Lesson 284 • October 11


Lesson 284

I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt.

Practice Instructions

See complete instructions in a separate document. A short summary:

  • Read the commentary paragraph slowly and personally.
  • Pray the prayer, perhaps several times.
  • Morning and evening: Repeat the idea and then spend time in Open Mind Meditation.
  • Hourly remembrance: Repeat the idea and then spend time in Open Mind Meditation.
  • Frequent reminders: Repeat the idea and then spend a quiet moment in meditation.
  • Response to temptation: Repeat the idea whenever upset, to restore peace.
  • Read the “What Is” section slowly and thoughtfully once during the day.

Practice suggestion: When you repeat today’s lesson, you may want to make it more specific: “I can elect to change this thought about __________.”


This is one of the very good capsule statements of the practical teaching of the Course. What is seen as outside must be seen, first, as originating inside, in my thoughts. Then this lesson applies. If the origin of the problem is my thoughts, I can affect the problem. I can change all thoughts that hurt. Nothing outside me can affect me. The cause of problems, and therefore the solution to them, is entirely within my mind and entirely within my control.

“Loss is not loss when properly perceived” (1:1). Wham! Zap! That really hits a lot of buttons. Perhaps recently there was something I wanted to do, or someplace I wanted to go, and I could not do it. I could perceive that as a loss, and be upset. Yet, properly perceived, that loss can be seen as not a loss at all. The perception of an event, any event, as a loss is purely within my mind; the “hurt” comes not from the external event but from my thoughts about it, and “I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt.”

But we have a mental scale of lesser and greater losses, and as we go up our scale this gets harder and harder to accept. Not getting to a meeting or a concert is one thing. But a few years ago I lost my computer hard disk, totally. I lost several years of personal journals and a mailing list with hundreds of names on it, no backups, no way to retrieve them. Gone. It took me a long time to work through to not seeing that as a loss. But the principle is the same. The perception of loss was purely in my mind, and all perception of loss and pain is always there and nowhere else. And it is always possible for me to change those thoughts if I really want to.

Up the scale still further: What about when someone we love dies, especially unexpectedly, “tragically,” from sickness or violence or accident? How is it possible to apply “Loss is not loss when properly perceived” to such an event? It is evident the lesson means for us to do just that, because it continues:

Pain is impossible. There is no grief with any cause at all. And suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream. (1:2-4)

The lesson is saying that, properly perceived, even death is not a cause for grief. All of it is just a more extreme form of the same case; the cause for our hurt, our pain, and our grief is not external to us. It is in the way we are thinking about things. And we can change the way we think about them and eliminate the pain. The major issue of life is not in the externals; it is in our thinking.

You would not go up to someone who had just lost a loved one and say, bluntly, “There is no cause for grief here.” It very likely would be perceived as cruel and cold, as if you were saying, “He’s no loss. Look at the bright side; now you won’t have to put up with his/her faults any more, and you can find another who will make you really happy.” People who try to tell a grieving person, “There is no cause for grief” are often choosing to be “spiritually correct” at the expense of kindness.

I think, however, that the lesson is asking us to say something like that—there is no cause for grief—to ourselves, even in cases of what seems like extreme loss. It is suggesting, in the lines that follow, a process we can follow to change our thoughts even in such seemingly impossible cases. It is not an instant process, and it may take considerable time to turn the tide of our thoughts. But it is possible, it is within our power to change all thoughts that hurt. Our aim should be, eventually, to see that “grief and pain must be impossible” (2:1). Why? Because our Father would not give us anything that hurts us, and there is no other Source. He gives only the joyous, so only the joyous is the truth (2:2).