Energy Follows Attention

When I was studying for my certification as an authorized teacher of the enneagram with Helen Palmer, she would almost always say in the trainings, “Energy follows attention!” This has stuck with me since 1988, and I have experienced it as a fact. If I put my attention on writing this article, for example, my energy goes into doing the best that I can with the subject of my article.


What does it mean to pay attention? An old Zen story reveals the answer, as told by Charlotte Joko Beck:

There’s an old Zen story: a student said to Master Ichu, “Please write for me something of great wisdom.” Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: “Attention.” The student said, “Is that all?” The master wrote, “Attention. Attention.” The student became irritable. “That doesn’t seem profound or subtle to me.” In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, “Attention. Attention. Attention.” In frustration, the student demanded, “What does this word ‘attention’ mean?” Master Ichu replied, “Attention means attention.”

For “attention” we could substitute the word “awareness.” Attention or awareness is the secret of life and the heart of practice. Like the student in the story, we find such a teaching disappointing; it seems dry and uninteresting. We want something exciting in our practice! Simple attention is boring: we ask, is that all there is to practice?
– Charlotte Joko Beck from Attention Means Attention

Martha Beck also speaks about Zen in this way

Zen practice — basically staring at a blank wall forever — forces you to observe your own attention because there’s nothing else to observe. You eventually notice that attention is like a flashlight shining in a dark place full of infinite variety. We see only the things our attention lights upon. In other words, what I focus on determines what I see, which I think of as “reality.” I always get what I’m looking for. Or looking at.
Martha Beck from  I’ll Have the Rat Sh*t, Please, Shiny Objects Blog

Depending on your personality type according to the enneagram, your attention goes different things. For example, the perfectionist (point 1) places his our her attention on what is right or wrong with a given situation. The devil’s advocate (or trooper, point 6) is concerned with scanning the environment in order to sense and prevent danger.

Where is your attention? To find out Click here:


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