What it looks like to live a Course-based day (July 4, 2011)

I gave a talk in London the other night on “A Day in the Life of the Miracle Worker.” It was based on lengthy guidance that Jesus gave Helen and Bill about their thoughts and actions over the course of a day.

Even though this guidance is mainly about where they went wrong, it contains by implication a very detailed picture of how we ought to go through the day. That picture boils down to three simple ideas, each one of which crops up many times in this material:

1. Policing the mind. This term is my attempt to combine mind-watching and thought-correction, both of which are a big focus here. In this material, Jesus is exceptionally concerned with our thoughts and feelings, especially toward others. We tend to let little annoyances and irritations go unchallenged, assuming they are probably too small to worry about. But Jesus repeatedly notes how these “little” negative feelings hang around, causing a chain of effects, both in our own minds and in our dealings with others. For instance, at one point, Helen forgives Bill for something, but only partly—she does so under strain. And later, this same strain makes it hard for her to “behave healingly” toward her husband.

2. Asking for guidance. This is mentioned no less than six times, and in relation to surprisingly “small” things: Should Bill offer to let someone share a cab with him and Helen? Should Helen and Bill meet to go over the notes from Jesus? Should Bill Xerox those notes? How should they handle a need for book storage? How should Helen handle inviting Bill to a lunch date he might be reluctant to attend? How should Helen handle calling Bill to make peace at the end of the day? All this asking may seem like an incredible expenditure of time and effort, but Jesus repeatedly points out that not asking results in two things: Wasted time and effort and unkindness toward others, the effects of which may linger for some time. For example, Bill assumes that he should Xerox Helen’s notes for others and should hang on to the originals himself, so they won’t get lost or dirty. However, this unguided assumptions results in “considerable and totally unnecessary planning on Bill’s part” and it insults Helen, because it implies that she would lose or dirty the originals. She is still angry over this hours later.

3. Behaving lovingly/giving miracles. This is the largest theme, in terms of the number of mentions. Bill was supposed to offer to let Dora share his cab, apparently as a gesture of reconciliation between them. Helen was supposed to build up the confidence of an extremely uncertain girl who was causing Helen irritation. Helen was asked to pray for Bill, to help him be in a better state of mind. Helen was supposed to have been courteous to Rose, by not relishing someone else making fun of her. Helen was supposed to be courteous to Bill, by inviting him to lunch in a way that did not put him on the spot. Bill was supposed to be gracious in the way he responded to the lunch invitation. And the list goes on.

As is clear from the cab example, as well as from the entire context of this early dictation, this loving behavior is what it means to give miracles. This is what it means to be a miracle worker. We “behave healingly.” We perform “a kindly gesture” or give “a gracious offering.” We have acquired the “very healing habit” of “treating others” in a way “in which only consistent courtesy, even in very little things, is offered.”

How we do on this third item is the result of how we did on the first two. When we neglect to police our mind and forget to ask for guidance, the result is that we behave inconsiderately toward others. This, of course, characterizes much of our typical day. However, we can go the other way. We can correct our irritations and ask for guidance, and as a result behave with consistent courtesy, graciousness, and respect, “even in very little things.”

That phrase “even in very little things” captures what really struck me. Jesus is calling us to be incredibly on top of all three things throughout the day, even when the stakes seem very small. It helped me, then, to summarize the whole picture in this way:

1. Policing the mind, even in very little things.

2. Asking for guidance, even in very little things.

3. Behaving lovingly, even in very little things.

For many years now, I have been truly captivated by the Course’s vision of how we should live each day. Snapshots of the ideal day can be found in the Text (T-30.I), the Workbook (throughout), and the Manual (M-16), and they look very much like what we see here. What I love about this guidance to Helen and Bill, however, is how it condenses that vision from the rest of the Course and how we see that vision played out in such specificity. As a result, you really get a feeling of how an actual Course-based day would look.

I don’t quite know why, but this vision really excites me. I have been actively chasing it for eighteen years now, since a major turning point in my journey with the Course. I have all the tools, I know exactly how to live this day, but each day, at some point in the day, my resistance gets the better of me. I now feel a renewal of my drive to live this kind of day. I don’t want to do it my way anymore. So I have rededicated myself to achieving this day. For me, this especially means spending the necessary time to recover the day when it has gone off track.

If you feel drawn to living this kind of day, you may want to take a few minutes and ask within what step you could take toward that goal, a step that is within your reach, and a step that you could start tomorrow, or even today.

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