Miracles News

July-September, 2018

The Benefits of Participating in an ACIM Study Group

by Rev. Tanya Ince, Ph.D, O.M.C.

Tanya InceHave you ever been a part of A Course in Miracles study group? It could have been a local in-person meeting or a remote group that meets over the phone or Internet. What did you enjoy the most about this experience? If you have never participated in a study group, would you consider joining one in the future? Hopefully, this article will help you decide if attending a study group is right for you now. And if you are already a member of a study group, my experience may sound familiar to you.

I must admit that I love working with groups of people. Over the years, I have been a part of several Course study groups. Of course, being a part of a group is not a pre-requisite for understanding and practicing the teachings of the Course. Some people enjoy following a self-study curriculum, and others are being guided to find a local or online community of practice. There is no one way of studying the Course that is right for everyone.

In my experience, a weekly ACIM study group became an essential part of my spiritual practice. I started my first study group even before I finished reading the text for the first time. After I found the Course in 2010, I knew right away that it was the book I was looking for all my life. I noticed the first inspiring results of practicing the lessons almost immediately and wanted to share the Course with others. So I posted an announcement online and the next thing I knew we were meeting in my living room every Thursday. Indeed, we are always given exactly what we need!

My initial intention for forming a study group was to deepen my own practice of the Course and to keep me on track. I knew that I needed to practice it consistently to keep and stabilize my newly-found sense of peace. I intuitively felt that the best way to keep the precious gifts of Spirit is to share them. For the past eight years, I hosted weekly ACIM study groups in Atlanta and Boone, with a short break in 2013 after moving to North Carolina.

There are numerous benefits of participating in a study group for a Course student. Some of these benefits include the following: • Joining in the mind • Developing trust • Strengthening our connection with Spirit • Maintaining focus on daily practice and reducing resistance • Practicing miracles and forgiveness lessons • Establishing long-lasting friendships and practicing holy instances • Validating each other’s experiences.

I’m going to briefly discuss each of these gifts of joining a study group below. This list is not exhaustive, as the benefits of companionship are countless.

Joining in the mind. The Course teaches us to see our common interests and equality in God. A group is the closest analogy here to experiencing Oneness in the mind. In the words of the Course, “Healing is the effect of the minds that join.” (T.28.III.2:6)

Our weekly group discussions are clearly guided by the Holy Spirit. He arranges examples and stories that we bring to the table, so that they serve our joint purpose of awakening to Oneness. This is perfectly clear every time when someone talks about their experience and then we read about the same concept in the Text. Each group meeting is perfectly orchestrated by the Great Conductor, Who knows exactly what we collectively need to facilitate our learning and healing.

Developing trust. Gradually, we learn to trust our Inner Teacher, as well as each other. As we repeatedly experience being guided by the Holy Spirit during our meetings and in between, we are reminded that we are in “good hands.” Also, one person’s example of trusting the Holy Spirit’s guidance can inspire and strengthen trust in everyone in a group. The more reminders of trust we can get, the better.

Strengthening our connection with Spirit. Sometimes we get so involved in our personal stories that our connection with the Holy Spirit seems week or non-existent. Anything that helps us strengthen that connection in our minds is helpful. In a study group, we can gain an objective perspective on our own experience and take it less seriously as a result.

There is no shortage of miracles in a group. I’ve seen many times how liberating it can be to share your thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental environment. Sometimes you just burst into laughter without even finishing your story. We are reminded that we are always given situations that are perfect for our learning. 

Maintaining focus on daily practice and reducing resistance. This was my main motivation for joining a study group. I had no idea I will also gain many friends in the process. Being a part of the group keeps me focused on my daily practice of the Course lessons. It reminds me to “be vigilant only for God and His Kingdom” (T.6.V.C.2:8) and to look at every situation in my life as an opportunity for forgiveness.

Practicing miracles and forgiveness lessons. As I already mentioned, a study group is an abundant resource for practicing miracles. As we hear about someone else’s experience of forgiveness, we learn to simultaneously recognize both our own ego tricks and opportunities for miraculous corrections. We learn to practice honesty with ourselves and others.

A study group is like an incubator for practicing the skills of forgiveness. It is easier to look at my own beliefs without judgement, fear, or guilt in a supportive environment of like-minded brothers and sisters. I can see how the results of this practice transfer and generalize to all areas of my life, including family, work, business, and relationships. 

Validating each other’s experiences. When we practice the Course on our own, the ego can easily hijack the process by making us look special in our own eyes for doing this work, or for experiencing more separation and suffering than others. Simply knowing that there are other people, who have daily conversations with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, can be liberating.

In a group setting, it quickly becomes apparent how similar everyone’s path is. At some point, we have all recognized that “there must be a better way” and experienced “a turning point.” In the Manual for Teachers, Jesus talks about walking on this path “with mighty companions beside us.” (M.4.I.A.6:11) Indeed, our journey is much easier and happier together!

Establishing long-lasting friendship and practicing holy instances. As trust among group members grows, people naturally form true friendships. My life is so much richer now that I have many like-minded friends. Even though each of us is fully responsible for our own forgiveness process, it is helpful to have friends who walk on the same spiritual path and who see the Light in you even when you don’t see it yourself.

The Course teaches us that we are reminded of our own essence of Love when we see It in others. Luckily, we never walk this path alone. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in many ways, including through other people. 

To sum up, I find that my personal process with the Course is significantly enhanced by sharing it with like-minded friends. Participating in a study group helped me to maintain consistent focus on my daily practice and hone my forgiveness skills. In fact, Bill Thethford and Helen Schucman, who recorded A Course in Miracles, were a part of the very first Course study group. I’m very grateful that the Holy Spirit inspired me to study the Course with my “mighty companions.”

Rev. Tanya Ince is a Pathways of Light minister living in Boone, North Carolina. Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

© 2018, Pathways of Light. https://www.pathwaysoflight.org
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