Eckhart Tolle tells a story about a Zen master and his student. The student had been with the master for some time and was preparing to return to his home. The student asked the master if he could give him something to take with him, something to remember his teaching. The master asked for a piece of paper, wrote something on it and handed it back to the student. On the paper was one word “Attention.” The student was puzzled and asked the master if he could write more. He handed the master the paper and the master wrote something else on it. The student was surprised to find the first word “Attention” followed by a second word “Attention.” Now the perplexed student asked the master if he could write more. The master took the paper and wrote again. This time the student read the words “Attention, Attention, Attention.” The master sent the student on his way with his paper to ponder what he had written.
Have you ever been really afraid? I mean really afraid like confronting a Saber Tooth Tiger who is obviously preparing for a meal. Here stands this tiger and you are wondering if he will eat you. In this moment your basic desire to survive has you energized to give this tiger all of your attention. You are alive like never before. Every sense is heightened. You can hear his breath and your heartbeat. You can feel the breeze across your face and smell the tiger. You see every whisker moving in the breeze and can taste the fear in your own mouth. You are fully engaged and there are zero distractions in this moment. Even your mind is quiet. You are not thinking for fear that thinking will distract you from surviving. This is Attention! Attention! Attention! There is only one moment and one thing and this situation is it.
The divine only knows one thing because the divine is all there is. God is all there is and there is no other. The natural state of awareness is to be intently aware. The natural state of consciousness is to be fully consciousness. God only knows oneness because oneness is all that there is.
By design, the formless manifests as form to experience the formlessness of form. God becomes a character in a dream to know dreaming in a dream. Awareness becomes form to experience awareness as awareness. In our moments of Attention! Attention! Attention! we are experiencing our true nature…only one.
The illusion is that we believe we are only form. The illusion is that we are the body/mind. Isn’t it amazing that even lost to the illusion of form, formlessness is present.? Awareness, in one of these moments, becomes aware of awareness. Consciousness becomes conscious to consciousness. The senses of form give form to the formless. The situation produces an experience that gives context to oneness.
Even in our most primordial state, we know oneness. I think that is remarkable.
Now imagine what it would be like if the illusory limits of form are removed. What if we meet the tiger and do not fear death because we know we are immortal? What if you met the tiger and knew it was impossible for you to die, say like Superman? What if you removed the fear of a limited form and still had Attention! Attention! Attention!? What would that be like? If you could experience the intensity of Attention! Attention! Attention! and be at peace, not afraid, wouldn’t that be amazing?
It does happen. As a child, before you were inundated with inherited fears (tigers for example), your form was the interaction of awareness through attention with form. You could live in the present moment creating worlds and characters and experiences. Those were amazing moments. They were present moments without thoughts of past or future, good or bad, rejecting or accepting.
This is why rock climbers climb El Capitan. Yes, there is the ego pleasure of completing a task and accomplishing a great feat and surviving another dangerous event. The ego thrives on conflict, resolution of conflict and creating more conflict. But the true self, awareness, finds itself in every finger hold and every foot hold and every crack. The rock climber will comment on the magnificent accomplishment but deep down they have experienced life like never before. It wasn’t the adrenaline they craved. It was life itself.
I’ve experienced this in the cockpit of a Navy Fighter Jet during an intense situation like landing on a ship at night in bad weather. Awareness manifests through the limits of the form to experience the dynamic nature of life in the intense Attention! Attention! Attention! moment. Seconds, even fractions of seconds, count. Every decision is critical. Attention has to move constantly to instruments, to controls, to the environment, to the situation and so on.
This is why Jesus gave us the pointers he did. He was giving us the tools to set us free of the limits of the body/mind to experience our true nature as awareness in the Attention! Attention! Attention! moment. He told us to forgive and know that we are forgiven. Why? No fear of a superstitious sky-god and finger-pointing, wanting revenge (attention in the future or past). He told us to not judge. Why? No judgment means no categories, no retribution, no fear of retribution (attention in the mind and concepts). In the world of form, these steps are necessary to break free from the illusion of form. Then we are free to be what we are. We are free to unconditionally accept all things (love). We experience our true nature in the moment when we are not in fear of the moment. We don’t dwell in the past or the future. We are fully present in the moment.
The tiger experience is a clue. It is one that we have all shared at some point in our lives. We have experienced the oneness of the present moment. This is an incredible gift, a gift of grace to experience what we are even when it is motivated by the illusion of fear that seems to hold us captive to the illusion.
I challenge you to find Attention! Attention! Attention! in the present moment. Feel the aliveness in your body. Feel the intensity of your senses. Let the mind become quite. Feel the life that you are. Experience the divine nature that is the core of your being. From this no-place place, everything opens up. The world comes alive in your aliveness. The divine is experienced in all the myriad of forms that it can manifest.
This is what the master was pointing to. It isn’t something you can know intellectually. It is something you can experience and it is something that you already know as the awareness, the divine manifestation, you already are.