On every New Year’s Eve, my sister would ask: “What is your new year’s resolution?” I was always a bit shy to answer that. What if I said something but never reached it? As I got older, I discovered that even if I had the courage to articulate what my resolution was, things might not turn out the way I expected them to.
How things evolve is beyond our control. We live in a web of interconnected parts. I cannot predict or control what others say and do, yet whatever is said and done may have an impact on how I feel and behave. Even the weather forecast may not be accurate because conditions are changing constantly. Hence resolutions and goals are only as good as they are if the factors that we have taken into account don’t change.
As I learned more about Mindfulness, I was introduced to the concept of “intention setting”. Compared with resolutions that are formulated in our heads, intentions come from the heart. I was lucky to have been born and raised in a family that valued well-being and positive thinking. This background has conditioned me to live life so I orient everything I do towards wellness and an optimistic frame of mind.
Before I set out to do something, I try to remember to set an intention that revolves around wholesome qualities, such as wellness, kindness and happiness. The more I do this the more it becomes my default mode. When faced with a challenge, there may be many ways to go about resolving the issue at hand, but the ultimate intention never wavers. The intention acts as my pillar and, when the boat is rocking, helps me remain steady.
To put things into context, let’s say I have an eczema flare-up on my skin. Because I know that my intention is to be well, I will do everything to improve my skin condition. The first step begins right here and now, by my taking a pause, relaxing and noticing how I’m feeling. Creating this space to step back and look inward is crucial. Otherwise, we’re stuck in a spin cycle in our reactive state which will drag us further down the rabbit hole.
As I pause I recall: whether I’ve been exposed to certain allergens lately through my diet or immediate environment. Or I might reflect on how I’ve been managing stress lately. Because my intention is to be well and kind, I try not to blame or judge myself or others. Any afflictive thoughts and emotions will only add to my physical and emotional burden.
Try it out for yourself. See what it’s like to set an intention. It can be as simple as a sentence or word that you use for a day or week or an event such as a meeting. “I want to be calm” or “calm”. Sometimes I like to practice being kind by wearing a smile and speaking gently. Doing this makes me feel happier.
Be creative and see which intentions you want to experiment with. Make an effort to stay with it for a while to see what it feels like and how things shift, even if it’s for a short while. The key is to keep the practice going so it becomes second nature.
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