By Terence Stone
Yesterday, I had the distinct honor to be a part of a Google+ Hangout on Air hosted by Mallika Chopra of The Chopra Well. It was a discussion between myself and six other extremely knowledgeable people on the benefits of meditation, the concept of intention, and why mindfulness is so important. If you haven’t already noticed, you can see it right above this paragraph.
As great as the conversation was, we weren’t able to hit all of the points that were listed in the description of the event due to time constraints. So I decided the blog would be a good medium to further explore the ideas of goals, intentions, and mindfulness.
Realizing goals through intention
I really believe it is about the heart and mind connection; meaning, aligning the deepest desires of the divine self (heart) with the more logical, material-based self (mind). If the heart and mind are disjointed, how can we hope to set a clear and honest path toward our goals? How do we know that those goals are truly what we want?
That’s why mindfulness of intention is so important. Intention is the why. Why I am I doing this? Why do I want this? We have to let the intention inform the goal and not vice versa. Make your intention as clear, straightforward, and honest as possible and let that mold the structure of the goal. Then it becomes much easier to follow the path toward that goal.
How are intentions and goals different, and why do we need mindfulness?
I touched upon this yesterday, but I will expand here a bit. This is not the easiest concept to grasp, but I believe one cannot achieve or even formulate a viable goal without intention. A goal suggests a construct of the future. It is something that is subject to change and may or may not come to fruition. Why? Because it is dependent on the intention.
Intention is a fluid act of will. It carves the path toward the goal. Remember, it is the why. So often we set goals without being clear about our intentions. This leaves us in a sort of foggy place and can make it extremely difficult to pursue, much less achieve any one goal.
More simply stated, intention is an act of the heart while goals are a construct of the mind. The heart and mind like to be in sync because, after all, they are not truly separate entities. This is where mindfulness comes in.
I believe our truest intentions exist within us already whether we see them or not. As I said yesterday, they are like very rough marble waiting to be sculpted. Only when we employ mindfulness can we clarify those intentions. Then, like a sculpture they begin to take on a specific shape, of which the final realization becomes the materialized goal.
How does prayer, meditation, yoga and other introspective practice relate?
If you believe what I’ve submitted so far, then we know that in order to have clear intention, we must employ mindfulness. And how does one do that? Well we need to practice. It doesn’t just happen.
Unfortunately, most westerners are not raised with the reinforced habits of mindfulness, and our brains have become very scattered in this age of technological distraction and instant gratification. Hence, learning to be mindful on a consistent basis is no easy task, but I believe it must be done to achieve the greatest happiness possible in this life.
When we meditate, or pray, or do yoga, we are training ourselves to observe our patterns of thought and behavior. We are training ourselves to set clear intentions. When we are mindful of our inner workings – what our mind is doing, what our hearts are doing – then it gives us an opportunity to ask why and explore. Subsequently, when we have a firm handle on the flow of consciousness and our habitual patterns, it becomes much easier to change them and to see what it is that we truly desire in any given moment.
In any of these practices, we are cultivating peace of mind, heart, and inner awareness. When we meditate it isn’t simply about being with one’s self, it’s about actively quieting the mind, and learning how to keep one’s concentration without being swept away into unconscious mind banter. The same can be said for yoga though it is ultimately more body-awareness based (though there are many steps to a full yogic practice; one of the final one’s being meditation).
With regards to prayer, as a former devout catholic, I believe that when we pray, it shouldn’t simply be about asking a higher power for something. When deep prayer occurs, it often becomes a type of meditation. We get very focused on one or a few things, and we begin to see how those things and desires relate to ourselves and our realities.
You see, mindfulness practices demand clear intentions and goals. During meditation, if the intent isn’t there to stay with the object of concentration, then the goal (to achieve full concentration for any length of time) will not manifest. Insert yoga, prayer, etc. and change the wording a bit, and the same applies.
Finally, remember that these activities are called practices because one is cultivating something to be used in daily life. In this way, the practices themselves become very useful platforms for developing intention in every aspect of our lives.
Wishing you the courage, self-compassion, and patience to realize your truest intentions.
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.