Setting intentions is a popular tradition that many people take part in to celebrate the New Year, and as long as the practice is not being done out of a sense of self criticism or guilt I think it is a wonderful practice. Certainly I enjoy using natural transition times as an opportunity to reflect on what has passed and to re-clarify my aim for the cycle that is to come. The winter holiday is of course a great time to do this as it marks the formal end of a creative cycle with the Winter Solstice and the end of a calendar year with the New Year. As well the holiday season often has a quality of suspended time due to the fact that many folks have a few extra days off work and the overall mood shifts more towards celebration & relaxation rather than the daily grind. This increased spaciousness can certainly make taking stock easier to do and can support you in getting clear on what it is you want to bring into being.
Personally I have always felt strongly that I wanted to craft my life with meaning and so have had a long standing practice of regularly clarifying my vision,empowering my desire & setting my intention. These practices support the art of becoming and have allowed me to feel engaged in the creative act of shaping my future for as long as I can remember. In today’s blog post I will share with you my thoughts on these practices as well as some tools on how to bring them into your own life.
“The act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be”
Clarifying our vision as I am defining it here means taking time out from our regular routine to step back and look at the bigger picture of where we are now, where we have journeyed from, and what are we moving towards. This can be done monthly, seasonally or annually and for the practice to be effective you do need to give yourself some time to do it without feeling hurried or rushed. For instance I will be taking a full day mini retreat right here at home during the holiday season so that I can focus on the process, which means I will be clearing my calendar of other obligations at that time to make space for the vision work I want to do. I will turn off my phone, take a warm bath, make a cup of tea, and after doing some meditative practice I will take out my journal and begin. Generally my process is pretty simple, I reflect on the greatest accomplishments and challenges of the last year and I identify the greatest obstacles in the key areas of my life. I reflect on what lessons I’ve learned and which qualities I’ve gained to take forward into the next cycle. My advice here is to allow yourself to write freely and without censorship so that insight can arise.
“The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. Vision will ignite the fire of passion that fuels our commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Only vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. Vision has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our vision is what we become in life. ” ~Tony Dungy
“To wish or long for”
The next step in my process is to allow myself to dream of what I wish to create, and to feel into what it is I most deeply desire moving forward. Desire is a key ingredient in shaping your ideal life and is not to be underestimated, because without it nothing happens. This practice can often be scary and has many times taken me right out of my comfort zone or forced me to do some disciplined work on my habits and personal behaviours. But whenever my desire has been aligned with an authentic urge to evolve I have experienced a larger source of energy that can support me in going beyond self limiting fears. When I move into this next step of strengthening my desire I will simply ask myself what it is I feel most excited about, what it is that keeps showing up in my life demanding my attention, and what it is I can identify as my evolving edge. Typically I will have key desires for different areas of my life such as relationships, personal sadhana, teaching and business. And while each desire will demand certain actions to be cultivated in the future I use this time to focus strengthening the energetic quality of the desires themselves for it is that potency that will fuel my efforts to realize them. This can be a hard step for many of us as we are often afraid to dream big in case of failure, but in my experience if my dreams are not powerful enough than I find myself falling short of my potential.
Acting from the authenticity of your desire, that is the beginning of your happiness.”~ Douglas Brooks
“An act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result”
Only now that I have my big picture vision, and my desire for growth has been awakened do I actually begin to set my intentions. Intention setting as I see it means to make a commitment to align my outer actions with my inner values so that I may manifest the desires that will lead me towards greater states of fullness and integrity. It is at this point in the process that I actually map out the action steps that I will take in each area of my life where I have identified a key desire to evolve. These action steps represent the practices I will need to employ in order to realize my desires and align with my greater vision. Framing intentions in the context of daily practices helps me in the process of embodying my values while also allowing me to make small steps on a regular basis. This keeps me from adopting an all or nothing attitude, which from experience tends to lead to total disappointment. I also like to take the time to map out any obstacles that I foresee might getting in the way of my living up to my intentions, and than to think of some creative solutions to counter them ahead of time so that these possible obstacles don’t simply become another form of resistance.
And finally when all this is done I close my journal and sit quietly, allowing myself to feel all the wild and wonderful emotions that come up when I go through this process of clarifying my vision, making space for my desires, and mapping out my intentions. This is where I let myself feel into the desired outcome of this process on a visceral level so that my cognitive mind doesn’t simply hijack the process by thinking this is simply another to do list- because it is not. I recommend that you don’t skip this step, but leave enough time to sit in meditative silence to close this practice as I have found it to be key in cementing my own forward momentum.
‘Each decision we make, each action we take, is born out of an intention.” ~ Sharon Salzberg
I hope that this post has been helpful or inspiring. Please let me know in the comments. I also made a very simple Intention Setting Worksheet to help you get started and if you are looking for further support in manifesting real change this year please join me for my upcoming Living Yoga Immersion program.