Awakening through Attention

I think that A Course in Miracles requires a certain degree of attention. Perhaps a certain intensity. Undoing makes this one demand of us – that we not hold anything back. So we have to allow certain things to surface and make a show of themselves. Shame, guilt, fear. Images and ideas, opinions and feelings. It’s all grist for the mill of forgiveness. And if we are not paying attention, then our practice will wander. Some things will come up but quickly sink back down. Others won’t come up at all.

You begin to realize the truth of “the secret to salvation is but this: you are doing this unto yourself ( T-27.VIII.10:1).” The realization inspires new action: we want to do something different unto ourselves. We want the atonement. At a deep level, we become curious: what is atonement? Why am I torturing myself? How do I stop?

And so we resolve to figure it out, to make it happen. There’s nothing to do, really, but it’s still helpful to have that resolve. It includes willingness, at least a little, and that is all that is required. If we want to be saved – if we want to realize the illusion – then we will. Sooner or later we will.

Figuring “it” out usually means paying attention to what is happening in an interior way. Take anger. I get angry at so-and-so and instead of giving in and allowing a confrontation or an outburst I just watch the anger. I don’t hold onto to it – if I did, the outburst would still be real, albeit inside me. It is a kind of suspended animation almost. The feeling sort of hovers there. If we want to detach from it, then we will.

And that is very powerful! Very very powerful. Suddenly we realize that these thoughts and the feelings that flow from them are kind of optional. They aren’t really us. So it becomes a choice. We’re going to forget this, or forget to practice it, but that’s okay. More and more this will become our experience: that we aren’t actually these bodies, that we aren’t actually at the mercy of an external world.

We are questioning reality and doing it from the place of knowing we have been wrong. It’s not an intellectual exercise. It’s not just mental masturbation. It has a real intensity to it, a real earnestness, because we know we need it. We aren’t feeling adequate to the job maybe, but we still do it. We have seen that if we don’t, who will? So we pay attention. We try to see what happens. Where do these thoughts come from? What effect do they have? Where do they go?

It feels awkward at first but eventually we begin to realize that the attention has its own quality. It isn’t thought observing itself. It’s more free, more creative. People invent religions trying to explain what’s happening in this space, but it’s not necessary. It’s just necessary to see what’s happening, to pay attention to it. Calling it God or Jesus is totally optional. The semantics, oddly, are one of the least interesting – and least necessary – aspects of this process.

Attention means different things to different students. It depends where we’re at – what background lens (or lenses) that we are using to see the course. Which teacher or teachers we are reading. That sort of thing. And it changes over time. The point is simply to be present – attentive – as often and as intensely as we can. It is enough. Our attention has healing powers and brings to bear what is needed to awaken.

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