If your attention remains focused on awake consciousness, then you remain always awake. It’s as simple as that. This is what it means to be awake. Your attention is no longer distracted by thoughts, feelings, situations and events. Although you are always aware of them and everything else that is happening, you are never pulled away from the greater reality, which is always here.
Most people, after they first become aware of their thoughts as separate from who they are, believe it is their thoughts that keep them trapped in illusion and suffering. But this is not true. It is not the thoughts themselves, but the attention focused on the thoughts that creates all this suffering. The thoughts themselves are completely harmless. Remove your attention from them and they seem to disappear into the background.
Test this out in your own life.
This is what happens when you go on an extended spiritual retreat for a week or longer. If it is only for a week, you may spend the first few days with your attention still being distracted by your thoughts. There will be some time when your attention is focused on the deeper truth and experience of awake consciousness, but your attention is easily distracted by your thoughts, as this is your conditioned habit. After three days or so, your attention remains more and more on awake consciousness, the experience of great peace, love, oneness, happiness without cause. Finally toward the end of the retreat your attention remains mostly on awake consciousness.
And then the retreat is over. You go home. You return to your “normal” life. The distractions begin again quickly. Within a day or two the wonderful experience of profound peace, love and joy seem to fade away. All that has really happened is that your attention has been distracted and you have allowed this to happen. You allow it because you have been conditioned to do exactly this.
This profound freedom, peace, love and happiness you experienced on the retreat is actually always here. It never actually needed a retreat. It just needed you to shift your attention to what is always here. And the retreat helped you do this. It helped you focus your attention on something that is truer than all the distractions. But you’re used to focusing your attention on the distractions. You’ve been trained to keep the focus of your attention away from Truth and onto anything but Truth.
Satsang is the same thing. Satsang is “living in truth” or “being in good company”. So during these few hours, we return our focus to what has always been here. And this feels wonderful. For some the mind is still distracting our attention. But the environment of Satsang is so focused and the energy of awake consciousness is so strong that it pulls the attention of most of us back to it even if it occasionally drifts away.
The more time we spend with our attention fully on awake consciousness, fully on presence, fully in Truth, the easier it is for us to keep our attention here.
For information about Satsang with a Living Awake Group click here: Living Awake Groups
For more information about Satsang and spiritual energy transmission: Satsang – Living in Truth
Ongoing Persistent Attention on Awake Consciousness
Eventually we learn to do this all the time in every situation. Even in the most strenuous physical exertion we can keep our attention in this spacious awareness that includes everything while still being aware of the body and its exertion. We don’t lose anything by doing this. It actually makes athletic performance far more efficient. It’s sometimes referred to as “being in the flow”. If our attention is limited to the body and thoughts about this exertion, we become overly self-conscious and have less strength, flexibility, power and stamina. Our physical activity becomes just as limited just as our attention is.
Meditation is not so much a vehicle for awakening as it is a practice for disciplining our attention. Most of us are slaves to our attention. It controls us rather than the other way around. This means we have become slaves to our thoughts and feelings. We have very undisciplined minds. What is called Attention Deficit Disorder is far more widespread than thought. For many of us meditation may be our first experience with true mental discipline. We received some training in school to keep our minds focused on the task at hand. But as long as we’re not studying for an exam or engrossed in a movie, our thoughts are running all over the place and our attention is running right after them. Meditation is the beginning of removing the majority of our attention from our thoughts and allowing it to rest in a much broader and less limited field of attention. The more we do this, the more disciplined our minds become and the better we feel. Eventually we are no longer controlled by our thoughts at all. We realize a freedom that has always been here, but through our limited attention we were unaware of.
The Value of Attention
There are times when we do want our attention to be limited to a very narrow focus, at least for a moment. If we suddenly step on a nail and it goes through our foot, the sudden pain pulls our full attention toward our foot and we do what is necessary. If a truck coming toward us suddenly veers into our lane, we immediately focus our attention on this and take the appropriate action until the danger has passed. While our attention is focused on these things, the freedom, peace, love and happiness that is always here doesn’t disappear. It’s only that our attention for a moment moves instantly to something else. This is appropriate, good and necessary. But this is a momentary movement of attention. If we keep our attention on the accident we just avoided and play it over and over in our minds, this is completely unnecessary and keeps us locked in a dream world of thoughts.
Some spiritual teachers exude a very powerful energetic transmission. It seems to radiate from them. Many spiritual teachers have clever and interesting things to say. But with certain teachers it doesn’t matter what they say. They can remain completely quiet. Still this powerful energy is felt and affects many people. It is helpful to be in the presence of such teachers. The force of their attention riveted on Truth pulls everyone’s attention to this same Truth in themselves.
Often when we experience such teachers, our attention remains on our True Being for a period of time, but just as in retreats, our attention is soon distracted by the many other things going on in our life, especially our thoughts.
Short Moments Repeated Often
One way to deal with this Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder (SADD) is to repeatedly throughout the day remind ourselves of Truth, to return to this experience of expansiveness, freedom, peace, love, joy, to ignore our thoughts and simply be present to the greater awareness of what is without making any judgments or having any opinions about it. Even if we return to Truth for only a few moments before being distracted by our thoughts again, eventually the moments in Truth will grow. We are overcoming a lifetime habit of living in illusion. And this habit has been supported and reinforced by everyone we know. Don’t be hard on yourself. Every moment of Truth is a good moment. We can learn to turn our attention toward Truth in every situation. And we can learn, eventually, to keep it here. Let it begin with short moments. This is how we overcome Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder one short step at a time.
Any time and in any way we return to moments of Truth helps us. Whether this is on retreat, in meditation, in Satsang with an awake teacher, reading spiritual books, or watching videos, every moment is helpful. The longer we remain in each moment of Truth and the more this is repeated, the more our attention shifts from illusion to Truth. Eventually illusion no longer interests us. It no longer grabs our attention and our attention remains in Truth.
This is how we wake up.