My Theory about the Workbook Lessons of A Course in Miracles
If you have struggled with doing the workbook lessons of A Course in Miracles, listen in! After failing to get past Lesson 50 in a five year period, Lisa Natoli came upon “a theory” of how the workbook lessons actually work. Also in this episode, Lisa talks about how many people stop doing the lessons halfway through – during the first part of the mind-training which is “the undoing” and they never get to the second part: the acquisition of sight. In the first part of the workbook, the thought system of fear is being undone, and often this part can feel disorienting, confusing, things are falling away and you may feel that you are doing it wrong. So a lot of people quit. If this is you, listen in to Lisa’s theory: that the workbook lessons get you out of your 3rd dimensional frame of reference for intervals during the day, into another vibration where the light is doing the work, with your cooperation.
00:00 Hi, welcome to the Lisa Show. I’m Lisa Natoli. This is episode eight. The topic for today is my theory on the workbook lessons of A Course in Miracles. So, welcome. Thank you for joining me. Today’s episode is for anyone who either has never done the workbook lessons in A Course in Miracles. Maybe you’ve never even heard of them. Or, it’s for anyone who has done with workbook lessons, but you’re stilling confused, or angry, or sad, or depressed, and you haven’t experienced the shift from fear to love, that you feel maybe nothing has changed. So if that’s you, you’re in the right place.
00:42 I have a theory about the workbook lessons in A Course in Miracles, and I consider myself in the workbook lessons of A Course in Miracles. It’s kind of a joke, but it’s also very serious. The joke of it is the reason I’m an expert because of how many years I failed at doing the workbook lessons. I’ve had A Course in Miracles since 1992. I didn’t have a clue what it was. I didn’t understand a word that it said. I didn’t even know there was a workbook lesson in the book because it’s in the middle of the book, so I didn’t even realize that there was three parts to A Course in Miracles. I didn’t realize that there was a text with 31 chapters, a workbook with 365 daily lessons, and a manual for teachers, and then a clarification of terms at the end.
01:39 In the early days, this was in 1992, before the internet, before there was so many Course in Miracles groups and teachers, and I really had to find my own way. At some point, I discovered that there was a workbook. I still didn’t get it. I look back now and I laugh at how simple it is. But at the time, I didn’t know. I really didn’t know what book lesson one, and lesson two, and lesson three. So, I want to just talk about this because my hope is that what I share with you today can save you time. It can save you the frustration of what I went through. It might feel like one year is a long time, because that’s the training period for A Course in Miracles. There’s 365 lessons. You do one lesson a day. It takes one year to complete.
02:35 Today, I’m going to read the introduction to the workbook lessons. What I’m going to do in this episode, I’m going to go through just a couple of the first early lessons just to point some things out to you. Again, I’m going to share my story. The reason I really feel I’m an expert at it is because I’ve done them so many times, but I never actually did them. That’s really the important thing. My theory about the workbook lessons of A Course in Miracles is that it’s your willingness to participate with these lessons to cooperate and make yourself available to not just reading the lesson and not just studying it, but actually finding out the places in your minuted that the lesson is asking you to find. It has fill-in-the-blanks. It asks for you to look around yourself, and see things, and look at things. It asks for you to find people you have grievances with. It’s very simple.
03:40 But, often what we do is we just read through it as if we’re reading a novel and we don’t realize it’s a training. You can’t just listen to other teachers read the lessons because you have to work with your own thought system. You have to find all the blocks and the obstacles that are in your mind that are blocking love’s presence, and no one can do that for you. You can’t just listen to another teacher read the lessons and then home that somehow through osmosis your life just becomes miraculous. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a little bit as if you want to tone your body or maybe have more muscles and you just read a book or you watch a video online of a trainer lifting those weights in the gym and sweating. Nothing will change for you. You actually have to be the one that gets out of your chair and starts lifting weights or starts sweating. You have to do the work. That was the most important thing for me, is really recognizing that I needed to do what these lessons were instructing and not just read.
