VI. Fear and Conflict, P 9
9 Everyone experiences fear. Yet it would take very little right thinking to realize why fear occurs. Few appreciate the real power of the mind, and no one remains fully aware of it all the time. However, if you hope to spare yourself from fear there are some things you must realize, and realize fully. The mind is very powerful, and never loses its creative force. It never sleeps. Every instant it is creating. It is hard to recognize that thought and belief combine into a power surge that can literally move mountains. It appears at first glance that to believe such power about yourself is arrogant, but that is not the real reason you do not believe it. You prefer to believe that your thoughts cannot exert real influence because you are actually afraid of them. This may allay awareness of the guilt, but at the cost of perceiving the mind as impotent. If you believe that what you think is ineffectual you may cease to be afraid of it, but you are hardly likely to respect it. There are no idle thoughts. All thinking produces form at some level.
From the moment I read this the first time, back in 1981, I was stunned. I had been attending a Unity Church and they emphasize the power of your thoughts so it was not a new idea. But this paragraph is uncompromising. I had been learning that my thoughts matter, but I had never been willing to accept this level of effect. It was a long time before I truly embraced these words from Jesus. I can still slide into forgetfulness when I am not thinking about it.
Jesus says that our thoughts when believed can literally move mountains. Literally? Really? That is so hard to imagine, and yet, why would he say it if it were not true. He also says that there are no idle thoughts and that all thinking produces form at some level. When I first read those two sentences I felt a surge of adrenal all through my body. It was, frankly, frightening to think of all my thoughts having effects.
Through Unity, I had learned that my thoughts could influence my life. That seemed big enough, but now I was learning that all my thoughts, even the idle ones I hardly even noticed, were producing form. I didn’t understand (and still don’t) what Jesus means when he says form is produced at “some level.” I think he means that my true thoughts produce on the level of the spiritual and my ego thoughts produce on the level of the physical. But I am not sure.
It is this passage in the Course, more than any other, that influenced me to begin watching my mind and allowing my thoughts to be corrected. If my thoughts are powerful (and Jesus says they are) then I need to be more mindful of where I let my mind wander. I need to be very mindful. I also understand what he means when he says we are afraid of our thoughts.
Many of the thoughts in my mind trigger guilt when I think about them. I certainly don’t want to think about some of them producing form at any level. Since I have no choice about that because it is simply true that my thoughts are very powerful, I want to allow the Holy Spirit to heal my mind. I want my thoughts to be as close to truth as possible.
Two very important things I have learned through the practice of mind watching are these. First, if I am going to insist on being mindful of my thoughts, then the ego is going to say I am guilty for them. If I fall for that, then I will feel really bad about myself and this is not bringing me closer to God. Guilt is not Love. At the very least, feeling guilty when I notice a mistaken thought will discourage me from looking.
When I first started mind watching it felt very hard. Obviously, when I think about it, there is nothing hard about noticing thoughts that are not love and then asking the Holy Spirit to correct my thinking. What could be simpler? And yet it felt hard. The reason it was hard is that I judged myself and felt guilty for my thoughts. The guilt made me afraid of my own thoughts. This is why I had so many unacknowledged thoughts. I just thought of it as “idle” chatter that didn’t matter which felt better than the guilt. I was very wrong about that.
When I stopped judging myself for my thoughts, the process of mind watching did actually become easy. I seldom feel guilty for thoughts now, and when I do, I notice what has happened and give that to the Holy Spirit as well. I realize now that the thoughts are not personal. They are shared by all of us. No one has original thoughts.
We don’t make the thoughts up. They just seem to be floating around and suddenly we notice one and become interested in it. Then we think, “That is my thought.” The fact is, the person next to us could be looking at the very same thought and thinking it is theirs. Now, instead of feeling guilty because I have noticed a mistaken thought in my mind, I feel happy to have found it and to have this chance to let it be healed. I do this, not just for myself, but for all of us. Without guilt, it is simple and painless.
The other thing that makes it feel hard to mind watch is the mistaken belief that it is my job to stop thinking untrue thoughts. This is a very painful error because I cannot stop thinking anything. The harder I try the more I think it. I have tried replacing one thought with a different, truer thought, and that didn’t work either. The reason it doesn’t work is that it is not my job to heal the mind. It is only my job to desire healing.
I notice the thought that is not love, and then I ask the Holy Spirit to correct my thinking and heal my mind. That is my part. When I try to do more, I just suffer because I am trying to do something that can’t be done. Since I have learned those two things, that I am innocent regardless of the thoughts I find in my mind, and that it is not my job to heal the mind, but only to desire to heal, this whole mind watching practice is so much easier.
Jesus says that even our idle thinking produces form. So with all the years of practice, you might wonder if I have noticed a difference in my life. In other words, have I noticed the effect of a more healed mind in my life? Yes! Absolutely! I am so much more peaceful and happy than I used to be. I am never depressed anymore. (This coming from someone who spent most of her life depressed) My life is just easier.
Another thing I have noticed is that when I do entertain ego thoughts, I experience the effect of those thoughts much more quickly. And conversely, when I notice something in my life that is not a reflection of love, I immediately realize I must be holding onto and believing untrue thoughts, and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me see differently. It’s all very quick now, almost automatic. Seldom do I have trouble letting go of thoughts anymore.
A really nice consequence of all this mind watching is that letting go of the ego thoughts has resulted in a much quieter mind. I don’t experience a silent mind or an empty mind, yet, but it is much quieter. This is very pleasant, and now when the ego mind starts its chatter I am quick to notice. It seems crazy that for all of my life I hardly noticed the chatter and just tolerated it.