Attention Undoes the Dream which Hides Awareness

I wrote a newsletter recently about not over-indulging metaphysical inquiry. A Course in Miracles makes all kinds of claims about reality and while it’s sometimes useful to understand what those claims are, we are not called to defend or attack them.

Our ACIM practice is not about winning an ontological argument but rather seeing through the conditions that make the argument appear viable (which, yes, can feel a lot like losing the argument) and realizing, Bill Thetford-like, that there’s another way.

If we go into the metaphysical claims the Course makes – like, say, that the world is not real – then the truth of the claim is in the experience, not the description or explanation of it. It’s there or it’s not. Either way, there’s nothing to argue about.

It is like being at the beach. You can love it or hate it – describe and explain it any way you like – but you can not say that you are skiing in Tahoe.

The world is a complex sensory experience, with a concurrent metatextual narrative, but we can’t actually say is it real or unreal because the one doing the observing is inherent in what is observed.

I understand how “the observer and the observed are one” feels clichΓ© but it does help to see clearly how there is no way to be apart from experience in order to say it’s real or unreal. You’re it, no matter what it feels like.

Look at your hand. Now look at the nearest trees, bush or flower. Is the way they appear – is the way they are given – different? You value them differently, yes. And the value you assign to them changes your experience of them, sure. But the way they are given – aren’t they both just sense perceptions brought to a certain order based on the observer you are?

And isn’t the observer you are – the body, the self – also “just sense perceptions brought to a certain order based on the observer you are?”

You can love or hate the body but you can’t make it a sea shell. You can love or hate capitalism but you can’t make it world peace. What is the function of this limitation on creativity?

The suggestion here is that instead of worrying about reality – what it is, what it is not – just give attention to what is given and to how it is given. The birch tree, say. Or your hands. Or somebody else’s hands. How does the world appear? How is what appears separate – if it is separate – from the way it appears? Don’t read about it, don’t worry what a scientist would say, or Ken Wapnick or Tara Singh. What is your experience? Which is a way of asking, what is this experience? This this.

Giving attention to the world as an appearance shifts our inquiry away from judgment and towards the mechanics of attention itself. It brings us to the present moment. Judgment leads to arguments, wins and losses, penalties and prizes. But attention accepts a gift by giving a gift, and the gift both ways is itself.

You and I are not the authors of attention. It is responsive to us, but we did not create it. Therefore it is a gift to us. Yet its responsiveness means we can give it away – to a friend, a dog, a sunset. So attention is also a gift we give.

As we become more single-minded about the gift of attention, and more skillful in both its offer and acceptance, then we finally catch a glimpse of “who.” We can ask: to whom does the world (which includes and is not separate from the body) appear? Who is having this experience?

Of course, the answer to that question is easy, right? I am having this experience! Okay, then – to whom or what do you appear?

Whatever “I” is – this incredibly local but also cosmic experience of being – who or what is aware of it?

This is the juncture at which attention slips into – is elided by – awareness and discovers being and nothing, which are the last experiences and concepts available to us. This is where the search ends, like it or not. The good news is, since there’s nothing left for us to do, whatever gets done is done by God.

God takes you where you are and welcomes you. What more could you desire, when this is all you need? (M-26.4:10-11)

Believe this – accept it as true – and you will know again the peace surpassing understanding.

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  1. Most of the time my experience is centered within this localized body perspective. But the soul is our connection to God. If we know our own soul then we know God ; it is the pearl of great price. God is the tree of life and souls are branches on that tree. My perception can sometimes expand, but I am afraid to become the entire cosmos because I feel as if I would disappear.
    So we can become aware of our own thought processes, and observe the intentions and roots of those thoughts. At the deepest core of self is the soul with our truest intentions. I recall reading in ACIM that our true intentions can become distorted which then needs error correction. Also, somehow, when one person becomes healed a little bit, then it helps everyone else to also be healed. That is great news.

    1. Yes, the light that goes on in one mind goes on in all minds because there is only mind . . . this IS good news!! Thank you Edward πŸ™πŸ™


  2. That attention is a two-way gift is a helpful insight. So hard to slow down into the joy of simple attention, always diluted by the push to do, to think, to work, to make things better. Attention as a gift, even when it’s attention to fall leaves, given and received. That brings peace. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome, Deirdre. Thank you for being here. The dual-gift nature of attention truly does feel like a gift; I’m glad that resonates for you. For me it is peaceful but also opens the door to deeper levels of experience and awareness.


  3. How eloquently written – beautiful.

    I read this late at night after a hectic day. The last paragraph seems to really ‘pack a punch’. l wouldn’t mind if it were elaborated on slightly. lt seems to have so many levels and so much depth to it. ln any case, thank you Sean for sharing this with all of us…

    1. Thanks, Jayney. I’ll try.

      For reasons too complex to go into here, Eckhart Tolle has always mostly confused me, but this is a remarkably clear observation:

      The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not ‘the thinker.’ The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated.

      I read that years ago when the kids were still little. Jeremiah was a light sleeper and I often read in a rocker by his bed. In my mind, that’s around when I first read that sentence by Tolle. It burned through me like a thousand years of learning. I have to give him credit.

      When you recognize the “I” – when you become aware of the narrator, the one churning all these perceptions and thoughts into an actionable story – then you can turn and ask, okay who or what is aware of IT?

      This is dizzying because the looked-at is trying to see the looker or, to put it another way, the looker is trying to see itself, which is hard to do on a good day and possibly impossible on all the others. How does an eye see itself? Or a tongue taste itself? How can looking “see” looking?

      When you try to write it – when you try to put it into words – it’s really hard. A lot of talented writers and thinkers died on those wordy shoals. But the thing is, it’s real. It’s happening. Whatever it is – whatever is so hard to say – it’s happening.

      It’s this: this this. What other this could it be?

      So that is what I am pointing at – that paradox, that moment when the whole observer and the observed paradigm comes into play. And what I am saying about that paradigm, that paradox is, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to solve it, you just have to see it. God handles the rest. Really. Really really.

      Most people can get this intellectually. Right, God’s got it covered, check. But to accept it – which is to live by the Law of Love without condition or reservation – is another thing entirely. It can’t be taught, it can’t even be chosen. You just kind of stumble into it as an accident of your “little willingness,” as the Course puts it.

      It’s like you agree to wander blindfolded around a vast desert until you trip into the oasis at its center. And you always do trip into the oasis. But it takes a while. Lifetimes maybe.

      Except it’s not an really an oasis and there’s no desert and nobody’s asking you to wear a blindfold. And when you finally see THAT – when you finally understand you can’t CHOOSE to live this way because you already ARE this way – THEN you will know the peace of which all the wise ones – from Paul the Apostle to Brother Tolle – speak.

      ~ Sean

      1. Thank you so much again Sean. l watched Eckhart Tolle’s ‘Omega’ series of talks and they were brilliantly inspiring. Eckhart also talked on a video about A.C.I.M. giving a description and introduction about the book, which then inspired me to order a copy of it, which I am in no way disappointed in. lt is the most incredible, beautiful and mind blowing material l have ever read. l love reading it and am always trying to find ways of remembering reality within the dream, so that l can apply those principals and them.

        Thank you for taking the time to ‘unpack’ your closing paragraph for me, l appreciate your generosity and knack for writing.

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