04:56 So, my theory is, and it’s might be a little bit strange, but having done them for so many years, I have this theory that the light does the work, that the light of your own mind does the work. I’m going to show you in these first couple of workbook lessons what I mean by that because it’s my theory that here in time and space we … I don’t know how to explain it in a way that might make sense, but I’m going to do my best. But, the way that we’ve organized our thoughts, put you in a particular frequency, and you can call it three-dimensional time, it’s people, places. You have a past. You have a future. You’ve organized your life in such a way, and you’re within a frame based on how you’ve set it up.
05:47 So here in time and space, you’ve learned to name everything. From the moment we all arrived her in time and space, we’ve been taught certain ideas. The first one was, on your immediate arrival, you were either called a boy or a girl. That’s the first thing. Then, you’re taught who your parents are. You’re given a name. You’re taught the language that you were born into, and everything becomes a thought system based on what you’re taught. This becomes the world that you think you live in. There’s rules, and laws, and you think they’re real because you’ve been living with the thought system for so long that it seems to work under these specific parameters, but you don’t realize that they’ve been set by you.
06:37 What the workbook lessons do is they’re inviting you to leave that frame for intervals of time during the day. So, that was huge for me when I started to look at the workbook lessons in this was. Every time you do one of the lessons, you just do what it says. You don’t try to understand it, and I’m going to read the introduction in a moment. It says, “Do not try to understand these lessons. They are not understandable.” My theory is is that the workbook lessons are actually outside of the frame that you’ve set up for yourself as a human being, as a body, and so that’s why you can’t understand them because what they do is they take you outside of your frame for a moment. It’s almost as if you’re vibrating in a new frequency outside of the frame just for a moment.
07:35 So, lessons one, two, and three invite you to do the lesson and practice for one minute in the morning and one minute, again, at night. What you’re doing is, for one minute, you’re just following the instructions. It says, “Look around you.” And you’re simply looking around you. You’re not just reading. And again, I’m going to get to this. I want to show you. I want to really just show you exactly how it’s organized so that you can see these lessons in a new way. If you’re not having an experience of joy and peace, and knowing your oneness with God, I invite you to do them again. If you’ve never done them, I invite you to get a copy of A Course in Miracles and make a one-year commitment.
08:25 If you like the way I teach, I have an audio program called ACIM 365. I do 10-minute audio talks on every single workbook lessons in A Course in Miracles. I don’t do the lessons for you. I just point stuff out. That’s all I ever do as a teacher. I just say, “Okay, look at this. Check this out.” I invite everyone to do the workbook lessons even before you listen to the audio because I want you to have your own experience. I’d like to just read through the introduction right now. This is from the workbook lessons. Again, if you’re new to A Course in Miracles, I’m so excited for you because it is a mind-training program that is giving you step-by-step instructions that are meeting from the place where you think you are, in pain, in worry, in guilt, in judgment, and it’s going to lead you right out of that place. But what’s required is you. You are needed to cooperate with this process of leaving the darkness and moving into the light.
09:44 The workbook lessons are right in the middle of the book. I’m reading from the purple edition. These are the handwritten notes of Helen Schucman. This is the version that was put out by the Circle of Atonement. One of the first things that I invite people to do whenever they ask me, “How do you do the workbook lessons? What are they?” I say, “Read the introduction. It is so important. It will tell you exactly how to do them.” What I feel is that a lot of people don’t read the introduction. I just feel it’s so important. I did not read the introduction, and that’s why I’m constantly harping on it saying, “Just read it. It will tell you exactly what to do.”
10:23 I’m an expert in this because for the first five years that I was doing the workbook lessons I never got past workbook lesson number 50. I would do one lesson a day, and I would get through one, two, three, four, five, all the way to 50. I would get to 50, and I would just feel more confused than ever, and I would think, “I must be doing something wrong. I’m going to start them again.” I would go back to lesson one. I would go through 1 through 50 again. I would still feel confused, and I would think, “I must be doing them wrong.” I kept circling through 1 through 50 for five years. I just kept thinking, “Something’s wrong here. I’m missing something here. I don’t feel more at peace. I feel more chaotic than ever.” Back then, I was trying to do the workbook lessons as closely as possible. It just didn’t make any sense to me why I wasn’t having any breakthroughs.
