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" When you are afraid of anything, you are acknowledging its power to hurt you. Remember that where your heart is, there is your treasure also. This means that you believe in what you value. If you are afraid, you are valuing wrongly."

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Introduction Part I
1 A theoretical foundation such as the text is necessary as a background to make these exercises meaningful. Yet it is the exercises which will make the goal possible. An untrained mind can accomplish nothing. It is the purpose of these exercises to train the mind to think along the lines which the course sets forth.

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Workbook for Students
Lesson 16
I have no neutral thoughts.
1 The idea for today is a beginning step in dispelling the belief that your thoughts have no effect. Everything you see is the result of your thoughts. There is no exception to this fact. Thoughts are not big or little, powerful or weak. They are merely true or false. Those which are true create their own likeness. Those which are false make theirs.

2 There is no more self-contradictory concept than that of "idle thoughts." What gives rise to the perception of a whole world can hardly be called idle. Every thought you have contributes to truth or to illusion; either it extends the truth or it multiplies illusions. You can indeed multiply nothing, but you will not extend it by doing so.

3 In addition to never being idle, salvation requires that you recognize that every thought you have brings either peace or war, either love or fear. A neutral result is impossible because a neutral thought is impossible. There is such a temptation to dismiss fear thoughts as unimportant, trivial, and not worth bothering about that it is essential you recognize them all as equally destructive but equally unreal. We will practice this idea in many forms before you really understand it.

4 In applying the idea for today, search your mind for a minute or so, with eyes closed, and actively seek not to overlook any "little" thought which tends to elude the search. This is quite difficult until you get used to it. You will find that it is still hard for you not to make artificial distinctions. Every thought that occurs to you, regardless of the quality which you assign to it, is a suitable subject for applying today's idea.

5 In the practice periods, first repeat the idea, and then as each one crosses your mind, hold it in awareness while you tell yourself:

6 This thought about _____ is not a neutral thought. That thought about _____ is not a neutral thought.

7 As usual, use today's idea whenever you are aware of a particular thought which arouses uneasiness. The following form is suggested for this purpose:

8 This thought about _____ is not a neutral thought, because I have no neutral thoughts.

9 Four or five practice periods are recommended if you find them relatively effortless. If strain is experienced, three will be enough. The length of the exercise period should also be reduced if there is discomfort.

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Lesson ARCHIVE
Course in Miracles
Original Edition
Text
Chapter 2
The Illusion of Separation

II. The Reinterpertation of Defenses par 18-35
18 When you are afraid of anything, you are acknowledging its power to hurt you. Remember that where your heart is, there is your treasure also. This means that you believe in what you value. If you are afraid, you are valuing wrongly. Human understanding will inevitably value wrongly and, by endowing all human thoughts with equal power, will inevitably destroy peace. That is why the Bible speaks of "the peace of God which passeth (human) understanding." This peace is totally incapable of being shaken by human errors of any kind. It denies the ability of anything which is not of God to affect you in any way.

19 This is the proper use of denial. It is not used to hide anything but to correct error. It brings all error into the light, and since error and darkness are the same, it corrects error automatically. True denial is a powerful protective device. You can and should deny any belief that error can hurt you. This kind of denial is not a concealment device but a correction device. The "right mind" of the mentally healthy depends on it. You can do anything I ask. I have asked you to perform miracles and have made it clear that miracles are natural, corrective, healing, and universal. There is nothing good they cannot do, but they cannot be performed in the spirit of doubt.

20 God and the Souls He created are completely dependent on each other. The creation of the Soul has already been perfectly accomplished, but the creation by Souls has not. God created Souls so He could depend on them because He created them perfectly. He gave them His peace so they could not be shaken and would be unable to be deceived. Whenever you are afraid, you are deceived. Your mind is not serving the Soul. This literally starves the Soul by denying its daily bread. God offers only mercy. Your words should reflect only mercy because that is what you have received, and that is what you should give.

