On Attention to Thought

When I say “give attention to thought” I mean literally sitting quietly and observing what is happening in the interior. A thought about moonlight arises and I look at it – does it have an edge? Where did it come from and where does it go? Can I stay with it? Does it respond to my direction?

The point of this exercise is twofold. First, it allows me to directly experience the truth of “the observer and the observed are one.” I am familiar with this through the writing of Krishnamurti, but it is not an idea that began with him, and it is not limited to him. It’s more in the nature of a fact, and it is a helpful fact to know in an experiential way.

In order to learn this – to experience it – I have to be able to perceive thought without judgment. That is, I have to let thought arise and be able to explore it without simultaneously saying “this thought is bad,” “this thought is shameful,” and “this thought is likely to be productive.”‘

For me, this is where A Course in Miracles has been especially helpful. I look at thought with the Holy Spirit and trust the Holy Spirit to guide me – I let the Holy Spirit do the judging. The part of my mind that longs to judge and separate steps back and allows the part of my mind that remembers God to lead the way.

Please understand that I am not saying this is the right way to use A Course in Miracles, or even that you should use it this way. I am simply talking about what works for me, what has been most helpful.

Sooner or later, when one is giving nonjudgmental attention to thought, one begins to see the way in which the looker – the questioner – is implicated in what is being seen and questioned. That is easy to write but hard to express: you really have to have the experience. It’s trippy at first but then it becomes natural; it’s just another way of thinking but one that is maybe a little more helpful because it’s not inherently separative. It perceive wholeness because it is wholeness; it’s not really trying to be or do anything else.

In other words, you become aware that thought is just looking at itself – that is all one movement – and the idea that there is a “you” watching or directing or whatever is just another part of that movement, neither more or less important than any other part.

[t]hought has come to attribute itself to an image of an observer, a thinker. This gives it much greater authority, because it then apparently comes from a being who should know what to think. On the other hand, if it’s just going on mechanically, it might have no more significance than a computer (David Bohm On Dialogue 81).

Most of us if we consider what Bohm is saying – that thought is essentially a machine, just reflexive – then we are going to resist it. Of course my thoughts matter! But that is just ego talking – ego insisting that its thoughts are reality. But as Tara Singh has pointed out over and over, thought is interpretative. It’s never the fact but always the perception, the interpretation of the fact.

So when we give attention with the Holy Spirit, we begin to right-size thought – we see what it can do and what it can’t do and – most importantly – we see that what we are in truth is not thought.

If you look closely at the lessons of A Course in Miracles, especially the earlier ones, they are often urging us to move beyond the shallow levels of thought to the thoughts that we think with God (see, for example, lesson 74). I am suggesting that what this means is simply that we let go of the egoic mode of thought – which is so heavily invested in and attached to the egoic I, the narrative I – and align our thoughts with Truth as God created it.

If we let go of judgment, and do so in a spirit of willingness to learn how God thinks, then quite quickly it will be given us to experience Truth in this way. Why? Because that is all that really is – everything else is the busy chatty smoke screen that we throw up. Stop giving attention to it, give it a while to dissipate, and see what remains.

Tara Singh gives a beautiful example of this in Moments Outside Time. He is taking a taxi through rural India for the airport, and the taxi breaks down. The driver leaves and there is Tara Singh, sitting by the road, clock ticking.

I observe anxiety entering into my nervous system and thought promoting horror. There is a part of the mind that is ever still; I can deal with emotion and senses (305).

That is a couple of wise and insightful sentences! He is recognizing the existence of anxiety – there is no denial – but simultaneously acknowledging that he has the inherent capacity to respond to it. He doesn’t have to be carried away by it; the anxiety is not what he is in truth.

That is why he can say that “to observe and be aware of what goes on within is one of the great gifts of Heaven” (305).

So when we give attention with the Holy Spirit, we begin to right-size thought – we see what it can do and what it can’t do and – most importantly – we see that what we are in truth is not thought. So we are no longer regulated by it, and thus, no longer regulated by what is external.

This takes time to learn and bring into application. It is not hard to learn, but undoing patterns and habits of thought that have built up over a lifetime – that have thousands of years of separative energy behind them – is not easy. A Course in Miracles is a way of saying that we are not alone – that Jesus has done this and is here now to be our model, and that the Holy Spirit is within us in a tangible way, and that it too has only the goal of helping us.

When this is all clear and operative, there is really nothing left but an exuberant gratitude, which of course is Love. “I stayed with the spirit of gratefulness all through,” said Taraji. “Since I would not deviate, all would have to be well” (306).

That is because all is well, because it was created perfectly. That is the gift we are learning to accept; that is the Truth which we are learning to align.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Deb July 17, 2014, 9:09 am

    Wow, did I ever need this reminder today. I ask for guidance and whalah!
    With gratitude, bless you.

    • Sean Reagan July 18, 2014, 9:57 am

      It’s always nice when that happens! I’m glad the post was helpful, Deb. Thank you for sharing!

      Love,
      Sean

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