Setting an Intention for the Day

It’s one thing to end the day around the dinner table and ask every family member what was one great thing about their day. I do that, and have done so since my children were old enough to speak.

This week, I’m proud to say I’ve made nourishing meals and time to sit with my family each night. I love weeks like that. We unwind at the end of our long, task-filled days and bask in the glow of each other, of knowing we are loved, of sharing the moments in a milieu of acceptance and appreciation.

On Monday, I started a new ritual: to begin each day by setting an intention.

I already do this (sometimes) in yoga. But I don’t practice yoga every day, and I don’t set an intention every time I practice. It sometimes just slips my mind.

So on the drive to school, I suggested to the kids that we each set an intention for our days. And then at the end of the day, I asked each of them how they did with that intention.

Yesterday, Shaya called from school with a stomachache at 1 pm. I picked him up, knowing the ache was caused by some emotional trigger and not a stomach bug, and saw the almost-immediate transformation from heavy, hulking stress over my 6-year-old to easy breathing and the warm embrace of a mother’s love.

We picked up his sister and brother two hours later. Eliana trudged out from the school and said, “Today was the WORST day.” She proceeded to detail the travails of a substitute teacher who, in an effort to maintain control of the classroom, ended up being mean to the children.

Finally, Asher emerged, nearly overflowing with stuff to carry and a backpack that will surely create neck or back trouble if I don’t lighten his load and soon.

“Today was a horrible day,” he said. “There was nothing good about it.”

His minute-by-minute recounting of the school day took about a half-hour. It was filled with little misunderstandings and a general lack of awareness (at age 10, of course) of the best path toward personal interaction.

“In every group project,” I told him, “you have a goof-off, a leader and a few followers. Even in adulthood.”

The angst and anxiety melted away as the evening unfolded. Today, we drove to school and I asked what their intentions were for today.

Eliana’s was to not be bothered by the substitute. Asher’s was to try to work more earnestly with his group. I’m not sure Shaya had one, but I think coming to peace on the passing of the classroom guinea pig (the source for the stomachache by the way) was on the list.

For me, it was to approach every task with an even keel and a pervasive peace.

Every day, something goes awry because that’s just what happens in life. You can’t control outcomes or bumps along your path; they just happen and sometimes there is more learning in those moments than in the outcomes that emerge smoothly.

The minute I pulled away from school, my intention was tested. 

The phone rang; it was Asher, who forgot homework on the kitchen table. I could get it for him and start my day late or I could teach him a lesson of consequences. He gets that lesson enough, though, so I made the extra trek and delivered his books and papers to school.

Then a little blip on a client event came through in an email. Ah well. I responded with love and kindness, knowing stuff like this happens, and it will continue to happen as long as we engage with other people.

And now, I am starting my day – a little late, but it is all good. The piles aren’t too high on the desk. The office is peaceful. The sun shines.

Still, beyond all the blips and bumps, I caught a glimpse of a morning sky that took my breath away. Streaks of pink and lavender and glimpses of golden sunlight peeking from behind the leaf-empty trees.

Every morning, there is beauty. I think my intention was actually to notice the beauty in everyone and everything around me. At least that’s the way I articulated it to my kids.

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