or not.
Aren't we always seeking peace, that rest that comes with the cessation of struggle and strife? That calm that comes with a sense of completion and resolution? That serenity that comes from an absence of anxiety and worry? That tranquility that comes from a feeling of fulfillment and satiation?
We are always seeking that. We seek it with our next meal, our next conquest, our next project, our next sleep, even our next breath. Anything we do we do because we envision that feeling of peace at the end. The problem is two-fold: First, we seek peace largely through external means, and second, we don't aim high enough. Our concept of peace is too shallow and too limited.
These lines Jesus has given us are about a peace that is fathomless and unlimited, a peace a million times deeper than what we typically aim for, and a billion times stronger. If a peace like that really existed and really was available to us, surely it would be everything we want. It would be our one goal. It would be the aim of all our living here. It would be everything these lines say.
So try to say these lines with as much sincerity as you can muster. Sincerity, in fact, was an important theme in the original lesson. That lesson promised us that if we could just say and mean "I want the peace of God," our whole journey would be done. So don't just say these lines. Try as much as you can to actually mean them. And then try again, and again, and again.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR REVIEW VI
Purpose: to carefully review the last 20 lessons, each of which contains the whole curriculum. To go with quickened pace along the path to God. To finish our preparation (begun in Lesson 141) for entering a higher phase of learning: Part II.
Morning/evening quiet time: at least 15 minutes
For our longer practice periods, we are doing what I call Open Mind Meditation (for more complete instructions on this method, see the cameo essay on page ????).
- Begin by repeating, "I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me."
- Then repeat today's idea, perhaps also repeating the italicized lines that follow the idea (which are meant "to aid in practicing"-6:5).
- For the bulk of the time, close your eyes and relinquish all mental clutter and all beliefs you have about yourself and the world. Hold your mind in silent readiness to receive the experience of God. Do not repeat words. Simply wait for that experience to dawn, holding your mind still and expectant without the aid of verbalizing. Rather than relying on words, rely on the Holy Spirit. Offer the practice period to Him, and be open to His guidance, which may take your meditation in unexpected directions.
- If a wandering thought intrudes—which will no doubt happen regularly—immediately respond with, "This thought I do not want. I choose instead [today's idea]." This is perhaps the Workbook's most effective way of dispelling distracting thoughts.
- Close by again repeating, "I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me."
Hourly remembrance: 1 or 2 minutes as the hour strikes (reduce if circumstances do not permit)
Repeat the idea, plus the central thought, "I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me." Then spend a quiet moment in Open Mind Meditation, waiting in stillness to feel the peace of God.
Frequent reminder: as often as possible within each hour
Repeat the idea for the day, plus, "I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me."
Response to temptation: (suggestion) when you are tempted to be upset
Quickly proclaim your freedom by saying, "This thought I do not want. I choose instead [today's idea]."
Overall remarks: The preceding forty-eight lessons have schooled us in a basic framework of practice, which includes morning and evening practice periods and hourly remembrances. What is missing from this framework are the frequent reminders, which were such an important focus earlier in the Workbook. Here, those are finally added back into the mix, so that now, as we prepare to enter Part II, we have in place the entire four-fold structure of practice: Morning and evening quiet time, hourly remembrance, frequent reminders, and response to temptation (the last item has been present throughout the Workbook, as well as in many of the last forty-eight lessons).
In this review, in a continuation of a trend that began in Lesson 124, words and specific instructions are even further withdrawn. We repeat words at the beginning and then pass into a silence that is empty of thoughts and words. This lack of structure, we are told, will help us "reach a quickened pace along a shorter path to the serenity and peace of God" (4:2). It will help prepare us for the formlessness of Part II.
It is implied that God might show up in the form of the Holy Spirit inspiring us to practice in some particular way. He may, as the final lessons say, give us a word to help our practice, or a thought to focus on, or just "stillness and a tranquil, open mind" (W-pII.361-365.1:3). If He directs you to practice in a more specific way, then fine. Otherwise, the instructions are to wait in a mental silence without words or thoughts.
In keeping with this reliance on the Holy Spirit, Jesus asks us to place every practice period in His hands, and, at the outset, to dedicate the entire review to Him.