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What are Private Thoughts? 

Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited to bring clarification to certain points of the dialogue and for easier readability. For this reason, it does not match the corresponding audio mp3 word-for-word. However, the overall content and the expressed ideas remain unchanged.

Participant 1: I was reading something this morning that really hit me. It was miscommunication and it’s something that I’d like to talk more about because we talked a lot about private thoughts and private minds. I’m not sure that we’ve ever really gone into that very deeply as far as what that really means because I think it means more than having a secret. I have a sense that it goes a lot deeper than I even realize.

‘You believe you can harbor thoughts you would not share, and that salvation lies in keeping thoughts to yourself alone. 4 For in private thoughts, known only to yourself, you think you find a way to keep what you would have alone, and share what [you] would share. 5 And then you wonder why it is that you are not in full communication with those around you, and with God Who surrounds all of you together’ T-15.IV.7

I just thought it would be helpful maybe to have a session on it or to at least begin to address what he’s really talking about when he goes into private thoughts. What that really means. Because I think that relates too to getting caught up in the ego stuff. You know, private thoughts, personal thoughts; I would guess that they’re the same; thoughts of myself as a person.

Speaker: Attack thoughts.

Participant 1: That’s part of the type of thoughts but not all of them.

Speaker: There are some early lessons that really talk about private thoughts, lessons four and ten start off with the ideas of thoughts. Lesson four is ‘These thoughts do not mean anything.’

Participant 1: Can we maybe make a distinction between just regular thoughts and private thoughts.

Speaker: No, you can’t.

Participant 1: They’re all the same?

Participant 2: All unreal thoughts are private thoughts.

Speaker: Yes, that’s when we go into it deeper that’s what you’ll start to see, that all unreal thoughts are private thoughts. All specific thoughts; ‘my, isn’t this a lovely rainy day.’ Or ‘my, isn’t this a lovely sunny day.’ Doesn’t seem to be an attack thought necessarily or a particularly condemning thought but those are private thoughts. The mind is thinking in terms of specifics and it’s seeing a specific world which it’s describing, ‘my, isn’t this a lovely rainy day.’ or ‘my, isn’t this a lovely sunny day.’ In that private world that doesn’t exist because it can’t be shared. That’s why all thoughts of this world are private thoughts.

Participant 1: Any thought of the ego would be a private thought. It doesn’t matter if I tell anybody.

Participant 2: So, why is it called private? Not because it’s kept to yourself and not spoken.

Speaker: Well, everyone who seems to walk this world seems to see a world that seems to be an objective world which everybody lives in. But the world can’t be shared because it’s all private thoughts. They’re all specific. They’re all images. It’s a mind that’s forgotten abstraction. It’s a mind that’s forgotten pure oneness and now it’s thinking in terms of images and these images can’t be shared. We’ve talked about at times where there seems to be common elements. It seems like there’s agreement on certain things like colors and trees and roads. There seem to be perceptions. People talk about politics or a number of different topics or we’ve even talk about, for example when people go to movies and they come out and they have all these different opinions. Everybody seems to have different opinions about everything. Those are more obviously private thoughts. Personal opinion seems to be private because everybody has a different opinion on things. There are some areas of commonality or you could say areas of agreement. But there certainly are always areas of differences.

Participant 2: So, private is distinct from what can be shared and what’s perceptual can’t be shared and all private thoughts are perceptual.

Participant 1: Because they’re coming from the ego so, even if there’s agreement it’s still a private thought.

Speaker: Even if there’s agreement. Like our discussion in the logistical session, you could agree on certain things about having a meal together on Friday nights or coming together on what you could do about cooking the food or buying the food and using up the food and its all private thoughts. It goes much much deeper than that because the mind that’s seeing a world is seeing a world that is totally unique, the deceived mind. If you broke it down to the metaphor that there are separate minds or separate egos, no separate mind would see the same world. They all see a uniquely subjective world with many variations. There seem to be some common elements. That’s the hallucination because there aren’t private minds. So, to use your distinction about sharing vs not sharing; private thoughts cannot be shared and thoughts of God can be. That’s what creation is. That’s what extension is. That’s what it means to share the thoughts of God, to extend them outwards. They increase. Creation means ever increasing; but, not in the quantitative form. Increase doesn’t mean the same thing in heaven as it does on earth. On earth, it always has a quantitative component as if it’s multiplying or increasing in numbers and that’s not the meaning of the word in heaven.

There’s a paragraph in lesson ten that summarizes some of the main points in the first ten lessons. ‘They are not your real thoughts;’ when the lesson is ‘my thoughts do not mean anything.’ That’s from an ego perspective that we say ‘my thoughts.’ This is an early lesson.

