What is intention and why is it one of the most important pillars of meditation and our spiritual life in general?
Two events brought this to mind for me recently and they were important enough to me that I wanted to share them.
And for context, I’ve thought a lot about intention. When I lived full time in a meditation ashram for 13 years, the bedrock of our practice in the context of the spiritual teaching we followed was Clarity of Intention: “Do I want to be free more than anything else?”
What Is Intention?
So I have a few simple things I want share on the topic of intention for sure. But first, let’s take a quick look at the definition.
late 14c., entencioun, “purpose, design, aim or object; will, wish, desire, that which is intended,” from Old French entencion “intent, purpose, aspiration; will; thought” (12c.), from Latin intentionem (nominative intentio) “a stretching out, straining, exertion, effort; attention,” noun of action from intendere “to turn one’s attention,” literally “to stretch out” (see intend). Also in Middle English “emotion, feelings; heart, mind, mental faculties, understanding.” -Etymology Online
And now, why did this topic come to my attention?
Intention Creates A Virtuous Loop
First, a member of the aboutmeditation.com community recently commented on the importance of intention in his practice and how, when he doesn’t focus on and nourish his intention, his meditation practice falls apart. He wrote:
For me, it’s all about intentionality and discipline. I have to be intentional in my practice and I can’t take long breaks away from it. When I’m disciplined, I look forward to the next practice. When I start giving myself “outs”, then things fall apart and I feel less inclined to keep doing it. And when that happens, I start falling apart in other areas of my life. So I’m mindful of the snowball effect!
When it comes to intention, I thought this was spot on. Before anything, you have to ask yourself, what’s most important to me. Why am I doing this?
For example, I meditate now because I know that it affects every part of my life. And that’s implicit in his words too.
He knows that when he’s consistent, he’s entering into a virtuous loop where practice begets more practice. Everytime he meditates, he wants to meditate more.
Inspiration begets more inspiration and all the while, your motivation is deepening and your momentum is growing, and little by little, inch by inch, you are changing.
Little by little, you’re nurturing your connection to the infinite.
And conversely, when you miss a few days, it becomes harder to meditate and to feel motivated. You lose touch with why it was so important. You lose touch with that. And then you give yourself outs.
Here’s a personal example from my own life.
Meditation helps me to be more patient across the board. That makes a really big difference when my little girl, as we’re trying to get out the door for school, is refusing to put on the Minnie Mouse shirt she just made me spend 10 minutes looking for.
But she won’t consider wearing anything else. That’s patience is really important.
It gives me a beat to make a creative slight of hand to divert her before my blood starts to rise. In those moments, an extra shot of patience can make all the difference.
Intention Dispels Confusion
And that game-changing patience? It all started with my intention to meditate earlier that day.
For me, I gained a deep understanding of the power and importance of intention when I lived in a spiritual meditation ashram for 13 years.
At the ashram, we adhered to a rigorous schedule of spiritual practice. The goal, according to our teacher, was enlightenment or spiritual freedom.
For me, intention had everything to do with cutting through confusion and inner challenges. When I felt divided, when I questioned my motivations, when I was confused, or even if I just felt like somehow I wasn’t living my fullest or best self, I came back to the first tenet of our teaching, clarity of intention.
And in that context, it meant wanting to be free more than anything else. Wanting to align myself and my momentary purpose in this instant right now, with my deepest experience of reality and to be true to that.
This never failed to help me penetrate my confusion or malaise and find direction and contentment.
Knowing what is most important to you in a given context is like a superpower. It gives you clarity, direction, purpose. And that does amazing things for you.
It gives you confidence but it also helps you give confidence to others.
So…take a few moments every day and reflect on your intention. Why are you meditating? Why is it important to you?
The more clarity you gain around this question, the more confidence you’ll start to generate in and through your meditation practice.