I have been trained in and have practiced Yogic and Shamanic techniques and philosophies for many years. In ancient times, both were part of one root in India; sharing essential world views and spiritual sensibilities. While I love so much about both traditions, perhaps my favorite of all is the concept and practice of intentionality that I use to create a foundation for how I live.
Living with intention is a deep practice; resulting in the ultimate knowing that the “how” and the “why” of what we do is more important than anything. The “what” of how we live pales in comparison to what lives behind it. Every single time. This is vastly different than the way modern living is obsessed with the “what.” What you look like. What you do. What you give. What your credentials are. What others see in you.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen the ways that the “what” of something can be very deceiving. How it can be a false representation of someone’s true intentions. In other words, something can look very, very good in the what and be an absolute abomination when it comes to the intention behind it all. Easy examples are the marketing strategies that convince us that the companies care about us or the planet when all they are doing is trying to sell us something. Or how about the leaders in life, on all levels, who present as so caring when all they want is your vote. Or your silence. Or to remain in charge without challenge.
In a world that so rewards the “what,” even when it costs us all far too much than we should ever pay, it can feel like too much work to be fully intentional in your actions, your thoughts and in your exchanges with others. There may be no immediate reward, no external benefit or prize given. It may even cause you lots of extra effort or cost you in terms of something.
Because to live with more intention requires a kind of honesty and whole-heartedness that the world does not always recognize, or appreciate. And because this way of living demands an unwavering focus on getting to the bottom of why you do what you do, why what matters to you matters to you, and then cleaning up your act when you are out of alignment between the why and the what of how you live.
Motherhood was by far my greatest and most strenuous teacher in this regard. Interestingly enough, as the world grows more and more insane, I find myself at the threshold of another time of great teaching in terms of what it means to live with intention. No matter what. What this means for me is that I cannot use the outer circumstances of the world to dictate to me the why of my what.
Instead, I am working on building my muscle of intention ever stronger by being as focused and deliberate as I can be; even in the midst of destructive and unreasonable times that would say there is nothing I can do.
Maybe you’ve noticed it too. All the ways that there are more and more demands being placed on us to live a certain way, to believe a certain thing, to line up with a particular narrative or ideology. With the penalty being, if you do not express the what in the way it is mandated, you are a (fill in the blank with the latest of social media’s accusations du jour).
The antidote to this is to choose “for” something, and then to line your life up with that. Every thought, every action, every word. This is not easy to do in a world with so many damaging choices and so many harmful demands to slot into the what of someone else’s ideas of what your life should look like.
Being intentional is to be discerning. It is to be fearless in the face of your own fears around how others will feel about the why and the how of what you do. It is to stare down the voices within you that would say you do not have permission to choose your why and how you live. It is to know when you are crumbling in your attempts to live with more intention because you do not know whether or not you are worth such an elevated existence.
But the Truth is, it’s already there inside you. If you doubt it, just look at the ways you admire those in life who have really chosen to focus their attention to live more intentionally. Maybe it is an athlete. Or an artist. Or a great teacher. More likely, it is someone you know living a “regular” life. To see this in another is the experience of the seed recognizing the plant. So I would ask you, what is it that you admire about them and then look beyond “the what” to their why and how for clues as to how you might proceed.
Finally, since you already possess within you the seed of living with greater intentionality, what is one small thing you could do today to tend to that seed? And then, what is one small thing you could do tomorrow? And then, the tomorrow after that, and after that…
For to live intentionally is a lifelong pursuit.