Has has anyone ever asked you what your intentions were when you did or said something? Or maybe when your child began dating, you asked their new friend what their intentions were with your daughter or son? The word intention holds such power because when we ask about intentions to another, the answers we expect to receive back are honest and sincere. So how do intentions look when we set them for ourselves to help guide our daily walk in how we speak, what words flow from our mouths and how we treat others including ourselves?
The word intention is defined by Merriam Webster as being something intended; an aim or plan. But did you know that is also defined as being a determination to act in a certain way and is also listed as a process or manner of healing of incised wounds. Hmmm, so it is safe to say that by deciding to act in a certain way, if the actions are healthy and positive, then they may help in the healing process of wounds we carry both physical and emotional.
Be careful, however, as setting an intention or a plan is not result or expectation focused and thus an attachment should not be established as to how well the intention was brought forth that day or how much you fell short in the aim. When I set a plan, being a Type A personality, I will admit that I tend to judge myself quickly and harshly on how well or successfully I completed that plan. However, in this journey, I am learning that intentions are wonderfully different as they are there to set you on a path releasing those expectations and judgements over how the plan comes to fruition. How utterly freeing that realization is!
Intentions are truly meant to encourage an open mind and heart to experiences, opportunities and interactions that you would least expect. When we are goal focused, we tend to have blinders up to reach that goal and are not open to seeing what is taking place on the sidelines because we are focused on the finish line. For example, when I first started long distance backpacking in 2010 and completed a 300 mile stretch on the Appalachian Trail, I found myself in some of the most beautiful places in the country. However, because my mileage plan for that day that I had created for myself stated that I “had” to complete 16 miles, then it did not matter if I passed through a quaint town with intoxicating smells of yummy coffee and hot pastries begging to be consumed after a long aching day of hiking. It also did not matter if I met another hiker eating their lunch by a refreshing creek soaking their feet asking for me to stop and eat with them…I just felt like I couldn’t stop and smell the pastries due to the goal I had set for that day. How completely unfortunate for me that state of mind I had then. In my goal to get to camp, I missed so many opportunities for spiritual, physical and emotional nourishment by passing up those seemingly “distractions” along the way.
In 2015, my inner world changed. While on a training weekend backpacking trip getting ready for my thru hike of the John Muir Trail in California, it finally struck me how much I had been mistaken thinking the goal was what was important and I needed to change my mindset. Realizing that setting intentions rather than goals was a totally mind blowing shift. As a result, I took 3 zero days when I thru hiked the JMT in 2016, making sure I stayed in all the well known resupply locations along the way just to stop and experience all that the trail had to offer. I talked to everyone I could learning their stories, I did side hikes along the way from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney that weren’t in my daily hiking plan and saw mountain views, animals and people that took my breath away…all of which began to help me re-prioritize and recenter focus on life’s journey within and outward rather than just focusing on completing a goal.
The concept of mindfulness and setting intention have a beautiful marriage when invoked together. Shauna Shapiro states that “our intentions shift along a continuum as we progress in our practice”. As a result, it then appears that as we become more mindful and present in the current moment, then our intention to be more present in the now and not worry about what happened last week or will happen tomorrow allows us to freely experience things that we ultimately would have “hiked” right past before.
What I love about setting intentions is that they can be reset daily. For example, my intention that I set for the day this morning during my yoga and mediation session was to make more meaningful physical contact with everyone that I meet….meaning hug the boys multiple times today, hold my husband’s hand when we run errands, put my hands on my parent’s shoulders as we are waiting to be seated for dinner tonight, etc. The human touch is a powerful action and the phenomenon of human connectedness that we all naturally crave is fostered with it. Now, if I forget to do one of the above, that is the beauty you must know of intentions…there is no judgement so instead tonight when I journal, the focus will be on the hugs given and how that simple intention grew the relationships rather than focusing on the intentions that didn’t happen for whatever reason. When intentions flow into action, they lead to more renewal than never having set the intention at all. Invoking intentions, long term or daily, help create beauty, rest, joy and awareness to your day and your spirit. You have nothing to lose and yet so much to gain.
Laurie Cameron does a great job describing how to set intentions if you are new to doing this. She outlines a few steps for a simple guide for how to begin:
1. Make it a daily practice. Intentions that speak to you today may be completely different tomorrow.
2. Listen to your inner wisdom. Ask yourself what matters most today?
3. Mine your joy list for intentions. Create a short brief list of activities that make you feel alive.
4. Set intentions for seeing, being and doing. Ask yourself how you want to “be” today. What do you want to see more of?
5. Use ink. Put your intentions on paper as reminders to gently bring back focus if you get distracted.
6. Share intentions with loved ones.
The word intention carries so much promise, hope and joy. Be open today by setting an intention that speaks to you and watch the beautiful blessings that come your way.
From my heart to yours…Namaste. Until next time….