21 Justice is a temporary expedient or an attempt to teach man the meaning of mercy. Its judgmental side arises only because man is capable of injustice if that is what his mind creates. You are afraid of God's Will because you have used your own will, which He created in the likeness of His own, to miscreate. What you do not realize is that the mind can miscreate only when it is not free. An imprisoned mind is not free by definition. It is possessed or held back by itself. Its will is therefore limited and is not free to assert itself. The real meaning of "are of one kind," which was mentioned before, is "are of one mind or will." When the will of the Sonship and the Father are one, their perfect accord is Heaven.

22 Denial of error is a powerful defense of truth. You will note that we have been shifting the emphasis from the negative to the positive use of denial. As we have already stated, denial is not a purely negative device; it results in positive miscreation. That is the way the mentally ill do employ it. But remember a very early thought of your own—"Never underestimate the power of denial." In the service of the "right mind," the denial of error frees the mind and reestablishes the freedom of the will. When the will is really free, it cannot miscreate because it recognizes only truth.

23 False projection arises out of false denial, not out of its proper use. My own role in the Atonement is one of true projection; I can project to you the affirmation of truth. If you project error to me or to yourself, you are interfering with the process. My use of projection, which can also be yours, is not based on faulty denial. It does involve, however, the very powerful use of the denial of errors. The miracle worker is one who accepts my kind of denial and projection, unites his own inherent abilities to deny and project with mine, and imposes them back on himself and others. This establishes the total lack of threat anywhere. Together we can then work for the real time of peace, which is eternal.

24 The improper use of defenses is quite widely recognized, but their proper use had not been sufficiently understood as yet. They can indeed create man's perception both of himself and of the world. They can distort or correct depending on what you use them for.

25 Denial should be directed only to error, and projection should be reserved only for truth. You should truly give as you have truly received. The Golden Rule can work effectively only on this basis.

26 Intellectualization is a term which stems from the mind-brain confusion. "Right-mindedness" is the device which defends the right mind and gives it control over the body. "Intellectualization" implies a split, while "right-mindedness" involves healing.

27 Withdrawal is properly employed in the service of withdrawing from the meaningless. It is not a device for escape, but for consolidation. There is only One Mind.

28 Dissociation is quite similar. You should split off or dissociate yourself from error but only in defense of integration.

29 Detachment is essentially a weaker form of dissociation.

30 Flight can be undertaken in whatever direction you choose, but note that the concept itself implies flight from something. Flight from error is perfectly appropriate.

31 Distantiation can be properly used as a way of putting distance between yourself and what you should fly from.

32 Regression is an effort to return to your own original state. It can thus be utilized to restore, rather than to go back to the less mature.

33 Sublimation should be a redirection of effort to the sublime.

34 There are many other so-called "dynamic" concepts which are profound errors due essentially to the misuse of defenses. Among them is the concept of different levels of aspiration, which actually result from level confusion. However, the main point to be understood from this section is that you can defend truth as well as error and, in fact, much better.

35 The means are easier to clarify after the value of the goal itself is firmly established. Everyone defends his own treasure. You do not have to tell him to do so because he will do it automatically. The real questions still remain. What do you treasure, and how much do you treasure it? Once you have learned to consider these two questions and to bring them into all your actions as the true criteria for behavior, I will have little difficulty in clarifying the means. You have not learned to be consistent about this as yet. I have therefore concentrated on showing you that the means are available whenever you ask. You can, however, save a lot of time if you do not extend this step unduly. The correct focus will shorten it immeasurably.

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Sarah's Reflections
Lesson 16
I have no neutral thoughts.
This Lesson dispels the belief that our thoughts have no effects. We read in the Lesson yesterday that our thoughts are images we made. We also learned in Lesson 14, "What God did not create does not exist. And everything that does exist exists as He created it. The world you see has nothing to do with reality. It is of your own making, and it does not exist." (W.14.1.2-5) This world and everything we see in it, which God did not create, is therefore of our own making. The thoughts in our minds are projected out, and these thoughts are not neutral because they reflect the ego thought system of sin, guilt, and fear. Sin, guilt, and fear form linear time. Sin is in the past, guilt is the present, and fear is in the future.
 
