Readings from the Workbook
Lessons 1 – 7
1 - Nothing I see means anything.

  • LESSON 1

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

    Now look slowly around you, and practice applying this idea very specifically to whatever you see:

    • This table does not mean anything.
      This chair does not mean anything.
      This hand does not mean anything.
      This foot does not mean anything.
      This pen does not mean anything.

    Then look farther away from your immediate area, and apply the idea to a wider range:

    • That door does not mean anything.
      That body does not mean anything.
      That lamp does not mean anything.
      That sign does not mean anything.
      That shadow does not mean anything.

    Notice that these statements are not arranged in any order, and make no allowance for differences in the kinds of things to which they are applied. That is the purpose of the exercise. The statement should merely be applied to anything you see. As you practice the idea for the day, use it totally indiscriminately. Do not attempt to apply it to everything you see, for these exercises should not become ritualistic. Only be sure that nothing you see is specifically excluded. One thing is like another as far as the application of the idea is concerned.

    Each of the first three lessons should not be done more than twice a day each, preferably morning and evening. Nor should they be attempted for more than a minute or so, unless that entails a sense of hurry. A comfortable sense of leisure is essential.

2 - I have given everything I see all the meaning it has for me.

  • LESSON 2

    I have given everything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] all the meaning that it has for me.

    The exercises with this idea are the same as those for the first one. Begin with the things that are near you, and apply the idea to whatever your glance rests on. Then increase the range outward. Turn your head so that you include whatever is on either side. If possible, turn around and apply the idea to what was behind you. Remain as indiscriminate as possible in selecting subjects for its application, do not concentrate on anything in particular, and do not attempt to include everything you see in a given area, or you will introduce strain.

    Merely glance easily and fairly quickly around you, trying to avoid selection by size, brightness, color, material, or relative importance to you. Take the subjects simply as you see them. Try to apply the exercise with equal ease to a body or a button, a fly or a floor, an arm or an apple. The sole criterion for applying the idea to anything is merely that your eyes have lighted on it. Make no attempt to include anything particular, but be sure that nothing is specifically excluded.

3 - I do not understand anything I see.

  • LESSON 3

    I do not understand anything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place].

    Apply this idea in the same way as the previous ones, without making distinctions of any kind. Whatever you see becomes a proper subject for applying the idea. Be sure that you do not question the suitability of anything for application of the idea. These are not exercises in judgment. Anything is suitable if you see it. Some of the things you see may have emotionally charged meaning for you. Try to lay such feelings aside, and merely use these things exactly as you would anything else.

    The point of the exercises is to help you clear your mind of all past associations, to see things exactly as they appear to you now, and to realize how little you really understand about them. It is therefore essential that you keep a perfectly open mind, unhampered by judgment, in selecting the things to which the idea for the day is to be applied. For this purpose one thing is like another; equally suitable and therefore equally useful.

4 - These thoughts do not mean anything.

  • LESSON 4

    These thoughts do not mean anything. They are like the things I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place].

    Unlike the preceding ones, these exercises do not begin with the idea for the day. In these practice periods, begin with noting the thoughts that are crossing your mind for about a minute. Then apply the idea to them. If you are already aware of unhappy thoughts, use them as subjects for the idea. Do not, however, select only the thoughts you think are “bad.” You will find, if you train yourself to look at your thoughts, that they represent such a mixture that, in a sense, none of them can be called “good” or “bad.” This is why they do not mean anything.

    In selecting the subjects for the application of today’s idea, the usual specificity is required. Do not be afraid to use “good” thoughts as well as “bad.” None of them represents your real thoughts, which are being covered up by them. The “good” ones are but shadows of what lies beyond, and shadows make sight difficult. The “bad” ones are blocks to sight, and make seeing impossible. You do not want either.

    This is a major exercise, and will be repeated from time to time in somewhat different form. The aim here is to train you in the first steps toward the goal of separating the meaningless from the meaningful. It is a first attempt in the long-range purpose of learning to see the meaningless as outside you, and the meaningful within. It is also the beginning of training your mind to recognize what is the same and what is different.

    In using your thoughts for application of the idea for today, identify each thought by the central figure or event it contains; for example:

    • This thought about ___ does not mean anything.
      It is like the things I see in this room [on this street, and so on].

    You can also use the idea for a particular thought that you recognize as harmful. This practice is useful, but is not a substitute for the more random procedures to be followed for the exercises. Do not, however, examine your mind for more than a minute or so. You are too inexperienced as yet to avoid a tendency to become pointlessly preoccupied.

