My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
This idea is, of course, the reason why you see only the past. No one really sees anything. He sees only his thoughts projected outward. The mind’s preoccupation with the past is the cause of the misconception about time from which your seeing suffers. Your mind cannot grasp the present, which is the only time there is. It therefore cannot understand time, and cannot, in fact, understand anything.
The one wholly true thought one can hold about the past is that it is not here. To think about it at all is therefore to think about illusions. Very few have realized what is actually entailed in picturing the past or in anticipating the future. The mind is actually blank when it does this, because it is not really thinking about anything.
The purpose of the exercises for today is to begin to train your mind to recognize when it is not really thinking at all. While thoughtless ideas preoccupy your mind, the truth is blocked. Recognizing that your mind has been merely blank, rather than believing that it is filled with real ideas, is the first step to opening the way to vision.
The exercises for today should be done with eyes closed. This is because you actually cannot see anything, and it is easier to recognize that no matter how vividly you may picture a thought, you are not seeing anything. With as little investment as possible, search your mind for the usual minute or so, merely noting the thoughts you find there. Name each one by the central figure or theme it contains, and pass on to the next. Introduce the practice period by saying:
I seem to be thinking about ___.
Then name each of your thoughts specifically, for example:
I seem to be thinking about [name of a person], about [name of an object], about [name of an emotion],
and so on, concluding at the end of the mind-searching period with:
But my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
This can be done four or five times during the day, unless you find it irritates you. If you find it trying, three or four times is sufficient. You might find it helpful, however, to include your irritation, or any emotion that the idea for today may induce, in the mind searching itself.
“No one really sees anything. He sees only his thoughts projected outward.” Don’t you just love how Jesus drops this little bomb so casually, as if it were the most commonly held belief? I fully accept this. Now. But when I first read it, it was so meaningless to me that I gave it hardly a thought. Sure, I understood the individual words, but when you put them in this particular order, they were so far outside my concept of reality that I didn’t compute them.
No one really sees anything. I don’t see anything. I look with my eyes and I think I am seeing, but I am not seeing anything. Then what is it that I have always thought I was looking at?
Second little bomb. I am seeing only my thoughts projected outward. Sure. He must mean this figuratively. Somehow. Not sure what I mean by that, but what else could it be? What I understand now is that what Jesus meant to say was that I see only my thoughts projected outward. Ha ha ha. He meant exactly what he said. Who would have thought?
We have made quite a little world here with our thoughts. We desired to experience separation and so we made up an image of that in our mind. That done, we projected it outward where we looked at it, and said that because we could see it with the eyes, it must be true. Never mind, that we are looking at an illusion with illusory eyes made for the purpose of reporting back to us what we want to see. Pretty clever little creators, aren’t we?
The problem with this is that our mind is preoccupied with the past. Just as we see only the past as we learned in yesterday’s lesson, (remember the cup?) we also think all the time about only the past. Even when we think about the future, we do so in terms of the past. I took a week of vacation time, but I didn’t really enjoy it as I could have. I kept thinking about how it will be when I get back to work.
Sure, right now I am having fun writing, but next week when I am stressed for time because I am afraid of being late for work… Wait a minute, I just lost today because I was focused on how different it will be tomorrow. How was I even able to do that? Well, I know how it was the week before the vacation. See? My mind is preoccupied with the past even when I am projecting into the future.
Saddest of all is that hanging out in the past and thinking about how the future is going to be the same, I completely lost the joy of the present moment because I wasn’t really there. As Jesus says, “The one wholly true thought one can hold about the past is that it is not here.” So what am I thinking about? If the past doesn’t exist, I must be thinking about, well… nothing, and if I am thinking about nothing, I must not really be thinking.
Then what is all this constant chatter in my mind, if I am not thinking? Jesus calls them “thoughtless ideas.” I don’t have thoughts; I have thoughtless ideas. This is a very important point, because these thoughtless ideas are clogging up the works, and hiding my true thoughts from me. What could my true thoughts be? I really want to know, so I did this lesson to the best of my ability and my mind was healed, and I accepted as much of that healing as I could stand. Later, I was willing to open to more healing and my understanding expanded.
My mind is not so preoccupied with the past as it used to be and sometimes I am aware of my true thoughts now. At least, I am aware of thoughts that are far closer to my true thoughts, thoughts I think with God. I have gone from total confusion and denial so deep I wasn’t even aware I was in denial and confused, to a calmer, more peaceful, and happier mind.
I did this even though I didn’t really believe in or understand the lesson when I began this journey. So if you don’t understand this lesson and all Jesus is sharing here, don’t worry. The truth doesn’t need your understanding. It waits patiently for you to notice it and you will notice it because you want to.