Our thoughts are not impotent, contrary to our belief. They have powerful effects. "Everything you see is the result of your thoughts. There is no exception to this fact." (W.16.1.2-3) Everything we see starts in our own minds. Our thoughts are very powerful, but there is one thing they can't do. They can't change the truth of who we are as the Son of God. Thus, they also can't change who God is. In other words, we can't change Reality. That is the nature of the Atonement Principle, which says that while we can become oblivious to the truth of our reality, we can't change it. This is a very reassuring thought.
 
What is the ego thought system and how does it differ from the thought system of the Holy Spirit? The ego thought system is about separation, complexities, differences, loss, lack, guilt, anger, grievances, fear, pain, pleasure, sickness, specialness, bodies, the world, sacrifice, regrets, the past, time, and death. The Holy Spirit's thought system is that of Oneness, reflected in this world as sameness, innocence, worthiness, forgiveness as love's reflection, abundance, simplicity, truth, and changelessness. The Holy Spirit knows there is nothing outside of the mind. We know which thought system we are listening to, depending how we feel. When we listen to the ego we feel rushed, stressed, worried, anxious, depressed, and afraid. When we are with the Holy Spirit, there is a feeling of spaciousness, flow, peace, happiness, and harmony.
 
Our true thoughts (those that come from the thought system of the Holy Spirit) "create their own likeness," (W.16.1.6) while "Those that are false make theirs." (W.16.1.7) What this means is true thoughts are our real thoughts that reflect the Mind of the Creator. This is about the formless, eternal, holy, and timeless, while false thoughts are those that have made this illusory world. All thoughts, whether emanating from ego or Spirit, have an effect. This may frighten us to be told that our minds are so powerful, but it is actually very good news. Why? Because when our thoughts are changed, our experience is changed. No thought is neutral. Every thought produces something. What is that something? It is either peace or war. It is either love or fear.
 
Therefore, every thought matters. Notice how much we dismiss thoughts as unimportant, trivial, or too small to make a difference. Yet this Lesson counteracts that belief. Every thought brings peace or war, love or fear, no matter how trivial we believe the thought is. We might tell ourselves a thought is too trivial to bother with. We think a small irritation does not really matter, and we can just overlook it as unimportant. Yet it is important because with each small thought of irritation, we are choosing pain as part of our experience. Such a thought blocks our happiness, our joy, and our peace. Jesus tells us, "There is no more self-contradictory concept than that of 'idle thoughts'." (W.16.2.1) This is quite a statement, which says that thoughts always produce effects. We have come to believe that as long as we don't act on our murderous thoughts, for example, no harm is done. This Lesson contradicts those kinds of ideas. It says that all our thoughts have effects. In fact, our wrong minds are responsible for the whole content of the world, so how could our thoughts be said not to have effects?
 
Watching our thoughts is the entire process of healing our minds. This is because our unwatched thoughts get deposited into our unconscious minds. These unwatched thoughts are like software always running in the background and responsible for our reactions. Our entire unconscious is made up of unwatched thoughts. It is the part of the mind we have closed off in the basement of our being, but it nevertheless rules our lives. Bringing attention to our thoughts brings our hidden thoughts to awareness, which is how healing takes place. Healing requires us to look at our thoughts. Keeping them hidden is how we choose not to heal and how we keep ourselves prisoners to the thought system of the ego.
 
Thoughts are not big or little, powerful or weak as we think of them. They are not impotent. There are several references in the Course that affirm this. "If you believe that what you think is ineffectual you may cease to be afraid of it, but you are hardly likely to respect it. There are no idle thoughts." (T.2.VI.9.12) (ACIM OE T.2.V.91) Yet we mostly believe our thoughts have no effects unless we act on them. Many psychologists will tell you that this is the case. Yes, there are some thoughts we have that we feel guilty about and some we think may even have an effect and result in manifesting something terrible. But mostly, we think our thoughts do not have an effect unless we act on them. This Lesson directly confronts this notion by saying that everything we see is the result of our thoughts.
 
