30 Apr 2016 Comments Off on Ask Amy: How to Run Harmonious ACIM Study Groups
Q: I recently started an ACIM study group and am upset to find that one person is kind of taking over the group. He talks over other people and speaks as if he really knows what the Course is really saying. There are about nine of us and it’s clear some folks feel irritated by his comments. Now the rest of us are inhibited to share because we don’t want to be criticized or corrected by him. How can I sort this out?
A: A book could be written on this subject, but for the sake of brevity, here are three pointers on how to apply the forgiveness practice in your study group.
1. DEFER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
In the Preface to A Course in Miracles, Jesus tells us, “The Holy Spirit speaks with unmistakable clarity and overwhelming appeal.” To hear His Voice in your study group, the members have to be willing to listen. As facilitator, you must have the ability to set boundaries firmly and kindly.
Phrases such as “Let’s be mindful of the time so more of us get a chance to participate,” and “Let’s do as little storytelling as possible and find the deeper question within the story,” keep group members internally-focused and humility-based. If anyone takes umbrage, encourage them to communicate using I-talk (sharing personal experience by speaking in the first person, i.e., “I,” “me,” “myself”).
When interactions become tense or heated between study group members, the facilitator can de-escalate the situation by calling for a few moments of silence to help everyone step back and allow the Holy Spirit to lead the way. “Gradually [the teacher of God] learns how to let his words be chosen for him by ceasing to decide for himself what he will say.” (M-21.4:5) When the group defers to the Holy Spirit, you give yourselves the opportunity to let your words be chosen for you.
2. HAVE A SPIRIT OF COOPERATION
“Salvation is a collaborative venture.” (T-4.VI.8:2) An ACIM class or study group is not a debating platform. Nor is it a place to preach to the converted–quoting the Course at each other is not loving; it is just the ego showing off.
Students who sincerely choose to practice A Course in Miracles should use study groups to apply forgiveness and experience miracles. “Healing is the effect of minds that join…” (T-28.III.2:6) If participants are willing to drop their own agenda and be receptive, the Holy Spirit’s pearls of wisdom will fall from your lips. Pay attention to them! They are not for “someone else” – they are for you.
3. CLARIFY THE PURPOSE OF YOUR STUDY GROUP
All throughout ACIM, Jesus asks us to clarify our purpose. Is your goal to remain separate or discover you have always been Unified? To identify as a body or Mind? To dream or to awaken?
The purpose of an ACIM study group should be to recognize what you truly are. If each member is non-judgmental, humility will prevail. The group leader needs to intercede if students get caught up in storytelling, complaining, pontificating, advice-giving, criticizing, etc., and remind them that practicing forgiveness is their purpose.
It takes grace, maturity and courage to run an ACIM group. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you cannot fail.
This Q&A appears in the Ask Amy column from the March-April 2016 issue of Miracles magazine. Miracles is a well-loved staple in the ACIM community. For a subscription, email Jon@miraclesmagazine.org or call 845-496-9089. Click here to purchase digital copies. To ask Amy a question, email miracles (at) amytorresacim (dot) com
Copyright © 2016 Amy Torres. All rights reserved worldwide.