1 Nothing I see in this room means anything.

MT: You begin this year of change by wiping clean the slate. What a challenge to say, "I do not know." There was a time I found these words a disgrace. Back then, I must know everything, and I thought it a thing of shame to have a gap in my expertise. Thank you for the permission not to know.

JC: Knowledge is of God. It is given you, not made up by you. It is grace. It comes from an infinite, boundless Source vast beyond comprehension. Awe—not interpretation!—is the only appropriate response to the Source. But the ego wants to think it understands, and thus it dismisses opportunities to learn the new. It remains ignorant by pretending to be wise.

MT: An explosion of collective intelligence would happen if we all admitted: we do not know. We can, and must, collect information, but then there's a point of surrender, the space of "not knowing," and that's where God steps in and the path is shown us.

1 Nothing I see in this room [on this street,
from this window, in this place] means anything.

I first practiced this lesson back in 1984. It was with great trepidation that I said the words and put on a brave front, being the brave girl who led a youth group in the Baptist church at age 13. I did not know how the Course would change my life, only that it would do so, and I was ready for it, having been prepared by a premonitory dream a couple of weeks before.

Does anything mean anything to me now, twenty-four years into this study? I can tell you that the beauty I now see can make me weep. I can also tell you that my relationships have changed such that they no longer hold any semblance to their former configuration. Two women in my life hold on fiercely to their image of me as a sinner, or their image of themselves as sinners, which is the same thing. To them I say, God be with you when you are finally ready to accept His grace. This is the change I prayed for and received: that their thoughts of attack no longer have the power to affect me.

At times I ache for this beautiful planet of ours. I ache about the destruction the ego wreaks upon it--the rain forest disappearance, the loss of animal species, the fence that separates us from Mexico and confines mountain lion and gray wolf. When the heart opens up, we also become open to the pain around us. But, as I am fond of reminding my daughter, the smallest action is better than helpless tears. This year, then, I pledge to take a stand for the environment. I wait for God to provide the means. Ball's in His court.

2 I have given everything I see in this room (house, street) all the meaning it has for me.

JC: You do notice how arbitrary your definition of a "thing" is.
MT: Yes. I can see a calendar, a date on the calendar, the blackness of the number, a pixel of blackness. Well, I can't see the pixel but I know it's there. It is endless. I can separate things into smaller and smaller components, down to atoms, or I can include more and more and call it a room, a city, a country, the whole Earth. That's so cool!
JC: You are welcome to delight in this finding. Just don't take it too seriously. It's only intended to make a point.
MT: The point being?
JC: The point being how subjective and arbitrary perception is. It is tied to words, and words are useful to communicate with others (or with me, in this case), but words do not make reality. "The map is not the territory."
MT: Thank you for this book, JC. It has raised my IQ by ten points at the very least.
JC: Better still, it facilitates access to a universal intelligence, and that's a stunning leap in abilities. Why crawl on the ground when you can fly with eagles?
MT: Why indeed. . .

3 I do not understand anything I see in this room [house, city, window].

MT: I notice, JC, a feeling of peace and rest when I gaze at things and say I don't understand them.
JC: You get a break from the constant work of trying to give meaning to things around you, yes.
MT: And I realize it's OK not to understand, that things will be there tomorrow, whether I fret and worry or don't.
Today I allow my mind to be serene and uncluttered. I cloak myself in the garments of peace. I look upon the world with eyes of peace today.

4 These thoughts do not mean anything. They are like the things I see in this room.

My mind chatter maintains the dream of separation, as do the things I see, the bodies I make up around me. If I am to let in a new vision and a new thought, I must surrender my old way of seeing and thinking.

Today, JC, help me to silence, because it is in silence that I hear the Thought of God.

5 I am never upset for the reason I think.

MT: I find all sorts of "reasons" to be upset. This cold persists. Should take better care of finances. What about my diet, is it good enough? And why am I so reluctant to meditate? Am I enlightened enough? Is my ego small enough?
JC: And you know by now that the upset comes first, then the ego manufactures reasons for the upset.
MT: I want the peace of God.
JC: The connection you thought you saw between your upsets and a world you believed to be external to you (excuse the convoluted phrase) is now broken. That in itself is a major step in the Atonement. It is a major step toward peace. Now take a moment to contemplate how far you have gone in this direction. Rejoice here with God and all the angels. You are blessed, and you can bless.
MT: This is a day of silence and of peace. I rest in God.

