The Course’s first exercise: letting love cast out our fear (July 5, 2010)

In the first two chapters of the Course, there is an exercise which crops up in different forms four different times (1.III.5, 1.VI.5, 2.VI.7, and it got edited out of 2.V.4). You really could consider this the first exercise of A Course in Miracles. Because of that and because of how many times it is repeated, it seems very important for us to get a handle on it. For that reason, I’ve decided to practice it today and write this post. (Writing always helps me get clearer.)

Looking at all four versions, the complete exercise seems to be something like these four steps:

1. “Know first this is fear.”

The first step is to realize that whatever upset or discomfort you are experiencing, in essence it is fear. You might try to feel into your upset and see if you can detect the characteristics of fear: the apprehension, the sense of recoil, the holding in mind of negative futures.

2. Realize that this fear has cast love out of your mind.

As the Course often teaches, fear and love are mutually exclusive. In fear, you recoil from something incompatible with you, something that threatens you. In love, you go forward to join with something that is totally compatible with you, something that completes you. The two dynamics are exactly opposite. Hence, to the extent that one is present in your mind, the other is absent.

3. Tell yourself the fear has arisen because “you must somehow have chosen not to love.”

Here you realize the fear did not just happen to you. It was actively chosen by you when you “willed not to love.”

4. Accept perfect love as the only reality, realizing it casts out all fear and all error.

Here you accept that “Only perfect love exists” and try to let that perfect love into your mind, realizing that it will dispel everything that is not itself. If fear and love are mutually exclusive, and you let love back in, the fear will be banished. This the Atonement, the wiping away of everything in us that separates us from God.

I’m practicing a shortened version of this today. First, I’m searching my mind for whatever sense of apprehension or worry I am carrying now, however mild. Then I’m saying, “This is fear, which I have freely chosen.” And then I am responding with, “I accept perfect love as the only reality, and it casts out my fear.” I try to have a sense of really letting that love into my mind and feeling it shine away the fear.

You might want to try this. Feel free to try your own variations, as the exercise itself appears in different forms in the Course.

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