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Practicing Intention

The New Year is almost upon us!

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. Sometimes we make grandiose promises to ourselves about how we’re going to do things differently starting on January 1.

→ We’re going to eat “better” (whatever that means)

→ We’re going to exercise more

→ We’re going to meditate for 30 minutes every day without fail

The thing about New Year’s Resolutions is that we often make lofty, unrealistic goals about becoming whole new people. And while I’m very much of the belief that people have an enormous capacity for change, setting yourself up for failure isn’t the best way to go about it.

There is a practice that is incredibly effective when it comes to bringing about lasting change in our lives. You’ve heard me speak before about “intention” when it comes to bodywork. The practice of being intentional can be integrated into all parts of our life. But what the heck do we mean when we talk about intention?

Setting an intention can be thought of as putting your attention to what you hope to accomplish. That’s a simple but good start to understanding the concept. The act of being intentional requires us to stop and be present with whatever we are doing at that moment. It’s incredibly powerful but can also be daunting to someone new to the idea.

If living more intentionally is one of your goals, start small! Take a mundane task like washing the dishes, and try to focus solely on the task. How warm is the water? What does the sponge feel like in your hand? Can you feel the soap bubbles? How does that soap smell?

You won’t stay present with those dishes the whole time. You’ll start thinking about a whole lot of other unrelated things. This is incredibly common because we haven’t trained our brains to stay sharp and present in the moment. Instead, we’ve trained them to become easily distracted!

When you find your mind wandering, simply return your thoughts to the dishes and the sensations you’re experiencing. No judging or shaming yourself for your mind wandering.

Being intentional is a practice, much like meditating. Having a practice of being intentional means that even though you won’t be perfect at it, you keep doing it - i.e., you keep practicing! The more you do it, the easier it will become. You can expand your practice to other activities, like having a difficult conversation with someone or listening to your body when exercising.

One of the biggest benefits of being intentional is an overall calming of the nervous system. We spend a lot of time in fight or flight, so much so that you might say our society is set up for us just to exist at a certain level of stress. Being intentional slows down the mind quiets our thoughts, and allows us to exist where we are rather than worrying about things in the future or past.

And if you are someone that needs a goal or a reason to work toward change/intention, list things that you lose or have lost from not being present. List what you could make happen and improve by practicing intention.

When we’re present, we can focus on the things that are truly important to us. It is one of the best ways I know to truly step back from the hustle and bustle of daily life to a more centered, grounded existence.

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