The Intention Journey
The New Year. It is a time when so many are making plans, creating resolutions (maybe doing so with great intention!) and committing to doing lots of good-for-you activities.
But, have you ever thought about what it really is to create a resolution? What about intentions? And what is an intention journey?
If you stop for a moment and think about resolutions, they are quite reflective of US culture: they are results-driven goals that people enact for themselves. The US is a culture that loves to see tangible, measurable results. That’s not a bad thing! It lends itself to creating very concrete goals as a way of getting things done.
Here’s a simple definition of resolution according to Merriam-Webster:
A: Something that is resolved, i.e. made a resolution to mend my ways
B: firmness of resolve
Interestingly, you don’t generally see the word intention when defining resolution, nor do you see it the other way around. They do have similar meanings, though. Merriam-Webster defines intention as
A: what one intends to do or bring about
B: the object for which a prayer, or pious act is offered
To be sure, there are other definitions for these two words and the difference is subtle. They both suggest action. One of these, however, is more heart-filling. Can you guess which?
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
Intention for Positive Change
Intention is a term that can bring about positive change. It allows for progression as opposed to a concrete goal with regard to resolution. Intention helps you to understand that true, lasting and positive change happens within the mind and heart. You can create intentions at any time, as well - not just at the beginning of the year. They give you the room to understand that you can continually evolve and become the best version of yourself, even as you are already enough. It is a term that suggests direction, like a compass.
This quote by Maya Angelou illustrates this idea so well: "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." As you evolve into ever-higher versions of yourself, intentions allow you to examine, assess and even change course on your journey once you make more self discoveries.
An Intention Journey
Intentions invite you to embark on a journey. Just as everyone has different intentions they’d like to manifest, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to fulfilling intentions. Everyone’s lives are different, with varied needs. The following list contains ideas to help you create your own intentions in a way that is inspiring to you, and to help you on your life’s journey - your intention journey.
Perhaps you’ve taken the time to write out resolutions before now. Writing out intentions is a little different. The key is to put a strong feeling into one or two intentions and focus on an overarching theme. The reason is that it’s not just the action that matters. Often there are a number of things that need to happen before an intention can come to fruition.
Let’s say you would like to get in better shape this year. Instead of writing “I intend to get in better shape in 2021,” think in terms of everything that surrounds this intention and write that down: “I intend to lead a healthier life in mind, body and spirit.” That way, you give yourself the space and time to enact all the different possibilities. Perhaps you incorporate better eating habits. Maybe you start going out for walks each day and ride your bicycle a couple days a week. Leading a healthier life also lends itself to hydrating better or decluttering. Indeed, an intention is more inclusive of your needs, your life, and who you already are even as you’re constantly evolving into whom you’d like to become.
Writing Your Intention
Take the time to write your intentions down on a piece of paper using a favorite pen or writing utensil. Avoid typing them out on a computer. The act of writing them out helps you to see, feel, and understand the power of your intention more fully.
You can do a couple things with your newly-written intentions. Try folding up the pieces of paper you wrote them on, and put them in a drawer. Then forget about them. Stories abound with people who have written intentions down, forgotten about them, only to discover they actually fulfilled those intentions months or years later. That’s because when you write down an intention, the subconscious mind begins to work on what you wrote - to make it reality. Alternatively, you can keep your intentions where you can refer to them on a regular basis, if you feel that will be helpful. You can keep them on a nightstand or in your kitchen cupboard where you’ll see them as you grab your favorite cup to make coffee or tea.
Again, keep your intentions simple and more “thematic.” Having too many can get overwhelming pretty quickly. Keeping them more along the lines of a theme allows you enough wiggle room to try different things and see what works. For example, if you’d like to “make more money,” instead of writing that particular phrase down, you can envision “abundance” as an intention. That way, you invite an abundance of other people, places or things that will help you create a more abundant life in general, and fulfill your intention in a more wholesome way, from a more heart-filled space.
Tree of Life
This is a different and fun way to create and manifest intentions. The Tree of Life is a symbol found in many, many cultures around the world. It is an emblem of generation - of life itself, and all the intentions that go with it. Different cultures have their own name for it: the Ceiba Tree in the Mayan tradition, the Acacia Tree in some African and Middle Eastern cultures, the Bodhi Tree in some Far Eastern cultures, among others.
Making Your Tree of Life
You can bring this creative symbolism into your own life. First, you will need some kind of tree. You can use a plant (even better if it’s shaped like a small tree), or branches collected from the woods. Alternatively, you can create a clay-based tree, make a 2-D paper version and hang on the wall, or even a 3-D paper tree - there are many possibilities. Next, you need some ornaments to hang on your tree that contain your intentions. You can use real ones from the holidays and write an intention on the back. Or you can create ornaments out of paper, clay or another material. The ornaments can have a nature-inspired theme on the front side, and the backside, you’ll write your intention. You can even use small pieces of paper, roll them and place on different branches of your tree. Your creativity and imagination are your only limits.
