You may well have enjoyed the comment Bernard made to another student in Lesson 23 as much as I did, “The first thing to realise, is that you are not a puppet, being moved around by a distant God who has a fixed plan for you…” This touches very much one the importance of free will.
In order to have free will we obviously need to have choices. In order to have choices we need to have things we can choose between. This is also very obvious, but the implications of this are not always so obvious. We need to have a range of thoughts available to us in order to choose between them. We need to have “good” and “bad” thoughts or we would not have a chance to choose.
This is very important because some people cower in fear that God knows about their dark thoughts and that they will be punished for them. Yet look at the stream of thoughts which pass through your mind you and you will see that most of them arrive unbidden. You can hold on to some thoughts and encourage them to stay around; and you can ignore others and they will often diminish, but it is more like steering a ship than driving a car. Strange currents can come along and push your thoughts in unexpected directions.
Some of the exercises in previous lessons helped you to see that you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are not the Real You. If a particularly ugly or negative thought comes up there is no need to take it seriously. Taking it seriously just gives it more attention than it deserves. Just know that you are experiencing part of the process which supports free will and know that your spirit is beyond and untainted by such thoughts. You might even decide to be amused by some of the ridiculous thoughts which arise.
Thoughts do not become “your thoughts” till you make them yours. They simply flow through your mind and it is up to you to decide which ones to invest in, by giving them your attention.
As much as possible you want to shape your thoughts in constructive ways, but it may not always be possible to do this. Just do your best and if you cannot get the “Crazy Monkey Mind” to behave itself then let yourself be entertained by it till you can catch a grip of it again.
If a particularly stubborn negative belief keeps coming up, and defies all your attempts to correct it, remind yourself “This is just a thought.” If, say, you keep seeing a thought like, “Life is difficult” appearing in your mind and you cannot seem to get it to stop. Just calmly reply with “This is just a thought.” every time it appears. There is no need to try and fight it. Just neutralize it instead. Another way to neutralize thoughts is to put the phrase “I notice that there is the thought…” before it, or “I notice that I am having the thought…” in front of it.
In this way, you become free to discover yourself as being larger than your mind and able to have true free will, which is when you can free yourself from living inside the stream of thoughts.