"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
A Course in Miracles
TEXT

CHAPTER 3
Retraining the Mind
PAUSED FOR WEEKEND

VII. The Loss of Certainty

51 We said before that the abilities which man possesses are only shadows of his real strengths and that the intrusion of the ability to perceive, which is inherently judgmental, was introduced only after the separation. No one has been sure of anything since. You will also remember, however, that I made it clear that the resurrection was the means for the return to knowledge, which was accomplished by the union of my will with the Father's. We can now make a distinction which will greatly facilitate clarity in our subsequent statements.

52 Since the separation, the words "create" and "make" have been greatly confused. When you make something, you make it out of a sense of lack or need. Anything that is made is made for a specific purpose and has no true generalizability. When you make something to fill a perceived lack, which is obviously why you would want to make anything, you are tacitly implying that you believe in separation. Knowing, as we have frequently observed, does not lead to doing at all.

53 The confusion between your own creation and what you create is so profound that it has become literally impossible for you to know anything. Knowledge is always stable, and it is quite evident that human beings are not. Nevertheless, they are perfectly stable as God created them. In this sense, when their behavior is unstable they are disagreeing with God's idea of the creation. Man can do this if he chooses, but he would hardly want to do it if he were in his right mind. The problem that bothers you most is the fundamental question which man continually asks of himself, but which cannot properly be directed to himself at all. He keeps asking himself what he is. This implies that the answer is not only one which he knows but is also one which is up to him to supply.

54 Man cannot perceive himself correctly. He has no image. The word "image" is always perception-related and not a product of knowing. Images are symbolic and stand for something else. The current emphasis on "changing your image" merely recognizes the power of perception, but it also implies that there is nothing to know. Knowing is not open to interpretation. It is possible to "interpret" meaning, but this is always open to error because it refers to the perception of meaning. Such wholly needless complexities are the result of man's attempt to regard himself as both separated and unseparated at the same time. It is impossible to undertake a confusion as fundamental as this without engaging in further confusion.

55 Methodologically, man's mind has been very creative but, as always occurs when method and content are separated, it has not been utilized for anything but an attempt to escape a fundamental and entirely inescapable impasse. This kind of thinking cannot result in a creative outcome, although it has resulted in considerable ingenuity. It is noteworthy, however, that this ingenuity has almost totally divorced him from knowledge. Knowledge does not require ingenuity. When we say "the truth shall set you free," we mean that all this kind of thinking is a waste of time, but that you are free of the need to engage in it if you are willing to let it go.

56 Prayer is a way of asking for something. Prayer is the medium of miracles, but the only meaningful prayer is for forgiveness because those who have been forgiven have everything. Once forgiveness has been accepted, prayer in the usual sense becomes utterly meaningless. Essentially, a prayer for forgiveness is nothing more than a request that we may be able to recognize something we already have. In electing to perceive instead of to know, man placed himself in a position where he could resemble his Father only by miraculously perceiving. He has lost the knowledge that he himself is a miracle. Miraculous creation was his Source and also his real function.

  57 "God created man in His own image and likeness" is correct in meaning, but the words are open to considerable misinterpretation. This is avoided, however, if "image" is understood to mean "thought" and "likeness" is taken as "of a like quality." God did create the Soul in His own Thought and of a quality like to His own. There is nothing else. Perception, on the other hand, is impossible without a belief in "more" and "less." Perception at every level involves selectivity and is incapable of organization without it. In all types of perception, there is a continual process of accepting and rejecting or organizing and reorganizing, of shifting and changing focus. Evaluation is an essential part of perception because judgments must be made for selection.

58 What happens to perceptions if there are no judgments and there is nothing but perfect equality? Perception becomes impossible. Truth can only be known. All of it is equally true, and knowing any part of it is to know all of it. Only perception involves partial awareness. Knowledge transcends all the laws which govern perception because partial knowledge is impossible. It is all one and has no separate parts. You who are really one with it need but know yourself, and your knowledge is complete. To know God's miracle is to know Him.

