Purpose: A beginning step in learning that every thought has effects and that each one produces either fear and war or love and peace.
Exercise: Four or five times (three if there's strain), for one minute each (reduce if there's discomfort).
- Close your eyes and repeat the idea.
- Then search your mind for any thoughts present. Try to make no distinctions among them. Try especially not to overlook any "little" thought. As each thought crosses your mind, hold it in mind and say, "This thought about ______ is not a neutral thought."
Response to temptation: Whenever you are aware of an upsetting thought.
Apply the idea to it using this specific form: "This thought about ______ is not a neutral thought, because I have no neutral thoughts." The point is to make you realize that, by entertaining this thought, you are actively causing yourself fear.
This could seem like a scary idea, but the main intent is for us to realize how effective our thoughts are. This is an empowering idea, not a threatening one, unless we choose to see it that way.
Everything you see is the result of your thoughts. There is no exception to this fact. (1:2-3)
Like many of the ideas the Course presents, this one is difficult to believe at first because we are so convinced that our thoughts have nothing to do with most of the things we see. Just in case we let the idea slip by, the lesson adds that there are no exceptions. True thoughts create true things; false thoughts make false things, or illusions. There is nothing to be afraid of here because only the true thoughts create realities; false thoughts only make illusions.
No thought, however, is "idle." "What gives rise to the perception of a whole world can hardly be called idle" (2:2). Every thought in our mind is producing something all the time, contributing to truth or to illusion. The Course is a mind-training course. Its aims to make us aware of our thoughts and their effects. It desires us to be intimately involved in the process of choosing the thoughts that occupy our minds and produce their effects in the world around us.
We are asked to recognize that no thought is neutral, no thought does nothing to affect the growth of truth or illusion. Every thought expresses either love or fear; there is no in-between. If I look at the way I treat my own thoughts I can see the lesson is correct: I really do tend to slough off certain thoughts as unimportant and not worth bothering about. Every thought is worth bothering about; all fear thoughts are equally destructive. They are also equally unreal. Thus, we need not be guilty about them.
Some students of the Course are quick to latch on to the "unreal" part but very slow to acknowledge the "destructive" side; the Course always maintains this balance. Just because something is unreal or illusory does not mean it is unimportant and can be ignored! For instance, at one point the Text says that delay is impossible in eternity but is tragic in time (T-5.VI.1:3). The Course is not advocating an attitude of indifference to the world simply because it is an illusion. Remarks such as "AIDS? It's only an illusion" or "What starving children? It isn't real," are not representative of the true spirit of the Course, although you may hear them in some circles. If AIDS and starvation are in our perception, the thoughts that manifest them must be in our minds, individually or collectively, and therefore we are responsible for healing those thoughts. But I digress from the lesson; time to step off the soapbox.
The lesson is pointing out that no thought can be dismissed as trivial, and no thought is neutral. As you practice the lesson there will be some thoughts that will easily be seen to be "not neutral." If someone steals your car it is fairly easy to acknowledge that your thoughts about it are not neutral. But if you are thinking of which breakfast cereal to eat it is a bit more of a stretch to believe that "This thought about Wheaties is not a neutral thought," that it is expressing either love or fear. Believe it; it is. As the instructions say, do not "make artificial distinctions" (4:3).
The mind is like a light bulb, which is either on or off and never in-between; our minds are expressing fear or love, and never something in-between, never both, and never nothing.