They say that we make plans and God laughs. They also say that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Is it me, or do the “they” that say everything seem to be contradicting themselves? I’ma just go out on a limb here and call “they” the ego mind, since trying to convince us all that opposing thoughts make any sense is part of the ego’s crazy. I think that when it comes to our plans, rather than laughing, God is much more likely to be saying,
“OMB! (Oh My Beloved!) You do not have to work so hard. This is not rocket science (really. Even if you’re an astronaut). Just listen to My Voice and follow It’s guidance, which has only love for you and will show you the way.”
As for planning to fail – I’d say that has less to do with failing to plan and more to do with ignoring the afore-mentioned guidance.
With regard to this subject, Teachers of God reader Patricia recently posed the following question to us:
“We are not supposed to ‘make plans without guidance’. I am unsure about what this looks like. I can understand asking for guidance in particular situations but not all of life. I have a calendar with stuff on it. I have activities to make plans about – getting groceries, meetings, oil change on car, social events, trips to plan to see family, etc. Can you explain how to go about daily like asking for inner guidance, while still having a calendar? I just don’t get it.”
Great question, Patricia! And one that I’m guessing a lot students of A Course in Miracles have.
What is the motivation behind making plans?
As a spiritual life coach and therapist, I often hear people say that planning helps them to have a sense of control, of peace and well-being, a feeling of security and safety that they know how things are going to proceed.
Ok, right here is where the problem begins.
The issue is not with the idea of having an intention and creating a structure for how we see things transpiring in the most effective or efficient manner. The problem, rather, begins when we start making our plan first without asking for guidance from Spirit. This automatically defaults into our unconsciously following the direction of our ego minds. This is when we plan from a starting point of fear (aka anxiety, wanting safety and security) instead of trust, and we then become identified with the way the plan it is supposed to go.
It’s a set-up, because it doesn’t really work. Plans often don’t go the way we envisioned them. Whether it be something that feels like a minor irritation such as being late for an appointment and getting bumped; or missing a connecting flight – or a major life transition, like losing a loved one, or being left by your spouse, or becoming unexpectedly unemployed.
A Course in Miracles states it thus:
“If there are plans to make, you will be told of them. They may not be the plans you thought were needed, nor indeed the answers to the problems which you thought confronted you.”
If we are not listening to what the plans actually are and go ahead with our own, we will still be told of them anyway, but our ego minds will likely interpret this as a negative and file it under “plans getting f*cked up” and have resistance to it.
Our attachment to the way in which we think things are supposed to happen does not in fact result in peace, or joy, or a sense of well-being – which is what we all say we want. Because it is designed from a place of fear, this way of thinking actually causes us to feel stressed, which is probably the most common descriptive term I hear used by my clients. And yet, we are engaging in it willingly.
As A Course in Miracles explains,
“The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. It does not think it will be provided for unless it makes its own provisions. Time becomes a future emphasis, controlled by learning and experience obtained from past events and previous beliefs.”
So we labor over plans because we do not believe that we will be cared for, and we think that negative events that happened in the past govern and predict what our future will be.
Actually, the reverse is the case – what happened in the past was governed and predicted by what our previous thoughts and beliefs were. However, A Course in Miracles teaches us that there is another way. It involves giving up the way we think things are supposed to (or are afraid they are going to) happen, what we or others should do, how events ought to transpire, and particularly, our habit of immediately reacting when plans do not go or people do not behave the way we want them to.
Our suffering does not originate from what happens in the world so much as it comes from the meaning that we assign to those things. We believe that we can prevent ourselves from experiencing pain by protecting and defending ourselves with planning, and that if a wrench gets thrown into those plans, something went wrong. We’re big on blaming too – when something happens we often look to who or what was responsible for that wrench– and how we can prevent this from happening again (hide, outlaw or destroy all of the wrenches…). That is our ego mind’s nature – to project, and react.
Instead of maintaining a position of “That wasn’t supposed to happen” or “Whose fault is it that things got all f*cked up?” we would be better served by forgiving our illusion of the dream and asking Spirit to help us see the situation differently, to release it and allow ourselves to be corrected as to what the plan is, to be open to going in a different direction.
A Course in Miracles teaches us that all of our problems and our pain originate in the belief that we have separated from God.
The atonement – which is the realization that the separation never occurred – is the solution.
So how do we apply that solution in a practical way in the world? How do we help ourselves not to suffer when our plans don’t work out?
The answer lies in the way we look at everything.
The ego mind exists only in a state of fear – and so absolutely believes we can and should judge everything from that perspective. It is very quick to pipe up with the knee-jerk reactionary “meaning” it assigns to whatever seems to be going down. The meaning we make comes from the dominant thoughts, beliefs and emotions that are in our minds.
As the Course teaches us about perception,
“The world we see merely reflects our own internal frame of reference…We make it true by our interpretation of what it is we are seeing.”
The world teaches us that seeing is believing. A Course in Miracles teaches us that believing is seeing. Click To Tweet
So if we can admit that we don’t really have the slightest idea what is supposed to happen in any given situation, we open ourselves to the acceptance of what is actually happening, and the possibility that maybe this is the better way.
