My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.
Purpose: To reverse how you see cause and effect in your perception. You think that the outside world imprints itself on your mind, causing your perceptions, yet causation travels the other way: from the inside out. What you see outside you is the projection of your thoughts. This is the first lesson that deals with this major Workbook theme.
Exercise: Three times (four or five if you find that comfortable and desirable), for one minute or so.
- With eyes closed repeat the idea slowly and casually, to reflect the peace and relaxation contained in the idea.
- Then open your eyes and look about, up and down, near and far, letting your eyes move rapidly from one thing to another. During this time repeat the idea leisurely and effortlessly.
- To conclude, close your eyes and repeat the idea slowly.
Remarks: Unlike most of the previous exercises, in this one you do not apply the idea specifically to the objects around you, naming them as you do. In fact, the repeating of the idea is not synchronized with the shifting of your glance. The two happen at different paces. The relative rapidity with which you look around is contrasted with the slowness with which you repeat the idea.
The lesson introduces "the concept that your thoughts determine the world you see" (1:3), a major theme in the Course. It is the reason for the famous line, "Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world" (T-21.In.1:7). The mind is primary and the world secondary. We believe that the world causes (or at least affects) what we think; the Course teaches that mind is the cause, and the world, effect.
The idea, we are told, "contains the foundation for the peace, relaxation and freedom from worry we are trying to achieve" (3:4).
In this idea is your release made sure. The key to forgiveness lies in it. (1:4-5)
Why is that? If what I see outside is being caused by my own meaningless thoughts, then there is nothing to "blame" in the outside world; all that is needed is to correct my thoughts. I can forgive what I see because it is meaningless. I condemn and judge only when I think I see something that means something-something bad or evil or terrible. But if it is meaningless there is no ground for condemnation. And if my mind is the cause of what I see, then how can I judge it? All I can do is recognize that, as the Text says, "I am responsible for what I see" (T-21.II.2:3), and choose to change my own mind.