New Year’s Intentions

My cousin Sue sells more residential real estate than anyone else in her city. Her grandchildren live on the other side of the country and she visits them frequently. She is accomplished and organized and very busy. Recently, she told me she needed to take care of some medical needs for herself, but couldn’t find the time, and she spends a lot of time worrying about it. I suggested she make a list of what she needs to do without putting the pressure on herself to actually get any of it done. Magically, she had an appointment for bloodwork the following week. What allowed her to accomplish this? Intention.

Here we are in the last days of 2022, a natural time to pause and reflect on the way forward and set some intentions. I like to start by focusing on what makes me really me or who the hell am I and what am I supposed to be doing with my time? It’s best to do this with pen and paper. I make a list of what in this world is most important to me and what feels like my strongest identity. First on my list is always mother. Once I’ve made my list of what’s most important to me, I can focus on my intentions or what actions might guide my actions.

Intentions take into account who you are and what’s meaningful to you. Intention requires awareness and focus. Intentions also require that you get out of your own way and not let yourself be constrained by narratives of limitation— you’re too old, too young, too clumsy, too insignificant. Intention also has the ability to include self-compassion.

Resolutions, on the other hand, reflect a more adversarial relationship with the self. Think about a New Years’ resolution to lose weight. The resolution is focused on a future outcome and inherent in the resolution is a bit of judginess— you’ve needed to lose X pounds for X years and this is the year you finally find the willpower to stick to the damn diet. Compare that with intention. Intention is focused on the present and it requires awareness. Let’s say one of my core identities is as an athletic and outdoorsy type of person. In order to be that person, I need to be aware of what I’m putting in my body and I intend to pay attention to how I fuel my body. I will show up for myself and review how I’ve nourished myself once a week. It’s more about awareness and being on the path to encourage myself to be my most authentic self. It’s about the process, not the end result.

The best way I personally know of how to become more intentional is with a contemplative practice, in my case it’s mindfulness meditation. By sitting in stillness and observing my thoughts as they come and go, with practice and with time, I become aware of what is meaningful to me and in what ways I am called to be a presence in the world. My meditation practice allows me to dare ask the question: what is it that is seeking to be accomplished by me because of who I am?

I am a mother and a teacher and a storyteller. I believe the world needs more stillness and more wisdom.

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