In the third paragraph, it kind of summarizes some of the main points in the first ten lessons.

‘This aspect of the correction process began with the idea that the thoughts of which you are aware are meaningless, outside rather than within; and then stressed their past rather than their present status. 2 Now we are emphasizing that the presence of these "thoughts" means that you are not thinking. 3 This is merely another way of repeating our earlier statement that your mind is really a blank. 4 To recognize this is to recognize nothingness when you think you see it. 5 As such, it is the prerequisite for vision.’

So, there is an awful lot packed into that paragraph. The deceived mind thinks it’s thinking all the time and that it’s thinking meaningful thoughts. It thinks that the thoughts that pass through conscious awareness are important, and they aren’t. He’s saying right off the bat that they are meaningless. Outside rather than within; that’s the distinction. When Jesus later on says, if you could picture you’re mind as a vast circle covered by a heavy layer of dark clouds. You could think of the ‘surrounded by the heavy layer of dark clouds’ as all these private thoughts that make up the world. Surrounded by a heavy layer of dark clouds; that’s why they’re outside rather than within. Within this vast circle would be nothing but light and then a layer of dark clouds around the outside would be the private thoughts; the attack thoughts and then stress their past rather than their present status. Within this circle, the circle of light is the present. All of these private thoughts are the past. The earlier lesson # eight was, ‘My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.’ That’s what he’s emphasizing that all these thoughts that seem like real thoughts are just past thoughts which produce a past world or a script that is already over. Then, finally he says, ‘now we are emphasizing that the presence of these thoughts means that you are not thinking’. Your mind is really a blank. It is much deeper than communication ideas of holding no secrets. We have to go so deeply with this. That’s why when we have these sessions it’s such a precious opportunity to take whatever it is even if it seems general or less specified or if it’s a specific upset that’s going on, even if it’s a minor one. It’s so important to throw them out on the table. Not because that event or situation is important in and of itself but because we have to use everything to start to get aware of the process of sinking down beneath them and starting to see that in a metaphysical sense that they don’t mean anything. Not just the specific circumstance but all the thoughts of which the mind seems to be aware.

Participant 2: Yes, the other general feeling that I’m having is just exactly what this says. The whole morning when I tried to be quiet and meditate, my mind is just full of past and future, which is past scenarios. When I read a lesson and it was just one of those times when I just kept reading the same sentence over and over again. I had no idea what I was reading. It took me forty-five minutes to read two pages because my mind was just off. I didn’t even always notice right away that it was off on something.

Speaker: I think it’s helpful to just point out again that as we keep going into this stuff to the ego, it is frightening and it will employ all kind of maneuvers. Some of them we’ve talked about. We’ve discussed the whole idea of the logistics of just kind of moving out and orbiting around. It can seem a little safer to just carve out a niche. That’s what private mind wants anyway. It doesn’t care if bodies are together, whether it’s the special love relationship or a small little community forming so to speak or you’re coming together to come to enlightenment. The ego does not care if the bodies are together. ‘Very well,’ it says, ‘I’ll give you that much. You’ve done it. Got your bodies together under one roof.’ Often, people think that somehow it’s always greener on the other side, that if only I could just live with like minded individuals or I could just live with other Course individuals; this pie in the sky kind of thing, as if...

Participant: Everybody would understand me.

Speaker: Yes. They would all speak my language. Then the ego just says, ‘Very well then. Go ahead. Get those bodies mother goose and gather them all together under one roof.’ But the ego will say ‘keep the minds private’ that’s the whole thing that the deceived mind doesn’t want to give up. It likes that autonomous feeling. It likes that privateness; that uniqueness. It likes to have its space. How many times have you heard that phrase, ‘I need more space. You just have to give people their space.’ That time when we were down at the trailer we were doing all this digging in the garden or whatever and I remember you saying, ‘I’ve just got to go off into the woods. I’ve got to have my space.’ And really what the deceived mind is saying is it wants its space. It seems like it involves taking off and removing the body but really the thing underneath it is the mind wants to keep its own individuality.

I overheard a little bit of the conversation in the kitchen about the resistance to going down to the unemployment office and those are the kind of things when you are feeling even a little bit of resistance. I heard you both trying to go into it a little bit. But those are the kind of things we’re talking about taking it down, down, down to start to see what is really going on here. Because on the surface it can seem like, ‘Oh, I’m just trying to deal with it.’ Or it’s trivial. That was the experience at the beginning of the week. Later in the week, people were able to say, ‘I had never talked about a lot of this stuff because it just seemed too trivial to be bringing up in a group or wasting my time even talking about it.’ Those are things you’re expected to deal with. A lot of times, it seems there are so many of them that life would be one continuous session if you always were laying out every twinge of irritation and every twinge of upset much less the seeming major ones. It just seems like it would be full of it. But, for our purposes it really comes down to spare no thought. You have to start to see that that’s part of the egos system and that minor irritation is the same as major irritation. There is really no distinction between the two.

