To begin, begin. It sounds simple enough, yet this first step is where so many of us get stuck living under our dreams and goals. Create an intention, note the barriers or inconveniences of life, choose to step forward anyways. If we wait for better timing, more money, or a sign from the heavens, we may spend our lives waiting and not embracing the evolution we are capable of. Embrace the edge, take the step (remember it can be just one millimeter at a time!).
The following is a review of many of the concepts that we have explored this month around living a life steeped in intention. You will also find a list of some valuable resources that you can use to continue this work, as living our intentions is an ongoing process.
Intention vs goal setting, quality vs quantity.
Kriya yoga: practice characterized by rigor and vigilance toward itself, without attachment to the outcome, is known as Kriya yoga. -Yoga Sutras chapter 2.1
Setting intention is a broad guide towards a way of being, rather than achieving a singular goal, a box we can check off. In fact, you can never fully “achieve” your intentions, this is because they are linked to the present moment and how we meet that moment. The present moment is a constantly moving target, sliding into the future on the continuum of time. Because of this, intentions are often ongoing lifelong endeavors that we expand into through cycles of growth that ebb and flow.
What is an intention anyways? We get confused by the overuse of this word and the misuse of the word in general. Remember an intention is not a resolution or a goal, we will look at how to differentiate those in the next section. An intention is most closely correlated to the type of person that we want to be. It is much broader than a singular goal or habit that we wish to cultivate in our lives, though habits and goals fall under the umbrella of our intentions and can help us stay more connected to them in the way we live our lives. A state of being is something that is in a constant state of manifestation as it happens in this moment, and then in this moment, so on and so forth. When effort is mindfully applied towards the practice of living our intentions we shift into a more harmonious alignment with our values. It is a constant practice which is key to remember, so commitment becomes a cornerstone of living in a more intentional way.
Let’s look at some examples to get some clarity, and to distinguish between an intention and a goal.
- An intention might be something along the lines of being peaceful, patient, healthy, kind, loving, steadfast, honest, etc...
- Goals that would be related to these things would be having a daily meditation practice, refraining from yelling or snapping at others, running 10 km everyday, eating only healthy foods, saying only kind words to others, expressing our love on a daily basis to those in our inner circle, being 5 minutes early to all our meetings, speaking only truth, etc...
- Resolutions are usually focused on a past experience of ourselves that we want to alter, which keeps us tethered to the past as we continue to compare ourselves to that previous self we want to change. An example would be to lose 10 pounds, we ate a bit too much over the holidays and the exercise classes got cancelled because of Covid. Now we want to change the behaviour we had in the past. Remember the past is as close as 10 seconds ago.
Intentions can be the wind that fills the sail of action.
When this happens you make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values. This synchronization leads to a more easeful and fulfilling life. People's experience of us also correlates with who we really are and intend to be in the world.
The best way to start down this path is by focusing on our habits. When explaining the importance of habits I always like to revisit the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady wins the race, because being continually committed to taking the step, no matter how big, is how we move forward in our own evolution.
Creating habits that align with our intentions and sticking to them is a whole journey in itself, but one that is needed in order to stay in a working relationship with our guiding intentions. A great resource for this is a 2 part podcast with Brene Brown and James Clear on Atomic Habits. (You can find this podcast in the resources section below). It reinforces everything I know to be true about healthy habits, commitment, and living with intention.
V.A.S.T. The guide posts of expanding into Intentional living
-Vision: Becoming clear on what you are calling into form, what does it look like and feel like? What actions or habits does the kind of person you want to be participate in? And which ones will I start to incorporate into my own life? Discernment.
-Accountability: Who will you check in with, who are you accountable to or who am I trying to please? Clarifying questions to ask yourself: Does this action, decision, sentence, align with my intention to be ___________? If not, should I move forward?
-Sustainability: Living with intentions as a guiding force allows for a sense of integrity which preserves energy, rather than exhausting oneself with the rise and fall of excitement and disappointment that comes from a course of chasing goals. Can I meet myself where I am each day and go from there?
-Trust: Trust is an ongoing process, a consistent effort that starts as an inside job. In order to believe in our aspirations and ability to live into our intentions we must create evidence that the mind can fall back on. Learning to keep your word to yourself is the stepping stone to self confidence and inner reliability. Once we learn to trust ourselves we can also then start to actually trust others.
Mindset: Shifting to a positive mindset is key, we can be overly critical in comparing how we fall short of our aspirations and this can impact our ability to move forward towards them. When we embrace our own life as a practice of evolution of a single human in a given lifetime, we shift into a mindset that sees:
- I am working on it
- I am growing into
- I can
- I am making shifts one millimeter at a time.
Yoga does not bother much about changing the outside world. There is a saying in sanskrit that is translated to: As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind. If you feel bound, you are bound. If you feel liberated, you are liberated. Things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude toward them does that.
Resources From DoYogaWithMe
- Begin 2022 w/ Intention - Blog
- Let Go of Anxiety & Fear
- Calm in the Chaos
- Yoga challenge page on DoYogaWithMe
- Podcast on Spotify with Brene Brown and James Clear on Atomic Habits
- Year Compass is an excellent tool that helps you uncover your own patterns and design the ideal year for yourself.