11:26 Finally, around the five year mark, I’m still around lesson 50, I’m now going to A Course in Miracles in the Upper West Side of Manhattan where I lived at the time. I mentioned in this group that this is what I had been doing, circling around the workbook lessons for five years, 1 through 50. My Course in Miracles teacher, Jeff Miranoff, I just love this guy, he said, “Lisa, oh my God. Have you read the introduction?” I must have just got this totally blank look on my face and I’m like, ” I don’t know. Maybe not.” He said, “Just go forward. You’re not trying to understand what these lessons mean. It takes one year.”
12:10 The next day, I went to lesson 51, and that year I completed the workbook lessons of A Course in Miracles, and I began to witness the loosening of my own thought system of fear, and judgment, and doubt, and worry. That’s why as a teacher I’m constantly encouraging people to keep going, just keep going. Just make that one-year commitment. Get a copy of A Course in Miracles and do what it says.
12:41 Here’s from the introduction. It says, “A theoretical foundation such as the text is necessary as a background to make these exercises in this workbook meaningful.” So, a theoretical foundation such as the text, so the text of A Course in Miracles is the 31 chapters and that’s necessary as a background to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful. Yet it is the exercises which will make the goal of this course possible.” And the goal of A Course in Miracles is peace. “An untrained mind can accomplish nothing. It is the purpose of these exercises to train the mind to think along the lines the course sets forth. The exercises are very simple. They do not require a great deal of time, and it does not matter where do them. They need no preparation. They are numbered, running from 1 to 365. The training period is one year. Do not undertake more than one lesson a day.”
13:54 Then, that’s really an important instruction because I know a lot of people want to do them faster than one year, so they just think, “Oh, I can just give an hour every day, and I can just read through them real fast, and I’ll be through them in three months.” But, it says here, “The training period is one year. Do not undertake more than one lesson a day. The purpose of the workbook is to train the mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everything in the world. The workbook is divided into two sections, the first dealing with the undoing of what you see now, and the second with the restoration of sight.”
14:35 And I love that because when I talk to people, what I find is that a lot of people stop before they’re halfway through, so they actually don’t get to the best part. The first part that the workbook is divided into is the dealing with the undoing of the way you see now. That often can seem chaotic. Your undoing your thought system of fear. As that’s happening, you might think, “I’m doing this wrong. Things feels worse, and I thought they were going to be better.” Get on board with A Course in Miracles. You’re all set for a life of love, and joy, and peace, and for a moment you feel worse than ever because it’s an undoing of your thought system. So, things are falling apart. Things are falling away. Things are coming up for you. You feel more fear than ever.
15:31 So many people think, “I feel bad. I must be doing it wrong. But when you remember this is an undoing, you’ll keep going because then there’s this second part, which is the restoration of sight. That’s the gift of A Course in Miracles is that you begin to see. You begin to see with Christ vision. You begin to see in a new way. That’s what it says, “The purpose of the workbook is to train the mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everything in the world.”
16:01 What you learn as you’re going through these workbook lessons is that in every single situation that you seem to find yourself in there is always another way of seeing the situation, always. As human beings, we, in the beginning, just think there’s only one way to look at this situation. Maybe you see a car crash or you see something that you think is bad. You think there’s only one way of seeing that situation. But as you train your mind in a systematic way, you see there’s numerous ways of seeing the situation. You train your mind to see with love. You train your mind to see with appreciation and gratitude, and to see God in everyone and in everything.
16:48 “Each day’s exercises are planned around one central idea, which is stated first. This is followed by a description of the specific procedures by which the idea for the day is to be applied. Many of the earlier exercises should be practiced with eyes open to emphasize that the aim is to learn how to see.” How awesome is that? A course that’s going to teach you how to see. “Many of the earlier exercises should be practiced with eyes opened to emphasize that the aim is to learn how to see.” What you will find as you’re doing the workbook lessons is it’s very specific in each lesson about what to do. It’ll tell you, “Keep your eyes open.” It’ll tell you, “Now close your eyes.”
