On Friday, I launched the first season of Wild Soul Journey. Week one of this journey begins in the East, which is all about the element of air and the power of the mind. One of the primary tasks I asked my wild students to complete on embarkation was setting their intentions for the month ahead.
A mental air-element process, intention setting is a crucial first step in the beginning of any journey, big or small. Intention is the imaginal seed you plant for creative manifestation to bloom. Truly, everything that exists began with an intention. Your breakfast this morning, the keystone species that lives in your neighborhood, the atomic bomb, the spoken language. Nothing happens for no reason at all. Whether it's obvious or not-so-obvious, conscious or unconscious, there is always an underlying intention present.
"Intention" is a word that is tossed around quite a bit, especially in spiritual new age communities and the world of personal development. But what does intention really mean? And what power can it have in healing your life and unleashing your wild soul?
I was first introduced to the power of intention in my yoga practice. My earliest teachers were always asking me in the beginning of class to "set an intention for my practice." At first, I had no idea what the hell there were taking about. I knew what the word intention meant, but I wasn't sure why I was being asked to set one. "Uhh... obviously my intention is to do yoga."
I soon came to learn that "setting an intention" was my big WHY. This was super empowering and clarifying. Having an intention meant that I had a greater purpose to my practice than just putting my body into strange shapes. My intention didn't have to be something über spiritual or universal. It could simply be to breathe more mindfully, or be extra conscious of a physical limitation I was working with that day. As my yoga practice developed in depth, so did my intentions.
For a long period of time, the intention I set was always, "LOVE." This usually manifested as being more compassionate to myself: honoring the mental, emotional, and physical edges I had that day, listening to my body when a pose "just didn't feel right," and concentrating on my own practice rather than the strong and stretchy yogini practicing next to me. My intention quickly became the guiding force of my yoga practice, the reason why I consistently came back to my mat over and over again. As I began to deepen my intentions, I gradually noticed that unlike a goal, which tends to be externally directed and focused on an end-point, an intention had a sense of sacred presence, a surrender into the process.
Which does not mean that intentions cannot be goal oriented. But it means the focus is on the moment, on the journey of achieving that goal, rather than rigid attachment to a particular outcome or destination.
I love the work of Masaru Emotu, who researched the power of intention by studying its effects on water. His idea was to freeze different samples of water and observe the shapes that the frozen water crystals had formed under a microscope. During his studies, he observed that certain water samples created unique sacred geometrical designs after "giving good words, playing good music, and showing, playing, or offering pure prayer" (ie. positive intention). In water that had been polluted, chemically augmented, or given "bad" words (ie. negative intention), no such designs were observed. Considering the fact that our bodies and our planet are mostly water, intention suddenly becomes all the more meaningful.
My mornings are now all about setting intentions. I notice a marked difference in my day when I make this a regular practice. Setting my intentions for the day lays the groundwork for the magic to unfold. The power of intention cannot be emphasized enough. And unfortunately, most people walk around performing their day-to-day tasks with no connection to what their true intentions are in performing them.
Take exercise. If your intention in performing physical activity is to be caring and loving to your body, or to have an proper working vessel to carry out your soul work, it will carry a completely different energy than if your intention is to fit some preconceived notion of beauty or to please someone else. One carries intrinsic value while the other does not. One is dependent on your own inner fulfillment, and the other is based on external reward. Same action, different intention, different outcome.
Tell me... which is more likely to result in a life that is healthy, sustainable, and flourishing?
Intention is the driving force of what you do. It is is kind of like the gas you put in your car. If you put in the wrong kind of fuel, you're never going to get where you want to go. It can also help focus your energy. It is like the sharp head of an arrow. Without a fine tipped focus and consistent sharpening, you won't ever hit your target.
Intention can help ground you in your guiding values, ensuring that your actions are aligned with your highest truth. And being true to your values can serve as incredible motivation when the going gets tough. When things started feeling like they were getting serious with my current partner, we had a heartfelt conversation about our intentions going forth. Some of my own intentions included, "Learn how to traverse difficult experiences with compassion, empathy, and love," and "Open my heart to feel more of everything." During the challenges we have encountered, I feel much more committed to navigating through them because I am connected and grounded into these particular intentions.
All things said, intention is not enough to manifest your dreams if your action following that intention is not there. You can write intentions until you're blue in the face, but it is your actions that bring intention into creation, into the physical realm. Action is the contribution of the fire element to the air element's act of intention. But just like fire burns out with an absence of air, action without intention has no lasting impact.
I could probably write a whole book on the power of intention. But the final piece about intention I would like to leave you with is the importance of letting go. The more you try to mentally cling to an intention, the more it will fail to be within your grasp. Your role is not to think your way to manifestation or to base your sense of contentment on an intention coming to fruition. Your purpose is to hold true your values and trust the process; to set your intentions and do the best you can in your actions that follow. Surrender your intentions into the realm of conscious awareness where they can begin to be alchemized by the subtle forces of nature.
Now I want to hear from you... How do you harness the power of intention? What intentions are you currently surrendering to nature?