At the end of yoga class when my students are open and have worked out the kinks and unblocked energy and are feeling good, I invite them to set an intention. It’s a great time because they’re also lying in a quiet position and all the creative juices are flowing.
I invite them to think about their week, their day or the time until they’re on the mat again and set an intention. How do you want to walk through this time?
Intentions are not about setting goals. Not necessarily. I prefer intention setting to be a time when I think about who I want to be and how I want to walk through this life. Intention setting can help me accomplish my goals.
My goal may be to get all the clothes folded today. It’s a pretty simple goal and I’ll probably get it done no matter how I choose to do it, but life is all about how we choose to do things. We get so caught up in thinking about the events of our lives that we forget that really the things we remember are how we approached the events in our lives.
There are brides who can tell you every detail of their wedding day and there are brides who can tell you it was all a blur of guests and food they don’t remember tasting. Guess which bride planned an intentional wedding and had the intention of being present? And it’s not that either of them wanted to be distracted during their wedding, but without an intention it’s easy to go through the motions and not focus on what you’re doing in life.
So back to my pile of laundry. To be intentional I decide how I want to attack the laundry. I must not like to fold laundry very much or there wouldn’t be such an overwhelming pile.
Step One-be honest with yourself. Don’t worry about the shoulds or musts. Have awareness of your true feelings. Not liking to fold laundry is ok. I don’t have to have judgments about myself because of it. And in fact, till I wrote that statement I never really thought about liking or not liking it. To be honest with myself sometimes I have to close my eyes and take a few cleansing breaths. I just sit emptying my brain of everything but laundry. The answer always come if I can let go of my shoulds and have tos and just listen to how I really feel. Awareness is always the first step.
Step Two-set a goal. Am I folding the entire pile today or should I break it up? Since I’ve been honest with myself and admitted that obviously I must not like this job very much maybe I’ll just do half today and half tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll just get it over with and do it all right now. What’s the goal? I’m going to do it all today cause I’m sick of all the laundry baskets being full and tired of pulling out wrinkled clothes to wear.
Step Three-Set the intention Decide HOW I want to be. Do I want to use this as my mindful movement/meditation time? I can be conscious of each piece of fabric, how it feels in my hands. how it smells. I can focus on my breath and on relaxing my muscles and move with mindfulness. Or I can decide I need a little downtime and this is going to be a mindless activity and go to Hulu and watch a new show I’m obsessed about. Or I can slip on my headset and call an old friend and decide this time is about connection. And that can be my new practice. Every time I have to fold laundry I’m going to call an old friend and reconnect. So, mindful movement, turn my brain off or connection. What is my intention? And there are many many more options. There is no wrong answer.
Step Four-clear the way. This is a really important one. So often we just decide how we want to be and jump in and don’t think about the outside factors. So, if my intention is to make the after school pick-up time more harmonious I probably shouldn’t do it in the middle of all my other errands when I’m feeling harried and overwhelmed and I probably should make sure everyone involved isn’t starving. If I finish all my errands before the first kid gets in the car I can focus on hearing about his day AND if I’ve brought a snack for us, then we’re probably going to be less likely to snap or whine when we’re together.
So, with my laundry example, if I decide I’m going to get up extra early and do laundry at 4 in the morning, I’m probably not going to have a lot of people available to connect with. Especially since most my friends are also moms who value their sleep above the lives of their children. (well, at least their pets). So I need to clear the way for my intention to actually have a chance. If I think about my schedule I know that Tuesday evenings around 7 is a pretty good time. My son is in the tub and doesn’t need too much from me, my daughter will probably be in the living room on the computer, so whatever he needs she can take care of and I probably have a good 30-60 minutes that I can call a friend and fold laundry.
Step Five-be present with your intention. Is this working? How can I tweak it or if I really love feeling connected, how can I incorporate it into other aspects of my life? If harmony with my kids is really paying off and we’re all feeling better about our family time and I’m feeling less stressed, how can I be more skillful in other areas of our lives to have a more harmonious family overall?
How can I feel more connected in general? It feels good to connect with my old, faraway friends on the phone. Do I need to set an intention to connect more with people in my everyday life?
Setting intentions adds richness to our lives. I’m going to fold laundry one way or another and I’ll always have to pick my kids up from school. HOW am I going to do it? What do I want from the experience? Being intentional in my actions not only helps me be more in my life, but also helps me realize what I want in my life. More harmony and connection.
There are lots and lots of ways to think about and set intention. This is how I do it and what works for me, but I’d love to hear about your experiences with intention.
It’s Summer Solstice Friday! Have a wonderfully intention-filled weekend.