Attention Training

Where do I end and you begin?”

In the moment of meeting, boundaries touch boundaries, reactions trigger reactions and self-talk intensifies. Training your attention and becoming more familiar with your personal space helps you relax and know where you end and another begins. The more relaxed you are, the more aware you can be and the more you can touch another empathically.


Attention Training

Physically when someone enters your personal space, you map them out within your brain and they become a part of you in your brain. Centering puts you in contact with your perimeter to notice what is yours, what is not, how things land on you and what you send out.

Beneath the words we use and the stories we tell, every encounter is a play of very real non-verbal forces. Listening to another empathically can trigger your own pain, so you have to be able to tolerate emotional pain within your self first

The following centering practices offer a way to build your tolerance for the emotional pain you feel and to take full responsibility for its arising. It’s possible to change your relationship to your experiences by where you place your attention. Studies of neuroplasticity have shown that the neural network pathways of our nervous system change depending on what we pay attention to, and how often we pay attention to it. We can change our reactions by placing our attention on what we need.

The greater the reaction the greater the need underneath it.

Energy follows attention and what you focus on.

Energy will flow towards the needs we articulate because what we articulate directs our needs.

The following attention practices will help you visualize ways to stay connected and come back to being expansive and inclusive when you get knocked off center.Core Attention


  • Core Attention

Core attention brings our attention into our bodies and back to our self. This is the basic building block and foundation for all relationships. These two circles and the dots at their center represent two individuals at the perimeter of their personal spaces, at arms length.

Aikido has taught me the value of staying connected even through adversity. In any interaction, if at all possible, follow connection with the other because the more skillful we become, the better we can utilize whatever connection we have, even if it is very little.

Bumping up against another can knock us off our center. The practice of Core Attention, brings your focus into the center of your body while keeping contact with your partner. With practice you can learn to access their center from where your peripheries touch.

Monitoring the space around you helps discern whether you are physically safe or not. Knowing that you are safe, you can relax, center yourself, breath and be more aware present.


  • Empathic Attention

“If your heart is large enough to envelop your adversaries, you can see right through them and avoid their attacks. And once you envelop them, you will be able to guide them along the path indicated to you by heaven and earth.” 

Morhei Ueshiba founder of Aikido

Expanding your field, gives you more ground. Being centered and grounded, makes room for others.

This diagram is a visual representation of empathic listening.

Empathic attention is a skill that is inclusive, vulnerable and powerful. Once you have checked in with your core and then you can let your perimeter slowly begin to expand from your core until you include the other. One person centers and expands enough to fully include and allow the other person to just be.

By maintaining a centered presence you can stabilize the

listening field around you, expand it and make it large enough to touch or hold others graciously. Balancing your own field of attention without attachment or resistance allows unimpeded creative movement to any part of the interaction. Empathy and the basis for compassion is not about trying to change others. If we can hold the space above below and around as intensely as the feelings flowing from our hearts, then we can love in a compassionate way. You can ask yourself how high, deep and wide must I be with another and then adjust as need be.

When you center and open your attention to hold others with care, they are drawn into that calmness and stability. In doing so, you can get a clearer read on intentions of others, as well as gauge distances that feel safe or not. In this way, skillful vulnerability fosters connection and greater safety!

  • Merged attention

Merged attention comes in those moments when you loose your center and believe that your feelings and needs are the responsibility of another. Merged attention is when you loose your center and cannot clearly delineate between who is who. In this state, we blame others for our problems, morally judge them, and take what others say personally believing that others control what we need and feel. Merged attention is where we have lost our sense of center and lose our clarity about where I end and you begin. There is an unclear sense of “us”.


If you find your intention is to change others, you have lost your center. In this diagram, merged attention is represented as an oval with no true center. In this state, with 2 centers it is hard to discern who is who in the interactions. We are responsible for our own feelings. Where we forget this, blaming and shaming is common. It is easy to be seduced by merged attention. It is easy to be drawn to those outside us in favor of ourselves. Merged attention is when we lose ourselves to the other and when we base ourselves on the other. This can cause a lot of pain and confusion.


A Merged Attention Practice

To play with this attention state, take a partner and engage in a round of:

blame and shame,

power over oppressor/victim scenario

Give some heavy judgment to one another.

On a scale of 1 to 10 make the interaction a 2 or 3 please. Let the argument go

on for a minute or so and than notice how it feels. Do you have a clear sense or your needs. Are you taking full responsibility of your emotions? Do you feel centered?


  • Harmonizing Attention

Merging and harmonizing both have a moment of empathy. The difference is that with harmonizing attention your sense of autonomy remains intact.

It is when the other and I happen together in a moment in sync with our collective needs.

When we recognize that our deepest needs are the same, what’s to resist? In this moment, there is no longer attacker and defender.

When there are two of us and you see me as different, it is easy to want to attack. In this diagram of harmonized attention there is no center as a reference point.

It is a powerful state that once we become attached to it, we loose it. Athletes know it as “being in the zone”. A moment of peak performance where self and other, thinking and feeling become one. It is where our training kicks in and it is no longer about trying, it is about letting go, allowing and trusting.









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