The Introduction to the WorkbookComments by Allen Watson
The Workbook's Introduction is something everyone doing the Workbook should definitely read thoughtfully. In my opinion we could profit from reading it over once a month or so as we do the Workbook to remind ourselves of its basic instructions.
The first paragraph explains the interrelationship of the Text and the Workbook. Both are essential for anyone doing the Course. Without the "theoretical foundation" of the Text, the exercises of the Workbook are "meaningless." We should all pay careful attention to the Text; it is "necessary" to do so if we want the benefits of the Workbook exercises. Does that mean that one should study the Text before doing the Workbook? Not necessarily. The Manual discusses the order in which the volumes should be used, and says it differs from person to person. Some, it says, "might do better to begin with the workbook" (M-29.1:6). It is evident from this Introduction, however, that if one begins with the Workbook, the Text should follow, or perhaps be read along with the Workbook.
On the other hand, studying the Text without doing the Workbook is equally useless because "it is doing the exercises that will make the goal of the course possible." To simply study the theoretical foundation without practical application results in little more than empty head knowledge. You may understand intellectually what the goal is, but you will not be able to attain it without the exercises. In Chapter 30 of the Text, the Course puts forth this same idea. It says there,
The goal is clear, but now you need specific methods for attaining it. The speed by which it can be reached depends on this one thing alone; your willingness to practice every step. Each one will help a little, every time it is attempted. And together will these steps lead you from dreams of judgment to forgiving dreams and out of pain and fear (T-30.Int.1:2-5).
The "one thing alone" that determines how fast we reach the goal is our "willingness to practice every step." In terms of doing the Workbook I think this can be aptly applied to how willing we are to practice the daily exercises as instructed. If the lesson calls for four or five repetitions during the day, how willing are we to actually do that? Each time we remember to practice it may not seem as if much is happening, but every time helps a little. It is all the little, repeated times of practice that, when added together, will lead us out of our dream of judgment. The Workbook does not promise to change us overnight; rather, it says that if we are willing to practice every step of the exercises, each such attempt will, little by little, purify our minds of the ego's darkness.
The purpose of the Workbook is "to train your mind to think along the lines the text sets forth." The word train calls to mind things like piano practice, sports exercises and drills, and even military training. It definitely carries with it the idea of manifold repetitions, of disciplined effort, of pushing beyond the envelope of our present abilities. When you train in a gym or health club the whole idea involves pushing past the limits you now have and learning to do things you cannot now do. Yet at the same time it also carries with it the idea that what is being developed is something latent, the calling out of an undeveloped potential, and not the addition of something heretofore entirely lacking.
What is being trained is our minds. The separation is nothing more than a mistaken mind-set, and
...all mistakes must be corrected at the level on which they occur. Only the mind is capable of error (T-2.IV.2:3-4).
Correction belongs at the thought level (T-2.V.1:7).
The purpose of the workbook is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world (W-Int.4:1).
So this is a very thorough mind training, intended to affect the way you perceive literally everything. That we are learning a "different" perception clearly implies that our existing perception is mistaken.
Notice some of the very simple "rules" for doing the Workbook.
- Do not undertake to do more than one set of exercises a day (W-In.2:6).
- The exercises are to be practiced with "great specificity" (one of those words I never used until I began studying the Course!) (W-In.6:1). This means that we are to pay great attention to details, and to applying the general ideas of the lessons specifically to many different things in our lives. The purpose is to help us generalize the ideas and to see that they apply to "everyone and everything in the world" (W-In.4:1).
- Do not deliberately exclude anything from the application of the ideas (W-In.6:3).
Some people wonder about doing one lesson per day. They wonder if, perhaps, they should repeat a lesson if they feel they did not "get" it, or did not do the practice correctly. The wisdom of many students who have worked with the book can be summed up like this: Don't "guilt yourself" about the lessons. In general, there is no need to repeat. Later lessons will repeat the same concepts in many cases. If you want to repeat a lesson because you found it beneficial, by all means do so. If you are repeating because you are trying to do it perfectly, you may be subconsciously resisting moving on to the next lesson which will free you. It is usually better to forgive yourself and move on.
We are asked to remember that "the overall aim of the exercises is to increase your ability to extend the ideas you will be practicing to include everything" (W-In.7:1). I'd like to linger a little on those words, "exercises" and "practicing." We are not just reading these ideas. "Doing the Workbook" is not just reading the lessons. It is practicing the lessons. Each lesson gives "specific procedures by which the idea for today is to be applied" (W-In.3:3). Your following those procedures is what is meant by practicing, and practicing is "doing the Workbook." How much chemistry would you learn if all you did was read the lab manual but never performed the experiments?
If we do the exercises, the results are guaranteed.
This [extension of the ideas] will require no effort on your part. The exercises themselves meet the conditions necessary for this kind of transfer (W-In.7:2-3),
Our part is to do the exercises; the extension of the benefits derived from exercise will happen automatically, without additional effort on our part. You may practice with certain specific things or individuals or thoughts; the benefits of that practice will extend, without your effort, to everything in your world.
Like working out in a health club, you don't have to even like the program. If you work out, your body will benefit whether or not you like working out. So here, in doing these mental exercises, it isn't necessary that we believe the ideas at first, or like them, or accept them, or welcome them. You can even actively resist them. It doesn't matter what we think about them. "You are asked only to use them" (W-In.8:5). "Nothing more than that is required" (W-In.9:5). That is, apply them to your life as instructed. Notice that applying the ideas is required for the program to work. If you do so, they will be effective. Using the ideas is what will give them meaning to us and will show us that they are true.
No one can read this carefully without realizing what is being asked of us. Reading the Text isn't enough to reach the goal of the Course. Reading the Workbook as well is also not enough. We have to carry out the instructions in each lesson, the specific procedures for applying the idea during the day. It is our willingness to practice every step, to follow every instruction, and to do the exercises, that will determine the speed with which we reach the goal.
Copyright © 2020, Allen A. Watson, Portland,
All rights reserved.