5 I am never upset for the reason I think.

We are so good at finding reasons for our feelings! A brand new morning dawns when we realize a precious truth: the feeling is there first, then the separated mind attributes it to a cause outside ourselves. An anger searches for the culprit, a sadness for the loss, a brief happiness for the trinket we just bought. And thus we make ourselves powerless.

6  I am upset because I see something that is not there.

MT: All right, JC, all right, I hear you. But my mind is full of Things to Do.
JC: And the point is, Things to Do aren't there. They are part of the illusion, the fantastic story you made up when you thought God had banished you from Paradise.
MT: I agree, I need peace now, not a to-do list. This is the essential, my only need--but I still cling to the illusion that "doing things" will give me peace, that there are goals to be attained before the final goal of peace. My ego wants to busy itself pretending to run the sun and the stars and the universe. Please help me see this differently.
JC: Beyond the sun and stars, beyond the known universe and anything you think you know and see, a pure white light emerges--or was it always there? It suffuses your being with its radiance, and now you know what was hidden to you before: you are a Being of Light. You are this light, as God is this light, as those around you are this light.

6 I am upset because I see something that is not there.

I think I see conflict, but it is not there. This thought is an image that I have made.
I think I see separation, but it is not there. This thought is an image that I have made.
I think I see that old self I made up as a child. That old self does not exist. It is an image that I have made.
I think I see beauty in my garden, in my house. Much as I like it, beauty does not exist. It is an image that I have made. But I choose to see it! That is my prerogative as the Son that the Father loves.

7 I see only the past.

MT: I know this, JC. Of course I see only the past. You have convinced me. But what should I see instead? I'd like to know how this relates to miracles and spiritual seeing. Is it something that happens to a lucky few? How do I cultivate spiritual vision?

JC: You need a quiet and receptive mind for spiritual vision, to answer your last question.

MT: So how are things NOW? How do I see them now?

JC: If I told you how they are now, you would be looking for this concept and making it up, and then you would be back in the error: seeing things as you think they should be, not as they are now.

MT: So we're talking about attitude. We're talking about openness to new experience. I get that. But what about miracles? How do they relate to this attitude?

JC: The miracle happens in the now. It is an instant of complete connection to your brother. When you see the past in him, you are locking him there with your energy, and locking yourself in the past as well.

MT: A misuse of the mind.

JC: It is a grievous misuse of the mind, but all who walk the earth do it until they learn a better way.


7 (2006)  I see only the past.

I get an occasional glimpse, dear JC, of the meaning of this sentence: I see only the past. As Fritz Perls said, "Lose your mind and come to your senses." There is a place in my mind where I am enraptured with What Is, a timeless state of just being there. And then I lose it. The world collapses back into drab ego forms, and once more I see only the past. But even in the grief over losing something so precious, I know I've evolved, I will never be quite the same, and I know the next miracle of awareness will be given me soon.

7 I see only the past.

What is to see the Eternal Present? I think it's more a seeing with the whole body, the eyes only a marginal part of it. It is a skin sense, a vibration. I remember napping next to my mother on a warm, lazy Sunday afternoon. Her slow steady breath was one of the rhythms of life then, and I can still hear that comforting sound when I meditate six decades later.

We came from Love, and to Love we shall return.

8 My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.

Great lesson, JC. I really appreciate you, especially when you say, "[your mind] cannot understand time, and cannot, in fact, understand anything." This is so true, startling and gently humorous at the same time. Your quiet authority refreshes like a spring of clear water in the desert. It's about time I stopped lying to myself and pretending that my vapid stream of consciousness is Truth.

My question then would be, if I'm not thinking about the past or the future, then what's there to think about? What do I put in my head then? I am being asked to totally, completely change the way I operate.

JC: You are being invited to open up to guidance, that's all.

MT: But what a new world this ushers in!

JC: Not new, only forgotten. Enlightenment is merely a moment of recognition.

8 My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.

MT: I became aware, this morning, of how past thoughts keep the miracle away from me. As you know, medicine offered me a Draconian diagnosis of macular degeneration, and I've been struggling with it ever since. Medicine tells me the problem can only get worse with time, but I know my eyes are living, adapting organs. So I find myself between two worlds. My first thought as I wake is, how are my eyes doing today? Are those blotches growing? But in doing so, I bring up my "problem" of yesterday to see if it's still there.
JC: Wealth cannot be had by focusing on poverty. Love cannot be found by paying attention to wrongs. Healing cannot happen by giving power to sickness.
MT: It takes courage to look away from a problem. What if it gets worse? There's the urgency. Shouldn't I be doing something about it?
JC: You need do nothing. This is your challenge now--to drop your puny efforts and to trust that all things work together for the good.
MT: No matter what happens?
JC: No matter what happens.

