Monday, 11 November 2013

Focus of Attention

Much has been said in spiritual literature about the need for one-pointed concentration on one's goal, the experience of unity with the ground of one's being. Yet there appears to be a contradiction at the heart of this process. To concentrate is to imply that I must "do something", but "doing something" implies an activity that panders to my Selfness, my ego. All I can do is nothing, except to become available to the higher forces and powers within myself.

If I try to take a more positive, active approach towards attaining that goal of unity, I discover something else, something quite different. I discover that I willy-nilly have my focus of attention drawn towards my sense of Selfness, and in so doing I identify with my ego-self. That movement, it seems to me, is a movement toward spiritual entropy and illusion. When I become totally identified with my ego-self I walk like a zombie in the house of the spiritual dead. Yet I must always be aware of my ego-self. Indeed, I cannot avoid that awareness. Detachment, or perhaps non-attachment is a less confusing word, is about breaking that addictive need to be with my ego-self and all its works, and remaining separate. Difficult though that is, it must be possible to achieve that separateness. Why else would the spiritual teachers exhort us to strive for that end?

On the other hand, spiritual enthalpy, the move toward ever greater complexity is a movement toward life and Being. But I do not know what my Higher Self is, that point toward which I must move to expand my consciousness, to increase my spiritual enthalpy. I have only some very vague, shadowy notions derived from my ego-self, but how can the dead judge the value of the living? Even my spiritual studies, for all their value, can be seen as an egoistic indulgence; all the imagery a way of deflecting my attention from my movement toward spiritual enthalpy and growth. Yet not all is lost; there is clearly a movement from above that draws my awareness upwards towards the ground of my Beingness. I must remain alert to counter the attraction of the ego-self, and also to feel the upward attractive currents toward my Higher Self, which may be God, or at least the way towards the experience of God.

Although I often tend to relate my conscious mind to my ego-self, or Selfness, that state of "out-there"- oriented self, in actuality that would seem to be an inappropriate relationship. My ego and consciousness appear to occupy the same field of view, but Selfness is not about consciousness. To be fully, truly aware and conscious I must detach from my ego-self and its illusoriness, for the ego-self is the state of death of awareness even if the ego-self would claim it to be otherwise.

I think the hope that my sense of Beingness can be raised out of the illusory realm of the ego-self and upwards towards the ground of my being, my oft-called Higher Self, lies both in the assertion, and the experience, that I can be raised from death, from the ego-state.  That is the only form of resurrection that has any meaning, or makes any sense, for me.


  1. Oh, Tom you do this for me so often and perhaps you get tired of reading "thank you Tom", but here I go again.

    Not going to ramble on and on, but I must share two thoughts that jumped out as your ideas washed over.

    God, infinite and timeless everything somehow also includes our Selfness, amazing as that seems. We are trapped in time, in a physical form, and yet I also believe that we are given glimpses of God's grace when we can quiet ourselves. How we do that must be individual, but for me it has to do with not ignoring all of the ego factors, but accepting or recognizing their presence then asking them to take a seat around the edges of the room. Patiently reminding them that 'yes they are important but they will have their say later'. Only when that is done successfully is there any chance for some real light to come in.
    The other thing I must include here came into my mind as that word 'light' for 'God' came to mind.

    One of the pivotal reads in my late youth was the book ONE by Richard Bach. There is a whole chapter that you can read online from it at
    Bach's illustrates the tragic difference between spirituality and religion so well.

    In that chapter, one declaration stands out for me over all others. It brings me hope that love is not a vain thing when I lose sight of that.
    "You are creatures of light, we read. From light have you come, in light shall you go, and surrounding you through every step is the light of your infinite being."

  2. Tom, my father had a theory he called The Focus of Perception. I'm not going to describe it but only suggest that there might be a different focus or angle of perception on the subject of ego-self and Higher self. As I see it (and it seems Halle shares my view) we are given an ego and a higher self not for them to do battle or for either one to eliminate the other, but on the contrary, to achieve balance. Because each has qualities that the other needs in order to find harmony in this life and to connect to a higher force beyond this life. If the ego often interrupts our serious search for higher consciousness, couldn't it be that it feels left out, like a child told to stand in a corner while the adults talk? And perhaps it has something valuable to bring to the process?

