I just came across a beautiful Blog post entitled “An Intentional Life,” on Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits website. He offers a simple and attainable proposal for becoming mindful of the intentions underlying all of our actions—even those that seem most routine. Here is one of my favorite passages from the post: “What if you washed the dishes, but first said you are doing this as a service to your family, to make them happy, and as a form of meditation for yourself, to practice mindfulness? Doing the dishes would suddenly take on much more importance, and would cease to be boring.”
This is in perfect alignment with the mission of Global Chant these past 16 years, and now with the PlayHaven vision. The power of intention to transform a mundane task like dishwashing into a transformative healing practice has to do with two factors:
1. Intention as a bridge. When we set an intention, we bring together two realms: one of possibility and the other of actuality. Lately, I have been fascinated with the word “figment.” A figment is something that exists only in the imagination. But everything that human beings have ever created began as a figment. The realities of tomorrow are the figments of today. And only through our intention do we transform figments into reality. When we set an intention, we create an opening for new possibilities to be realized. The word “intend” comes from the Latin tendere, meaning to stretch. Reality is malleable; we can shape and mold it to a much greater degree than most of us realize. Our intentions stretch the limits of our existing reality to make room for something new to manifest. That is why it matters greatly what kinds of intentions we set, which leads me to…
2. Intention as service. We can direct our intentions towards whatever we want. But what I have observed, not just from my own experience but from those of many others in my community, is that our intentions are most effective when directed towards someone other than ourselves. It is one of the great and intriguing ironies of life that by focusing on the benefit of another, we derive maximal benefit ourselves. Teachers know this: the best way to learn is by teaching someone else. Similarly, nobody experiences greater healing than the healer. This is consistent with the philosophy of “enlightened self-interest,” which states that those who act to further the interests of others ultimately serve their own interests by doing so. Keeping others in our intentions gives us a sense of calling or purpose, and it draws our focus away from our own problems. It is a much more productive strategy for attaining happiness than any self-centered approach.
What has been your experience with intention? How do you incorporate intention into your everyday life? And what kinds of intentions do you tend to set? Please let me know your thoughts and impressions.