Published in Miracles for November/December 2012 (publisher Jon Mundy).
by Celia Hales
A Course in Miracles would have us defer to the Holy Spirit in our decisions. This guidance is true, and it does not always have to be constant in our lives. But it can be. Let me explain.
“Does this mean that you cannot say anything without consulting Him? No, indeed! That would hardly be practical, and it is the practical with which this course in most concerned. (M71)”
Jesus goes on in this passage to recommend consulting with the Holy Spirit in the morning, asking for the His guidance when it is feasible to do so, and then thanking Him at night. In other passages throughout the Manual, though, Jesus goes further in recommending that we turn over our decisions increasingly to the Holy Spirit. He speaks of this need particularly in regard to judgmental thinking, which he indicates that accuracy is impossible for us, because we do not know all the facts–past, present, and future–that impinge on a given decision. If Jesus really means this (and I feel certain that his words are very intentional), how might we turn our decisions, especially our judgments, increasingly over to the Holy Spirit? How do we know when the Holy Spirit is speaking to us?
My own reflections over the years of studying ACIM have evolved from a primary dependence upon feelings, or intuition, to a broader recognition that the aspects of life that we cannot get out of our minds may be the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Here is a 10-point list with some commentary of the ways that I have discovered guidance acting in my life. Do not take anything unto yourself unless it finds a place in your heart.
1 – Listening in Prayer. The “listening” time of prayer is the best way that I believe that I receive guidance. I am careful, though, not to forget that my own desires may interfere with what I “hear,” and that I may make a mistake. Many have said that God speaks in the silence, and I think this is an appropriate way to seek His Will.
2 – Keep a Prayer Log. In the early eighties the spiritual writer Catherine Marshall recommended keeping a prayer log, very specifically, with prayers listed succinctly and then the answer, when it was received, recorded and dated. I followed this recommendation for the remainder of the eighties and into the nineties, and I found it very, very useful. (Probably I should return to this practice.)
3 – Intuitive Advice. In daily life I receive guidance through a feeling that I ought to take a given course of action. “Feeling” is akin to intuition, but that is not the whole of it, I think. I believe that our minds, our intellects, frequently interfere with receiving the Holy Spirit’s messages, and that the Holy Spirit finds it easier to reach us through our emotions, our feelings.
4 – Intrusive Words. Sometimes I am able to be in a spirit of inspiration, and, much as if I were writing without being sure what I would say next, words come into my mind from my unconscious that suggest a given pathway. I do not actually hear a voice; it is my own thinking, but it also seems to be a bit beyond me.
5 – An Inner Knowing. Quiet times may bring forth an inner knowing of how to proceed in a matter that is troubling us. This is non-verbal, akin to hearing the Holy Spirit in our innermost hearts. This “knowing” without being able to verbalize “how” we know is powerful stuff. I think that it is certainly one of the most potent forms of guidance.
6 – Journaling. Writing out our struggles in a journal is a way to invite the Holy Spirit’s input. I try to let my conscious mind die down and to invite thoughts from my deepest spirit.
7 – Dreams. In especially faithful times, we may have a dream that appears vivid and suggests the next step for us in our life. Certainly dreams and visions are important ways in which God spoke to His people in the past, as recorded in Scripture. I have had two significant “warning” dreams in my life that I still recall vividly. The dreams came when I was contemplating a pathway that I now realize would not have been healthy for me.
8 – Agitation. Occasionally in my life I have become severely agitated when I was walking along a given pathway. I have come to see such agitation as evidence from the Holy Spirit that I am walking the wrong way.
9 – Visions. Many years ago, when I was 25, I had a series of nighttime hallucinations, or visions, that became important to me in setting the pathway for my life. Perhaps there was a reason that this gift came at an early age. The visions have not recurred.
10 – Signs. Signs are welcomed by many, but I would caution against too much an emphasis here, because it is very easy to twist signs around to mean anything that we want. (Jesus says in ACIM that we can twist symbols around.)
I have not followed blindly. Jesus would not have us check our minds and spirits at the door. I have tested out my perceived guidance, and that is how I have found it true. I invite you to do the same. Intuition is a right-brain activity, and, as such, it does not respond well to our timetables. We may need to present a question to the Holy Spirit, and then go about our day in full confidence that the answer will come when the matter has retreated from the forefront of our minds. Present a problem or question, and then let go. Trust the Holy Spirit to make His will known to us. He will not fail.
In my twenties I heard a very dynamic preacher of the gospel speak on the topic of guidance.
He stressed, “I have known people at the end of their lives who said, ‘I knew that God was telling me to do that. But I didn’t do it, and I regret it.'”
He went on, vehemently, “I have never known anyone to say, at the end of their lives, ‘I knew that God was trying to get me to do that, and I did it, and I regret it.'”
Jesus may be commenting on the same guidance when he says the following in the Manual, in a passage that is comforting in the extreme:
“Do not, then, think that following the Holy Spirit’s guidance is necessary merely because of your own inadequacies. It is the way out of hell for you. (M70)”
By this statement, I think that ACIM is telling us that we make our own hells on earth. Listening to the Holy Spirit with increasing frequency shows us the way out of our self-made hells. I believe that in fact there is no limit to how the Holy Spirit speaks to us, for our God is not a limited God in any way. He will find a way to get through to us. He asks only that we try to discern. If we miss the first glimmering of guidance, God will bring the same message to us in yet other ways until we get the message. Remain flexible. Learn to turn on a dime. Following the Holy Spirit in this way is joyous. It is the enlightened way to live, even before we know the Awakening that the Course holds out to us. As A Course in Miracles makes clear, there can be no better way to live, in the time of the Holy Spirit, than in following the guidance of Universal Inspiration.
I once read, “Why beseech heaven for a miracle one would not recognize at high noon?” After actively seeking guidance, we are perhaps in the right frame of mind, for the first time, to recognize miracles when they occur.