"We live our lives on the tip of intention," said Jack Kornfield at a recent training. And yet, how often are we aware of our intention? Do we even have one?
Unbeknownst to me, I was introduced to the power of intention without realizing it. A couple years ago, the smoldering heat of discontent had become a raging fever. I realized I was neglecting my own needs and desires because I didn't have the time nor the energy to tend to them. I reached out to a wise friend who recommended I read Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. Yes, I know the title sounds hokey but, to quote my former kindergartners, "Don't knock it 'til you try it." In the beginning of the book, Martha Beck suggests an exercise that was one of the most clarifying experiences I have ever had. In this exercise, she asks you to list tasks, jobs, environments, and people that drain your energy. Then, you plug your answers into a script (a bit like Mad Libs) and, as you read the script aloud, you are asked to notice how your body responds. Afterwards, you are asked to make a list of all the tasks, jobs, environments and people you find encouraging and uplifting. Again, you are asked to plug your responses into a script and notice how your body responds this time around.
The point of this exercise is to help us connect with our gut response, which you could also say is our intuition. Once I did this exercise there was no going back. This activity crystalized my aspirations and demanded my attention. I was now oriented in the direction of my unlived life, and I could no longer ignore its cry for attention. Up until this exercise, I hadn't lived with purposeful intention. Instead, I had been patiently waiting for Life to deliver the comfort and security of "my path" in an experience wrapped with directions, assurances and guarantees. You can imagine the clash of delight and fright when I came across Antonio Machado's poem, "Traveler, your footprints." In the poem, he writes "Traveler, there is no road; you must make your own path as you walk."
In Anam Cara, John O'Donohue writes, "Your life becomes the shape of the days you inhabit." If we don't live with intention then, as John Lennon sings, "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans." We miss out on the life that's here. We lose track of time and days become months and months become years. Setting an intention can hold us accountable to how we want to live, especially since we don't know how much time we have left.
There is a particular poem, which I make a point to read on New Year's Day and my birthday. I've also returned to this poem throughout the years on those days when my intention has been eclipsed by the demanding pace of every day life and the stubborn shadows from the past. The poem is titled "The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver. Her poem ends with these lines:
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I have nothing left to add other than a wish for you to live your life out loud! Thank you for your support and spending your precious time reading my blog. Happy Holidays!