I was asked by a Course student: how do you deal with a growing sense of anxiety as you read A Course in Miracles?
If you could accept, even partially, the idea I am about to attempt to describe, your life would be changed for the better permanently. So what I write is not casual or a platitude.
From what the student wrote me, I felt a picture emerging. In about every line he speak of his anxiety or fear about different aspects of studying and applying the Course. How much effort, will it cost too much, will too much be asked of me, will others think me weird, will I lose things I want to keep, etc.? All of these concerns touch all of us. They are the way we protect ourselves from taking on too much, defend us from dangerous people and groups, and guard us being isolated from our family and friends. But they are also the way we inhibit ourselves and resist our progress. They can be both helpful and unhelpful.
The Course addresses each of these concerns. I don’t mean in some metaphysical mysterious way, but in direct and clear language on the page. I am told that the phrase most often used by Jesus in the gospels is “Do not be afraid”. This implies that we can take a stand against our fear; that somehow it is within our control. Of course, mostly we don’t believe that fear is controllable because we think that external things cause us to fear; that fear is the effect of some external cause. The Course does not agree. It says that our internal fear causes the external world we experience. But it does not say that we should sort out our fears and everything will be fine. Rather, it says that because we believe in our fear, we are not able to address it alone. We need help.
In the Text of the Course, Jesus sets out a full and rich description of why we should not try to heal ourselves but, rather, that we should only want to be healed. Wanting to be well is both essential and sufficient to allow the Holy Spirit (the presence of God in us and in our lives) to put in motion His plan for our healing. We do not need to understand His plan or how healing comes about; just that we desire it.
There are of course a couple of catches. The first is to desire to be well is to recognise that we currently do not want to be well, that we choose our neurosis. The second is that for us to choose to be well we have to want at least one other person to be well. This involves us having sufficient faith in this person that they can develop the desire to be well and that the Holy Spirit will thus heal them. Having faith in them provides us with the faith in ourselves that we can be well and free of fear. The rest, thank God, is up to God and His Holy Spirit.
As to what you can do if you share my friend’s anxiety. I would say that if the Workbook troubles you, as it did him, then stop. Instead read the Text in a slow, thoughtful, and structured way. I would suggest a section (about 2-4 pages) per day, and maybe only five sections per week. I would also suggest he uses some guide to reading the Text. Unfortunately, the ones I know of are either out of date or inadequate. Perhaps, you can find a suitable one. You might also want to consider joining a local study group. Obviously, we at Onemind® also offer support.
Take it slowly and gently. Striving will only slow your progress. The Course is not advocating that you change by yourself. Indeed, it is pleading with you to stop trying to. Rather, recognise your current choices don’t make you happy, develop the desire to be well, and want that for someone else in your life.
I wish you well in your spiritual journey, and I would want you to know for certain that you are loved and loving.