Intention and Attention – How our Hectic World View Can Render us Ineffective


I was reading some of my esoteric doctrines on Hermetic Philosophy lately and ran into a wonderful bit on INTENTION and ATTENTION which I thought worthy of sharing.

Both words come from the Larin verb tendo which means “to stretch”. So we stretch inward or outward with our thought…


“Intention is the voluntary direction of the course of one’s thought toward a selected idea. Ideas are inside, not outside. Thus intention is the movement of a current of energy directed toward an interior point of awareness, an interior center of consciousness. It is a centripital motion, exactly opposite to the centrifugal motion suggested by the word attention

So we stretch inwards towards an idea- towards out internal center of consciousness…an inward spiral of energy.

“Attention is the direction of a current of energy outward toward some thing or condition in our environment. Attention has to do with location in space or time. It is our means of contact with the changing world outside”

Space or time. Time and space. Ahhh…yes the conundrum of our modern world. Time is tight and people are crowding our space. There is so much drawing our energy OUT that it is hard to look within. With the bombardment of our media and perpetual crisis after crisis, the outside world is front and center like an alley cat keeping us from our restful sleep. Everything is vying for our attention.

So which is the chicken and which the egg? Is the world chaotic because we are unsettled from within or have we been drawn away from our inner peace because the world is so distracting? No matter.

Either way the fix is easy (kind of). Directing our INTENTION inwards and making stillness the priority effectively mirrors our world of ATTENTION on the outside to us. In the end, there is no in and out. Its all just one. What we see “out there” is a reflection of our collective inner states.

The Universe came together in a single point before the Big Bang. It congealed then expanded. In Taoism, there can be no “in” without “out”. The only way we can expand is to pull in equally and that’s where the problem is. We live in an “out” culture. Even during the holidays when we are supposed to pull in and rest, we go to party after party and make appearances. We are constantly moving outward with our attention and have no time for meditation or contemplation because we’re on the roller coaster of time and space- the realm of outward attention.

So what now? Try this:

Sit with yourself for 10 minutes every morning. Take the first 5 to calm your mind by following your breath and bringing your intention inward. From here, its really important to count your blessings. We live in a world of “hungry ghosts” and we are always in danger of becoming one of them. Thinking more more more will make us happy. Take a moment to reflect on what really matters- your health, loved ones, roof over the head, and food on the table. Everything beyond our basic needs is a “want”. Not essential but cool to have. Remember this and smile.

Then, start to see your day the way you wish it to go. Feel it. Smell the smells, feel the breeze. Feel how you’d feel after getting that deal or acing that test. Find peace and create a mental map or IDEA of how the day will roll out and then go into the world. You’ll find that many things will vary but, as you get better and better at this, you’ll have much more control over how it unfolds. Be patient!

Waking up is an inside game. The hologram of the world is created within you. Have fun.

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