Intentions scare the hell out of me- they are accessible justifiers for my reckless lack of mindfulness and an easy excuse for whatever mess I’ve created. I try to not count how many times I’ve used “my intention was” as a bull shit answer for what was really my lack of kindness or focus or mindfulness or whatever… it’s embarrassing how many times I took this easy way out of personal accountability and responsibility.
At the same time, Intentions are actually the center of most spiritual practice and what many of us strive for—letting go of outcomes and releasing ourselves from the grips of attachment, our scriptures and wisdom teachings all tell us our intentions matters most.
I looked up the definition; Intention
1: a determination to act in a certain way: resolve
3: what one intends to do or bring about
4: the object for which a prayer, mass, or pious act is offered
Right Intention is the second of The Eightfold Path and I really do want to have right intention at the center of all my interactions.. I want to not use it as an excuse, but rather as a noble platform, a place I come from and live in as often as possible.
It’s about purity and about my thoughts coming from a base of kindness, compassion and awareness… when I strive to have my intentions firmly grounded in nobility, my actions create an output into the world and my life that celebrates what my highest, best self wants. When I don’t, it’s a shit show of epic, measurable proportion. Period.
I think Right Intention is something we must practice and cultivate, it’s like any other muscle and if we develop it and make it as strong and vibrant as possible the sacredness becomes effortless.
Dana Nourie, the technical director of the Secular Buddhist Association says “In order not to create more suffering, we need to rely on paying attention (mindfulness) to what our intentions are with others and with our actions. If our intentions stem from anger, resentment, or greed, then we are more likely to do harm than if our intentions are driven to help, to understand, to better our actions in the world. We also need to use intention when we sit for meditation, when we want to speak or act effectively, etc. and to practice the path. Learning how to be mindful to intentions before you act, speak, or write takes some time to learn. But it’s fascinating once you start digging deeply into this area. Once you are aware of your intentions, you sometimes need to consciously set new intentions and let go of the old ones. This is a big part of practice. And it takes practice!”
I see so many people today desiring more happiness and peace in their lives.. a hunger for meaning seems present everywhere. Cultivating right intention for me delivers all I’m after… to be intentional, to have the purity and nobility I seek, I have to replace ill-will with loving kindness and focus on compassion and non judgment in all my affairs.
The Buddha said essentially that what we think and what we say and how we act creates an action and every action has a reaction….so what we think, what our intention is… that’s as important as what we do.
So how do we practice Right Intention? I’m really sure it starts with a mindfulness practice—truly knowing your mind and your thoughts and what causes your actions.
The Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has suggested these four practices for Right Intention:
1) Ask yourself, “Are you sure?” Write the question on a piece of paper and hang it where you will see it frequently. Wong perceptions lead to incorrect thinking.
2) Ask yourself, “What am I doing?” to help you come back to the present moment.
3) Recognize your habit energies. Habit energies like workaholism cause us to lose track of ourselves and our day-to-day lives. When you catch yourself on autopilot, say, “Hello, habit energy!”
4) Cultivate bodhichitta. Bodhichitta is the compassionate wish to realize enlightenment for the sake of others. It becomes the purest of Right Intentions; the motivating force that keep us on the Path.
I want to enter each and every day, every relationship, every situation … even every single moment coming from a place of loving-kindness, deep commitment to nobility and pure intention to add more love in the world.
I don’t want to be obsessed with the outcome of my actions; I want to be certain about the intentions of them. I believe that’s the real source suffering and happiness– and if I focus on that one single thing, everything else will happen exactly as it should.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”
More on the path to Happiness: