[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
Robert and I did the Workbook Program recording for Lesson 45, “God is the Mind with which I think,” I found myself deeply attracted to that lesson’s goal of getting in touch with our real thoughts. So, I’ve been working with that lesson for a while, and I’d like to share a bit of my experience with it.
The lesson begins with a stunning statement of just how far our normal thoughts and perceptions are from what is real:
“[Your real thoughts] are nothing that you think you think, just as nothing that you think you see is related to vision in any way. There is no relationship between what is real and what you think is real. Nothing that you think are your real thoughts resemble your real thoughts in any respect. Nothing that you think you see bears any resemblance to what vision will show you.” (1:2-5)
I find this passage both chilling and hopeful. It’s chilling because it confronts me with the shocking idea that my life as I know it is utterly divorced from reality. I’m living in an insane delusion. All the thoughts and perceptions that feel so important to me don’t amount to a hill of beans. But it’s hopeful because, frankly, my life as I know it leaves a lot to be desired, to put it mildly. If it were real, I’d be sunk. But if I’m not in touch with reality, there’s hope that reality could be a lot better than what I’m experiencing now.
The lesson goes on to show that reality is indeed a lot better, as it describes our real thoughts:
“Under all the senseless thoughts and mad ideas with which you have cluttered up your mind are the thoughts that you thought with God in the beginning. They are there in your mind now, completely unchanged. They will always be in your mind, exactly as they always were. Everything you have thought since then will change, but the Foundation on which it rests is wholly changeless.” (7:1-4)
I find this description so attractive. What jumps out at me as I read it is the contrast between the changeable nature of my “senseless thoughts and mad ideas” and the changeless nature of my real thoughts. My normal thoughts are such a crazy, volatile hodgepodge; I’m seriously afflicted with what the Buddhists call “monkey mind.” How can I expect to find happiness and peace when my mind is constantly swinging from one tree to another? My real thoughts, in contrast, have such a permanence to them. They are thoughts I thought with God in the beginning. They are still in my mind unchanged and will always be there. They are a rock solid Foundation that can never be shaken. The descriptive phrase that always comes to my mind is “eternal verities.”
Though it’s difficult to imagine what exactly my real thoughts are, something in me sings when I contemplate the possibility of getting in touch with something within me that is so permanent and stable and holy (since it is of God). And the lesson’s practice is aimed at just that: getting in touch with our real thoughts. It has us repeat the idea while closing our eyes, let a few related thoughts come to make the idea more personal and real to us, and then say, “My real thoughts are in my mind. I would like to find them” (6:4-5). This introduces the meditation, in which we “try to go past all the unreal thoughts that cover the truth in your mind, and reach to the eternal” (6:6).
The key to making this practice work is to enter the meditation with the right attitude. The lesson mentions two specific attitudes to bring into our meditation. The first is confidence: We are to remind ourselves that it is both God’s Will and our will that we find our real thoughts. Therefore, “There is every reason to feel confident that we will succeed today” (5:3).
The second attitude is a recognition of the holiness of what we are doing. “For this kind of practice only one thing is necessary; approach it as you would an altar dedicated in Heaven to God the Father and to God the Son….remind yourself that this is no idle game, but an exercise in holiness and an attempt to reach the Kingdom of Heaven” (8:4, 7).
In my working with this practice, I’ve found that holding these attitudes of confidence and holiness as I go into the meditation makes all the difference in the world. I know this because sometimes I’ve tried to enter the mediation without reminding myself of these things, and I could really tell the difference. It is so much more effective when I really take the time to put myself in the proper frame of mind before going in.
And I’m happy to report that when I’ve really followed the instructions in all respects, I’ve experienced some real success with this practice — not “blow out” success, but genuine progress nonetheless. What do my real thoughts look like? Well, I can’t put them into words, because they are nonverbal. But Lesson 47, which has you enter the same place in your mind, says, “You will recognize that you have reached it if you feel a sense of deep peace, however briefly” (W-pI.47.7:2).
That’s what it feels like to me. There’s a “sweet spot” in my mind that I like to call the “rock of peace,” because it is a place of peace that feels permanent and unshakable. Normally, the chaotic thoughts in my mind pull me this way and that, but when I’m in contact with this peaceful place, the same thoughts just bounce off of the rock and go “poof.” Lesson 45 has helped me contact this rock of peace — which I believe is probably an experience of my real thoughts — more consistently. I hope to spend a lot more time there.