17:38 “Also, unless you are instructed otherwise, it is recommended that each exercise be repeated several or even many times a day, preferably in a different place each time, and if possible, in every situation in which you spend any long period of time. The purpose is to train the mind to generalize the lessons so that you will understand that each of them is as applicable to one situation as it is to another. The only rules that should be followed throughout are these: first, to practice the exercises with great specificity. Each one applies to every situation in which you find yourself, and to everything you see in it. Second, be sure that you do not decide that there are some things you see to which the idea for the day is inapplicable. The aim of the exercises will always be to increase the application of the idea to everything. This will no require effort on your part. The exercises themselves meet the conditions necessary for this kind of transfer. Only be sure that you make no exceptions in applying the idea. This will interfere with transfer of training.”
19:05 I said at the beginning that my theory is that the light does the work. So when you are making a commitment to train your mind in a systematic way, and you’re showing up every day, and you’re just doing the little that is asked, what happens is you are taking yourself into a different vibration outside of the vibration that you normally live in. Then, you drop back down. You’re dropping back down into your normal vibration where you’re judging and you’re organizing the past and the future. You’re naming everything. You’re telling stories, like whatever we do here in time and space. Then, when you go back to the practice again, you’re taking yourself out of the frame for a moment, vibrating there. You’re doing it for the amount of time that it’s asking for you to do. Then, you come back to your normal habits. What happens is the more time that you spend outside of the frame, the more that the light starts taking over. It start to really dismantle your thought system. It starts to help you to see in a new way. You start to feel different. Then, there’s this shift in perception. It just happens naturally by itself. This is why you need do nothing. So, it does take a commitment. So, that’s what this is here, “Only be sure that you make no exceptions in applying the idea. This will interfere with transfer of training.” Then, it says, “Transfer of training in true perception does not proceed as does transfer of training of the world. If true perception has been achieved in connection with any person, situation, or event, total transfer to everyone and everything is certain.”
20:57 This is what this means, is that when you’re doing the lessons, you’re practicing, you’re have a willingness to see things differently and you make that connection, you see, in a moment of clarity, that this person is [inaudible 00:21:11], that could be one thing. You make no exceptions. In that moment, your entire thought system falls away. You no longer believe in separation. I love that it has 365 lessons because my experience is you might have one moment of clarity, but then the old thought system starts creeping back in. What you’re doing is you’re creating constancy. You’re showing up every single day. It’s like building a muscle. If you show up every day and lift those weights, and you’re only doing a little, before you know it, you see change.
21:48 Then, it says, “On the other hand, one exception held apart from true perception makes its accomplishment anywhere impossible. The very nature of true perception is that it has no limits. It is the opposite of the way you see now. Some of the ideas you will find difficult to believe, and others will seem quite startling. It does not matter. You are merely asked to apply them as you are directed to do. You are not asked to judge them or even to believe them. You are merely asked to use them. It is their use that will give them meaning to you and show you that they are true. Remember only this, you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter or decrease their efficacy, but allow yourself to make no exceptions in applying the ideas the exercise contain. Whatever your reaction to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than this is required.”
23:01 This is where my theory came in because my theory is is that you have to get yourself into this frequency outside of your own frame, and then the light does the work. But if you make an exception to the practicing, you never actually make it outside of the frame. That’s why this last paragraph is just so important. It says, “Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter or decrease their efficacy, but allow yourself to make no exceptions in applying the ideas the exercise contain.” So if you make exceptions in applying the ideas, you never make it outside of the frame. You never get into that vibration. You’re just still stuck in your own frame and you’re resisting. You’re saying, “No, I’m not going to forgive that person. No, I’m not going to apply this lesson to this situation,” and you never actually move into that place where there is only love.
