Goals are future oriented. They describe a place we hope to arrive at in the future.
Our present choices reveal our true intentions. All we need do to discover our intention is to ask ourselves what is taking place right now in our mind. What is our attitude? And then listen to what flows through our mind.
What stories about problems and relationships are we rehashing over and over? What is our attitude toward them?
Our attention to them, without seeking to discover their root causes, just retelling the story, holds them in place.
Our intention is what we give our attention to.
Do we think we can figure things out by going over and over the same old stories, and ending up in the same quagmire?
To what are we attending this moment? Are we trying to protect and defend ourselves and our loved ones at all costs?
Or is our ambition, our yearning for success, status, or vindication driving our choices?
Skillful intention is the top of the list of the Buddha’s 8 fold path, the path that relieves suffering. For it creates our reality, our experience of life.
This isn’t to say it’s easy to remember our intention when the path becomes difficult and anxieties loom up pushing us to back down and face “reality” (which means obey the rules and the attitudes others taught us to live by).
Sometimes it seems easier to cling to these outmoded beliefs than to face the uncertainty of not knowing who we are or what will happen in the future.
Suffering occurs because the fundamental nature of reality is impermanent, which means we can’t be certain what will happen when whatever it is we are clinging to leaves us, be it our body, money, a loved one, houses, cars, etc, etc.
It’s only natural to have some anxiety and discomfort around the truth that everything that is formed, including ideas, passes away.
Yes, people and things will eventually leave us, or else we will leave them. And then we usually feel lost, abandoned or betrayed.
So, it boils down to this: How do we handle impermanence and uncertainty? What is our intention?
Are we going to continue trying to demand life be different, somehow more controllable—or accept what is?
There is always a greater beauty, a fuller dimension of life here and now, just the way things are, than we recognize or acknowledge.
When we die to the old we will be born to the new. But this takes a great risk of giving up all that we think we are. No small task.
As Dr. Jung has noted, “We all walk in shoes too small for us.”
Is our intention to serve that which is greater and more beautiful than anything the personal ego can comprehend? That which truly lasts? And will we make this our top priority?
Jesus gave us two powerful intentions:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30,31
Someone has said if you want to be wealthy, you’ll spend your time making money. And if you want to be free, you’ll spend your time in mindfulness.
So, is it money and economic security that is more important—or our freedom from old beliefs that have imprisoned us?
This may sound similar to the famous question Jack Benny was asked by the thug demanding his money, “What’ll it be? Your money or your life?” To which Benny responded, “I’m thinking. I’m thinking!”
How much time does it take us to decide what matters most?
Spiritual practice can never be taken from us, but money and things, can flee at any moment under many diverse conditions. And we sure can’t take it with us. It’s obviously impermanent.
Success, achievement, popularity and a good reputation can also disappear in a flash. They have no stability, and therefore cannot sustain us.
For me, my basic intention is to “do no harm,” followed closely by the intention to notice suffering, for suffering hurts.
Therefore I question my attitude, moment by moment.
Am I wanting something to happen, or pushing something away? Am I hoping or wishing that the present moment be different from what it is? Am I grumpy, or feeling generous? Am I blaming outer conditions or people? Am I down on myself?
How hard am I pushing to get things done? Am I worrying? Do I feel anxious?
I have a habit of trying to hurry, trying to get as much done as possible. So, I notice how this feels. Hey, there’s some greed here. I’m trying to get. Rather than give. Which will lead to suffering. For the universe always gives, doesn’t try to get. This is the nature of love.
I intentionally stop, rest, and breathe, resetting my course to do no harm. Force hurts. I may get some things done, but where is the happiness? Where is a sense of freedom and joy?
As I explore further I discover beliefs that there is not enough time, energy, resources, etc., and that I must look good by being very efficient.
This is similar to being on automatic pilot. I react in old ways and there I am, stuck again.
I return to my intention to do no harm.
And the beauty is that I don’t have to figure out how to solve problems or change these habits. Just be willing to watch what flows through my mind and come back to my intention.
Universal wisdom does the rest. Attention will nourish whatever it thinks about.
As Jesus has said, “I, of myself can do nothing.” John 5:30
He also said it is the Father that does the work.
It is the Presence of universal energy, the essence of truth, beauty and goodness that accomplishes our true desires.
The stuff of the universe knows how to evolve and grow. It’s been doing it for 14½ years. I think we can trust it.