Morning quiet time is essential for a student of A Course in Miracles. That is when we establish our mental set for the day, so that the day becomes about God rather than just survival. Having this time in the morning is an essential part of doing the Workbook. That is when you read your lesson and do your first practice period. Yet even after the Workbook is over, the Course expects you to continue taking this time, as we are told in Section 16 of the Manual, “How Should the Teacher of God Spend His Day?”
The question I want to discuss here is when. When should you take this time? If you have not yet established such a time in your life, the question of when is obviously relevant. Yet even if you have regular morning quiet time, you might have nagging questions at the back of your mind: How important is it to take my quiet time the instant I get up? Is it all right to wait until later? How do I know when the ideal time is?
As with so many such questions, the answers are right there in the Course. I am aware of eleven passages that give an answer to this question, and they mention the same three things over and over again:
1. “As soon as possible after you wake” (W-pI.42.3:1)
Ideally, the Course wants us to take this time right as we get up. We will receive more benefits, it tells us, if we do our practice first thing in the morning (W-pI.rIII.8:1). Why? I think it is because when we first awake our mind is a relatively blank canvas. It is not yet cluttered with all the minutiae of the day. At this point, we can paint on it whatever we want. And if we take this opportunity to paint a scene of Heaven on it, that is what will remain for a good part of the day, maybe the entire day. On the other hand, if we wait too long, then our canvas will begin getting crowded with scenes of tasks and worries and plans. And then, by the time we do sit down for our quiet time, we might not succeed in erasing what is already painted there. We might very well spend our quiet time mulling over tasks and worries and plans.
But is this some kind of law that we must have our quiet time the instant we awake? The Course says no:
This course is always practical. It may be that the teacher of God is not in a situation that fosters quiet thought as he awakes. (M-16.4:1-2)
What is important is not the form of taking your quiet time the instant you wake up, but the content of taking it at a time most conducive to its real purpose. That is why the Course says not “when you wake,” but “as soon as possible after you wake” (it mentions this three times). How we gauge what defines “as soon as possible” leads us to the second and third points.
2. “When few distractions are anticipated” (W-pI.32.4:3)
This is so obvious that it hardly needs mentioning. If taking your quiet time the minute you awake would mean children knocking on the door and asking “When’s breakfast?” then that is not a suitable time. Instead, find a time with fewer distractions. This means two things in the Workbook:
- You are by yourself (mentioned twice)
- You have quiet (mentioned four times)
3. “When you yourself feel reasonably ready” (W-pI.32.4:3)
The previous point is about externals-are you in a noisy room with other people in it? This point is about internals-do you feel ready inside to focus on God? This issue of readiness is mentioned four times and, I think, is primarily a code for “are you fully awake yet?” Let’s face it, there are some of us who are not human when we first get up. There are some of us who, when the alarm clock goes off, still can’t figure out what that noise is. For us, trying to take our quiet time the instant we get up makes no sense whatsoever.
When should you take your morning quiet time? The Course provides a simple formula: as soon as possible after you wake, as soon as you feel ready (fully awake) and can get yourself alone in a quiet place.