The Art of Intention Setting

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I believe in the power of setting intentions.

These days, I find that when I open my eyes, I feel quickly overwhelmed.  I think about all of the things that need to get done, what I am forgetting, if I am running behind, and I find my day has gotten away from me before my feet even hit the floor.  My antidote to that sense of overwhelm is taking a few minutes first thing to write in my journal, a way to clear my head before the day begins.  Taking those few minutes to journal allows me to download all of those thoughts and anxieties onto paper, where they feel much smaller, and much more manageable.

Those first words also allow me to jot down any fleeting remnants from my dreams, or residual thoughts from the previous day.  After I get all of that down, quickly, stream of consciousness, I take a minute or two to find my breath.  From that calmer, clearer space, I can determine my intentions for the day.

The question I most often pose to myself in my head when setting my intentions, is this:  “What is most important for me to manifest today?”

Sometimes the answer is a simple, practical one, perhaps a to-do list item that has been moved from day to day and not yet completed.  I would like to finish all of my pending documentation for my patients.  I would like to send those few important emails that I have been meaning to send.  I would like to call my parents.  I would like to work on next week’s blog post.  I would like to book the airline tickets and hotels for winter vacation.  I would like to exercise today.

But more often that not, the intention that comes to mind are qualities, ways of being in the world, that feel important for me to remember.  Be present today.  Be patient with the children today.  Be thankful today for what you have, really, truly grateful.  Today is a busy day–breathe and be kind to yourself and others.  Make sure to practice a moment of self care today.

I jot down the first two or three ideas that come to mind–no more than that, lest I overwhelm myself–and I close my journal for the morning.  Occasionally those intentions will pop up throughout my day, little reminders in the midst of a hectic moment, or when I am trying to figure out what to do next.  Sometimes, I may not even consciously think about them until I open my journal up again at night.   Often I can’t make sense of the first scribbled words that emerged as I was half asleep, just awakening into the day.  But I can make sense of those intentions–what struck me as most important fourteen hours ago–and see how I did.

I try to let my intentions be subtle reminders of what feels important, before I start reacting to the crises and emergencies of the day.  A compass of sorts.  I may or may not be successful at manifesting them, but the very act of setting them is a way of connecting to my inner priorities before the day sweeps me along in its current.  Without my intentions, I often end the day at an unintended destination, not quite connected to myself, my values, my heart.

I also try to be gentle with myself independent of whether or not I accomplished my intentions.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  But the last thing I need is one more thing to check off of a list, or another reason to feel guilty or less than.  Intentions are a process, a way to practice being conscious and intentional…not another reason to impose perfectionism on ourselves.

So today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to join me in setting an intention or two for yourself.  What ideas come to mind?  As I write this, what feels important for me in this moment is keeping life small and simple for today, not over-complicating things when they don’t need to be.  How about for you?

With gratitude, Monisha

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