As we start to get into the swing of school I have been thinking back to the last couple of weeks of summer which included a lot of unstructured time with my kids. Several times I found myself asking one of them (sometimes quite incredulously) what their intention was after a negative comment or action. This inspired me to explore the concept of Mindful Intention in a deeper way.
The word “Intention” is one of those buzz words that is thrown around quite often in yoga classes. As I delved deeper I became inspired to share this learning with my students last week. Intention is the seed that creates our future. When we think about this statement a bit more it starts to become clear how important our intention is. If we think of our intention as a seed– the seeds we plant contain the whole life pattern of the plant inside them, they just need favorable conditions to reach their full potential. How do we create those “favorable conditions” for that seed to grow?
As I questioned my kids about their intentions, I also began to ask myself “what is my intention” more often when faced with unfavorable circumstances. Sometimes we do that after words or actions already occur…perhaps in the form of “Why did I do that?”. It can be frustrating but there is always a lesson to be learned. As I continue to practice questioning myself in my intention I have been noticing a trend. I find myself more able to ask that critical question BEFORE I respond. This moment of mindful intention has a very special name. It is called the Sacred Pause and as I have begun to experience it more, I realize just how sacred it is.
As we began class last week on our backs I started by explaining the difference between a short-term/everyday intention and our longer vision/hopes/dreams that we can call our Dedication. Our intention; the everyday thoughts, feelings and actions affect the connection we have to our deeper dedication.
As we finished warming up the spine and the core and came to Tadasana (mountain pose) at the top of mat, I asked my students to be mindful of their intention for their practice. Part of our intention should always be to honor ourselves, quiet the clutter in the mind and cultivate gratitude for what is available in the body. Beyond that, there is the opportunity to connect more intimately with a longer term dedication. As with almost anything else, the way we learn is by practice. So, I reminded my students several times as they flowed through the opening sun salutations and went deeper into the asana series to ask that question “What is my intention for this pose?” “Do I need less or something different in order to fulfil my intention of honor, space or gratitude?” Quite a few times I asked them to take the Sacred Pause, even if meant moving into childs pose (a physical pause).
Throughout the series from a physical standpoint, we set our mindful intention as a focus in strengthening our gluts and hamstrings…. not stretching them as we typically do…. in preparation for exploring donkey kicks (pictured above) later in class. We bent the standing leg knee in standing split and during all forward fold folds. As we moved to the wall to practice donkey kicking into handstand, first I asked them once again to take the Sacred Pause— use that moment to connect mindfully to their personal intention as well as our collective one and if need be put legs up the wall or explore another pose if the one I was offering did not align with their intention.
Off the mat the Sacred Pause can be an equally powerful tool. We have all had moments we wish we could take back or do differently…words we wish we could unsay and actions we wish we could undo. What if we had taken that moment, that Sacred Pause and asked ourselves that powerful question.. “what is my intention?”. It is very likely those moments would have turned out differently. Unfortunately we can’t change what has already happened but we have the chance to learn from what we wish we could undo. From there, hopefully we can use that learning to become more mindful of our intention and let that true intention guide our thoughts, words and actions moving forward.
Even when we are mindful, it can be frustrating and at times difficult to see the ripple effects that this everyday mindful intention can have on our larger dedication. However, even if it is hard to see it in the present; our actions today do create our destiny tomorrow. When I have doubt, I think of the quote from the sage Vashista–which truly is my everyday intention; “There is no power greater than the right action in the present moment.”
As we began to settle down on the mat and the students prepared for Savasana, I shared with them a Chinese Buddhist saying that explains the powerful shifts that can come from mindful intention . “From intention springs the deed, from the deed springs the habits. From the habits grow the character, from character develops destiny” As we sat together in final meditation, I asked my students once again to take that Sacred Pause; to feel the shift that happens when we are mindful in our intention by connecting to our honor, space and gratitude. Namaste.