I do not perceive my own best interests.
In no situation that arises do you realize the outcome that would make you happy. Therefore, you have no guide to appropriate action, and no way of judging the result. What you do is determined by your perception of the situation, and that perception is wrong. It is inevitable, then, that you will not serve your own best interests. Yet they are your only goal in any situation which is correctly perceived. Otherwise, you will not recognize what they are.
If you realized that you do not perceive your own best interests, you could be taught what they are. But in the presence of your conviction that you do know what they are, you cannot learn. The idea for today is a step toward opening your mind so that learning can begin.
The exercises for today require much more honesty than you are accustomed to using. A few subjects, honestly and carefully considered in each of the five practice periods which should be undertaken today, will be more helpful than a more cursory examination of a large number. Two minutes are suggested for each of the mind-searching periods which the exercises involve.
The practice periods should begin with repeating today's idea, followed by searching the mind, with closed eyes, for unresolved situations about which you are currently concerned. The emphasis should be on uncovering the outcome you want. You will quickly realize that you have a number of goals in mind as part of the desired outcome, and also that these goals are on different levels and often conflict.
In applying the idea for today, name each situation that occurs to you, and then enumerate carefully as many goals as possible that you would like to be met in its resolution. The form of each application should be roughly as follows:
In the situation involving ____________, I would like _____________ to happen, and _____________ to happen,
and so on. Try to cover as many different kinds of outcomes as may honestly occur to you, even if some of them do not appear to be directly related to the situation, or even to be inherent in it at all.
If these exercises are done properly, you will quickly recognize that you are making a large number of demands of the situation which have nothing to do with it. You will also recognize that many of your goals are contradictory, that you have no unified outcome in mind, and that you must experience disappointment in connection with some of your goals, however the situation turns out.
After covering the list of as many hoped-for goals as possible, for each unresolved situation that crosses your mind say to yourself:
I do not perceive my own best interests in this situation,
and go on to the next one
Commentary by Allen Watson
Our actions in any situation are determined by our perception of the situation, and as we have been seeing for the last twenty-three lessons, our perceptions are, to put it mildly, unreliable. The lesson says it more bluntly: our perceptions are "wrong". There is no way, then, that we can possibly know what our own best interests are in any situation
The exercises for today are designed to bring four things to our attention:
We have all experienced this, particularly in making major decisions. Suppose I receive a fabulous job offer that pays me more money than I ever dreamed of and involves doing something I like. Sounds good at first. Then I realize I will have to relocate to a part of the country I don't like, I'll have to be willing to travel extensively, and I will frequently be required to work long hours and weekends. My mind suddenly becomes filled with all the conflicting goals. I may find I am expecting the job to make me happy, somehow. Perhaps I am thinking the job should provide me with spiritual companions. I'll have to leave my friends behind. And so on, and so on.
The more I have worked with the Course, the more I realize that this is not just a beginning lesson; it is something that applies to nearly every situation I get into. I am constantly reminding myself that I don't know what my own best interests are in one situation after another. I find it most important to do so when things seem to be relatively clear, when I think I do know what I want and need. If I think I know my best interests, I cannot be taught what they really are. The best mental state I can maintain, then, is "I don't know."
I can acknowledge my preferences, I can admit that I
think I would like certain things to happen, but I need to learn to
add, "I'm not certain this is the best." If I pray for something, I can
add, "Let X happen, or something better." I remain open-minded, ready
to accept that what I think about the situation may not cover all the
bases, and probably does not. That is the intent behind today's idea:
to open our minds to the possibility that we may not know, and may need