Purpose: A second chance at the last 20 lessons, a chance to face how little you have learned and learn greatly by applying idea to everything in your life. You will gain such large advances that you will continue more firmly and solidly.
Overall Remarks: Please follow this format as closely as you can. If you miss a practice period because it was impossible to do at the appointed time, learning is not hindered. You need not make these practice periods up. If instead you missed because of unwillingness to give the time, learning will be hindered, and those practice periods should be made up. Be very honest with yourself. Do not camouflage your unwillingness with situations seemingly beyond your control. Learn to discern between this kind of situation and situations that are truly unsuited to practicing. Your unwillingness comes from choosing other goals over salvation. As soon as you choose salvation again, do your make-up practice periods as a replacement for your devotion to other goals.
Longer: 2--in morning and in last hour before sleep (ideally first and last 5 minutes of your waking day) 5 minutes (longer if you prefer)
* Read over the day's ideas and comments.
* Then lean back in faith and let your mind use them as it chooses. Let it think about them and relate them to your needs, problems and concerns. Trust your mind to do this wisely and to be guided by the Holy Spirit, for He has chosen your mind as His means for saving you. He has given these ideas to you in perfect faith you will use them well. Give them to your mind in the same perfect faith.
Shorter: at the beginning of every half hour for a moment
* Repeat applicable idea (on the hour, the first idea; on the half hour, the second idea).
* Allow your mind to rest in silence and peace for a moment.
Remarks: These shorter practice periods are at least as important as the longer. Do not forget them. You have tended to skip these and not apply the idea to all that you encounter. Your learning has thus been limited and its gifts weak.
Shorter/Response To Temptation: in between the half hour marks
Do not lay the idea down after the half hour reviews. Take it with you into your affairs and apply it to them, making them holy. If you forget or your peace is shaken, think of it again.
Remarks: The practice periods are meant to teach you the habit of applying idea to everything you do. The idea is meant to serve you with unlimited usefulness at all times and places and whenever you need any kind of help.
In order to find the peace and joy that are inherently mine, I have to "exchange" all the substitutes I have made. I have to let go of looking for happiness anywhere outside of myself. That isn't easy, in my experience. It seems to happen gradually, over time. Little by little we learn that what we are looking for in the world simply isn't there, not in any lasting way. Little by little, in parallel, we begin to take little tastes of our internal joy and peace. As we begin to weigh the two experiences it starts to become obvious that the peace and joy that come from within are much more reliable and satisfying than that which comes from without. We may try for a time to hold on to both, but it doesn't work. Eventually we will let go, and fall back into the arms of God. Eventually we will simply accept God's peace and joy.
My voice keeps trying to declare how things should be. Essentially the Course is telling us to stop listening to our own advice: "Resign now as your own teacher" (T-12.V.8:3), it urges us. We have to stop thinking we are in control, that we know what to do and what is needed, and learn to listen. Like a drowning person, our own efforts to save ourselves are the biggest barrier to our Life Guard. We need to trust Him, to lie back and let go.
The best way I know of to learn to do this is to practice doing it. To simply sit down for five, ten, fifteen minutes (whatever the lesson calls for, whatever seems right) and, after very briefly reviewing the idea of the day, just to be quiet. It seems hellaciously difficult, many days, to simply be quiet. The minute I try my mind starts reminding me of things: "Don't forget to make that phone call. You need yogurt from the store. What are you going to do about your relationship with X? You haven't done your laundry this week. You are overweight and you're going to die." I take a deep breath. Another. Another. I repeat the words for the day, "Let me be still and listen to the truth." Or I say, "Help!" to the Holy Spirit. I let the thoughts come and go. I step back and watch them and try not to get drawn in. And I listen; maybe there is some word from my Teacher that will come. And sometimes, there is. Sometimes I just get very quiet, and the chatter of thoughts subsides, if not completely, to a dull, background murmur, like a crowd in a busy restaurant that I'm not really paying attention to. I practice getting quiet and listening. I don't know about you, but I think it is a worthwhile exercise. Sometimes, it even carries over into my day, and I find myself listening to the Voice and not to myself as I move through it. And that's what it's all about.
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