At the beginning of each new year, I start the workbook from the beginning. I don’t always finish it, but I always get going. The time commitment demanded of the first few lessons is so minimal as to hardly constitute effort at all. However, the practice instructions become so arduous later in the year that not to abandon it completely is to succeed wildly.
As I prepared to embark on my daily practice this morning, here at the very beginning of the year, what concerned me was the lesson’s brevity rather than it’s ardour. Invigorated by a silent Christmas retreat which involved almost constant sitting practice, I had finally achieved a kind of fretful quiescence. Now I wondered how two minutes of mindfulness per day could possibly maintain it. But I remembered my clear guidance for the year ahead, “Choose your path and stick to it like your life depends on it”, so in the end I just did it. Or at least I tried. For the first time in my life I found it impossible to sit and complete the simple exercise. Instead I sat for several minutes and listened in despair to the verbal squalor of my interior monologue. I had come up against a strange terror of letting go, of surrendering to a simple practice even for a minute.
This morning I was lost for an answer but have found one since. After 5 days of mindfulness, my ego became conscious of itself and would not approach the present moment for fear of instant extirpation. The word surrender is not mentioned at all in the whole of ACIM. I know this as I’ve just searched for it on my Kindle. But surrender is really what the course is all about. Letting go of the ego thought system and surrendering moment by moment. The “how” of surrender is so counter to the ego’s thought system that it has to be taught directly, step by step, by one who knows the obstacles and has experienced surrender as a path to overcoming them. This is why Jesus is the perfect teacher.
So what did I do instead? I gave up and went back to bed. And as I was drifting off, in that strange twilight zone between wakefulness and sleep, I caught a glimpse of true forgiveness. My experience was beyond words, so I’m not going to try to describe it save to say that it was enough to make me want to carry on with my practice tomorrow. This morning, I thought I was giving up, and it was only much later in the day that I realised I was actually surrendering. Surrendering to the fact that I couldn’t surrender. The next step on the journey I need to follow in faith and won’t understand until it is over.