My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
Yesterday, while practicing Lesson 7 – which focuses on seeing the past – I found myself wanting to apply it in ways not indicated by the lesson. “This feeling is a past feeling” or “This relationship is based on past thoughts.” I didn’t hurt myself by doing this – the lessons are either helpful or neutral, not harmful – but I do think I rendered them a tad less helpful. The objective of lesson 7 is to train us to see the external world as illusory. And it’s worth spending a full day devoted to practicing that one idea.
Proof of this comes in lesson 8 where Jesus shifts from seeing the past only in objects – this shoe, that wall – to making clear why we are seeing everything in terms of the past. It’s because our mind is preoccupied with past thoughts. This lesson contains language that is evocative of both Buddhist texts that emphasize being in the present and the ideas of contemporary spiritual authors like Eckhart Tolle who write about “the power of now.”
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 anytihng (W-pI.8.I:4-6).
In time, students of A Course in Miracles will recognize that what is being alluded to here is the Holy Instant – the moment given to the Holy Spirit in which there is no fear because there is no past or future to cloud the present.
Each instant is a clean, untarnished birth, in which the Son of God emerges from the past into the present. And the present extends forever. It is so beautiful and so clean and free of guilt that nothing but happiness is there. No darkness is remembered, and immortality and joy are now (T-15.I.8:4-7).
Lesson 8 begins to train our minds to recognize what impedes our experience of the Holy Instant – i.e., thoughts about anything at all. All of what we identify as our ideas are simply past thoughts through which the present cannot shine. As we see this – and as we identify thse thoughts – we begin to develop the basic skills of letting them go, and sliding down to our real mind, and our real thoughts.
This lesson proposes the radical idea that when our minds are busy – what some of my Buddhist friends might call “monkey mind” – they are actually blank. They are not functioning. The implication is that the real activity of our mind wil not manifest as thoughts about this or that at all. A lot of our resistance to the course can be found here, I think. We are so ingrained – so conditioned, so invested – in these selves that we think we are that letting them go entirely feels too terrifying.
But Jesus knows this. And it’s factored in to the lessons. That’s why there’s an admonition against doing more than one a day. We need to use time to learn how to undo time. So it’s a process. If we simply do what each lesson advises, we will find that they build on one another and that our minds are accordingly opened to Christ and to God.