Set It Where You'll See It
After you’re finished creating your tree of life, place it somewhere you’ll see it each day. Whenever you look at the tree, you’ll be reminded of those intentions you wrote. Just as with regular written intentions, it’s best to keep them to a theme, and have just a few. Too many intentions can “water them down” and dilute their magic. At regular intervals, you can review what you've written, and/or keep your tree up year-round and check in with your progress after a year’s time.
Going a little further than a few focused intentions, the vision board is more about imagining what you would like your life to be as a whole. The vision board serves almost like a road map of where you’d like to go, and what you want to accomplish in more symbolic ways. It’s a powerful way to manifest dreams, hopes and desires.
Vision Boards are a Road Map
An interesting thing to note about vision boards is because they are like a road map, you never know exactly how your imaginings will be fulfilled. In fact, for this reason, they’re sometimes called “Treasure Maps” or even “Life Maps,” because it can truly be a process of discovery.
Let’s say you would like to live in a two-story house on a hill. You find an image to symbolize that and use it in your vision board. This vision can manifest as that house exactly, or as something else that represents your vision. Perhaps you find another kind of house that meets your needs even better than what you originally imagined, and it’s not on a hill, nor is it two stories. Instead, it has a functional basement and is located in a beautiful area in town and works much better for your needs. It’s also worth noting that because vision boards encompass multiple areas of your life, they may take longer to realize. However, you will look back at your vision board one day and see how the things you envisioned manifested themselves. It can be eye-opening to see how it all unfolds.
Creating Your Vision Board
When you create your vision board, it’s best to err on the side of simple versus too much. Keep the focus on what is important to you, and what makes you feel good. Spend some time thinking about and jotting down what you’d like to see become reality in your life. Do this before embarking on finding the images and other elements for your board. Avoid creating a “digital” vision board. When you write out or physically create one, it’s much more tangible and serves as a visual representation of your journey.
Let the creative juices flow
Creating the vision board itself isn’t difficult. It just requires a little creativity (which we all have!) and time. You can gather pictures from magazines or printouts of images from the internet, find quotes, create drawings, use postcards of favorite places, piece together cutouts of words, create or find poems, or use some other pieces of inspiration. Gather some scissors and glue, your preferred markers or pens, and you’re on your way. You can place all these items on a poster board, a bulletin board, a wall or some other place that will hold all your vision board components together in an organized way. When you’re finished, place it where you can regularly see and feel inspiration from its presence. From there, you can determine how often you’d like to review your intentions, such as daily, weekly, monthly or yearly.
Mantras are phrases that you can repeat to yourself to help you fulfill an intention. These often have deeper, even sacred, connotations. When you repeat a mantra, it can help focus your mind on what you’d like to accomplish. You can adopt a mantra in English or in another language, such as Sanskrit.
It’s best to adopt one mantra at a time to hone your focus. It makes you simplify. If you think about the origins of the word itself, you can see why. Mantra comes to English from the ancient language Sanskrit. Man- means “mind” and -tra suggests “instrument” or “tool.” Essentially, a mantra is an instrument of the mind. It’s a way to help you speak or chant an idea into existence.
Some powerful mantras in English include:
I am present.
I am calm.
I am free.
I am breathing.
I am powerful.
You can see where fulfilling a mantra entails much more than just the phrase itself. If you are repeating to yourself, “I am breathing,”, you’re instinctively becoming aware of the breath. In order to do that, you’re likely looking at ways to incorporate a more mindful approach to life. This kind of approach suggests that perhaps you’ve signed up to go on a retreat, or you’ve decided to listen to your HUSO more regularly. Maybe you’re finding out more about mindfulness itself, or trying to practice deep breathing as you go about your daily routine to help you stay calm and focused. All this from a three-word mantra!
When you use a mantra, it’s best to keep your chosen phrase to yourself and not tell others about it - a mantra is meant for you. They are great to use as part of a mindfulness practice, as well.
What about mantras in Sanskrit? Some more well-known examples include
Om So Hum
This mantra means "I am that," or "I am the universe." The video above is an example of the Om So Hum mantra.
Om mani padme hum
Using this mantra can help bring about feelings of love and compassion for yourself and others.
Om gum ganapatayei namah
This mantra is one of success and facilitating the removal of obstacles to help you achieve your goals.
Now that you have some ideas on creating intentions, you can use one or all of them to help you create the life you want for yourself. The best thing about creating intentions is that you can do them at any time - not just at the beginning of a new year. Of course, a new year naturally has everyone thinking about the possibilities in the days and weeks ahead. However, the beauty in all the ideas above is that with intention you can forge ahead, stop, change course and come up with new ways to live your life - as if you were on a real journey...because you are!