No one tends to like this lesson—for obvious reasons! Two things can make its seemingly tough medicine go down easier. First, it is followed by a positive lesson designed to reverse its gloomy focus (Lesson 129: "Beyond this world there is a world I want"). Second, its real message is quite different from what we are likely to interpret it as.
We read this lesson and quite naturally think, "Oh, I'm being told to stop seeking for what the world has to offer." But that is not the real message at all. If you've read the lesson, can you see what is wrong with the summary I just gave? It really misses the point. Can you see how?
The real message of the lesson is, "Admit to yourself that the world has nothing to offer, and that you don't actually want it." Now that you read that, you can readily see, I'm sure, that that is what this lesson is really about.
Therefore, where we hear a message of sacrifice—"give up the pleasures of the world"—the actual message is one of ceasing to sacrifice—"stop sacrificing your happiness by seeking joy where you only find pain."
Notice this line from the first paragraph: "Believe this thought ["The world I see holds nothing that I want"], and you are saved from years of misery, from countless disappointments, and from hopes that turn to bitter ashes of despair." Now, we have all had years of misery. We've all had countless disappointments, have we not? We've all felt our hopes turn to bitter ashes of despair. Who wouldn't want to be saved from future years of that? This lesson is meant as a kindness to us.
One more observation can come out of the previous paragraph: We have all experienced the fact that the world does not deliver on its promises and our fantasies. This means that, in a very real sense, we have already learned today's lesson. Our experience has already shown us that the world doesn't deliver what we want. We are just refusing to admit it to ourselves.
Why do we refuse to admit it? Because then we think all hope would be gone, and that seems unbearable. So to keep hope alive, we tell ourselves that searching in a different place, from a different person, in a different way, will finally yield success. The Text asks a very pointed question about this: "Can it make sense to hold the fixed belief that there is reason to uphold pursuit of what has always failed, on grounds that it will suddenly succeed and bring what it has never brought before?" (T-25.II.3:3).
Why keep banging our heads against the wall? We are like a fly hitting up against the window pane in the thought that maybe after ten thousand failures, this time we'll finally get through. But all that happens is our head is getting very sore.
In the midst of all this banging against walls, something in us feels caged, imprisoned, far from home. Notice this beautiful metaphor from paragraph 6:
Pause and be still a little while, and see how far you rise above the world, when you release your mind from chains and let it seek the level where it finds itself at home. It will be grateful to be free a while. It knows where it belongs. But free its wings, and it will fly in sureness and in joy to join its holy purpose. Let it rest in its Creator, there to be restored to sanity, to freedom and to love.
Even though he doesn't spell it out, you can see what the metaphor is: Your mind is like a bird in chains, a bird that's been caged. It longs to be free. It longs to spread its wings and fly home, to Heaven. And that is exactly what it will do the instant its chains are removed and the door of its cage is open. Can you see your mind like this? Can you feel a deep longing in you to be free of all your chains, to leave behind all the world's disappointment and despair, and to fly home?
Try, if you can, to make today about that, about obeying that deep longing. And realize that the way to do this, the way to unchain your wings, is to finally admit to yourself the truth of today's idea.
Purpose: to let go of the value we have placed on the things of the world, so that our mind is free to experience what is truly valuable—our home in God.
Longer: 3 times, for 10 minutes
This practice is one of unchaining our mind so that it can fly home to God. We can see it as having two phases. In the first phase we withdraw the value we have placed upon the world. We withdraw all the purposes we have given things in the world, the purpose of satisfying our personal interests (as Lesson 25 said). This is likened to taking the chains off our mind. Unchained, it will then be free to spread its wings and fly inward to where it belongs, to its home in God. The second phase of the practice period, then, is this process of our mind flying to its home. It is a process of stilling and opening our mind, and letting it be guided to its resting place in God. Throughout this process, we will need to be letting go of our wandering thoughts, which, of course, almost always relate to things we value in the world. To pull our minds back from these thoughts we can repeat the idea for the day.
Remarks: Every practice period will shift your whole perspective a little, will withdraw some of the value you have placed upon the world.
Response to temptation: whenever you feel yourself valuing something in the world
Realize that doing so will lay a chain upon your mind. Instead, protect your mind by saying, with quiet certainty, "This will not tempt me to delay myself. The world I see holds nothing that I want." If you really watch your mind, you will find no shortage of subjects for practice. I also highly recommend taking some time to memorize these two lines. If you are really going to use them frequently, having them memorized is almost a requirement.