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Attention is a Form of Acceptance

Attention is a kind of questioning, but not questioning as the brain and the egoic self understand it. The egoic self wants answers that do not exist and so cannot be found because its maxim is seek but do not find (e.g. T-12.IV.4:1-5). But attention is content to let what is be. It no longer projects its wants and uncertainties. Attention is a form of acceptance in which need itself ends and so seeking, too, ends.

But attention is not exclusive. This is a condition of its capacity to heal through undoing: nothing is left out. Nothing is forbidden. Whatever arises belongs. Whatever arises is welcome.

Attention includes even itself – that is, it gives attention to attention and to the gift of attention. Has it been made conditional – offered only to those people, places and things that the ego deems favorable? Has it excluded what causes pain and discomfort and fear? So long as it is conditional or exclusive it is not attention, but projection – another attempt, however veiled or nuanced, to make an ideal self against which the world stands in ruinous opposition. You and I are not that.

When we are attentive, we are merciful: unto that which we perceive, which is our brothers and sisters, and so by extension unto ourselves. Mercy is the willingness to offer love and succor in the face of grief, injustice and conflict. The merciful love because they know that love is all, and this knowledge is not of the brain. It is not subject to change. It is not intellectual. Language does not make it – rather, it consents to be temporarily contained by words in the interest of a greater and more fullsome release for all.

You who perceive yourself as weak and frail, with futile hopes and devastated dreams, born but to die, to weep and suffer pain, hear this: All power is given unto you in earth and Heaven. There is nothing that you cannot do. You play the game of death, of being helpless, pitifully tied to dissolution in a world which shows no mercy to you. Yet when you accord it mercy, will its mercy shine on you (W-pI. 191.9:1-4).

Do not hide from what appears before you: do not reject what appears before you: do not even judge what appears before you. Analysis is not our task any more: love is. And since we do not know what love is, then we must become willing learners: and the salient quality of all devoted students is their attentiveness. Only that!

Life offers itself to us that we might offer it to our brothers and sisters, to chickadees and bears, seascapes and landscapes, to starlight and space. It is given that we might give it – that is its law, that is what ensures Creation. Through attention we learn what is already done because it is always being done. This is the end of learning: this is the beginning of joy.


Allowed to Dream Together

In the morning I scrub the eggs of shit and straw and saw dust. Slice an abundance of not-quite-stale bread. It has been a lovely fall for falling leaves, but now my heart must travel the bare branches and raw winds that nearly killed the pilgrims. The path emerges is one way to say it. The path is always there and at last we see it, is another. How quietly I scrounge the cupboard, looking for cinnamon while everyone else is asleep. Coffee nurtures a familiar prayer! Well, I am getting on, or going by, as we all are. Find a way to say yes to those who want to help, okay? A little rain spits hard on the glass, and I step outside with the dog to pee. There is no path, really: there is only this. How lonesome they must have been, but for the God they struggled to please. In the end it’s better to let the truth be true. Soon it will snow, an old dream seeded with light, but one we are allowed to dream together. As hours later I make French toast, leaning over the warm stove, listening to the kids wonder who discovered maple syrup and how.



Suddenly – unexpectedly – the last of the month’s moonlight.

And suddenly, dawn.

One imagines the interior of the echo of church bells.

One allows oneself to be written anew, again.

Whatever happens, direct all your thinking towards the one God, she says.

We walk past the old feeder ponds as the sun rises.

Fingers of red light extend from the east and the water glows faintly where the wind veers across it.

I tell her I am losing faith in the mail, which is to say I am losing faith that anything will arrive that will save me.

She takes my hand in her gnarled own.

I am silent now but for tears.

The fishermen we pass look away.

“You have chosen to become a traveler on the road that leads only to Peace,” she says.

When I try to swallow my tears she tightens her grip on me, as if to say it is time to allow for crying.

The path is not easy, she says quietly.

Nor is it brief.

We turn slowly east, stopping to watch bass plash the shallows.

A heron steps gracefully through the water as if writing itself in the air.

You must give consent to the interior pilgrimage to where death does not exist and all beings in their wholeness are present.

She points to a birch tree leaning far out over the water, its pale reflection just visible on the rippling surface.

That tree was created so you would remember your sacred vow, she says, and for the rest of the morning is silent, still.


Witnesses Unto Creation

This is the miracle of creation; that it is one forever (T-13.VIII.5:1).

Eating is one of the "golden aspects of reality" to which I give the most careful - the most devoted - attention!

Eating is one of the “golden aspects of reality” to which I give the most careful – the most devoted – attention!

What we long for is already given: what we perceive as lost is here. Eventually the folly of seeking reveals itself and we resign in disgust, only to discover in our supposed defeat the grace upon which we were so long bent.

Creation cannot be interrupted. The separation is merely a faulty formulation of reality, with no effect at all (T-13.VIII.3:4-5).

What we call the separation is simply insistence that life appear separated: that it appear to us partially. Everything that is is laid before us – right here, right now – and we gaze on it and say “there must be more.” We say “there must be something else.” And thus a little space is made into which grief and anguish pour.