  3. Halle and Natalie; As you have both written along similar lines, perhaps you will not mind if I address my answer to you both.

    I have believed for a very long time that God needs us as much as we need Him. In terms of my post, that translates into 'my ego-self, or Selfness, needs my Higher Self (or God) as much as the latter needs the former.'

    The problem I have, and it isn't peculiar to me, is that given the chance, my ego-self takes over whenever it chooses to do so. In a sense it is rather animal-like in that it operates to its own untrained agenda, not understanding that there is 'a time and a place', and that it is not supposed to be supreme. I need balance between my upper and lower selves.

    There are many instances where my ego is of great value, but if it isn't put in its place, my gentler Higher Self risks being thwarted. I do not feel that my mature Higher Self (any more than an enlightened parent) wishes to do battle with my (childlike) lower self.

    Of course my ego will feel left out on every occasion it does not rule the roost. That does not mean I can afford to pander to its every wish and whim. I've been there, and it is a frightening place to be.

    My Higher Self is a product of the Light; it may well be eternal. My ego lives in the temporal world; there I suspect it will remain. Because my ego-self has a vital role to play does not mean it will last forever. Like my body, it is subject to change and replacement.

  4. That ego self, created and meant for this physical place could very well exist, and would be very happy to exist I feel, in total ignorance of any sort of eternal purpose.
    On the other hand, the fact that we are here on a temporary 'assignment' to a physical plane demonstrates to me that our higher and eternal self is not only aware of all, but has in some way created and guided all that we are here, leaving little doubt our ego self serves a purpose that is essential to the higher self.
    If I have it right, when we go into those frightening places, like a teenager often does, that is when we risk much and learn much. Those lessons are not always appreciated or noticed by the ego, but they are somehow central to the growth of the whole.

  5. Halle; I think your return comment is to the point, and one with which I have no argument. When I referred to the frightening place where my ego-self led me, I was thinking of the spiritually devastating three years I spent living with someone in an advanced state of alcoholism. I risked my sanity, and I certainly learned much, but my ego-self was over its head in trouble.

    In my hurry to complete my earlier comment, (dinner was being served) I omitted to thank you for your link to Richard Bach, which I will now read at leisure.

    My thanks for your ever welcome comments.

  6. What I understand of the ego is that it's a multi-faceted and essential part of our being human. As we age and gain some wisdom it's only natural that the egocentric attitudes of our youth pass naturally away. Our (considerably more) mature egos can't be done away with deliberately but must be allowed to wither naturally as we come to understand their ridiculous and painful nature and slowly stop giving them attention and life. It's neither a comfortable or easy process but the goal is worth continuing our effort.

    I really enjoyed reading Halle and Natalie's comments and your responses.

  7. Susan; I think I agree, at least in the main, with what you say. One thing seems to be for certain, and that is that the process of bringing the ego-self into right relationship with the rest of our being, is one which needs to be carried out with love and persuasion. Perhaps the best way to achieve that end is by demonstrating to the ego-self what it is up to, good and bad. In other words, "Know thyself."

    (And thank you for the Richard Rohr reference. It's good stuff!)

  8. There is a character who is (eventually) named Unity in Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett.

  9. It feels as if I were reading something sacred when I visit your site. At the moment I am no longer brave enough to make a comment, but always ready to pick some food for my thoughts off your posts, Tom.

  10. Ellena; That 'no comment' is a truly lovely comment to make. My thanks.

  11. Nothing to add here (thank you to both Halle and Natalie for their gentle and astute comments!) except that I've noticed that when we run up against paradox, as you have here, it always seems to point toward truth.

  12. Beth; It seems to me that Truth and Paradox are inseparable. Perhaps that is why the experience of Truth lies beyond adequate description, as does Paradox.