“… Attention can be thought of as the spotlight of awareness … Rather than the Self identifying with an experience, it is that our attention becomes absorbed in the experience …” ~ Peter Russell

attention absorbed in experience

We continue this series on Peter Russell’s book “Seeds of Awakening.” As we’ve noted before, it is one of the clearest distillation of  “perennial wisdom {without} the trappings of time and culture” that is very readable, engaging, deeply insightful and a treasure trove of very relatable “wisdom gems.”

Peter continues the exploration of timeless wisdom in the chapter titled The Self Does Not Identify with Anything where – as the title states – he asserts that the Self does not identify with anything … He unpacks this assertion by delving into attention – one of the focuses (or foci) of awareness or as he says: “… Attention can be thought of as the spotlight of awareness, focusing on one particular aspect of the breadth of the totality of our experience. …”

Seeds of Awakening is listed in our book library and can be purchased by clicking here. All italicized text below is directly excerpted from Peter’s book with his permission.

Here’s Part 1: Rediscovering The Timeless WisdomPart 2: Kindness, and Part 3: Effortless Meditation, and Part 4: Mindful Living by Returning To Natural Mind.

The Self Does Not Identify with Anything

It is sometimes said that the Self identifies itself with the ego, with thinking, or with the body. This is effectively saying that the “I” that is aware believes itself to be a separate self—a thinker, a chooser, a doer of actions.

But the pure Self, does not believe or think anything. It is that which is aware of the thoughts and beliefs that are arising—the “knower” of all this.

Rather than the Self identifying with an experience, it is that our attention becomes absorbed in the experience.

Attention: The Spotlight of Awareness

attention spotlight awareness

Attention can be thought of as the spotlight of awareness, focusing on one particular aspect of the breadth of the totality of our experience. Its job is to focus on things that may be important.

The attention has two basic modes of operation. The first is a relaxed mode where everything is OK. We are at ease, and the attention moves effortlessly, from one possible interest to another, with no voluntary effort or control—attracted to the sound of a bird, an itch, a moth flying by.

Then when we do notice something of interest our attention stays there for a while. We pay attention. Is this something I should be concerned about? Do I need to do anything? If so what? The focus of our awareness is now on the issue at hand, and the thoughts we are having about it.

When the issue at hand seems important for our well-being, the seamless whole of our experience is divided in two. There is “me”, the organism that needs to be taken care of, and there is the world around that may need to be changed in some way—or conversely be prevented from changing. A sense of being an individual self arises. It identifies itself with the body, and believes it is one who is thinking and acting in the world. However, as you begin to explore this sense of a separate self, you discover that it is just a set of thoughts and beliefs. It is another experience arising in awareness.

attention me world

It is like a character in a novel. If the novel is engrossing, we, the reader, can become so absorbed in the story, the ups and downs of the hero’s adventure, that we temporarily forget we are the reader of the story. Our attention is absorbed by the drama. Similarly with the dramas of our own lives, our attention becomes absorbed in our own hero’s journey—the challenges and opportunities, our hopes and fears, the tasks facing us, the choices we must make, the risks we must take.

In our thinking there is an identification with the character in our personal story. But the pure Self, the knower of all experience, has not identified with anything. It remains, as ever, the silent witness of all these shenanigans. It is simply aware of them as it would be of any other thought or experience.

So when we say we have become identified with the ego, with our thoughts or the body, what is actually happening is that the attention has become so absorbed by these aspects of our experience that they dominate our reality. For a while, the fact that we are much more than that does not get a chance to enter. We get lost in the plot again, and forget we are that which is watching the drama unfold.

russell that which is observing

_ _ _

Again, here’s Part 1: Rediscovering The Timeless WisdomPart 2: Kindness, and Part 3: Effortless Meditation, and Part 4: Mindful Living by Returning To Natural Mind.


Peter covers topics like Effortless Meditation, Forgiveness, Returning to Natural Mind, Not Resisting Resistance … all of which are/contain “seeds” that can blossom into awakening … so stay tuned for more of these seeds in the coming weeks …

Above excerpt (all italicized text) is from Peter’s latest book Seeds of Awakening and is published here with his permission.

Images (edited & Logo added): 1 & Featured) Tenby Seascape by TimHill, 2) Sunflower by manfredrichter, 3) Man by Pexels, 4) Meadowlark by Fotocitizen. All are CC0 Public Domain.
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