59 Forgiveness is the healing of the perception of separation. Correct perception of each other is necessary because minds have willed to see themselves as separate. Each Soul knows God completely. That is the miraculous power of the Soul. The fact that each one has this power completely is a fact that is entirely alien to human thinking, in which if anyone has everything, there is nothing left. God's miracles are as total as His Thoughts because they are His Thoughts.

60 As long as perception lasts, prayer has a place. Since perception rests on lack, those who perceive have not totally accepted the Atonement and given themselves over to truth. Perception is a separated state, and a perceiver does need healing. Communion, not prayer, is the natural state of those who know. God and His miracles are inseparable. How beautiful indeed are the Thoughts of God who live in His light! Your worth is beyond perception because it is beyond doubt. Do not perceive yourself in different lights. Know yourself in the One Light where the miracle that is you is perfectly clear.

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A Course in Miracles
WORKBOOK

Part I
I. Introduction

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.

2 The exercises are very simple. They do not require more than a few minutes, and it does not matter where or when you do them. They need no preparation. They are numbered, running from 1 to 365. The training period is one year. Do not undertake more than one exercise a day.

3 The purpose of these exercises is to train the mind to a different perception of everything in the world. The workbook is divided into two sections, the first dealing with the undoing of what you see now and the second with the restoration of sight. It is recommended that each exercise be repeated several times a day, preferably in a different place each time and, if possible, in every situation in which you spend any long period of time. The purpose is to train the mind to generalize the lessons, so that you will understand that each of them is as applicable to one situation as it is to another.

4 Unless specified to the contrary, the exercise should be practiced with the eyes open, since the aim is to learn how to see. The only rule that should be followed throughout is to practice the exercises with great specificity. Each one applies to every situation in which you find yourself and to everything you see in it. Each day's exercises are planned around one central idea, the exercises themselves consisting of applying that idea to as many specifics as possible. Be sure that you do not decide that there are some things you see to which the idea for the day is inapplicable. The aim of the exercises will always be to increase the application of the idea to everything. This will not require effort. Only be sure that you make no exceptions in applying the idea.

5 Some of the ideas you will find hard to believe, and others will seem quite startling. It does not matter. You are merely asked to apply them to what you see. You are not asked to judge them, nor even to believe them. You are asked only to use them. It is their use which will give them meaning to you, and show you they are true. Remember only this—you need not believe them, you need not accept them, and you need not welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter nor decrease their efficacy. But allow yourself to make no exceptions in applying the ideas the exercises contain. Whatever your reactions to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than this is required.

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Lesson 34
I could see peace instead of this.

1 The idea for today begins to describe the conditions that prevail in the other way of seeing. Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. It must begin with your own thoughts and then extend outward. It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises.

2 Three longer practice periods are required for today's exercises. One in the morning and one in the evening are advised, with an additional one to be undertaken at any time in between which seems most conducive to readiness. All applications should be done with your eyes closed. It is your inner world to which the applications of today's idea should be made.

3 Some five minutes of mind searching are required for each of the longer practice periods. Search your mind for fear thoughts, anxiety provoking situations, "offending" personalities or events, or anything else about which you are harboring unloving thoughts. Note them all casually, repeating the idea for today slowly as you watch them arise in your mind, and let each one go, to be replaced by the next.

4 If you begin to experience difficulty in thinking of specific subjects, continue to repeat the idea to yourself in an unhurried manner, without applying it to anything in particular. Be sure, however, not to make any specific exclusions.

5 The shorter applications are to be frequent and made whenever you feel your peace of mind is threatened in any way. The purpose is to protect yourself from temptation throughout the day. If a specific form of temptation arises in your awareness, the exercise should take this form:

6 I could see peace in this situation instead of
what I now see in it.

7 If the inroads on your peace of mind take the form of more generalized adverse emotions, such as depression, anxiety, or worry, use the idea in its original form. If you find you need more than one application of today's idea to help you change your mind in any specific context, try to take several minutes and devote them to repeating the idea until you feel some sense of relief. It will help you if you tell yourself specifically:

8 I can replace my feelings of depression, anxiety
or worry [or my thoughts about this situation,
personality, or event] with peace.

