These thoughts do not mean anything.
They are like the things I see in this room
[on this street, from this window, in this place].
Unlike the preceding ones, these exercises do not begin with the idea for the day. In these practice periods, begin with noting the thoughts that are crossing your mind for about a minute. Then apply the idea to them. If you are already aware of unhappy thoughts, use them as subjects for the idea. Do not, however, select only the thoughts you think are “bad.” You will find, if you train yourself to look at your thoughts, that they represent such a mixture that, in a sense, none of them can be called “good” or “bad.” This is why they do not mean anything.
In selecting the subjects for the application of today’s idea, the usual specificity is required. Do not be afraid to use “good” thoughts as well as “bad.” None of them represents your real thoughts, which are being covered up by them. The “good” ones are but shadows of what lies beyond, and shadows make sight difficult. The “bad” ones are blocks to sight, and make seeing impossible. You do not want either.
This is a major exercise, and will be repeated from time to time in somewhat different form. The aim here is to train you in the first steps toward the goal of separating the meaningless from the meaningful. It is a first attempt in the long-range purpose of learning to see the meaningless as outside you, and the meaningful within. It is also the beginning of training your mind to recognize what is the same and what is different.
In using your thoughts for application of the idea for today, identify each thought by the central figure or event it contains; for example:
This thought about ___ does not mean anything.
It is like the things I see in this room [on this street, and so on].
You can also use the idea for a particular thought that you recognize as harmful. This practice is useful, but is not a substitute for the more random procedures to be followed for the exercises. Do not, however, examine your mind for more than a minute or so. You are too inexperienced as yet to avoid a tendency to become pointlessly preoccupied.
Further, since these exercises are the first of their kind, you may find the suspension of judgment in connection with thoughts particularly difficult. Do not repeat these exercises more than three or four times during the day. We will return to them later.
First I want to point out the beginning of paragraph 4 which says,
This is a major exercise,
Obviously, Jesus wants us to know that its time to pay special attention. So what is he telling us? First of all, we are shifting from observing the outside world, the images we have made and projected, to observing the source of those images, the thoughts in our mind. He is starting very early gently guiding us to this truth; our thoughts become the images we experience as our life. He is asking us to begin this exercise by observing the thoughts we find there. We are being taught to see the connection between the thoughts in our mind and the world that we see, and that both are meaningless. This is really big. Yes, a major exercise.
I remember when I first started these lessons that this turned out to be harder than I expected. It was as if the thoughts in my mind became invisible when I looked for them. And as Jesus says, my untrained mind would become pointlessly preoccupied with the thoughts it did find. To make matters worse, when I found untrue thoughts I would feel guilty for having them. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was resistance from the ego mind.
However, through the practice of vigilance I learned to be very aware of my thoughts. Now when I notice untrue thoughts I notice them right away and I usually stop and ask for healing. I also made a commitment to give up guilt, so any feelings of guilt around this practice became something else to offer to the Holy Spirit for healing.
If you are new at this, if you have not established a strong habit of watching your mind, you might find help in the same little book I used, Inner Healing, by Dan Joseph. Being vigilant for ego thinking isn’t going away as long as we have ego thoughts in our mind, so I figured it would be best for me to get really good at it. After all, Jesus did say that this is a major exercise. The simple three step exercise in Dan’s book helped me to do that.
Something else that he tells us in this paragraph is that none of our thoughts mean anything, not the good ones or the bad ones. If you are like me you tend to focus on the bad ones because you recognize they are causing you to suffer. But the truth is, none of the thoughts I think I think are my real thoughts and, they are keeping me from knowing my real thoughts. We just think we think, but none of it means anything! We do have real thoughts but we won’t become aware of them until we stop listening to and believing these meaningless thoughts.
My first step was to accept that my thoughts are meaningless and that they do not define me. It is common to think that our thoughts define us and here is Jesus telling us that they are meaningless. The ego hears this: “Jesus is saying that I am meaningless.” That can be frightening to the mind that is just beginning this study, but the ego hears wrong. If we are our thoughts, it is the thoughts we think with God that define us. The ego uses the meaningless thoughts to hide our true identity from our awareness.
Like most of us your mind is probably teeming with thoughts. We are not in the habit of noticing this constant chatter and in my practice, noticing the chatter, becoming vigilant for the thoughts I think, was the second step. Who would have thought that not only are they meaningless, but that they are not even our real thoughts!
They are so many, these thoughts, and they seem to belong to us, but they have no meaning and are not ours. What I love to remember in this is that I do have real thoughts, and I can re-discover them if I am willing to do these simple exercises. Another book (a bit more advanced than Inner Healing) that was very helpful to me was The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.
When I was fairly new to the Lessons, I received this message from Holy Spirit.
From, “Hey, Holy Spirit, It’s Me Again”
Holy Spirit: Every time you notice a thought that makes you feel bad and then bring that thought to Me for correction, you are doing this lesson. But now I want you to understand that this means all of your thoughts, not just the ones you have judged as bad. All of your thoughts are meaningless. That is the point of this lesson, to help you see this.
You are thinking that this will be very hard and that it will take all of your time today. Don’t make this hard. You don’t have to catch every little thought. In fact, that is just an ego concept. One thought, used correctly, would be representative of all thoughts. Just keep your mind open to Me. Remind yourself throughout today of your holy purpose. I will bring to your attention thoughts to use as practice. All I need is your willingness.