Attention Undoes the Old Story

In Autumn the nights lengthen, as if God were an old woman sewing a quilt out of windy stars and shadows, each stitch deeper than the last. The gardens are flush, afternoons given to putting the harvest up against the looming cold of winter.

In Autumn an old hunger returns – the old promise of death and all-that-ends – and I look at it clearly as it passes before me in the form of apples and pickles, back yard fires pushing midnight, hen feathers and deer tracks – and it reveals itself as lovely, it reveals itself as a movement, and it reveals itself as a song I had forgotten I was singing. It lets me go past what I fear and resist. It invites me to do this.

When we give attention to anything in a sustained and gentle way we see beyond it – because it naturally dissipates – to what else there is. An opening, like veils parting, emerges. As when sometimes the kids and I lay in the fields and bust clouds – first the tiny ones drifting away but then bigger and bigger, all the way to towering castles of cumulus – and we laugh walking back to the house because we have remembered again that nothing real can be threatened and nothing unreal exists. See if it doesn’t work that way . . .

When we pay attention we expect a return because that is the nature of payment. But when we give attention, we are liberated from expectation and can simply stay with what is. So when a toad crawls out of the dust near the stairs, it is just a toad crawling out of the dust. Ursa Major is just a handful of stars in part the shape of a ladle, and the idea of bears lumbering through the heavens is a story we tell ourselves in order to remember that all provender is of God and God is not separate from what we are in truth.

When we give attention to the Holy Spirit – to the interior altar given us by God in Creation – then it is over. That is it. If it doesn’t feel like it, then wait a moment. It will.

So we observe the cucumbers we pack with dill and garlic into salty vinegar – then we see only the packing itself, which is a kind of movement – then we see beyond movement to the idea of hunger and sustenance, and then to the women who figured out pickling and survival and passed on what they learned – and we stay with the thought of them, and the thought they held, and it is like trailing thought deeper and deeper until it leaves time and space altogether and where are we then? Where does attention take us when we simply go with it, where it takes us, like holding to the tail of a kite in fall . . .

What lies beyond attention? Nothing lies beyond attention because attention is all there is. You sink into it and it has no bottom. You rise and it has no upper limit. You follow it for hours this way and that and it has no edge, no border, no boundary. It accepts everything and can always hold more. Our hurt feelings are the same to it as our healed feelings, and our favorite book is the same as the one we haven’t read yet, and the dead live, and the living never die. Attention is.

This is really what A Course in Miracles means when it teaches us that “to be in the Kingdom is merely to focus your full attention on it” (T-7.III.4.1).

The altar there is the only reality. The altar is perfectly clear in thought because it is a reflection of perfect thought (T-7.IV.4:8-9).

So give attention to this altar – revealed in that which reveals itself to you moment by moment – and give attention only to this.

You need offer only undivided attention. Everything else will be given you (T-12.V.9:4-5).

Everything else will be given because there is nothing else. When we give attention to the Holy Spirit – to the interior altar given us by God in Creation – then it is over. That is it. If it doesn’t feel like it, then wait a moment. It will.

In Autumn the emerging cold and dark urge on us the old human story: stack wood, put up food, stitch the seams, gather the quilts. Who fails of these things will die. And yet nothing real can be threatened. What we are in truth can not be killed nor starved nor frozen nor brought to an close in any way.

Attention to detail reveals not the details – the material details, the abstract details, the spiritual details – but the space in which those details seem to be exist and matter. Attention reveals the old story – the story of death, the story of sin – but quickly goes beyond it until that broken tale is the dimmest of dim memories, a single speck of dust lost in a thousand times a thousand swirling oceans of dust, and we are again what we are always, without beginning and without end: attention itself, which is perception, which is knowledge, which is love, which is.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Leslie August 20, 2014, 7:54 am

    What spoke to me most was your comment on giving attention vs. paying attention. The difference is so subtle but I agree: when you pay attention you do expect that something of value will be returned to you.
    Giving attention does not carry the same expectations- but this is really only true if one is attentive to the actual meaning of the words giving and paying! Not everyone is. We humans are really “sloppy” thinkers :)). Or perhaps this highlights Tara Singh’s discussion of thought as relative.

    • Sean Reagan August 22, 2014, 5:19 am

      We are sloppy thinkers! That is a great way to put it. I think in the end attention given to the external – chickadees, lovers, pies, politics – inevitably leads to attention given to what is internal: interpretation, first, and then what lies beyond (beyond choice even).

  • Annie August 21, 2014, 9:31 am

    You da man! Fantastic post!

    Busting clouds and stories of death ~ all in a days work 🙂

    Loved it!

    ohh, and I love peaches…yum!!

    • Sean Reagan August 22, 2014, 5:22 am

      Yeah, the peaches this year have been amazing . . .

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