24:02 It says, “Whatever your reaction to the ideas may be, use them.” Then, the last sentence is just so good. “Nothing more than this is required. Whatever your reaction to the ideas may be, use the. Nothing more than this is required.” I just want to show you just a few of the first couple of lessons. I just want to point a few things out. I want you to see these lessons in a new way where you might feel excited to actually make a commitment to them. One year, it goes by so quickly.
24:42 So, we’re going to look at lesson number one. ““Nothing I see in this room on this street, from this window, in this place means anything.” what typically happens when somebody reads a sentence like that, “Nothing I see means anything,” the mind just immediately stops and goes, “I don’t get it. That doesn’t make any sense.” Then, it tries to understand what nothing I see means anything. But remember, we’re not stopping there. We’re just practicing. We’re just going to apply the lesson. We’re going to do what it says. It’s so great because you just go right to the next sentence. You just training your mind to watch when it wants to go down a path and it takes you there with it.
25:25 It says, “Now look slowly around you, and practice applying this idea very specifically to whatever you see.” Then it gives you some examples, “This table does not mean anything. This chair does not mean anything.” So, what I did for many years was I just read. I just read the workbook lessons and I didn’t actually do what it says. What does it say to do? “Now look slowly around you, and practice applying this idea very specifically to what you see.” You’re going to look around yourself right now. My eye is looking at a water glass. That glass does not mean anything. Now, I’m looking at the microphone. That microphone doesn’t mean anything. I’m looking now at the computer. This computer doesn’t mean anything. I’m looking at my Course of Miracles book. This book does not mean anything. I see my hand on the book. This hand does not mean anything. I’m looking at a piece of paper over there. That piece of paper does not mean anything.
26:36 You’re just looking around you and you’re just simply applying the lesson. Now, you come back to the book and it says, “Then look farther away from your immediate area, and apply the idea to a wider range.” Now, I’m looking up and that window does not mean anything. That chair does not mean anything. That cat does not mean anything. What often happens is when you get to things that have meaning to you, the mind goes into massive resistance, like, “No, that cat does mean something to me,” or, “No, that child does mean something to me. You know, my husband does mean something to me.” You stopping yourself and you’re stuck in the frame again so you’re not getting into that vibration. All you’re doing is having the willingness to just practice.
27:27 “Notice that these statements are not arranged in any order, and make no allowance for differences in the kinds of things to which they are applied. That is the purpose of the exercise. The statement is merely applied to anything you see. As you practice applying the idea for the day, use it totally indiscriminately. Do not attempt to apply it to everything you see, for these exercises should not become ritualistic. Only be sure that nothing you see is specifically excluded. One thing is like another as far as the application of the idea is concerned.”
28:10 Then, it says, “Each of the first three lessons should not be done more than twice a day, preferably morning and evening, nor should they be attempted for than a minute or so, unless that entails a sense of hurry. A comfortable sense of leisure is essential.” So, it’s telling you right there that each of the first three lessons should not be done more than twice a day, preferably morning and evening, nor should they be attempted for more than a minute or so, unless that entails a sense of hurry, resting in this and saying, “Okay, I’m just going to do what it says.” Twice a day, the first three lessons, one minute in the morning, one minute at night.
28:59 What the workbook lessons do is they start off very simple. They stay simple. The time frame that you’re doing them is very short in the beginning. Then, when you start getting to lesson four, the time increases just a little bit. Then, it increases a little bit more. You’ll start to notice that you’re invited for more time. Then, it asks for you to do it more often. First, it increases the time. Then, it increases the frequency for once an hour. It also really encourages you to not make yourself guilty when you miss a practice period. Just keep going. Just don’t stay stuck.
29:43 Then, what it does, it starts losing the hourly structure, and now it’s inviting you for longer periods of time. Then, at certain point what happens is is like you reached the mountain top almost, as far as maximum amount of time goes. Then, you start to notice that the times goes down. Jesus is the teacher. He’s your instructor here. He’s your guide. He’s training your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everything. I love the structure of the workbook lessons because it starts you off in a very structured way, increasing the frequency of the time and duration. You hit that mountain top halfway through the lessons, and then the time starts going down until finally the time gets very short.
