Being healthy includes taking care of your body AND your mind. Being mindful is a well-ingrained tenet of integrative medicine. But being mindful is not always easy in this fast-paced world where everything and everyone is jockeying for your time and attention. You have to go to work then get the kids to soccer practice and then go grocery shopping and then clean the house and take care of bills and make sure the car has gas and attend the neighborhood fundraiser. Its days like this that put your mind on auto-pilot, and leave you no time to be mindful. It's time to stop living out of habit and live with intention.
Luckily, my great friend and jiu-jitsu training partner AO, whom I've recently convinced to begin a meditation practice, gave me some excellent advice. He told me about his idea for my next blog. He recommended my next piece be on intention. "You know," he said, "I've just been trying to start my day with a positive intention every morning when I wake up." I thought about it for a while, and then it struck me as genius. Not new, but genius. Let me explain.
The word intention, defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary,
"implies little more than what one has in mind to do or bring about." Synonyms for intention include;
intent - suggests clearer formulation or greater deliberateness
purpose - suggests a more settled determination
design - implies a more carefully calculated plan
aim - adds to these implications of effort directed toward attaining or accomplishing
goal - suggests something attained only by prolonged effort and hardship
When you parse these definitions and think deeply about them, one thing becomes clear. That is, intention (what one has in mind to do or bring about) requires being deliberate, having determination, acting in a carefully calculated way, and putting in an effort. Without these elements, only pure luck and serendipity will get the desired outcomes you seek.
For me, the last few days have been an observational experiment on this intention-setting practice. The first day I woke up and formed my intention for the day, which was to be the best husband I can be and be supportive and kind and compassionate to my wife. Funnily, when I was not acting in the manner I had envisioned while setting my morning intention, it made me much more cognizant of my actions. It made me stop and think about my actions and my words, and it brought mindfulness to me that I otherwise would not have had and I quickly and effortlessly deviated from my patterned and habitual response. This mindfulness subconsciously channeled my energy back towards my intention I had set in the morning. Genius!
Another example of this genius "mind-hacking" trick was when I made my morning intention to be positive all day and without any negative comments or thoughts. On the way to work, I found myself in the all too familiar situation of merging onto the freeway at 65 mph, only to be stymied by the car in front of me merging at 50 mph. My blood was beginning to boil, and I was thinking nasty, evil, rotten thoughts about the driver in front of me but then remembered my intention for the day. My temper immediately calmed, my blood pressure lowered and my negative energy dissipated as I reminded myself of my intention to be positive without any negative thoughts throughout the day. This transition from the negative to the positive happened on a subconscious level. Again, I subverted my habitual and patterned responses by merely having set a morning intention. Genius!
This intention-setting practice can be suited however you need to improve your life. Whether it is saying no to your boss, being kind to a stranger, being more efficient throughout your day, not habitually snapping at your children or spouse, or just trying to find 5 minutes of alone time, this practice can make it easier by simply bringing awareness of mind to the present moment. A great teacher once told me that mindfulness is the act of having "present time awareness." When you have a daily intention, and it gets contested, your mind may unconsciously become conscious, initiating "present time awareness" and bringing about a state of mindfulness.
My mother and father always told me that anything worth achieving takes effort, determination, and hard work. Although starting the day with setting an intention requires effort and the deliberate recognition of "what you have in mind to do or bring about," achieving your desired outcomes will become much easier when you live with intention. Intention creates mindfulness and mindfulness is good. So tomorrow morning before you get out of bed set an intention for the day and hopefully, mindfulness will follow.
Blessings on your path!