Part 1 Undoing the Way We See Things Now
Lesson 24 I do not perceive my own best interests.
- In no situation that arises do you realize the outcome that would make you happy. Therefore, you have no guide to appropriate action, and no way of judging the result. What you do is determined by your perception of the situation, and that perception is wrong. It is inevitable, then, that you will not serve your own best interests. Yet they are your only goal in any situation which is correctly perceived. Otherwise, you will not recognize what they are.
- If you realized that you do not perceive your own best interests, you could be taught what they are. But in the presence of your conviction that you do know what they are, you cannot learn. The idea for today is a step towards opening your mind so that learning can begin.
- The exercises for today require much more honesty than you are accustomed to using. A few subjects, honestly and carefully considered in each of the five practice periods which should be undertaken today, will be more helpful than a more cursory examination of a large number. Two minutes are suggested for each of the mind-searching periods which the exercises involve.
- The practice periods should begin with repeating today’s idea, followed by searching the mind, with closed eyes, for unresolved situations about which you are currently concerned. The emphasis should be on uncovering the outcome you want. You will quickly realize that you have a number of goals in mind as part of the desired outcome, and also that these goals are on different levels and often conflict.
- In applying the idea for today, name each situation that occurs to you, and then enumerate carefully as many goals as possible that you would like to be met in its resolution. The form of each application should be roughly as follows:
In the situation involving _____________, I would like _____________ to happen, and _______________ to happen.
And so on. Try to cover as many different kinds of outcomes as may honestly occur to you, even if some of them do not appear to be directly related to the situation, or even inherent in it at all.
- If these exercises are done properly, you will quickly recognize that you are making a large number of demands of the situation which have nothing to do with it. You will also recognize that many of your goals are contradictory, that you have no unified outcome in mind, and that you must experience disappointment in connection with some of your goals, however the situation turns out.
- After covering the list of as many hoped-for goals as possible, for each unresolved situation that crosses your mind say to yourself:
I do not perceive my own best interests in this situation.
And go on to the next one.
Notes and Personal Application (2019): #1: In the situation involving my sister, I would like love and honesty and forgiveness to be extended on both sides of this issue. I feel as if I have forgiven her, even though she is still claiming that she did not do anything wrong. She made up lies that she is not willing to take back. In fact, she very well may even believe them herself. She took a very simple request to respect my boundaries and twisted them for a cause of enmity and estrangement for the whole family, and now years later that simple request has mushroomed into a whole tribune of supposed mean things that I said, for which she feels I should ask for forgiveness. I have seen her do this with other people, but I never thought she would do this to me. I still miss her and long for our connection to our shared history and the fun times we always had together. I do not perceive my own best interests in this situation with Beckie.
#2 In the situation involving quitting my job to travel with James, I would like to use the time wisely that I will be spending away from home and living in hotels. I want to finish Grover Good and the Stone Chateau. I want to be more disciplined about writing and write three hours a day whether I feel like it or not! I want to have an ongoing belief and persistence in writing this book instead of this on/off again feeling that I have toward it. I do not perceive my own best interests in my writing goals and habits.
#3 In the situation of listening to the call of God in my life and studying A Course in Miracles full all of 2019, I want to do the daily lessons and complete the text and manual for teachers. I want to learn all I can so that I can share it with others. I want the correct perception, to enjoy life and work and feel and express love for people. I want to stop having on/off again relationships with God and with people. I do not perceive my own best interests in studying A Course in Miracles, but it would seem that I do.
#4 In the situation with my phone battery and now the Versa dying on me about simultaneously, I want my phone and the Versa to work, to be fixed, for the bugs to be corrected. I want to be able to wear and depend on my Versa to track my steps and tell me the times and give me notifications. I want to get my phone calls and be able to check on Facebook. email and take pictures with my camera. I want a battery to last for several days at a time. I want to be able to wear my Versa and use my phone – this technology is an investment which I want to use properly and get a return. I do not perceive my own best interests in this situation, even though it would seem that I do.
#5 I would like to have and be the kind of friend who is constant, loyal, honest, supportive, and kind. I want friends that are fun, interesting, and godly. I want this feeling of being adrift that has come with the estrangement within my family, this weariness that I have toward the world and all that is in it, this emptiness to be filled with love and connection. In this desire to change myself and be a better person and to have good people around me, I am not perceiving my own best interest, even though it definitely seems that this is a reasonable, worthy request and is for my best interest!
I feel as if I am not getting this exercise, because there are things that seem obviously certain where I am perceiving my own best interests! But I will continue to persevere throughout the day. Please illuminate this lesson for my mind, dear Lord. Thank you.
Later in the day: I have never quite put it into words before, but it hit me during the day when I was going over the exercises in my mind that I did not make myself and so there is no way I could know what would make me happy. I have always thought that there were relationships, things, and achievements that would make me happy but today it struck me that I was made by God and for God. Only God could and would make me happy – and know what to do with me. Then the idea followed that I have no right to judge myself or anybody else. I belong to God; I am innocent. Inside something cold and hard and mean began to melt, and my mind grasped the idea that until we understand how completely we belong to God and block that from our awareness and live in separation. we hold ourselves and everybody else accountable for what happens in in the dark when we have no light to lead our way. I saw that all these issues that I thought would lead me to happiness or fulfill me in some way – making up with my sister, finishing another novel, studying A Course in Miracles, having technology that lived up to its promise, and having and being a good friend to others – are only ways to distract myself from the real issue – that my trust, my love and devotion belong only to God, who is the Author of it all. I am not in charge of creation, or the miscreation, or myself. I can put down all my loneliness, sorrow, worries, and cares, all my struggles with self-discipline, all my clamor for things. I can quit judging the world and the people in it, putting in my two cents, worrying and fretting over people, and chasing things that I think would make me happy, and just trust God with the outcome. So that is what I determined to do!
