The idea for today combines two very powerful thoughts, both of major importance. It also sets forth a cause and effect relationship that explains why you cannot fail in your efforts to achieve the goal of the course. You will see because it is the Will of God. It is His strength, not your own, that gives you power. And it is His gift, rather than your own, that offers vision to you.
God is indeed your strength, and what He gives is truly given. This means that you can receive it any time and anywhere, wherever you are, and in whatever circumstance you find yourself. Your passage through time and space is not at random. You cannot but be in the right place at the right time. Such is the strength of God. Such are His gifts.
We will have two three-to-five-minute practice periods today, one as soon as possible after you wake, and another as close as possible to the time you go to sleep. It is better, however, to wait until you can sit quietly by yourself, at a time when you feel ready, than it is to be concerned with the time as such.
Begin these practice periods by repeating the idea for today slowly, with your eyes open, looking about you. Then close your eyes and repeat the idea again, even slower than before. After this, try to think of nothing except thoughts that occur to you in relation to the idea for the day. You might think, for example:
Vision must be possible. God gives truly,
God's gifts to me must be mine, because He gave them to me.
Any thought that is clearly related to the idea for today is suitable. You may, in fact, be astonished at the amount of course-related understanding some of your thoughts contain. Let them come without censoring unless you find your mind is merely wandering, and you have let obviously irrelevant thoughts intrude. You may also reach a point where no thoughts at all seem to come to mind. If such interferences occur, open your eyes and repeat the thought once more while looking slowly about; close your eyes, repeat the idea once more, and then continue to look for related thoughts in your mind.
Remember, however, that active searching for relevant thoughts is not appropriate for today's exercises. Try merely to step back and let the thoughts come. If you find this difficult, it is better to spend the practice period alternating between slow repetitions of the idea with eyes open, then with eyes closed, than it is to strain to find suitable thoughts.
There is no limit on the number of short practice periods that would be beneficial today. The idea for the day is a beginning step in bringing thoughts together, and teaching you that you are studying a unified thought system in which nothing is lacking that is needed, and nothing is included that is contradictory or irrelevant.
The more often you repeat the idea during the day, the more often you will be reminding yourself that the goal of the course is important to you, and that you have not forgotten it.
Commentary by Allen Watson
Question: Why can we not fail in our efforts to achieve the goal of this course?
Answer: Because God wills us to achieve it.
If that answer sounds somewhat demeaning to you, don't be surprised at having such a reaction. With our minds permeated by ego thinking, it can seem personally insulting to be told that the guarantee of our success is that "God wants it that way," as if we don't have any choice in the matter. But the fact is, we don't.
As the introduction to the Text puts it:
It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time.
The curriculum is learning who we are, and we don't have any say in establishing that; we are what God created, and we cannot change that. The only choice is how long it takes us to accept the fact of what we are, instead of trying to be something we are not.
The Text talks about how separation took root in our minds when we refused to accept ourselves as creations of God and wanted to create ourselves. We're still fighting that same silly battle. It still seems insulting to be told that the outcome is inevitable; we are what God created and can't be anything else, no matter how much we might wish for it.
It is God's strength and not ours that gives us our power. We can't give ourselves vision, but neither can we forever refuse His gift to us. Even if we resist, eventually we will capitulate. And if we cooperate, our success is guaranteed.
Werner Erhard, the founder of Erhard Seminars Training (est), once said that it is easier to ride the horse in the direction in which it is going. That is what the Course is asking us to do; to join our will to God's, and to recognize that we really do want exactly what He wants to give us, and has given already. "What He gives is truly given".
If we can accept that our will and God's are the same, we can enter into spiritual life as a sure thing. We can say, "Vision must be possible. God gives truly". Or "God's gifts to me must be mine, because He gave them to me". We can walk through life with a calm assurance. "Those who are certain of the outcome can afford to wait, and wait without anxiety".
There is an idea that gets tossed into the middle of this lesson, seemingly unrelated, although it is closely related. "Your passage through time and space is not at random. You cannot but be in the right place at the right time". The more you go on with this path (and similar ones) the more you know this is absolutely true. There are no random events; everything has a purpose. And you cannot miss! You can't screw it up. Oh, you can make mistakes; the Course is quite clear about that. It tells us: "Son of God, you have not sinned, but you have been much mistaken". But even our mistakes can be used by the Holy Spirit for our benefit: "The Son of God can make no choice the Holy Spirit cannot employ on his behalf". Even if you make the "wrong" choice, nothing has really happened; no permanent damage has been done. "Nothing is ever lost but time, which in the end is meaningless". The Holy Spirit can take whatever you give Him and turn it to your good.
So you can't help being in the right place at the right time; you can just relax in life and enjoy the show, instead of being anxious about it all. Why is this so? Because of the strength of God, and His gifts. Your reaching the goal is His Will, and what God wants, God gets. After all, He's God.
One further comment: In the instructions for practice you are asked to let thoughts occur in relation to today's idea; this kind of rehearsing of related thoughts is another type of meditation that is quite common in the Workbook. Then it says, "You may, in fact, be astonished at the amount of course-related understanding some of your thoughts contain".
You may, however, instead be very puzzled over what the heck this means! The first time I tried this exercise my mind was virtually blank. Remember that the Workbook often assumes that you have studied - not just read, but studied - the Text before you began these exercises. It isn't a requirement, but it is assumed to be the general case.
For anyone who has done that, related thoughts will indeed come easily, or if you are on a repeat pass through the Workbook, same thing. If, after trying for a minute or two to find related thoughts, you find that they do not come easily, take the advice given a little further on in the lesson: "If you find this difficult, it is better to spend the practice period alternating between slow repetitions of the idea with the eyes open, then with eyes closed, than it is to strain to find suitable thoughts". The presence of this kind of instruction shows that the lessons can accommodate people who haven't already studied the Text in depth.