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Intention and Attention in Contemplative Psychotherapy


Both the intention and attention that we bring to our experience has an important influence on the way reality takes shape.      In the words of one famous quote, “man’s mind mirrors a universe that mirrors man’s mind”.   We can literally watch this process as it unfolds,   the future downloading itself into our experience moment by moment.   

The processes of Intention and Attention converge when we listen deeply to our own process (or when we listen deeply to another in psychotherapy).  Even when there is no explicit intention to attend to one thing over another, there are always unconscious intentional currents at work which influence what surfaces in the mind.   There can never be a moment which is entirely free from the bias of our assumptions and views.

We can use the metaphor of pushing and pulling to explore these ideas.  If we think of the past as a push and visualization or intention as a pull, push and pull come together in the present moment by influencing how we interpret and respond to events in an ongoing fashion.  In the act of bringing awareness to the present moment, the next moment is already changed because of the alteration in view.

By and large, psychodynamic psychotherapies emphasize the causal role of the past in the present, with little emphasis on the shaping impact of awareness going forward.  It was left to New Age spiritual psychologies to fill in that vacuum with various forms of “thinking from the end”:  the fundamental idea that consciousness manifests that which it focuses on. Visualization, affirmation, positive thinking, and prayer, for example, are said to “create” whatever outcome is desired.    (This is said to be The Secret, although its actually quite widely known).  In metaphysical terms, energy follows thought.  

Attention and Intention converge in the shaping of our experience.




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