I am not suggesting that we completely abdicate the role of planning or the use of schedules in our lives – parceling out time to go to work, have appointments, do fun things, buy groceries, take vacations, or whatever. I am suggesting that we ask for guidance first, and then proceed – and not get attached to the idea of our plans going the way we thought they were going to.
If we do not really know how things are supposed to go or what the real purpose of anything is, ummm, can we really assess things accurately anyway?
As Jesus tells us in A Course in Miracles,
“A healed mind is relieved from the belief that it must plan, although it cannot know the outcome that is best, the means by which it is achieved, or how to recognize the problem that the plan is made to solve.”
Bam! Can I get a witness? I mean, seriously – could that be stated any more clearly?
Beginning the day in a place of acknowledging that you aren’t really the one driving this bus and asking to be told, guided, shown – is a great start. Making the agreement with yourself to release your own plan – and asking instead for Spirit to guide you in His – will save you a LOT of time and energy (which – come on – you would probably otherwise just spend resisting and trying to make your own agenda happen anyway. Just saying. ; )
An example from my own life is that I am a self-employed life coach, spiritual teacher and psychotherapist in private practice.
I used to have a lot of fear around my schedule not being full, or clients cancelling upcoming appointments for which I am sometimes not reimbursed – always viewing it through the lens of scarcity. I have sometimes had entire days fall apart, resulting in little or no income for that day.
After freaking out and letting myself suffer and stress out over these situations a bazillion times, totally letting my ego mind take the wheel and drive over the cliffs of insanity into the pit of despair catastrophizing about what I was not going to be able to pay, or do, or eat – I eventually began to remember to practice what the Course was teaching me (duh.).
As I did this more and more, I realized that if I surrendered the day to Spirit in the first place, and just relaxed and stayed in trust and did not interfere (or “enter fear”!) and allowed events to unfold, they usually worked out better than had things gone the way I had planned.
And they really do. I am now much more able to let go when it looks like things are turning into a snafu (or Situation Normal All F*cked Up – to use that awesome actual military term!).
If I experience a cancellation these days, I look for the gift. I just say,
“Ok, what would you have me do now?”
I always get inspired to do something. Sometimes it is just to make a Starbucks run, or catch up on paperwork. Other times it is being able to buzz to the beach for an hour (I keep a swimsuit and chair in my trunk now for exactly that reason!) or fit in a self-care treat. Sometimes it just allows me time to tlc my home, or talk with a friend, or spend time in solitude. If I don’t resist it, I am guided as to what to do with that extra time. I also maintain a waitlist in my practice, so sometimes one client cancelling allows another to take that space. I see that as an intelligence greater than mine knowing who I need to meet with better than I do.
As the Course advises us,
“A Healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans which it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it. It does not depend upon itself for anything except its adequacy to fulfill the plans assigned to it. It is secure in certainty that these obstacles cannot impede its progress to accomplishment of any goal which serves the greater plan established for the good of everyone.”
With that intention in mind, I start every day with a prayer and meditation practice, in which I set up my day with Spirit. I think about the kind of day I want to experience, and I ask for guidance and surrender my plans. I have made the decision to arrange my schedule this way because it affects my life more positively than anything else I could be doing first thing in the morning. I go get my coffee (yes, I meditate and pray with coffee!) and I get back in bed do my spiritual practice. Opening my day this way helps me immensely in the endeavor to get the f*ck out of my own way and give the wheel to the Wise One Who actually knows where we’re going and what we’re doing, and has the map and the agenda, remembering that I have neither.
I like to share the love as a teacher of A Course in Miracles – whether in the form of story or practice – so I have included my daily prayer and meditation it in downloadable PDF and MP3 audio formats at the end of this blog. It is my hope that they may be of service to you if you don’t already have one that works for you.
I credit this practice for my being able to live much more from a place of peace, love, and joy than I ever have, and to roll with schedule changes, unexpected events, and stuff I would categorize as the bullshit of life. What I notice is that these things often transform to something amazing when placed in the hands of the Divine.
As The Course puts it so gorgeously,
“What could you not accept if you but knew that everything that happens, all events past, present, and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good? Perhaps you have misunderstood His plan. For He would never offer pain to you, but your defenses did not let you see His loving blessing shine in in every step you ever took.”
Thank you so much for being with me today (whether you planned to or not!) I encourage you to love your beautiful self enough to involve your Guide in the design of your plans, and to keep an open mind when making meaning out of what happens in the world. Trust that everything is ultimately intended for your good, even if you cannot see how that might be the case.
If it does not appear that way – forgive, and ask to see the situation differently, remembering that you may be looking through the ego’s eyes of fear rather than with love’s true vision.
Here are the gifts I promised:
Daily Prayer and Meditation Audio (click to play, or click here and then right click to download):
If anything in this class has resonated with you, or inspired you to think about plans in a new way, I’d love to hear your comments below the blog. I read every one.
Keep the faith. I love you more than all of the plans I ever had.
Rev Kelly Russell,
Spiritual Life Coach & Holistic Psychotherapist