Receiving vs. Planning, by Ivor Sowton

“The injunction that you resign as your own teacher originated in A Course in Miracles and is furthered here. Your feeling that a specific role is required of you, or that you have a specific thing to do that you need to be aware of, are functions of the planning process that once so ruled your mind. To be willing to receive instead of plan is to break the pattern of planning.” (Jesus in A Course of Love (ACOL), Third Treatise, 22.5)

Jesus here is not talking about, say, time management, like getting up in the morning and doing good self care and getting to work on time. We all have to do lower order planning like that here, and Jesus does indeed encourage self responsibly on this level.

He’s talking about a much deeper level–our motivation level–the level of our intention for our lives. He is basically saying to us that we need to stay willing to be taught, and to receive the plan for our lives from a much deeper level than that of the ego in us:

“You are a beautiful representation of the truth and cannot be otherwise…Wherever you go, whatever you do, the truth will go with you.” (ibid, 22.3)

So our job is to represent or express the deepest truth in us.

This reminds me of the wonderful contemporary British-American poet David Whyte warning us of our tendency to hold “five year plans” for ourselves, like “in five years I’m going to be a famous musician.” Whyte is saying that such plans can actually block our Soul progress, our real growth. He wants us to come to stillness and listen deep within and be guided from there, so that we unfold a much higher potential from within than we could ever have managed by following an outward five year plan!

For me in my own life I often have to push myself to be organized and efficient on the practical level, and I’m learning how such focus actually helps me to come to the kind of receptivity being spoken of here. In fact I’ve found that meeting my obligations well on this level is a prerequisite to allowing for that deeper plan to unfold. I used to have an attitude of entitlement as a young man, which made me dependent on others even as I judged them for not treating me as well as I thought I deserved.

I also used to “feel guided” a lot, and only later saw this “guidance” as a way I had developed of avoiding pulling my own weight by flitting around to this or that undertaking without actually succeeding in any of them. Later I found that to meet my obligations as well as I could and to sincerely follow a spiritual path without flitting around really was a much better approach for me!

My experience here very much jives with American psychologist Abraham Mazlow’s theory of self-actualization, which states that we must meet our basic practical needs first (like good employment, so we can eat good food and live in adequate circumstances), then develop good loving relationships (if we are immature and dependent these are hard to come by!), and THEN self-actualize, which means to flower into our own unique and wonderful expression of full potential.

Mazlow’s model very much reminds me of the Accomplished Self that is such a major theme in ACOL, appearing throughout the text. My current understanding of the Accomplished Self (which I know will deepen over time) is that this is our full potential awaiting within. We can approach that potential by being responsible for ourselves and also respectful of others as much as we can, for they too have their own version of the Accomplished Self within them:

“You must realize that if you were to see into the eyes and hearts of any human from any time with true vision, you would see the Accomplished Self there.” (4th Treatise, 2.8)

As the magnificent Third Treatise of ACOL draws to a close, Jesus brings the quest for the peace, joy and love that we are all on here into focus, saying that our former personal self was a construct of the ego only. As such our old personal self simply could not deliver to us what we were seeking. For me this message has been humbling, because I am aware of so much ego struggle within me still. But I know that Jesus doesn’t want me or anyone else to blame themselves for their past or current struggles. Instead, his message is to keep the eye on the prize, so to speak. He calls us to receive the vision of or true Selves, rather than continue to plan with our egos.

“Observe the personal self with one last act of love and devotion, and in so doing transform the personal self into a representation of the truth…To call forth the sight of your true Self is to call your true Self into observable form.” (3rd Treatise, 22.17)

It’s a wonderful thing to begin to trust Jesus more deeply. He is talking in ACOL of the dawning of the Time of Christ– now, in our lifetimes–where it will be more natural for us to be our True Accomplished Selves.

May you receive this great Bounty more and more in your own life.

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