8. My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.

What do I see? I see only the past. I see a collection of emotions, social learnings, restrictions, judgments. This is the thought of man that I learned so well. Now I have a chance to experience a bigger picture, a boundless reality so far removed from this shabby world I made.

9  I see nothing as it is now.

MT: I don't know what to say, JC. I think I know this lesson.

JC: But do you really? Or do you only rehash the past? Your perception is made of ideas that you first formed decades ago.

MT: Well, yes, I am rehashing the past. Which, you're telling me, is what I do when I look around the room. I used to differentiate between hallucination and perception, but I guess our perception is an hallucination too.

JC: And a huge one. Open yourself to the glorious unity of all things of Heaven and Earth.

MT: I long for a fresh look that shows me that. All I see is the usual drab world of dusty things. No glorious unity for me, right now. Sometimes I really empathize with Apostle Paul and his laments.

JC: For now it suffices to accept that what you are seeing is an idea, not the "Ding an Sich," the thing itself.

9 I see nothing as it is now.

JC: In order to attain real vision, you must give up your present way of seeing.
MT: I do want real vision. A moment ago, as I looked around as directed, colors turned brighter, the fall foliage outside the window more vivid, and my head got lighter!
JC: Believe in what is happening! The ego will seek to discount any changes in perception as mere illusion. It maintains that drabness is reality, anything else a passing whim, but it is not so. You need not dwell in the ego's upside down world.
MT: Today I see with the eyes of forgiveness. Today I accept only God's vision.

9 I see nothing as it is now.

No, because I see only my past experience with things.

This phenomenon seems to be related to left brain/right brain. The right brain sees wholeness, the left brain categorizes and gives names to things, thus separating them. For those who haven't yet heard of Jill Bolte Taylor, she's an inspirational and moving listen. A stroke knocked out a massive part of her left hemisphere, leaving her without much of this separating function. But she reports ecstasy, a fearless child-like state of bliss, along with the preoccupation of getting along in a left-hemisphere world. She has appeared several times in Oprah, and gave a presentation to TED.

10 My thoughts do not mean anything.

This is a point I touched on lightly in earlier study of the Lessons. My attitude was, ok already, let's get on with the real material! Enough pussyfooting around! But you put so much emphasis on this concept, I know you must judge it crucial to everything that follows. Guess you'd want me to highlight it in fluorescent yellow, to make it into a throbbing popup ad.

JC: It is essential, like the air you breathe. We've already dedicated nine days to this undoing, and will continue to reinforce it throughout the year.

MT: It is a tool to quiet my overactive mind, isn't it.

JC: Yes. You asked for such a tool a long way back, and here it is.

MT: Right in the beginning. You snuck it in when I wasn't looking.

JC: So today, return to this basic idea: your thoughts do not mean anything. They are as devoid of meaning as the things and bodies you've made up to populate your world.

10 My thoughts do not mean anything.

MT: What happened to Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum"? Was that the beginning of the separation?
JC: More like the beginning of the end of separation. Descartes put the ego's argument on the table for all to see. It was one man's opinion. It was now open to question.
MT: What do you say to me, right now? The assumption we live by is that "If I don't think, I don't exist." That's the fear of annihilation in one sentence. I know the fear of meditation, of being silent--I avoid it at all costs. When I'm not talking to someone, my mind continuously spews out its internal dialogue. What do you say to my fear of meditation?
JC: You know what I say to that. You fear God. You fear love. You believe that the boundless love of God would be the end of you.
MT: But I am tired of me, JC. This personal me is tired and worn and bedraggled. I would just as soon put me to rest!
JC: Why not today? Your day may be spent, once again, measuring life in coffeespoons, filled with meaningless thoughts. Or it can be the glorious day you let God in.


10 My thoughts do not mean anything.

Sobering thought, no?! Our heads are full of garbage! Thoughts of past and future, vengeance, false pride, thoughts of how to manage special relationships, fear thoughts and thoughts of (brief) happiness expected from new car/new bling/new mate. They are all equally meaningless! They are thoughts about nothing!

Index of Lessons