Participant 2: Is there something that you want to go into?

Participant 3: I don’t know. It’s just an irritation. I don’t know how to further describe it.

Participant 2: I guess I don’t think that going into it any deeper is necessarily describing it more than you did. But, it’s just a matter of getting underneath to what’s really going on. What the thoughts and beliefs are that would have those feelings be that way.

Participant 3: Yes, I understand that’s what I’m supposed to do and one of the things that I have is that I don’t want to feel like I’m being prompted or pulled into something. That I should be able to bring it up when I’m ready; so I don’t know.

Speaker: It’s a different mode of being and experiencing things. I know for much of my life I was very shy. I was very reserved. I didn’t talk to counselors. I didn’t talk to my family. My friends and I, we would get into some things. Things were never explored. It wasn’t until I got into college and began doing a lot of contemplation and exploration; going to movies; watching my emotions; reactions; tracing; starting to ask more and more questions about my mind that started to clear up a bit. But, I think the biggest fear for me was, I don’t want to dredge up all that stuff because there was a fear that it could be used against me. If I started talking about all these little upsets that I had here and there with people. You know the old thing about trusting someone enough to tell them something like that. The fear was, ‘Well, I don’t want to open up and tell all of my secrets or tell all of my issues and things that are going on.’ There was a feeling that somehow they could be used against me. That’s always an issue. That’s always the whole thing with psychotherapy is to develop a trust between patient and therapist so that there’s a sense of confidentiality so that one can reveal. That’s a much different mode to the normal on of wearing a mask and brushing things under the rug. All the defense mechanisms are made to keep ones sense of separateness and uniqueness protected, and to go in the other direction seems very unusual or awkward in the beginning. But, it’s essential to reverse.

Participant 1: And I think one of the differences is in a session when we might ask someone ‘What are you feeling or what’s going on?’ what I’ve come to see is that it’s more of an invitation vs. prying or somebody else thinking that I need to resolve an issue. It’s not coming from that place. That’s not the intention behind it. The intention behind it is to invite each other because we’ve all been in that place. We’ve all felt, ‘Oh, I just don’t want to go into this. It would be worse to talk about it.’ But, having the experience of doing it, seeing that it actually is very helpful, but initially it doesn’t feel like it would be helpful to go into it. From having the experience of that I’ve come to see that it has been very beneficial for me and like you say too, you have to be ready to do that. You have to be ready and willing to be in a place to do that because you don’t want to do it when you’re feeling like its being dragged out of you.

Speaker: One of the things that I heard you say and I think applies across the board. I’ve heard it so many ways and I remember saying it myself ‘I just don’t see why I have to deal with this.’ I know I’ve done it in high school with so many different things. At the time, I felt like life in general just seemed so overwhelming and there were lots of things with school and preparing for the future and planning for a career. I remember when I was a freshman going to the career development classes and taking all these different tests and looking into all these things and wondering, ‘what am I doing all this for?!’ It just felt so overwhelming and ambiguous and I’ve heard the same things when I’ve talked to teenagers and young adults. Often, when they deal with issues like pregnancy, it just seems so overwhelming. It seems like a complicated mess and in general everyone who comes to this world has gone through that same thing. They have made a series of decisions that have brought them to that place; decisions about everything. When I decided to go to college that was a decision; there came a point in college where I remember my parents saying, ‘Well, from this point on we’ve decided that we’re not going to pay for your college.’ So, I had to make a decision at that point. Do I continue on? If I do, do I try to do college and go to all the classes and work. Do I just take out a student loan and try to go through college that way and then pay them off afterwards. I opted for the student loans. You go along, it’s just like when you decide to get married, that’s a decision. When you decide to have a child, that’s a decision; when you decide to do anything in this world it’s a sequence or a series, like stepping into the dream world with all these decisions. Each one is another layer and the only way to leave the dream world is to kind of retrace your steps.

I know the feelings for a lot of adolescents when they’re feeling overwhelmed is, ‘I didn’t ask to come here.’ For a lot of people who begin the spiritual journey, they want to take the rope out really quickly; once you weave your mind in, you have to unweave your mind out of it. But you have to really be thorough in your retracing

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