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Intentionality

by | Jan 12, 2017 | For Everyone

Recently, I have been contemplating about intentionality. For me, thinking about my intentions is a deeply internal practice weaving together past, present, and future as I simultaneously shift my consciousness outward, laying down my carefully considered statements of intent.

This practice holds particular relevance for me as the current year unfolds into the next.  Rather than consider resolutions or goals, I am entering the upcoming year reflecting deep and wide to support my understanding of these intentions as they arise.

I like the spirit of the practice, as it is consistent with my value for cultivating openness to what might occur, paired with a sense of personal accountability for participating in the creation of my life’s direction.  This holds me open to emergent possibilities while having clarity of vision.   I often see the practice as pointing myself in a carefully considered direction and then letting go of the particularities surrounding the outcome.

I first heard Louis Pasteur’s statement “chance always favours the prepared mind” through Dr. Daniel Siegel, who offered this quote during a certificate program he taught in Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB), which I was privileged to participate in a few years ago.  This reflects the practice of setting an intention, which harnesses the energy and information flows of the mind, which Siegel (2016) considers, “…an ever emergent unfolding of potential into actual” (p. 257).  Rather than following the traditional practice of setting goals or resolutions at the beginning of the year, focusing attention on intention can be done daily, weekly, monthly and/or yearly.  Whatever combination serves you.

I find, for example, that spending a few moments each morning reflecting ahead to my day and articulating the intention(s) I wish to uphold assists me in centering and creating focus that is fuelled by my values.  This practice is a very different than trying to figure out what I wish to accomplish and setting a goal for completion.  Rather, it allows for openness to the unexpected, which most certainly presents.  More often than not, circumstances occur, people arrive, and opportunities arise that I couldn’t have manufactured.  The practice creates possibilities for me to see prospects that I might not notice if my focus had been narrowed by rigid definitions of what I think needs to happen.

The science behind the practice of setting intentions rests with both Newtonian and quantum physics along with neurobiology, which explains how energy and information moves through the human brain and extended nervous system.  I am inspired by Siegel’s new book Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human, which takes a deep dive into the nature of the human mind exploring how our attentional focus can move from rigid certainty to openness and possibility.  While we sometimes need to have clear thought, decisive action, and definitive knowing, these precise activations of our minds can sometimes hamper us and close us off from other sources of information and experiences.

For example, our brains are anticipatory organs always operating just ahead of our awareness, basing our perceptions on a mix of what is happening in the present along with our past experiences.  In a complex, lightening fast cascade of energy and information that flows through our brain and extended nervous system, memory and mental models shape how we receive, process, and perceive what is happening.  Therefore, whatever we are experiencing is shaped in part by old learning and memory, which can skew how we see the present.  Through mindfulness and awareness that opens and broadens attention, we can begin to notice these patterns of belief and memory, freeing us up to choose and develop other ways of seeing and being.

In future blogs, I hope to explore further the mind along some of these themes as I deepen my understanding and practice as well as reflect upon Siegel’s new book.  Until then, I invite you to consider engaging a regular practice of discovering and describing your intentions.  Then, while also recognizing the actions you might need to take in the service of supporting these intentions, also consider how you might allow the unfolding and emergent process of possibilities that may rest just outside your conscious awareness, waiting for an invitation to join and support you in manifesting your deepest and authentic expressions of truth.

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