My journey continues with A Course in Miracles. I am happy to report that although, it was riddled with struggle, this has been a magnificent year for me. One of my favorite course teachers is Amy Torres. She has been a guest blogger for me on occasion and I want to share an article she wrote for her own blog recently. For anyone who has joined a study group these are issues that need ground rules. Enjoy!
Safe Ways to Share
Guidelines on how to run A Course in Miracles study groups and classes.
Let’s start with the obvious: A spirit of cooperation is essential because “Salvation is a collaborative venture.” (T-4.VI.8:2) Therefore, begin by invoking the Holy Spirit and placing the ACIM class or study group in His Hands. “The Holy Spirit speaks with unmistakable clarity and overwhelming appeal.” (ACIM Preface)
The teacher or facilitator of the group* can make a statement such as, “Holy Spirit, we place ourselves in Your Hands, please guide us.” Another suggestion is that the group can hold hands in a circle and recite a prayer from the Course, for example:
I am only here to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Him Who sent me.
I do not have to worry about what to say or what
to do, because He Who sent me will direct me.
I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing
He goes there with me. I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.
This intention opens the way for loving communication.
In order for us to feel safe, and maintain a beautiful spirit of cooperation, it’s best to share experience rather than state opinions, lecture or pontificate. An ACIM class or study group is not a debating platform. Those of us who choose to practice A Course in Miracles resonate with its teachings. Sincere questions are welcome–argumentative ones are not. Nor is it a place to preach to the converted–quoting the Course at each other is not necessary or loving; usually it is just the ego showing off and taking charge. And please, do not give advice unless it is asked for. Rather than being “truly helpful,” this ego-driven urge to “help” is what I call “horribly helpful” and is rarely welcomed.
Using “I-talk” is the best way to “own our stuff.” Some of you are well-acquainted with “I-talk” and others are not. I-talk is using the first person (me, I, myself) when communicating. Paradoxically, rather than being narcissistic, “keeping it on me” undoes me and results in being more loving and attuned to others.
When responding to another, you can ask, “Do you just need us to listen? Or would you also like feedback?” Each of you can request specific feedback by letting people know, “Right now I only need sympathy–no opinions.” Or, “Please share similar stories with me, but don’t comment on mine,” etc. Or you can set up a “No Cross Talk” rule which means that people share and no one else comments on what was said. (This is not ideal in a class or study group, but can be a good experiment just to see what happens and how it feels to practice no cross talk. Out of this experiment may grow a compromise approach customized to your group.)
See if you can express yourself in less words. There is a Buddhist saying, before you speak ask yourself, “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” Remember, less is more.
In general, it’s good for all of us to share our experience without pushing it on anyone else. Ways to do this include, “What’s coming up for me is … ” or in response to someone else, “I feel an inner pressure to comfort you (or encourage you, or clarify the teaching for you, etc.). The reason we would choose to describe the pure sensation, for example, “inner pressure,” is to own our experience without interpretation. The inner pressure is yours–it should not necessarily be shared, or taken as spiritual guidance to help another. Just observe your internal experience. And do your best to stay in the present moment, rather than getting into lengthy stories about your past (always a telltale sign that the ego has taken over).
The Holy Spirit doesn’t actually tell us what to do in the world–He simply shifts our perception from fear to Love, and the form in which Love is expressed is a symbol, or reflection, of God’s Love. We learn by practicing with each other. It doesn’t matter how the other person reacts or responds. All that matters is that you practice forgiveness by following the Holy Spirit’s guidance, which by definition means that you step back and get out of your own way. This does not result in people walking all over you; to the contrary, your presence will become calm, powerful, impersonal, and full of loving Authority.
You can also offer, “Here’s an experience from my life that I hope offers you comfort.” Or, “Let me know if I can be of help.” But before you go rushing in to offer help (which can often be a codependent reaction) it is much more healing to share pure body sensations. This invites a healthy habit in the group of observing without defining, and opens an inner space for the Holy Spirit to lead.
Last, but not least, protect each other’s privacy by practicing, “What we say here, stays here.” Respecting each other’s confidentiality heals wounds and ultimately results in dissolving the personal story that maintains ego identification.
You must embody what Safe Ways to Share says if you want it to work, just as we must practice A Course in Miracles and not just read it. Interestingly, the definition of “embody” is to be a living demonstration of an idea, quality, or feeling–in this case, forgiveness and its resulting miracles.
To teach is to demonstrate.
There are only two thought systems, and you demonstrate that you believe one or the other is true all the time.
From your demonstration others learn, and so do you. …
You cannot give to someone else, but only to yourself, and this you learn through teaching. (M-Intro.2:1-3;6)
These guidelines are can be used in all your relationships, not just in a group. I highly recommend practicing them with everyone, everyday. Practicing emotionally responsible ways of communicating is a great undoing process. Feel free to ask me questions about this–you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
* A class has a teacher who is the leader of that group and is the guide and protector of the group. This teacher should be humble and open to getting out of his/her way and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach the class–this is an ongoing process; the teacher does not have to be “perfect,” just honest, kind, with good boundaries, and hopefully, well-versed in the subject being taught.
A study group has no teacher, but instead is a group of people getting together to discuss a subject, in this case A Course in Miracles. Most study groups have a facilitator–someone who organizes the class schedule, contacts the participants, and facilitates the meeting by providing some guidance (e.g., “Let’s begin by invoking the Holy Spirit.” and “Here are the used by this group.” etc.) without taking on the responsibility of teaching.
Copyright © 2013 Amy Torres. All rights reserved worldwide.