Do you live your life setting goals? Are you happy if they are achieved, but disappointed if they are not reached? Do you state an intention and simply hope for the best? Or do you set right intentions and mindfully work toward those?
When I first started yoga I had a goal to become more flexible. I soon realized that I often repeated my favorite poses, but avoided those that would reveal my weaknesses. I set out to counter the imbalance I abetted.
Still feeling as though I was missing something, I came across an article regarding intention setting. I began setting intentions for my practice such as: staying with the breath, letting go while I forward fold, opening my heart during backbends and finding the effort and relaxation in every pose.
Intention setting is what transformed my yoga practice from a great stretch to complete presence and awareness.
This practice transformed how I instruct my yoga classes. I no longer set the goal of pleasing as many students as I can. Instead, I state the intention to be fully present and analyze what energy change needs to occur. I open my heart, consciously breathe, observe, and then set an intention for the practice.
It may not always be what the students want, but rather what they need.
I began setting intentions in all areas of my life. Living with a spouse and three daughters most days my intention is to be a peacemaker. When making meals, my intention is to use my loving hands to nourish my family. When I start my car, my intention is to focus on driving. When spending time with others, I vow to give 100% of my attention. Intention setting became a game that I like to play.
A favorite meditation is sending loving kindness (mettā) first to self and then to others. I now incorporate loving kindness with intention setting. This turns the focus to right intention. By “right" I mean intention for the good of all, not for personal gain.
When working out, I strive to get stronger to serve others as opposed to maintaining an outward appearance. When donating blood, I reflect and send healing prayer to the recipient. I try to eat smarter for sustained energy to lend a helping hand. When faced with tough choices, my intention is to choose what causes the least amount of harm.
Since my introduction to yoga over 15 years ago, I have completely shifted the way I think. Letting go of goals and setting right intentions has transformed my life on and off the mat. I now state the right intention, do my best to work toward it, and the rest is left to the Universe.
Where to begin? Reflect and choose moral living, state an intention, and finally align your actions with your inner values. It is called practice because it is an ever-renewing process. You don’t just set your intentions and forget about them; you live them every day.
Photo by Tony Frantz