30:35 When you get to the end, there’s just these very short prayers. But by then, the light has done the work. You’re spending all day naturally thinking about God. You’re seeing with Christ vision so you don’t need the structure anymore because now you’re structured. Your mind is disciplined, and you did it. You disciplined your mind. You don’t need to be told once an hour, or 20 minutes, or 30 minutes. There comes a point where Jesus says, “Okay, now there’s not structure. Now it’s up to you,” because now you’re listening. It’s training you to think with the mind of God. It’s training you to see with Christ vision, and it’s going to remove everything that’s cluttering your mind. Jesus calls them blocks and obstacles to the awareness of love’s presence. Once those blocks are removed, everything starts to show up in a new say for you. Suddenly, you are having an experience that there is a presence and a power that goes with you everywhere you go. God goes with me where I go. That’s lesson 41.
31:49 You start to live in that way now because you’re outside of your own frame. Your going to notice that there is structure. You’re going to notice that there’s review periods that when you end one section of the training there’s going to be another introduction for the next set. And it’s very simple. All you have to do is just show up every day. What I suggest is you get a copy of A Course in Miracles. I love this new version, this new purple book put out by the Circle of Atonement. If you have the blue book, that one works just beautiful. That’s the one that I did the workbook lessons with. If you already have the blue book and you love it, go with that. If you’re new to the course and you’re going to spend some money over there on Amazon, I suggest you got with the Circle of Atonement version. It’s the handwritten notes.
32:42 It feels different. It feels to me like an actual guide. It feels like Jesus as a friend who’s written me a love letter. That’s what it feels like. It feels like Jesus has left me these notes. It feels like he’s my trainer. It feels like I have a training guide and he’s giving me step-by-step instructions, and all I have to do is keep reading. Feels like he has come back from 2,000 years ago. He said, “Okay, Lisa, you asked for a miracle. You asked for my help. You asked for help.” I didn’t even know Jesus back then, but I was in so much pain and so much suffering, and I was just praying for a miracle. For me, this is the solution. This is what showed up for me. All those years of struggling, of reading, and going to Course in Miracles groups and talking about the lessons, and not seeing change, I finally got it, like, “Oh, wow. I’m not doing what Jesus is asking me to do.” He’s my guide. He’s standing with me, and he’s telling me exactly what I need to do to let go of these blocks, and these judgements, and this guilt, and this sorrow, and this sadness, and the loneliness, the feeling of being abandoned. All of those feelings that I had, it’s as if he’s taken my hand and he’s saying, “Let’s go.” He’s saying, “Baby steps. Let’s just go.” There’s not like you’re going to rush through these steps in these workbook lessons. You’re just setting yourself out on a path and you’re allowing yourself to be led and guided, and you’re willing to follow the instructions. I always get so excited when I hear someone’s bought A Course in Miracles. If you are going to do the workbook lessons, please send me an email and let me know. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you if you have done with workbook lessons and what happened for you. What happened? How has your life changed? I’d love to hear from you. Please send me these messages. I really do love all of the comments. If you have questions, please let me know. Check out ACIM 365 if you like the way I teach and you would like for me to be right there with you every single lesson, for every single day, for 365 days. You’ll find it under courses on my website, lisanatoli.com, and you don’t have to suffer. You don’t have to stay in pain. There is a way out. There are many other paths. For me, this is the way that I found. I like that it has steps. That was important to me, that it was just something I could do. It felt doable.
35:38 So, I thank you with all of my heart. I always say this world does need light. It needs your gifts. It needs your abilities. First, what’s needed is a transformation to occur, that that wall that you put up gets removed, that the veil be lifted, that you may see clearly, that you may see the love that you are, that you may be acknowledging the light that goes with you, and you’re not alone. God goes with you wherever you go. I thank you for listening. I do hope that you set yourself on this journey to light. I love you.