    Further, since these exercises are the first of their kind, you may find the suspension of judgment in connection with thoughts particularly difficult. Do not repeat these exercises more than three or four times during the day. We will return to them later.

5 - I am never upset for the reason I think.

  • LESSON 5

    I am never upset for the reason I think.

    This idea, like the preceding one, can be used with any person, situation or event you think is causing you pain. Apply it specifically to whatever you believe is the cause of your upset, using the description of the feeling in whatever term seems accurate to you. The upset may seem to be fear, worry, depression, anxiety, anger, hatred, jealousy or any number of forms, all of which will be perceived as different. This is not true. However, until you learn that form does not matter, each form becomes a proper subject for the exercises for the day. Applying the same idea to each of them separately is the first step in ultimately recognizing they are all the same.

    When using the idea for today for a specific perceived cause of an upset in any form, use both the name of the form in which you see the upset, and the cause which you ascribe to it. For example:

    • I am not angry at ___ for the reason I think.
      I am not afraid of ___ for the reason I think.

    But again, this should not be substituted for practice periods in which you first search your mind for “sources” of upset in which you believe, and forms of upset which you think result.

    In these exercises, more than in the preceding ones, you may find it hard to be indiscriminate, and to avoid giving greater weight to some subjects than to others. It might help to precede the exercises with the statement:

    • There are no small upsets. They are all equally disturbing to my peace of mind.

    Then examine your mind for whatever is distressing you, regardless of how much or how little you think it is doing so.

    You may also find yourself less willing to apply today’s idea to some perceived sources of upset than to others. If this occurs, think first of this:

    • I cannot keep this form of upset and let the others go. For the purposes of these exercises, then, I will regard them all as the same.

    Then search your mind for no more than a minute or so, and try to identify a number of different forms of upset that are disturbing you, regardless of the relative importance you may give them. Apply the idea for today to each of them, using the name of both the source of the upset as you perceive it, and of the feeling as you experience it. Further examples are:

    • I am not worried about ___ for the reason I think.
      I am not depressed about ___ for the reason I think.

    Three or four times during the day is enough.

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

  • LESSON 6

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

    The exercises with this idea are very similar to the preceding ones. Again, it is necessary to name both the form of upset (anger, fear, worry, depression and so on) and the perceived source very specifically for any application of the idea. For example:

    • I am angry at ___ because I see something that is not there.
      I am worried about ___ because I see something that is not there.

    Today’s idea is useful for application to anything that seems to upset you, and can profitably be used throughout the day for that purpose. However, the three or four practice periods which are required should be preceded by a minute or so of mind searching, as before, and the application of the idea to each upsetting thought uncovered in the search.

    Again, if you resist applying the idea to some upsetting thoughts more than to others, remind yourself of the two cautions stated in the previous lesson:

    • There are no small upsets. They are all equally disturbing to my peace of mind.

    And:

    • I cannot keep this form of upset and let the others go. For the purposes of these exercises, then, I will regard them all as the same.
7 - I see only the past.

  • LESSON 7

    I see only the past.

    This idea is particularly difficult to believe at first. Yet it is the rationale for all of the preceding ones.

    • It is the reason why nothing that you see means anything.
      It is the reason why you have given everything you see all the meaning that it has for you.
      It is the reason why you do not understand anything you see.
      It is the reason why your thoughts do not mean anything, and why they are like the things you see.
      It is the reason why you are never upset for the reason you think.
      It is the reason why you are upset because you see something that is not there.

    Old ideas about time are very difficult to change, because everything you believe is rooted in time, and depends on your not learning these new ideas about it. Yet that is precisely why you need new ideas about time. This first time idea is not really so strange as it may sound at first.

    Look at a cup, for example. Do you see a cup, or are you merely reviewing your past experiences of picking up a cup, being thirsty, drinking from a cup, feeling the rim of a cup against your lips, having breakfast and so on? Are not your aesthetic reactions to the cup, too, based on past experiences? How else would you know whether or not this kind of cup will break if you drop it? What do you know about this cup except what you learned in the past? You would have no idea what this cup is, except for your past learning. Do you, then, really see it?

    Look about you. This is equally true of whatever you look at. Acknowledge this by applying the idea for today indiscriminately to whatever catches your eye. For example:

    • I see only the past in this pencil.
      I see only the past in this shoe.
      I see only the past in this hand.
      I see only the past in that body.
      I see only the past in that face.

    Do not linger over any one thing in particular, but remember to omit nothing specifically. Glance briefly at each subject, and then move on to the next. Three or four practice periods, each to last a minute or so, will be enough.