Notes and Personal Application (2020): This morning we had our devotions later than usual. We got home late last night and then, excited to be home, we were unable to settle down and go to sleep. James had had an extremely long day yesterday – working all day and then driving home, and he asked me to go over yesterday’s lesson again before doing today’s since he had not really taken the time to study it. So we listened to yesterday’s recording together and then I read this lesson and last year’s notes and personal application.
Although James understood yesterday’s lesson, and found what I wrote about it, helpful, today he seemed to have a grudge against the lesson idea. Of course he is perceiving his best interests, he said giving examples. He went back to work so we can finish our house renovation and landscaping project; we exercise several times a week; we have made changes in our diet to avoid red meat and eat more vegetables. How could this not be our own best interest?
I was reminded of Jesus who instructed us in the Sermon on the Mount not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but to invest in heaven. We never know if we will work for two years at this job and die before we even get to finish our house project, I said. I didn’t mean to sound grisly or negative, but that was the example that came out of my mouth. How do we know how much time we have left here on earth? None of us know. If I knew that I was going to die tomorrow, wouldn’t it be in my own best interest to forgo the yogurt smoothie and eat eggs benedict at Perkins with my family? I could toss the hour or so I spend on exercise and instead spend it with my loved ones! James would skip work and we would share our last day on earth doing something we enjoy and tying up loose ends to make things easier for our kids to sort through our stuff. We know so little about anything. We make the smartest choices we can in our right mind, but without knowledge we are only making stabs in the dark as to what is our best interest. I think that this exercise is only trying to get us to admit this to ourselves.
Our determinations are made by our perceptions of the situation, and Jesus says in our lesson, our perceptions are wrong. That is a tough idea to wrap our minds around, but it is so. This world is wrong; it is upside down; it is vengeful and built upon the fantasy that we can survive and find meaning away from our Maker, our Father, our God, our Source. When I look at last year’s exercises, I can see that my wanting to resolve the relationship with my sister seemed like it was for my best interests, but I was asking God to change her, to make her see the light, to make her see things from my point of view. I no longer see our estranged relationship as anything to be resolved. I do not yearn for her or the family members that she took with her. At first it seemed as if I were better off without them all. Then it seemed as if I would wither up and die without them. Now I know that we belong to God and we are part of a much larger plan and a brotherhood that lasts forever! What goes on here is for a season. We have forever.
I could berate myself for not finishing my second novel last year when I had all that opportunity traveling with James and living in a hotel room. Surely in the eyes of the world, this was to my best interest. But I trust in God. I know that all things that I am called to do are accomplished in time. I do not set the time, the hour, the place. Letting things unfold and trusting in God, I have no concerns about the novel.
Last year I felt directed by the Holy Spirit to study A Course in Miracles. Studying the Course and practicing the precepts has changed my life. Sharing this with others has brought me such joy. I started a blog and a study group under the direction of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to use my time away from home writing a novel, and the Voice for God instructed me to steep myself in A Course in Miracles! Peace and love and joy have transformed my mind from one that was full of sorrow, shame, guilt, condemnation, and judgment to one that is calm, forgiving, and non-judgmental.
Last year at this time, I was concerned about my Versa, fitness tracker and my iPhone not working properly. This year, I have an Apple Watch and a new iPhone which are both working beautifully, at least for now. With or without technology, my peace remains the same. The Source of all that I am is God, and where He is, technology is unnecessary because we have everything we need in the spirit.
In January, 2019, I was lonely and in despair. I didn’t know how to love people outside my own small circle. Most people struck me as trite, mean, and two-faced. I longed for friends, and at the same time was afraid that my boundaries would not be respected or taken into consideration. My life is different from most people’s lives. I travel a lot. I enjoy solitude. To write and study and research, I require big blocks of uninterrupted time. I do not enjoy getting caught up in the daily drama that most people base their friendships upon. There are times I want a houseful of people and other times I only want one or two choice guests. Organized religion and organizations in general, fail to meet my need for belonging. In most of my friendships, I had found heavy expectations with little to no reciprocation. From the outside looking in, it would seem that I have the world by the tail, and it was a tail that others felt quite willing to latch on to for a free ride!
Over the course of the year, my perceptions changed as I drew close to God. God did not necessarily give me the friends I had named, but He gave me love and forgiveness. He restored friendships that I had given up on. He gave me Christ’s vision for the new friends I was holding at bay so I could see them in their true and loving light. They were not out to hurt me! They were not back-stabbers or free-loaders! They did not talk mean about me behind my back or steal my ideas and call them theirs! When I put down my fear and started to love, my life filled with holy friendships.
Now I know to ask God for all things. I don’t make specific requests because only God knows what will be in my own best interests. Today our Jeep is giving us some issues – we could say:
In the situation involving our Jeep, we would like the mechanic to find out what is wrong and fix it, and for it never to act up again. We really like our Jeep. It has been a comfortable, roomy vehicle that we enjoy driving and riding in on our way back and forth to jobs and trips to other states. We do not want to start having problems with it again!
But what if God has a new vehicle in store for us – one we will like even better than our Jeep? We could discuss our options all day, but we cannot perceive our own best interests, so we take it to the mechanic and put it in the hands of God, Who does!
 A Course in Miracles. Workbook for Students. Lesson 24. Circle of Atonement. Complete and Annotated Edition, p. 973-974.