This is one of the most commonly practiced lessons in the workbook. The reason is that it can be used in every single situation in which we’re upset.
On the surface, it’s hard to imagine how we could see peace in the midst of a challenging experience - especially if we are clearly being victimized.
How could I see peace when this awful thing is happening to me?
But what this lesson is teaching us - and these lines are right at the beginning of the lesson - is that “peace of mind is an internal matter. It must begin with your thoughts and then extend outward. It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises.”
Consider the metaphor of a movie theater. When we’re watching a movie that is particularly well-written, acted, directed, and produced - we get sucked in to the characters and the script. So much so that our emotions resonate with the drama. We totally forget that the real us is sitting in the movie theater.
In the same way, we’ve gotten totally sucked in to the drama of what we call life. So much so that we’ve forgotten it is not real. That it’s just a dream.
And that’s what the Course means by “I could see peace instead of this.” It’s the recognition that the real me is sitting in the movie theater - so to speak - watching an incredibly engaging movie.
As we practice returning to our mind (or, sticking with our metaphor, returning our awareness to the movie theater) - then we can use this helpful lesson any time we’re feeling depressed, anxious, or upset by remembering, “I could see peace instead of this.”
Lesson 34: I could see peace instead of this.
W-pI.34.1. The idea for today begins to describe the conditions that prevail in the other way of seeing. Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. It must begin with your own thoughts, and then extend outward. It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises.
W-pI.34.2. Three longer practice periods are required for today's exercises. One in the morning and one in the evening are advised, with an additional one to be undertaken at any time in between that seems most conducive to readiness. All applications should be done with your eyes closed. It is your inner world to which the applications of today's idea should be made.
W-pI.34.3. Some five minutes of mind searching are required for each of the longer practice periods. Search your mind for fear thoughts, anxiety-provoking situations, "offending" personalities or events, or anything else about which you are harboring unloving thoughts. Note them all casually, repeating the idea for today slowly as you watch them arise in your mind, and let each one go, to be replaced by the next.
W-pI.34.4. If you begin to experience difficulty in thinking of specific subjects, continue to repeat the idea to yourself in an unhurried manner, without applying it to anything in particular. Be sure, however, not to make any specific exclusions.
W-pI.34.5. The shorter applications are to be frequent, and made whenever you feel your peace of mind is threatened in any way. The purpose is to protect yourself from temptation throughout the day. If a specific form of temptation arises in your awareness, the exercise should take this form:
I could see peace in this situation instead of what I now see in it.
W-pI.34.6. If the inroads on your peace of mind take the form of more generalized adverse emotions, such as depression, anxiety or worry, use the idea in its original form. If you find you need more than one application of today's idea to help you change your mind in any specific context, try to take several minutes and devote them to repeating the idea until you feel some sense of relief. It will help you if you tell yourself specifically:
I can replace my feelings of depression, anxiety or worry [or my thoughts about this situation, personality or event] with peace.