November 22, 2016

Set Your Intention—What does that even Mean?


Yoga Bliss Photo

The first time I did yoga, I was told to be mindful and set my intention.

Standing in Tadasana with my hands in prayer position, I heard the instructor tell me to set my intention.” I thought to myself, “What does that even mean?”

So I looked into it.

An intention is nothing more than an aim or plan. But it turns out to be so much more when we take a moment to “set” the intention and mindfully focus on that goal. The intention doesn’t have to be something on a grand scale. It can be something as small as, “I will be conscious of my breath today” or “I will drink more water.” Though it can be simple, I’ve found out it’s best to set a specific intention—something transformative.

I’ve thought about this a lot. I usually have my daily goals: don’t snack, be on time and exercise. Sometimes I will achieve them; sometimes I won’t. But I never “set” the goal consciously, stopping my day to make it mindful. I’ve never reached deep into myself for a precise life-changing goal. What I need most is a quiet mind.

So today I set my intention to let go of my active mind—to let go and enjoy the moment. I grip ideas and thoughts so tightly that I will examine every aspect of them. “Why did I think that?” “What did they mean by that?” “Why do I get distracted?” “Why didn’t I workout harder.” All the while, answering these questions with conjecture. I know speculation gets me nowhere, but sometimes I just can’t abandon the thoughts.

Answering my contemplations can effortlessly turn into negative ruminations. I grind my consciousness down desperately trying to figure it out, looking for that “aha” moment that never comes. My mind ran on a tangent that was speculative at best and therefore could never arrive at an answer. I am aware of how my mind works and I have collected techniques to help me get back to baseline.

I want to let go. I want to grow.

Today on the mat, before I began my practice, I set my intention to let go of profound penetrating reflections that get me nowhere and have no answer, letting go of not just negativity, but all thought. Instead, I want that “aha” moment, awareness of space, to absorb the moment. I am intent on clearing my mind. When I catch myself ingrained with a self-indulgent thought, I immediately take a deep breath. I exhale. I do it again. Then I tell myself that it doesn’t matter because it genuinely does not matter. Because if the thinking can’t create an answer, then what’s the point? I’m just mentally winding myself up for nothing.

I’m mindful of the fact that my thoughts will betray me at times.

My thoughts and subsequent emotions seem so real, so bonafide, when they are not.

Maybe I just need a GABA or some 5-HTP. Maybe all I need is to be cognizant. I catch myself and bring myself back to the present, allowing me to be aware of what it is that I would like to change. In this case, consciously choosing to break the cycle of thought by telling myself to stop thinking.

Take a breath. Slow down.

Because I have set an aim, I’m more aware of it throughout the day and more likely to make the right choices. Choices create habits and habits create my life. Making the right decisions at the right time is strengthened by having a goal, creating a higher percentage of success. In this way, I’m able to be the journeyman as well as the guide. My intention becomes my daily guide. I want to experience the present and not lock my consciousness into ambiguous queries. If my mind does skew, I’m keen to realize it.

I set my objective early in the morning standing on my yoga mat before my practice. I tell myself aloud what I want from myself. I preview my day in my mind. I see the whole day play out. I see where I will falter and make the right choice keeping my intention in mind. When the day ends and I’ve manifested my goal, the feeling of accomplishment is sublime. The more times I train myself to make the right choice toward my goal, the more it will become a habit and then it will become me.

And the best part is, I won’t be conscious of it even happening because I’ve retrained my mind.

I fail all the time though.

That’s important for me to understand and infinitely more important for me to be okay with failure. Defeat doesn’t mean I’m less than I thought I was or that I’m a loser that can’t get my life together. All it means is that I’ve learned something, that my failure is speaking to me, an altercation has taken place between me and my goal. I take a breath, calm the mind and reset.

I found something that first day on my yoga mat.

Creating an intention is more about being the self I envision. Altering these little things that I want to change and now have a technique to achieve my goal. I want to perform musically and not get distracted and fall off beat. I want to hang out in a challenging yoga pose and enjoy working. I want to have conversations with friends and not analyze the chat. I want to be effortlessly present.

When my mind is quiet, I feel connected, grounded and therefore grateful.

It all begins with letting go and my willingness to take the time to be intent.


Author: Brent Galaway

Image: Yoga Bliss Photo

Volunteer Editor: Pavita Singh/Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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