The separation is a confused way of thinking to which we are adjusted. We think its fractures reflect reality, but they don’t. A Course in Miracles offers a way to align our thinking with wholeness, which is Truth, which is simply what is without the inflection of judgment. A Course in Miracles is not the only way, but it can be a very effective way.

How often have I fallen to pieces – angry pieces, confused pieces, manipulative pieces – before love’s sudden presence! And what is there to be done but go on: slower and slower, as attentively as possible?

I give attention: and I exclude nothing from this attention. When thoughts arise that trouble me, to the extent I am presently able, I give attention to them. When images arises that haunt or vex me, the same. It is not just about loving chickadees and moonlight. It is not just about the feelings with which I am satisfied.

Nothing can be excluded because nothing is that isn’t God. Whatever offers itself to your imagination (gassho Mary Oliver), contains in it the essence of God.

Aspects of reality can still be seen, and they will replace aspects of unreality. Aspects of reality can be seen in everything and everywhere (T-13.VIII.3:7-8).

Attention reveals reality but often in ways that we cannot anticipate and sometimes in ways that we cannot seem to manage. How often have I fallen to pieces – angry pieces, confused pieces, manipulative pieces – before love’s sudden presence! And what is there to be done but go on: slower and slower, as attentively as possible?

Christ’s vision looks on everything with love . . . The golden aspects of reality that spring to light under his loving gaze are partial glimpses of the Heaven that lies beyond them (T-13.VIII.4:4, 6).


Don’t wait for a birthday to put a candle in an ice cream sundae . . . for that matter, don’t wait on ice cream sundaes.

We have to discover what it means to give attention. It is the simplest, most natural action one can imagine because it is effortless, because we cannot help but do it, because we are it. That is all we are going to discover: and when we discover it, we will see that we always knew it, because what else was there to know?

Thus we become – through the gift of attention – witnesses unto Creation, what is always given, and which giving cannot be impeded or halted.


Love Is Not Contingent

Some lessons are about letting go, but not all of them. Some are about holding on, or holding on differently. Decidedly? Discerningly. It’s hard to say when you’re in it what it is, which is why sometimes distance can nurture clarification. Last night I kept stopping on the old airstrip to watch the moon behind clouds, a little light, less light, then suddenly all the light one could imagine. Seems is okay, but is is better. Though she was not with me, she was with me, and for the first time in maybe my life I understood that love is not contingent on bodies. What a sweetness one encounters at 2 a.m., what a stillness. Perhaps now my hands can build that cabin, write poetry by the stove, and die without making a thing of it.



Often when it rains I walk further than usual.

The ponds are impossible to read, and the tracks of deer soften and dissolve.

To be human rightly is to go with fortitude, which is to insist on clarity.

And patience always abides in the heart of the willing.

How long must I refuse umbrellas?

Water seeps into cracks in my shoes.

The deer grow still as I pass, waiting.

The badger ducks behind a fallen maple.

And patches of bluets fold their violet petals, as if to say I am not ready to bear the grief they bear.

Obstacles are the mother of patience, she says when I return to her too quiet.

A hidden complaint is still a complaint.

We bake bread in the kitchen without talking.

Four kinds of flour, sugar and salt in our cupped palms.

We make tea while it rises and pray.

Or rather, she prays and I watch her, stealing glances with downcast eyes.

Her mouth moves a little, often folding itself into little smiles, as if angels are whispering to her.

In the forest I wanted to be done with it: the spiritual search, the form it has taken, the wordiness that seems forever to attend it.

She is always quick to say that our yearning for peace is a gift, as is the means to make it the singular fact of one’s identity.

She opens her eyes and says quietly, “patience is a form of charity and it is the only gift your brothers and sisters require.”

When the bread is done and we slice it to eat, I ask if she wants to bless it, but she is already handing it to my daughters – everyone is smiling and happy – and she laughs and says “it is already done.”


A Sort of Groove

When I walk the same trail over and over it is repetition only at the most shallow of levels. Only someone who has never given attention to the fields and forests could call it that. A chickadee in this pine where yesterday she was perched in that one – that is a new walk. Helpful examples multiply (they always do when we are ready at last to learn): fox scat, seed husks, deer tracks, cloud patterns, pond color, brook sounds, fallen leaves, the wind through pines, dew, spider webs, spiders, and the slant of the sun, falling just so. One perceives the divine et cetera! What I am saying is that this kind of walking is in the nature of polishing a piece of quartz. Day after day one returns to it with the requisite tools: patch of flannel, patch of denim, water, vinegar, a brush. And polishes, which is to touch the same spot in the same way over and over, intentionally. Thus, a groove emerges, and a gleam emerges: the stone interacts differently with light. One perceives then with clarity (which is a form of gratitude) the spectral radiance. Which was always there? One enters – becomes – a sort of groove – and a clarity – and a shining emerges. A shine? Yet “emerges” is the fitting verb. The light of which we are composed is real but only sometimes reveals itself. Is it becoming clear? We walk the way we do because we are bent on bringing light there, which light is both literal and not literal, as “God” is both a word, an idea signified by a word, and that – nothingness – from which ideas emerge. We are bringing something out then? We are polishing, joyfully. Morning after morning I eschew “again” for the familiar trail, discovering as I go is always here.