At the closing of a calendar year, we tend to ponder about the year to come, and the ways in which we might make next year a better year. We make lists of new year resolutions for all sorts of topics. If we but try hard enough and follow through, so we reason, the future could be a bit brighter than last year. Needless to say, this is not an approach to achieving happiness that Jesus encourages in A Course in Miracles. As Workbook lesson 188 opens: “Why wait for Heaven? Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. The light is in them now.” (W-pI.188.1)
Indeed, there are many passages in which Jesus reassures us that perfect inner peace, which is what we yearn for most of all, is a matter of choosing the holy instant now. This is beautifully illustrated in Textbook chapter 26: “The one remaining problem that you have is that you see an interval between the time when you forgive, and will receive the benefits of trusting in your brother. […] You see eventual salvation, not immediate results. Salvation is immediate… For a miracle is now. It stands already there, in present grace, within the only interval of time that sin and fear have overlooked, but which is all there is to time (i.e., now). The working out of all correction takes no time at all… Be not content with future happiness. It has no meaning, and it is not your just reward. For you have cause for freedom now.” (T-26.VIII.1-3)
Choosing the Holy Instant does not mean we do anything. We merely ‘make way’ in our mind for the Holy Spirit’s presence to enter. Textbook chapter 18, about the passing of the dream, elaborates on the ‘little willingness’ required to let peace be now: “The holy instant does not come from your little willingness alone. It is always the result of your small willingness combined with the unlimited power of God’s Will. You have been wrong in thinking that it is needful to prepare yourself for Him. It is impossible to make arrogant preparations for holiness, and not believe that it is up to you to establish the conditions for peace. God has established them. They do not wait upon your willingness for what they [i.e., the conditions for peace] are. Your willingness is needed only to make it possible to teach you what they are.” (T-18.IV.4)
Such assurances are of little value, however, to the many Course students who come to realize just how deeply attached they still are to the ego, and who wonder how they will ever muster the ‘little willingness’ to make every moment a holy instant, thereby undoing the ego thought system once and for all. To most Course students, enlightenment indeed seems to require many, many years of hard work, even decades, or several reincarnations. It’s not that they don’t sense the loving presence of the Holy Spirit within them, but He gets invited in only some of the time, and then usually to fix something in this world, instead of us leaving this world behind temporarily. Holy instants are very rare instants!
Jesus is no harsh teacher in A Course in Miracles. Although Jesus stands outside of time, he is well aware of how conditioned in time and space our minds are. In ACIM he meets us where we are: in the dream of time and space. The Workbook in itself is a great example. Realizing just how hard you find it to do even one lesson exactly as asked provides the ‘healthy respect’ for the ego that is needed to truly realize the misery we choose from moment to moment, and honestly say “This pain is too much – I’ve had it. There must be a better way.” In the Manual for Teachers, Jesus explains about the development of trust: “It takes great learning to understand that all things, events, encounters and circumstances are helpful.” (M-4.I.A.2). We do not learn this immediately; it takes time.
It can be helpful to remember from time to time, as you go through your daily practice of A Course in Miracles, that although salvation is immediate, the process of accepting salvation takes time. If we try to hasten our mind training, it may degenerate into fighting the ego, which is the last thing Jesus would advocate. Fighting the ego is the worst thing you can do, for the ego feeds on condemnation. Instead, we should allow ourselves to trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in becoming a happy learner: “You will first dream of peace, and then awaken to it. Your first exchange of what you made for what you want is the exchange of nightmares for the happy dreams of love. In these lie your true perceptions, for the Holy Spirit corrects the world of dreams, where all perception is.” (T-13.VII.8). You and I don’t go from being an ego-slave to total enlightenment in one holy instant; it’s a process.
So anytime I catch myself pondering about my future happiness, I can realize this is an opportunity to make a better choice now and become a happy learner now. Not to be enlightened immediately, but to choose to let my mind be guided by the Holy Spirit more often: “The Holy Spirit needs a happy learner, in whom His mission can be happily accomplished. You who are steadfastly devoted to misery must first recognize that you are miserable and not happy. The Holy Spirit cannot teach without this contrast, for you believe that misery is happiness” (T-14.II.1:1-3). Jesus needs me to get to the point of saying: “This misery that I sought up to now really becomes too painful. I resign now as my own teacher. Please, Holy Spirit, join me in making this instant a holy instant of peace.” Our practice of A Course in Miracles is to increasingly often choose such moments. Only this way will you become a happy learner, and eventually an advanced Teacher of God. So take heart if you notice you forgot for a long time. Your choosing it now is all that matters, regardless of your past. Or future.
Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com: