Undoing the Way We See Things Now
Lesson 8 My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
This idea is, of course, the reason why you see only the past. 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.
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. Very few have realized what is actually entailed in picturing the past or in anticipating the future. The mind is actually blank when it does this, because it is not really thinking about anything at all.
The purpose of the exercises for today is to begin to train your mind to recognize when it is not really thinking at all. While thoughtless ideas preoccupy your mind, the truth is blocked. 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.
The exercises for today should be done with eyes closed. 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. With as little investment as possible, search your mind for the usual minute or so, merely noting the thoughts you find there. Name each one by the central figure or theme it contains and pass on to the next. Introduce the practice period by saying:
“I seem to be thinking about _____________.”
Then name each of your thoughts specifically, for example:
I seem to be thinking about (name of person), about (name of object), about (name of emotion).
And so on, concluding at the end of the mind-searching period with:
“But my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.”
This can be done four or five times during the day, unless you find it irritates you. If you find it trying, three or four times is sufficient. 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.
Notes and Personal Application (2019): I close my eyes and search my mind for what I am thinking: I am thinking of making typos and spelling errors and aging declines. I am thinking of James going off to work and not feeling well in the night. I am thinking of what I want to do today – if I have enough time to do it all – take the Christmas stuff down and put it away and clean the house and pay the bills and enter receipts and do the Course study. I am thinking of the cat. And wondering too if the aqua garden is getting enough light – the sprouts and wheatgrass seem to be pale green instead of vivid green.
I seem to be thinking about making typos and spelling errors and other aging declines, but my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
I seem to be thinking about James going off to work today and not feeling well in the night, but my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
I seem to be thinking about taking the Christmas decorations down and putting them away, cleaning the house and paying the bills and entering receipts and doing the study, but my mind is preoccupied with thoughts of the past.
I seem to be thinking of the cat, but my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
I seem to be thinking of the aquagarden, but my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
Notes and Personal Application (2020): James said this morning that sending him the lessons through email is helpful – during the day, he can look them over and practice his lessons in the odd minute. It has been an adjustment to me to do the lessons together, but for today at least, the personal notes and application from last year were not uncomfortably divulging!
After completing the lesson, we discussed the possible reasons for this kind of exercise. Reminding ourselves of the nature of time, makes it much easier to realize that this journey through time is over. Even as we plowed through the lesson, it was over before it began.
That is why I think the Course is meant for older people because our hold on the world and the illusions of time have already, through the natural lifespan of human experience, become a bit looser. Through decades of experience, we have passed through physical, cognitive, and psycho-social changes that have both wised us up and wizened us down. We look back upon our escapades and realize that the characters, the scenarios, the fun, joy, and sorrows, are over, never to be revisited. In journal entries from the past, I often come across entries, replete with high emotion, feeling, and drama that I can barely remember, if I remember it at all! We have lost loved ones through death, divorce, and discord. In our efforts to ignore our heart’s cry for God, we did our best to find meaning in special relationships, religion, education, and riches – only to find that the emptiness and despair multiplied.
So here we are in the babyhood of old age, and we are finally humbled enough to say, Okay, it is what it is. We want to know God. We want to experience reality. We know that what is happening here in time has no meaning and purpose without You. We want to know the One we have been turning from our whole lives, the One Whom we tried to find in all kinds of other pursuits, that One Who called to us, Who promised us a place that could be filled by no other.
All the thoughts we thought were so important; all the thoughts we thought distinguished us; all the thoughts that seemed to motivate, guide, protect, and direct us – they are in the past. We are preoccupied with past thoughts because this life in time is over. It is done. It never really was. We acknowledge this because we want the truth.
 A Course in Miracles. Workbook for Students, Lesson 8 My mind is preoccupied…Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition, p. 13