#tbt: Pay Attention to Intention

This post originally appeared on June 3, 2015.

I spend a lot of time thinking about intentions.

I find myself watching people, especially my children, and wondering what motivates them as they move through their days and relate to one another.

I ponder the objective behind the inflammatory and divisive messages that turn up on social media or in yards around election times. 

I try to be aware of my own purpose as I act, speak, and think.

Honestly, I sometimes find all that mindfulness exhausting and frustrating, particularly when I feel confronted by someone else’s mindlessness or unclear intention. There are definitely times when being aware, being thoughtful, being intentional feels like a lot of unfruitful effort. There are times when I just react – and I often react in ways that later make me feel embarrassed or sorry. 

But the thing I’ve noticed, the thing that makes it worth the effort, is that the more I am aware of my intentions, the happier I am. My interactions with people are more satisfying, my life runs more smoothly, and I feel good about who I am. Spending a few seconds here and there throughout the day reminding myself of my lifetime aim to act from a place of oneness, for example, has a direct and profound effect on what happens around me. Remembering that there is no “us” and “them,” that we are all one big spirit stumbling around this planet in individual bodies, reminds me to be curious instead of judgmental, to be open instead of fearful. In smaller ways, remembering my desire to find amusement gives me many little laughs throughout the day and can diffuse the frustrations that come with home schooling 3 kids.

It changes how I treat people, and in turn, how they treat me. Yes, it’s The Golden Rule, but it starts even before I do unto others. It starts with my intention.

It's not always easy, and I screw it up with discouraging regularity. And, like any habit, it takes time and repetition and slips and do-overs to really gain traction. But when it does, wow!

When I am true to my intention, then:

- I can more readily get to eye-level with a child (or adult!) and help them work with their big feelings, often nipping a full-on tantrum in the bud while letting them know that it’s safe to be authentic and share their real feelings with me. Real connection is magic.

- I can keep my blood pressure stable when a friend posts another comment on Facebook about “the stupidity of people who believe X”, or a neighbor puts up a yard sign for the political “other guy.” Instead of getting drawn into a flame war, I can remember why they’re a good friend or a good neighbor to me, and acknowledge that we are all having our own unique experiences of the world. That’s handy for keeping the peace in the ‘hood, both on my street and online.

- I can laugh at myself, and get others to laugh with me, when my forgetfulness holds up the checkout line at the market. A little amusement goes a long way! 

It can be a challenge for me to discern my purpose for a day…a relationship…a lifetime. If you’re curious, try it yourself. Ask yourself what you really need to give or want to get in a particular moment, and give yourself the space to really listen for the answer. Get clear in your intention, and then infuse your actions with it.

And notice what happens.