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 34
I could see peace instead of this.

I love how very gentle our teacher is with us. He does not coerce us but simply offers his guidance on how we can change the way we think now. He is not telling us we should see peace only that we have the option to see peace instead of the pain and suffering we experience in the world. He offers us another way of seeing rather than inducing more guilt in us when we are not at peace.
 
The Lesson is effective, as are all the Lessons when applied with sincerity and dedication. It is a Lesson that helps me see that it does not matter what the situation is, there is always another way I can choose to see it. This harkens back to the Lesson yesterday where we are told we can choose peace no matter what is happening around us. The fact is that peace is already in our minds and is not dependent on anything that seems to be happening. When we look at any situation or circumstance with the ego, we give outside events power to obscure the peace that is in us. Or we look to circumstances outside of us to be just right, so we will have peace. Jesus says our peace has nothing to do with outside events. Nothing outside of us can bring us peace or take it away, but we often do experience loss of peace as a result of external circumstances. When we turn away from the ego because we don’t like how we feel, the Holy Spirit shows us another way to see the situation. He reminds us that peace is always available to us. If we don’t experience it, it is because we are actually choosing to throw it away. Our part is to look at the choice we are making in the mind and turn to the miracle instead.
 
We are gently being guided and supported to open our minds to the power within us to choose again. Remember the comments yesterday about our rigid way of seeing things now. Convincing anyone about anything, even using this teaching to do so is a form of violence. It is attacking another's perspective. That is why the Course is big on not proselytizing our position. Our only responsibility is to accept the Atonement (the healing of our minds) for ourselves.
 
This is a powerful Lesson in helping us to see we can always choose peace. But we must do our part, which is to watch our thoughts. It is to bring to mind ". . . fear thoughts, anxiety-provoking situations, 'offending' personalities or events, or anything else about which we are harboring unloving thoughts. " (W.34.3.2) If we deny our attacking, unloving thoughts, the Lesson has no value. We need to get in touch with these thoughts rather than denying they are there. We tend to cover up our thoughts when we are in fear, and we become highly defensive. We have established defenses in the belief they keep us safe. "You operate from the belief you must protect yourself from what is happening because it must contain what threatens you. A sense of threat is an acknowledgement of inherent weakness; a belief that there is danger which has power to call on you to make appropriate defense." (W.135.2.1-2) Yet defenses keep us from real peace. They keep us in fear. We are working to protect the self that is not real. Now we are being asked to search our minds for fear thoughts. "Note them all casually, repeating the idea for the day slowly as you watch them arise in your mind, and let each one go, to be replaced by the next." (W.34.3.3) This is important because to look casually is to look without judgment, meaning, we are looking with the Holy Spirit. This means we are willing to see them with some degree of detachment. They are not real and have no real consequences. They are meaningless thoughts we have given meaning.
 
Jesus says, "It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises." (W.34.1.4) Everything we see in the world starts with our thoughts. When our thoughts are not peaceful, we see them reflected back at us in a threatening way. But the reality is that nothing outside of us can hurt us, as there is nothing outside of us. Again, the cause of any distress is a projection of the thoughts in my mind. The world is an effect of those thoughts and mirrors back to me what is in my mind. If we get anxious about our experience in the world because someone seems to be "causing" us distress, we have an opportunity to go within and ask to see it differently. Jesus reminds us that peace is a choice we can make. The peace we are seeking is already within us. All that is required is that we uncover how it is being blocked by our beliefs, concepts, and thoughts we are holding.
 
