Oftentimes when we step into a yoga/meditation/mindful practice we step in with an intention.
We start a practice for improving our physical health or mental health or something we are not satisfied with.
Maybe it’s a certain body part, a range of movement, a level of strength.
We start a practice for improving our mental clarity or spiritual peace and serenity.
We walk into it with an intention of what it is we wish to get rid of, or the state of being that we are imagining that we’re going to feel in the end. We come with desire.
Intention is necessary. Intention has elements of will and drive and assertiveness.
It sets a point to direct our energy towards. It aims our arrow.
But I was reminded recently, that in the midst of practice, we must remain alert and open to what actually manifests. And often, we get so focused (or obsessed) we drive ourselves in the wrong direction and don’t even know it.
Perhaps a different area of the body needs strengthening, than what we intended.
Perhaps peace and serenity look and feel differently than what we thought it would.
Our intention or drive becomes inflexible blinders that prevent us from seeing the truth and reality of what is.
We may end up rejecting the gift of our practice because we it doesn’t look like what we desired.
Intention does not replace surrender to truth. Intention should direct us toward it. Intention also isn’t the destination. When the drive becomes the objective we get consumed in constant doing that goes nowhere. And intention can be ego on overdrive, blinding us to true actualization – which requires surrender, not will power.
Let’s say I intend to open myself to more love and initiate practices to do just that. Only I truly understand what I mean by that. Perhaps I mean chest-opening poses in yoga. Perhaps I mean romantic love that I wish to come to me. Perhaps I mean I want to act more lovingly toward others.
And then a situation arrives in my life possibly in the form of a person who I consider not worthy of my love. I criticize life and say it did not give me the opportunity to practice more love or to open myself to more love. Instead it brought me more disgust or more fear and loathing.
Was I open to seeing that the opportunity to love had been presented before me? Did I recognize elements of my practice that could have helped me seize the love I was so fervently seeking? Did I surrender and default to behaving lovingly not matter what?
We arrive on our mat and intend so many different things.
Flexibility. Strength. Releasing stress. Balance. Inner peace.
When we need to find a new way to bend a body part, differently than others, do we try it? When we require muscle development to hold some poses do we strengthen our patience and our humility as the body takes the time it needs to sustain and grow in the pose? When we try over and over again on a posture or meditation practice and it isn’t working – do we stay peaceful, light-hearted and good-humored?
The lesson and the truth of the journey is usually right there in front of us. We just can’t see it for trying.
Many of us begin detoxification practices in the new year.
We say that we want to open ourselves to purification and cleansing.
A dear friend helped me understand we don’t get to choose what needs to be released or cleansed or purified.
We might need to be purified of a habit or a person or even a livelihood that we are attached to. And we may not see that as we are going through the cleansing process, whether it is fasting or a set of poses or a meditation.
We may be focusing our intention on something that we want to release and that prevents us from seeing what needs to be released. Intention is one thing; surrender is another.
Keep setting intentions. Let that fuel your journey and point you in a direction. Then remain open to focusing your lenses, changing speeds and vessels and even making course corrections.