At the beginning of many yoga classes, the instructor asks the students to set an intention. They usually mean, have in your mind what you want this class to be like, what you want to get out of it, and try to train your focus on it.
This practice has never really connected with me. I’m there to do the poses, sweat a little, enjoy the music, and come out refreshed and centered. Usually, I feel grateful that I can take the time out of my day to attend an hour-long yoga class, so gratitude washes over me like a blanket.
And yet, I know intention is important. Mindfulness. Having a vision for what will unfold, while not being attached to the outcome.
Truly, things may not go as we plan, but having in mind a course of action and emotion surely makes it more likely that they might coalesce.
For example: if you have an intention when you get out of bed in the morning to enjoy your day, to see the beauty in every moment, to not whine or complain or bemoan your fate, then you’re more likely to do so. Every morning, I try to recite the Modah Ani prayer, which thanks God for giving my soul another day in this body on this Earth.
I may still grumble as I’m heating up the car and encouraging the kids to get a move-on, but I also notice the incredible brilliance of the sun rising across from my house, over the golf course, in shades of pink and lavender and golden yellow. I take time to notice how crisply cold it is and the perfect quiet of the white expanse of snow, untouched and peaceful, for as far as I can see.
It’s like that.
This thing about intention, though, can go so much deeper. Like for instance, with our work. Do we work because we have to earn a living or because we love what we do? Can’t it be both?
Unfortunately, so many people work because they have to, and so they trudge to an office and finish tasks and make sure other people approve of the work they do. Rather than submitting their entire heart to the task at hand and the workplace relationships and all that, it’s about getting the job done and keeping the job. Don’t piss anyone off, so you can stay the course, and drop exhausted into bed at night only to repeat the routine once again at dawn.
That’s no way to live. Yes, we have to work to survive, but we don’t have to hate our lives to survive.
I’m so curious as to how we all got on this treadmill of dread. That’s where an intention can be mighty helpful.
I sit down to work at my wood desk and I intend to achieve goals set with my clients. I intend to show appreciation for the work before me and the people who trust me with it. I intend to be gracious, whether work ebbs or work flows, for the opportunity to flow with it.
There have been times in my life when I’ve felt such despair, and I know it’s all a figment of my imagination. Sometimes, though, in the exact moment, it doesn’t seem imaginary; it seems real – because my worry and anxiety and fear give it life.
Then, I stop living in the real and the now and the here and I inhabit the what-ifs and the never-befores and the oh-my-gods.
But we don’t have to go there. Ever. We can simply be happy right now with whatever we have or don’t have, whoever is beside us, if we intend to be happy.
Think about it. What would you intend if you gave yourself the gift of time to create your intention for this day? This hour? This moment?