For many of us; this is a time of planning and goal setting for the year or even, for the rest of our lives. The beginning of the new year brings with it the allure of new possibilities and potential changes and shifts. We can feel the frisson of excitement and we want to make those changes to be better, to be happier, to be healthier, fitter, thinner and so on. But how can we prevent waking up in a few weeks or months or even this time next year being exactly where we are now with same unfinished, un-accomplished, un-achieved plans and goals.
I believe that perhaps it starts with aligning those plans and goals with mindful intention. Taking a moment – or a few moments over and over again, as it may be – to listen to our hearts true aspiration to learn what drives us and to start paying attention to it and working with it. You may want to use other languaging like living aligned to your values or your mission statement. That is okay; what is important is to find a way to identify and remember what you cherish – and to make a conscious choice to let this be what drives you. Not only towards your goals and achievements but in every moment.
If intention is the mental and emotional energy that is moving you towards a certain experience or outcome, then mindful intention is the conscious and discerning energy with which you choose to engage every part of your life. It reminds you from moment to moment why you are doing what you are doing – why you are getting up on a cold, dark morning to sit at your desk and study or head out for a run, why you are choosing to stay in a difficult relationship or situation. It gives meaning to the temporary – or even the not so temporary – suffering you may be experiencing in order to make the shifts and changes in your life that are important to you.
Tara Brach describes three characteristics of mindful intention or aspiration which animate it and give it a full aliveness that we can feel and hold onto:
It is not about striving for something outside of ourselves. It is the manifesting of innate potential, an unfolding of the truth and fullness of who we are. It is about being who you really are.
It is not a cognitive idea; it is a sincere heartfelt experience which has a prayerful or yearning quality.
What matters in this moment?
This may seem quite simple and it is and yet; we can find that staying connected to what really matters is far from easy. There are a few common habitual themes that play out which make it difficult. Firstly, we get caught up in our thoughts and the stories that play in our minds and we lose touch with our mindful intention; we lose touch with our heart. Another habitual disconnect is judgment; when we judge, we are living from a small disconnected sense of our being and this too; separates us from mindful intention. Virtual escapism and speeding up are also ways that we disconnect. We disappear into our virtual worlds of social media, the internet and TV and we lose touch with life that is unfolding right here. We Speed up and rush around because of a sense of ‘not enough time’ and the irony is that we lose time in that rush.
So how do we stay connected? Mindful practice helps us to keep coming back to this moment. It cultivates present moment awareness and it is this awareness which keeps us in touch with our intention; our heart’s true aspiration. The following is a mindful practice exercise that you can try to connect with your heart’s true aspiration:
Come into stillness. Taking a few deep breaths will help you bring your awareness inward and find a quiet, centered place within.
Now imagine that you have a year to live. How would you live your life? What would matter most to you? Try not to think of cognitive answers, but rather allow the aspirations to come from your heart. As each aspiration arises, go deeper by asking what about this aspiration matters most to me in this moment?
Now imagine you have one month to live and repeat the above process…
Now one week…
Now one day…
Now just this moment…
Repeat this exercise every day or a few times every day for the next few days or weeks and see what happens.