Go out in gladness to meet with your Redeemer, and walk with Him in trust out of this world, and into the real world of beauty and forgiveness (T-17.II.8:5).
I woke sharply at 4 a.m. and by 4:05 was outside, leaving the eastbound dirt road for old potato fields slick with ice from sleet yet pelting my shoulders and face. The dog led me into the forest like she did in the old days, and we went all the way to the old feeder pond, making too much noise to catch deer or geese. Even after I fell in to my knees I didn’t right away turn back, for something in the darkness and stillness called to me, a thrumming deeper than blood, a wordless hymn into which I am gently disappearing.
Attention is alive. We are not its maker, though its application does rest temporarily in our dream of free will. The welter of Life – from thought to sensation to image to the cold pond sucking at my thighs – is naturally lit by the interior lantern of attention, going where we ask it go, its rays falling where we say to them “fall.”
If we have a problem, we can inquire into its origins and resolution. If we fall to our knees in gratitude, we can study the pattern and movement of our gratitude. We can listen to the softening of the sleet to rain, or to eighteen-wheelers leaning on their jake brakes where 143 dips toward the dingle. When the light rises – pale and gray, a shroud enfolding pine trees and maple – we can look at it, and at what emerges dimly through it.
Nothing more than gentle and sustained attention is asked of us, because nothing more could be asked, because there is nothing more that we could give. When we stop insisting Life be this or that, when we stop setting goals and demanding outcomes, and when we stop hurrying as we could outrun stillness, as if we could really want to outrun it, we see that Life happens, and that we are included in this happening, and it is – all unto itself – sufficient. No – it is more than sufficient: it is lovely and peaceful, and within it a natural serious happiness becomes us.
I am not saying that we won’t do things: write poems, feed children, volunteer at the shelter, teach classes, paint flowers, run for President, go to the bank. We can and we will. Rather, I am saying that our perception of those activities will soften. It won’t linger on them. They will no longer be held as critical manifestations of a personal self, but simply as eddies and swirls in the flow of Life, no one of them more important or beneficial than another.
Attention reveals this radical equality to us: attention restores what is always given to our awareness. This is what A Course in Miracles means when it talks about our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
The great Transformer of perception will undertake with you the careful searching of the mind that made this world, and uncover to you the seeming reasons for you making it. In the light of the real reason that He brings, as you follow Him, He will show you there is no reason here at all. Each spot his reason touches grows alive with beauty, and what seemed ugly in the darkness of your lack of reasons is suddenly released to loveliness. Not even what the Son of God made in insanity could be without a hidden spark of beauty that gentleness could release (T-17.II.5:2-5).
I walk each day in order give attention to this “hidden spark of beauty.” It arrives in my thoughts, my fantasies, the sensations attending the body I am briefly making use of, and the landscape through which the body briefly perceives the flowing and flowering of Life. To see it truly is to see that it is given – it is already here, right now – and nothing can be either added nor taken away. No thought, no dream, no event, no person could possibly be other than it is right now. How liberating to perceive this, even for a moment! The insight touches us and the light remains.
And having been so touched – which is to be illuminated, enlightened – how happy we become. We know that there is only one blessing, and that it is inherent and inclusive, a natural radiance transcending even our most ambitious dreams of what love and truth might be.
This loveliness is not a fantasy. It is the real world, bright and clean and new, with everything sparkling under the open sun (T-17.II.2:1-2).
This is the gift that our attention reveals to us: the Given that never leaves, never changes, and is never conditional. Thus my walks each morning, as far as the dog will go, and thus my writing each morning, as wordy as wordiness allows, and thus your beautiful holy presence reading – which is not a solitary enterprise at all but a joining, a completing – for which I am never not thankful, and never not croaking these clumsy sentences of praise.