Thursday, January 15, 2009


Ellie and I met with our artists' group on Tuesday evening, the first meeting of the new year, and started out thinking about intentions--a subject to which I myself had been giving some thought in my blog entry earlier in the day.

There are intentions, of course, and intentions. Some are lightly made, and lightly kept. I noticed, as we made the rounds, how often one of our number would speak about "trying" to do something: "I'm going to try to get into the studio more often," or "I'm planning to try to find a gallery to show my work." I hear myself saying something similar, and believe it no more than when I hear it from others. As the old saw has it, if you keep trying to feed the dog, the dog will soon starve to death.

That's one kind of intention, and clearly not a very productive one. The other kind is made of sterner stuff, and comes from a deeper level of consciousness. It's mind-altering, and life-changing. Once the seed of this kind of intention is planted, it will inevitably take a long while to germinate--perhaps even below the level of consciousness--and when it at last appears in the form of a conscious thought, does so in the form of a quiet and confident determination to make change, a paradigm shift in the mind that is no longer debatable but seems quite simply self-evident in its clarity, a confirmation of what had always been "intended" but never fully realized.

What follows in the wake of this kind of intention is extraordinary, a flow in which everything seems to fit nicely into place, to follow the right course without effort or conscious direction. Suddenly there seem to be no missteps, and every accident turns out to be a happy one. There comes an endorsement of the intention in the form of a sense of rightness and, yes, a sense of joy that pervades our every thought and action.

Such moments in life are admittedly rare. Most of the time, we hang around, trying to do stuff. One of my own occurred when I decided to quit academia and do what I was really supposed to be doing with my life: to write. Another, when I "unwrapped" myself from my old British shrink-wrap and stepped into a new life in which the emotions and the spiritual dimension would begin to play a significant part. Each intention opened to door to a wonderful period of growth, a fuller sense of who and what I am, and of my relationship with the world around me.

And now I find myself doing battle with a new one, not fully formulated, though I feel it struggling to be born. It will not come without resistance. I have many fears and doubts that prevent me, often, from seeing things as clearly as I might. It has something to do with age, aging, and the prospect of approaching death. It has something to do with needing to leave a mark, however small. It has something to do with service to my fellow beings, with whom I share this planet. I'm not yet sure what form this new intention will take, what words might come along to give it shape and focus. But I'm working on it...


mandt said...

Wonderful thought! Many of us older practitioners are so engaged. And, many of us do think about legacy, even if then winking at our ego's will to future. But I think you nailed it with: "It has something to do with needing to leave a mark." In keeping with the grace of the Middle Way, if one thinks of cause and effect as karma, then the 'mentoring' aspects that arise from mature practice are profound---like that image of a pebble thrown in a pond. That direction seems far more enduring than 'personal' attainments, no matter how accomplished.

Nancy Youdelman said...

I am really taken by what you are saying here. Lately (aging and thoughts of approaching death) these things have been on my mind also--the wanting to make a mark, do something important, helpful.

The deeper intention that you are talking about is powerful--" a flow in which everything seems to fit nicely into place, to follow the right course without effort or conscious direction."

That's what I want! Thank you for these thoughts.

ErnestO said...

Abandon any hope of fruition.
The key instruction is to stay in the present. Don’t get caught up in hopes of what you’ll achieve and how good your situation will be some day in the future. What you do right now is what matters.

Two activities: one at the beginning, one at the end.
In the morning when you wake up, you reflect on the day ahead and aspire to use it to keep a wide-open heart and mind. At the end of the day, before going to sleep, you think over what you have done. If you fulfilled your aspiration, even once, rejoice in that. If you went against your aspiration, rejoice that you are able to see what you did and are no longer living in ignorance. This way you will be inspired to go forward with increasing clarity, confidence, and compassion in the days that follow.
From Always Maintain a Joyful Mind, © 2007 by Pema Chödrön

Salud ErnestO