by Mary Noble Garcia

As I work toward my teacher certification in the Enneagram, I have been reflecting on the ways I am called to live more authentically.  A quote by teacher and author, Helen Palmer, inspires me: “The power to choose where we place our attention may be our only freedom.”  This freedom is rooted in the ability to pause and make space in the present moment to experience the fullness of life in both its beauty and its difficulties. 

The life of Etty Hillesum, a victim of the Holocaust,  exemplifies the power of this freedom to choose where we place our attention. Etty’s story is told in a collection of her writings in the book, An Interrupted Life.  In the concentration camp, Etty chose to preserve both her inner life and her relationship with God.  She chose “not to waste a drop of energy” on her fear, knowing that it was a barrier to God. Instead she asked God to help her be resilient so she might live through each day (109).  In her wisdom Etty turned toward her sorrow. She recognized “if you do not clear a decent shelter for your sorrow, and instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge. . . then sorrow will never cease in this world” (97). Reconciliation of her sorrow was possible when she placed it next to her experience of God’s love. Shifting her attention between her sorrow and God’s love transformed the sorrow.   Amidst the horrors of the camp, Etty chose to place her attention on seeing goodness in her fellow prisoners, in the crowded quarters, even in the German soldiers. Her inner source of love gently touched and connected with the fear, anxiety, and sorrow in and around her until it dissipated, relieving the experience of suffering. Etty Hillesum’s story reminds me that the freedom to choose where I place my attention has the power to transform both my life and the world.  

Where are you called to place your attention?  How are you nurturing your connection to your inner source of love?  How are you called to bring that love into contact with suffering? 

You are invited to join me and Kay Vander Vort on Saturday, April 6 for the “Enneagram II Workshop: I know my Enneagram type, now what?” For more information or to register click here.