Much of doing the Workbook is repeating the idea for the day, the sentence at the top of every lesson. Therefore, if this idea falls flat in our mind, chances are that we will not get much out of that day's practice. We might as well be repeating some phrase in Latin. At least that is how it feels sometimes. The remedy to this is understanding the meaning contained in that brief sentence. This meaning is what makes the practice come alive. The more meaning we see in those words, the more powerful will be the practice of them.
This meaning is supplied in large measure by Text study, but also by careful reading of the lesson. After all, most of the lesson's words are teaching about what that idea for the day means. Therefore, we should ideally read each line of the lesson with an eye for what it says about the meaning of the day's idea. I prefer a kind of mental posture in which I have one eye on the idea for the day while the other eye is reading the lesson's teaching. I will read a sentence or paragraph in the lesson and then go back and ask how this relates to the day's idea. This will often give that idea a different meaning than I would have otherwise assumed, as well as a deeper and more multi-faceted meaning. In short, it will make the practice of it more powerful and effective.
Let's see this at work in the case of Lesson 264 and its accompanying prayer, which provides the teaching for that lesson.
I am surrounded by the Love of God.
When we first read this idea we would probably assume that it means there is a presence of God that surrounds us, somewhat like an aura, and follows us wherever we go. This in itself is a comforting thought, but let's see what meaning the lesson's teaching puts in this idea.
1. Father, You stand before me and behind, beside me, in the place I see myself, and everywhere I go.
This first sentence does not say anything too different from what we would assume about the day's idea. It does, however, make that idea more concrete by specifically mentioning "before," "behind" and "beside." It also makes the idea more absolute. God is not only around me, He is everywhere I go, and even in the place I see myself. This gives us a hint of what is to come.
2. You are in all the things I look upon, the sounds I hear, and every hand that reaches for my own.
This sentence expands and deepens the idea considerably. God is not merely a kind of invisible presence that hovers around me in, say, a four-foot radius. He is in everything I look upon. He is not one invisible item among a great many more visible things. He is all-pervasive. What's more, He is even in the sounds I hear. Somehow it is much easier to imagine Him being in physical objects than in sounds. Sounds are not things. They are just vibrations in the air, just motion. This means that God is not only in things, but also in processes, in movements. He, of course, is inside those who walk with me. Yet He is also in their hands that reach for mine, and in the movement of the hands as they reach, and in the sound of their footsteps. I am literally surrounded by God, for He dwells in every sight, sound, person, object and movement—in everything. We have now come a long way from God-as-aura.
3. In You time disappears, and place becomes a meaningless belief.
This sentence seems to take off in a new direction, yet it is just the logical outcome of the previous sentences. If God is in everything, then every place contains the same thing: God. And if every place contains the same thing, if all places are the same, then there really is no such thing as place. The very concept of place implies that one place is different from another, distant from another. The same with time. If God is in every moment, then apparently different moments are really the same, which means that there aren't different moments. Without different moments there can't be time. Without different places there can't be space. Therefore, "time disappears, and place becomes a meaningless belief."
This thought is somewhat different than what I have encountered in some spiritual teachings. I have heard many times that God is in everything, but the impression I usually got was that those things are therefore real. By the act of God dwelling in a rock, for instance, He is sanctioning the rock's reality. That rock must be real, or God would not bother to be inside of it. In fact, in these thought systems, God Himself gave birth to the rock and dwells inside the house He created.
A Course in Miracles is doing something very different with the idea. It is implying that God is the only thing real in that rock. The form of the rock, its physical substance, is not real at all. The form is not a manifestation of God. It is just an illusory picture of the crazy thought that God is absent. Thus, the rock is not really there at all. Only God is.
4. For what surrounds Your Son and keeps him safe is Love Itself.
This sentence takes things even further. We seem to be surrounded by time and space. Enveloping us is space; behind us is the past; ahead of us, the future. That is what it means to be in this world—being surrounded by time and space. Yet the lesson has told us that what is behind and before us is God, not past and future, not physical space. If that is really true, then we are not in this world at all. We are really in God's Love, in Heaven. If we could only see, if the scales could fall off our eyes, we would realize that right now we are standing not in this world but in Heaven, enveloped by His Love. We have now come very far indeed from God's Love as four-foot aura.
5. There is no Source but This, and nothing is that does not share Its holiness; that stands beyond Your one creation, or without the Love Which holds all things within Itself.
The scope of God's Love continues to expand. Now we are not only surrounded by God's Love, we came from that Love. It is our Source; what gave birth to our being. Further, this total relationship with God's Love is now extended to cover everyone and everything. Not just us but everything comes from that Love and is made of It, sharing Its holiness. And nothing has been left outside Its eternal embrace. Everything is held within It, not within time and space. How can there be a world of time and space when there is only Love creating more of Itself?
6. Father, Your Son is like Yourself.
Sentence 5 was a longer, more philosophical statement about the relationship of the Source to everything else. Now we take those ideas and, in Sentence 6, compress them into a brief, direct and intimate statement from a Son to his Father. "This is the only Source and everything shares Its attributes," becomes, "Father, we are all like You, because we are all Your Son." This Son is us individually, but (given the context of the previous sentence) it is also everyone and everything.
With this direct, intimate statement, the prayer is beginning to wrap up and lead us into the place it has been talking about. The implied "we" of Sentence 6 continues into the prayer's concluding line.
7. We come to You in Your Own Name today, to be at peace within Your everlasting Love.
The ideas the prayer has described are a kind of red carpet it has laid out before us. Now, with this concluding line, we are meant to walk that carpet straight into the reality of what has been discussed, the reality of God's Love. We know that in doing so we are not just acting on our own. We are not trespassing. We walk up to God's front door holding in our hand an invitation from the Lord of the house Himself. We come to Him in His Own Name. He Himself has rolled out the red carpet. How do we know this? As the rest of the prayer says, He has already placed us forever within Himself. If His Love is what created us and what surrounds us, and indeed is all there is, where else would we go?
The situation we may have initially read into the idea for the day has now been completely reversed. God's Love is not merely an aura that surrounds us, a silent ghost we take with us on our busy tour through the world of separate things. The world is the ghost; God's Love is the only reality there is. It is the all-pervasive realm that beckons us beyond this shadow world and into Itself. And not just us—It beckons everyone and everything; all the countless minds that comprise the one Son of God.
Thus, rather than, "How nice of You, God, to come with me on my errands," we conclude by saying, "We (the entire world and all living things) come to You." We come to Him, to rest from our busy doings and nervous plans, to be free of the endless parade of little objects scurrying through frantic days. We come to Him, to leave behind the thousands of shadows that haunt this unreal place and pass forever into the light of Heaven. As one Son, we come to Him to forget all anxious separate identities as together we find eternal rest in His boundless Arms. We come to Him to be at peace within His everlasting Love.
"I am surrounded by the Love of God" means so much more than we ever would have guessed at first. Holding in mind this deeper, broader, expanded meaning, do you think that practicing this lesson would be any different?