Our part is to bring our awareness to the thoughts and beliefs, "and let each one go, to be replaced by the next. " (W.34.3.3) Whenever we are not experiencing peace, love, and joy it is because our thoughts are blocking this experience from our awareness. We may be feeling rejected, vulnerable, not in control, manipulated, a failure, or even a success. All these experiences can generate fear in us.
 
Underneath all of our fears, there are beliefs we hold. For example, I am afraid I am a failure because I have a belief I should be perfect, and it is unacceptable to make mistakes. If I make a mistake, I believe I am bad. I consider striving for perfection important as I value my high standards. These beliefs and values I hold put me under a lot of stress. Jesus asks, would you rather be right (about your perceptions and beliefs) or happy? Clearly the high expectations I place on myself do not make me happy. When I do not meet my standards, the ego berates me, and the cycle continues until I am willing to see how I am keeping myself from peace. Jesus asks us to expose our fears so they can be healed. A good place to start is to look at how we feel. Whenever we are not at peace it is an indication we are holding thoughts and beliefs that are not the truth.
 
If you experience difficulty in having thoughts come to mind and reach a blank spot in your mind, "continue to repeat the idea [I could see peace instead of this] to yourself in an unhurried manner, without applying it to anything in particular. " (W.34.4.1) Whenever I wake up in the night and feel a strange sense of anxiety not necessarily tied to anything specific, I find this Lesson helpful. It may just be a vague generalized feeling that comes up of sadness, anxiety, worry, or expectations. As I apply this Lesson, I feel a sense of relief. These words, (I can replace my feelings of depression, sadness etc. with peace), repeated often, generally bring a sense of calm to my mind.
 
Identifying the feelings of distress is important because, as Jesus says, "You may wonder why it is so crucial that you look upon your hatred and realize its full extent. You may also think that it would be easy enough for the Holy Spirit to show it to you, and dispel it without the need for you to raise it to awareness yourself." (T.13.III.1.1-2) (ACIM OE T.12.III.10) We need to be vigilant in watching our thoughts. Jesus urges us, "Do not hide suffering from His sight, but bring it gladly to Him. Lay before His eternal sanity all your hurt, and let Him heal you. Do not leave any spot of pain hidden from His Light, and search your mind carefully for any thoughts you may fear to uncover.” (T.13.III.7.3-5) (ACIM OE T.12.III.17)
 
My experience with this practice is there are many thoughts in my mind that create the kind of experience I am having, but I am not always aware of those thoughts unless I stay very vigilant in watching my mind. This takes work and practice. It is easy to go through the day unconscious of what is going on in our minds. When our thoughts operate in the background without our awareness it is like a computer software program running our day.
 
We all have had experiences of how thoughts affect us. For example, when we awaken and feel content, the day seems to unfold easily and happily. If something distressing shows up, our happy mood simply accepts the distress easily and things seem to go well overall. The opposite is also true. When we are cranky, everything in the day seems to go wrong. That is why we have these Lessons to start the day happily and recognize that everything in the day offers us a perfect opportunity for healing.
 
We do not make the correction ourselves. We just need to be willing to have the blocks to peace removed. Peace is already in our minds. It is just obscured by our thoughts. We don't need to acquire peace. We just need to uncover the thoughts that obscure it. The hard part for us is that we tend to judge ourselves for the thoughts we uncover because we think they define us; but they are not what we are. By defending our image of who we think we are, we will not be willing to uncover thoughts we judge as hateful or even murderous.
 
I often get into the trap of thinking that when difficult situations come up what I need to do is change things " out there " in order to be at peace. I am learning, I can respond to any difficult situation or difficult person by bringing my mind to peace first. It is really possible to bring peace to my mind with whatever situation is upsetting me. From that perspective, if I need to take action, I can take it from a center of peace instead of fighting, overpowering, arguing, or making myself right. It is like going to war in order to win peace. It can never work. Only by doing the inner work can we ever bring about peace. I find I can't always do this in the moment, but when I withdraw from these difficult situations and spend time in reflection, I can inevitably, with willingness, have my mind returned to peace.

Love and blessings, Sarah
 
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