Q #700: I was introduced to A Course in Miracles two years ago and took a few sessions at a local center. At the time, I was working 60-70 hours a week and found it impossible to combine both. 2003 was a bad year: I lost my job, my beloved pet, and my mother. My father fell apart; my resentment toward my sibling intensified dramatically; my depressions returned with vengeance. I tried to deal with everything the best I could. Needless to say, my best was not my best at all.
Yet my attachment to the Course is creating a financial dilemma. Since I lost my job, I’ve been basically living off my savings of which not much is left by now. I need to go back, but I am afraid that being a workaholic by nature, I will again get so involved with work, there will be very little room left for A Course in Miracles. I read your answer to Question #169 several times. On an intellectual level I am beginning to get sparks of understanding about the shift from form to content; effect to cause. But on the practical level, I am in a limbo. I hope very much to get your answer and your guidance that would allow me to handle this situation as peacefully as I can.
A: There are a few more aspects of your situation that you might want to look to help break up the log jam. It seems that you have no choice regarding whether to work or not. If you need the money, then you have to go back to work if there is no other source of income in your life. But you can do it differently this time. Do you recall Jesus’ helpful reminder in that lovely final chapter of the text, "Choose Once Again"?: "Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you" (T.31.VIII.3.1,2). If in your wrong mind you were using work to keep you from the quiet peace that defines you in your right mind, you can now look upon your return to work as an opportunity to "choose once again." You can decide that you will see your job primarily as a means of learning that you are as God created you, which means that you will look first at your conviction that you are not as God created you; that is, that you are "a workaholic by nature," a victim of your makeup, which your ego would tell you can’t be helped — it’s just who you are! Jesus sees you differently and invites you to join him, confidently acknowledging with him that "the images you make cannot prevail against what God Himself would have you be. Be never fearful of temptation, then, but see it as it is; another chance to choose again, and let Christ’s strength prevail in every circumstance and every place you raised an image of yourself before. For what appears to hide the face of Christ is powerless before His majesty, and disappears before His holy sight" (T.31.VIII.4.1,2,3). The idea would be to consider this not only for yourself, but for everyone else you associate with as well. In relating to others this way (in your mind, not verbally), you would be practicing forgiveness by seeing that we all share a common purpose.
In focusing on this new content, your job would no longer be an impediment to your learning the Course. It would be just the opposite. Many students think — erroneously — that they must be off in seclusion somewhere with nothing but the Course in front of them, or be with "Course-minded" friends and colleagues all the time in order to study and practice effectively. Nothing could be further from what Jesus intended his course to be. This course is best learned in the midst of our daily routines — work, family, civic responsibilities, etc., for in those circumstances we, thankfully, are presented with innumerable opportunities to have reflected back to us what thought system we have chosen; if we are not aware of that, we have no basis for changing our minds. And in learning to forgive ourselves when we discover that three, six, or thirty-six hours have passed since we last thought of the lesson for the day, we are learning perhaps the most important lesson of all: that the tiny, mad idea had no effect: Jesus’ love for us is not lessened one iota because we forgot all about him. If we truly, truly believe that, we will be saving thousands of years on our Atonement path, to use Jesus’ perspective of time.
And if you could also practice raising yourself above the "battleground" (in your mind) — all of the victim-victimizer situations and tragedies of 2003 — and look back down on it through the eyes of forgiveness, which is what it means to join with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, you would recognize the ego’s purpose in having your life be filled with that kind of pain. You would see yourself as a figure on that battleground, weak and battered, depressed and despairing — exactly where the ego wants you to wind up, because then you are obsessed with your body, problems, and tragedies, and the love and peace of Jesus are nowhere in sight. But above the battleground (in your mind), you would be able to re-evaluate your acceptance of this ego purpose and know that another choice is available.
Finally, it may be helpful to you to work with a kind therapist who is skilled in dealing with addictions such as workaholism. This compromise approach is actually recommended by Jesus to ensure that we will be gentle with ourselves and not deny our bodily and psychological needs as we do our inner work of learning and practicing forgiveness. (See T.2.IV.3,4,5.) Other students have had similar work-related concerns, which are voiced in Questions #74 and #246.