My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
W-pI.8.1. This idea is, of course, the reason why you see only the past. 2 No one really sees anything. 3 He sees only his thoughts projected outward. 4 The mind’s preoccupation with the past is the cause of the misconception about time from which your seeing suffers. 5 Your mind cannot grasp the present, which is the only time there is. 6 It therefore cannot understand time, and cannot, in fact, understand anything.
W-pI.8.2. The one wholly true thought one can hold about the past is that it is not here. 2 To think about it at all is therefore to think about illusions. 3 Very few have realized what is actually entailed in picturing the past or in anticipating the future. 4 The mind is actually blank when it does this, because it is not really thinking about anything.
W-pI.8.3. The purpose of the exercises for today is to begin to train your mind to recognize when it is not really thinking at all. 2 While thoughtless ideas preoccupy your mind, the truth is blocked. 3 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.
W-pI.8.4. The exercises for today should be done with eyes closed. 2 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. 3 With as little investment as possible, search your mind for the usual minute or so, merely noting the thoughts you find there. 4 Name each one by the central figure or theme it contains, and pass on to the next. 5 Introduce the practice period by saying:
6 I seem to be thinking about _____.
W-pI.8.5. Then name each of your thoughts specifically, for example:
2 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:
3 But my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
W-pI.8.6. This can be done four or five times during the day, unless you find it irritates you. 2 If you find it trying, three or four times is sufficient. 3 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.
So much information is being given to us in this lesson and it may be information that the mind resists. At least, my mind resisted in the beginning. My resistance was not overt. I didn’t say that this was crazy, but I would pretend I couldn’t understand it or that I couldn’t do the exercises right. But I kept going and I kept practicing even through my resistance.
I want to look at these first two paragraphs carefully.
My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
This idea is, of course, the reason why you see only the past.
I think that yesterday’s description of seeing a cup is helpful to us in accepting that we see the past even in mundane objects. But does that mean we see only the past in everything? Is my mind really preoccupied with past thoughts? I am going to put this to the test.
I’m thinking about lunch. I am cooking and my thoughts are on what I am writing but also on my lunch. I’m cooking rice with sausage and I notice I am wondering if this store brand of sausage is going to be good. The fact that I wanted rice is based on my past experience with rice. The question about the sausage I have never used and therefore am questioning is based on the fact that sometimes I buy a different brand and I discover I don’t like it. Even the chopped onions I added was done because my past experience told me that onions go well with the sausage and rice.
Clearly, some of the information the mind gathers is helpful. I wouldn’t want to have to learn to cook at every meal. But the mind is a collector of information without regard to truth or even helpfulness. For instance, the sausage I bought was made by the store I bought it from. This store is known for being dishonest in that it will sell things that are out of date. What has happened in the past colors my decisions. It could be that they now have a new manager and that never happens anymore. I seldom shop here because of what I heard about them a couple of years ago and while it was true in the past, it might not be true now.
If you do much mind watching – something I highly recommend, you may have noticed that your mind is filled with thoughts and most of them are just useless chatter. This is the kind of thinking that I have learned to disregard to the point that there isn’t as much of it in my mind as there used to be. Besides the fact that most of it is useless, there is another reason I don’t want it.
If the mind is silent, we are more peaceful. If the mind is silent, we hear the Voice for God more clearly and that Voice speaks to us all through the day. How often do we hear it? It might very well be drowned out by the non-sense chatter which is all based on the past. These thoughtless ideas are blocking God’s Voice from our awareness.
The other thing we are learning is that this pointless chatter is screwing up our understanding of time. Because these ideas are always about something that happened in the past or might happen in the future, we completely miss the present. We are where our thoughts are, at least in the illusory world. If we want to experience the present moment, we must keep our mind there.
I have been writing for several paragraphs and no other thoughts or ideas have interfered. The idea of lunch disappeared altogether. That is why I do my serious work with the Holy Spirit in my journals. In writing, my mind becomes so focused that nothing else intrudes. I am in the present moment. I am, for the first time today, actually thinking and so understand anything. I am right now for the first time today, actually here because when I am thinking of the past and present, I am nowhere because the past and present don’t exist.
One more thing I want to comment on is this.
2 No one really sees anything. 3 He sees only his thoughts projected outward.
Here, very early in the lessons, Jesus is introducing us to a startling idea. I like the way he just slips it in as if it was common knowledge and barely needs to be mentioned. Good one, Bro. We look around and we think we see things. I think I see this computer and the desk it sits on and I think they are completely separate and different from me, that they have an existence that is not connected to my existence.
And yet, Jesus says that I am not really see anything except my thoughts projected outward. It is like our eyes are the projector and our mind is the film. We think it and then we see it. I am also reminded of the new work in quantum physics which suggests that the room you are in exists only while you are in it or, I suppose, thinking about it. Another way this is true is that how I see what is there comes from my mind that is preoccupied with past thoughts. How I see something or someone may be entirely different from the way someone else sees it and so it is my own ‘creation.’