Equally startling is the statement, "A neutral result is impossible because a neutral thought is impossible." (W.16.3.2) Again, every thought will be on the side of peace or on the side of war. While we think so many of our thoughts are simply neutral, Jesus tells us that this is not the case. As we watch our thoughts, we are encouraged to make no exceptions and not to think that certain thoughts we have are unimportant. They are important because of their power. They only come from either one of two thought systems---love or fear. So, when we are not at peace, we can be sure thoughts are coming from the ego.
 
Mind watching is such an important process for our healing, yet initially, it can be quite difficult. Our minds currently just move from one thought to another, seemingly out of our awareness much of the time. Now we are asked to notice our thoughts, and with each one, tell yourself " This thought about_____is not a neutral thought. " (W.16.5.2)
 
Jesus reminds us, "There is such a temptation to dismiss fear thoughts as unimportant, trivial and not worth bothering about. . . " (W.16.3.3) He reminds us that such thoughts are equally destructive, even though still equally unreal. We must be attentive to all our thoughts, recognizing that they destroy our peace of mind and bring about effects. While not real, these thoughts have power because we believe them. We may be tempted to dismiss fear thoughts in the same way that we may dismiss our experience in the world as "just an illusion." While it is indeed all just an illusion, as long as we still believe in the reality of this world, it would be inappropriate to deny our thoughts about it. To dismiss our fears as unimportant is to dismiss the fact that we have chosen the ego thought system and all the guilt and fear that comes with it. If we dismiss the thoughts of fear, we are also dismissing the choice that we have made for the ego as unimportant. That is the temptation Jesus is talking about. We absolutely need to look at all our fear, including our fear of the Atonement. Jesus reminds us, "it is essential you recognize them all as equally destructive, but equally unreal." (W.16.3.3) They are all destructive because they keep us from recognizing ourselves as who we really are. Don't dismiss or deny your ego thoughts but be willing to bring them to awareness. "No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected." (T.11.V.I.1) (ACIM OE T.10.VI.39)
 
Today, we are asked first to repeat the idea to ourselves with our eyes closed and then search our minds for any thoughts that are present, without making any distinctions among them, especially not overlooking any thoughts that we may consider little or unimportant or neutral.
 
As each thought comes up say, "This thought about_____is not a neutral thought." (W.16.5.2) Our thoughts are not readily noticed at first when we start this practice. It does take some work initially to "catch" the thoughts we think we are thinking, but stay with it. Four or five practice periods are recommended today, as long as there is no strain. Be gentle with yourself. And if some difficulty confronts you today, you can apply the thought to address it as follows: "This thought about_____is not a neutral thought because I have no neutral thoughts." (W.16.5.6) Close your eyes and repeat the idea.
 
In this exercise, we are beginning to recognize that there is no order of difficulty in regard to our problems, just as there is no order of difficulty in miracles. Regardless of the enormity of the difficulties we hold in mind, all problems are the same because they are all equally unreal. Jesus tells us that our problems "fuse and merge and separate, in shifting and totally meaningless patterns that need not be judged at all. To judge them individually is pointless. Their tiny differences in form are no real differences at all. None of them matters." (T18.I.7.7-10) (ACIM OE T.18.II.7) He says the only thing our seeming problems have in common is none of them matter. To us, some problems seem bigger than others. Jesus urges us to "Let them all go, dancing in the wind, dipping and turning till they disappear from sight, far, far outside of you. And turn you to the stately calm within, where in holy stillness dwells the living God you never left, and Who never left you." (T.18.I.8.1-2) (ACIM OE T.18.II.8) No matter how small and unimportant our thoughts seem to be to us, they still hold a thought system that has brought a state of suffering. We are learning to release it by recognizing all our distress comes from our own minds and not from the situations that seem to be confronting us.

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Love and blessings, Sarah
 
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