Last year, somewhat like observing a large trout surface through shadowy depths of the lake at dawn, I realized that attention was a gift and because it was a gift, it could only be given away, and this “giving” was in the nature of true creativity. It was in the nature of love because it led only to choiceless awareness.
In the wake of this insight, I became sensitive to where my attention went. I noticed when it drifted and saw that it did not really drift but rather was abandoned, set aside, and like a stray dog attached itself to anything that offered it a little comfort and succor. This almost always led to disappointment, anxiety, grief – all the hallmarks of conflict.
The truth is, we have an inherent power to give our attention anywhere and to anything, and we can do this in loveless ways or in loving ways. That is the decision we make; that is the lesson to which we are brought by A Course in Miracles: it brings us to the point of seeing with clarity this point of decision and it places us with a Teacher who can help us make the choice for love.
How does this happen? Attention given in a sustained and loving way transcends itself and becomes awareness. The semantics are not essential – you may attach other words or concepts to this process and that is not a problem. There are many ways to see this and to share about it. If we are starving and someone offers us bread, we are not going to argue that the plate on which it is served is the wrong shade of blue.
We discern, then, that attention is capable of direction. It is subject to choice. It can go here or there. It can be ignored or cherished.
But awareness simply is. There is no good or bad in it, no becoming in it, no judgment in it. Awareness sees the fact and brings nothing to it. It puts nothing between it and the fact – no filters, no conclusions, no ideals. When we are aware in this way, we are discerning between what is real and what is illusory, and giving attention only to what is real because we see at last that there is nothing else to give attention to.
So awareness is what brings choice to an end: it undoes choice. The logic of this is impeccable: what is one cannot have many separate ones to choose between. But we want to be honest about what we know through experience and what we have learned by reading or hearing the words of others. We want to be in relationship with God, not ideas about God, and we don’t want to appropriate someone else’s relationship with God. It has to be authentic. It has to be real.
So awareness in the sense I am using it may not yet be the fullness of our experience. This is not a problem. For a while, we move back and forth between the disciplined yet malleable energy of attention and the boundless love of awareness. In time, the former is precedent to the latter. But in eternity, in infinitude, even attention is an illusion.
So giving attention – to thought, to thought’s movement, to thought’s origins, to thought’s agendas, to thought’s thoughts – is a way of fostering awareness. It is a way of entering the flow of God’s thoughts and leaving our miserly own behind. There is no way to rush this process and no way to force it. One simply offers the gift – over and over one gives – and awaits the moment of acceptance.