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'My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.' A Course in Miracles, Lesson 8

By:Raveena Nash
Date: Thu,29 Dec 2016
Submitter:Raveena Nash
Views:7336

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“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 at all…” Workbook page 13, Lesson 8.

That is quite a blunt statement. Do any of us believe that we cannot understand anything at all? We all strive to find meaning in our world, unaware that it is simply a world that has been projected out of our minds and is, therefore, not real at all. This is what A Course in Miracles tells us over and over again. We cannot be bodies living in a world of form because we are part of God, as God is All there is. If we are part of Him, it is impossible for us to separate from Him. Therefore, the world we see all around exists only in mental matter and emanates from our thoughts or, to be more accurate, the thoughts of the part of the split mind that really believes it was able to separate from the Oneness of God.

Fear and guilt are cornerstones of the ego’s belief system, because it really believes the separation from God occurred, and it feels guilty about this and fearful about God’s retribution. Jesus explains in Chapter 6 of the Text that the ego projects this fear and guilt out into the world so that it can blame others for their wrongdoings and thereby feel better about itself. But he warns us, “Yet projection will always hurt you. It reinforces your belief in your own split mind, and its only purpose is to keep the separation going. It is solely a device of the ego to make you feel different from your brothers and separated from them. The ego justifies this on the grounds that it makes you seem ‘better’ than they are, thus obscuring your equality with them still further.” T96. Since we are all One, united with each other and with God, we must all be equal, regardless of what our egos/personalities get up to in this world. But projection is used by the ego to ensure that we don’t recognise our inherent equality with each other.

How does projection actually work in our lives? It could be, for example, that we come across someone who is really unpleasant or rude and we, quite naturally, get offended by this. What we don’t realise is that we created this encounter with that person. We (unconsciously) projected the idea of being unpleasant and rude out of our minds and onto another person, who then came along and gave us the experience that we wanted so that we could blame them and feel better about ourselves. This is the process by which the ego attempts to avoid the guilt and fear that is in the split mind. It really is quite a complicated process but projection is a key attribute of the ego, and Jesus deals with this in great depth in A Course in Miracles.

To return to Lesson 8, Jesus tells us, “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…..The mind is actually blank when it does this, because it is not really thinking about anything at all.” That is food for thought. We often think about the past. We think about the pleasant things and good times we have experienced as well as unpleasant situations or people or challenging events that we have gone through. This is not a sensible thing to do but the ego puts up quite a battle in its attempt to keep us stuck in the past. Yet, we have to try our best to live in the present because Jesus tells us in Lesson 8, “....While thoughtless ideas preoccupy your mind, the truth is blocked.” This means that living in the past is a major impediment to awakening from the dream of separation.

Many spiritual teachers tell us that the present is the only time there is, and they stress the importance of living in the present. Eckhart Tolle, in his wonderful book The Power of Now, says, “…If you delve into the past, it will become a bottomless pit: There is always more…Only the present can free you of the past… Access the power of Now. That is the key.” p.75.

We will always have memories; it is difficult to keep the mind in the present all the time. But the trick is to stop your mind from slipping back into the past by self-observation. You can remind yourself that the present is the only time there is whenever you notice that a memory has slipped into your mind. Eckhart Tolle says, “…to know that you are not present is a great success: that knowing is presence—even if initially it only lasts for a couple of seconds of clock time before it is lost again…” p.60.

What we have to do is to constantly observe our minds and make a conscious decision to bring the mind back into the present whenever we notice we are thinking about something that happened in the past. It does take a lot of hard work and it is helpful to have a strategy to bring the mind back into the present. For example, it might help if we actually talk to the ego and instruct it to get out of our minds. We can also call upon the Holy Spirit, Who is our Higher Self and our link with God, and ask Him to help turn our thoughts to right mindedness. It is also helpful if we look around and concentrate on some of the good things in our lives, e.g. the nice view from the window, flowers in a vase, butterflies in the garden, a peaceful cat asleep by the fireside, etc. Nature is a wonderful healer, and all creatures in the natural world (apart from human beings) seem to live in the present moment.

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