“Set an intention, place it between your brows, and let it go…” says my one of my teachers before every sound meditation.
“Wha???” I used to think to myself.
Meditation and yoga teachers will often tell you to set an intention for the coming practice. It’s taken me almost a year to understand what that really means and just how powerful it can be.
An intention is more than a reason or a goal or even a purpose for practice – although it’s all those things. It’s also hope and realization. An intention is a map you draw for yourself and then follow. But here, the map is the journey and destination all rolled up.
Am I making it more confusing?
In the past few months I’ve had a revelation. Not really a revelation because it’s actually something I’ve always known deep down: I get everything I’ve ever asked for.
In the years before my diagnosis I desperately wished for an escape from the stress and pressure of the life I’d built. All I wanted was to not have to work. I wanted Brad to contribute more but instead of being clear with what I wanted (to him or myself), I pushed harder to do it all myself. I worked and worked and saved and saved. Every hobby had to be monetizable. Every purchase had to be vital because every dollar spent delayed retirement by another few minutes. I resented Brad for any extravagance and tried to make up for it by tightening up on my own luxuries. I was overwhelmingly stressed by my jobs by managing the man I love without being clear in my desires to him or myself. My entire focus was on not having to work, on my resentment, on wondering why someone couldn’t take care of me for once while refusing to allow anyone the opportunity for fear it would make me weak. I was desperate for an excuse to have to let go without admitting I wanted to. I honestly had fleeting fantasies of getting a terrible illness where I had an excuse to release some responsibilities.
I got that.
I also get more mundane things. I intend for people to like me, to fast for the day, to be in a good mood or to make clear I’m not happy – whatever I intend, I get. Dare I say… manifest?
But think about it.. If I “hope” I don’t eat crap tomorrow, who knows what I’ll eat? If I intend not to eat crap tomorrow, then unless some stranger force feeds me crap, I won’t. By definition, if I do it, I intended to do it. This is agency. I have it. You have it.
All too often I go about life hoping for an outcome. Only when I intend it can I be sure it will happen.
In a lot of ways, this can lead to a “be careful what you wish for” situation. Before my diagnosis, I was living up to the standards of what I thought I should want: a high-paying job, an early retirement, a cared-for husband, the optimal way of accomplishing all tasks. My intention was to escape from the life I’d built but didn’t like without having to admit that it wasn’t for me. Even last month when I sat down to tell my boss about my new brain lesion with the intention of telling him I could no longer work, when it came time it was so hard to say the words “I’m going to focus on my health.” I felt hot shame in my cheeks and a heavy weight of failure. Nevertheless, my intention was clear and I was able to do it.
I finally understand intention. For me, it is a force that aligns what I think I should want or say I want with what I actually want. By being clear with my want, with my intention, I put my focus and attention on the right things to achieve it.
So before I start meditation, yoga, my day, the dishes, I am honest with myself about what I want to get out of it – not what I think I should want. World peace is great and sometimes on the menu but just as often it’s “to heal my brain necrosis,” “to open my hip flexors a little more,” “to have more energy.” As long as it’s honest then it’s in my control to make it happen.
World peace included.