Every New Year countless people set goals that they feel will change their lives for the better. Most of these goals are quickly overcome by events and forgotten as they fall back into old habits. We feel that this New Year’s Day equinox in time is the ideal moment for us to make pivotal changes in our lives. Yet we miss the fact that New Year’s Day is just that, a new day. Every morning begins a new year and an opportunity to start our lives fresh. Therefore the way you start the morning can have an enormous impact not only on your day, but your entire life moving forward. Changing the way we think about the day’s beginning and creating an intention that makes our mornings the epicenter of our productive lives is where we can start developing a new found power.
What’s more important than beginning from the calm center of our being when we head out into the sometimes chaotic day? Our breath and energy are full and available for that traffic jam, rude person or negative situation at work. Perhaps you bolt out of bed and bounce frantically from task to task (Blow out hair! Pack gym bag! Check Iphone!). If you begin every day feeling harried and rushed instead of productive and streamlined, it may be time to revamp your morning routine and the intention that animates it.
Intention is the starting point of every dream. It is the creative power that fulfills all of our needs, whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening, or love. Everything that happens in the universe begins with intention. When I decide to buy a birthday present, wiggle my toes, or call a friend, it all starts with intention.
The sages of India observed thousands of years ago that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The classic Vedic text known as the Upanishads declares, “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”
A working definition for intention is: “to have in mind a purpose or plan, to direct the mind, to aim.” Lacking intention, we sometimes stray without meaning or direction. But with it, all the forces of the universe can align to make even the most impossible, possible.
The problem is that we don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are. Thus we tend to base our intentions on artifacts of our ego. Cultural indoctrination and habitual living then drive our choices versus a pure intention originating from the center of our being. In other words we don’t attract what we want, we attract what we are.
Because we spend most of our time in conditioned thought we never get a chance to connect to our desires in their purest form and plant the seeds of our intentions. The science of Yoga was developed to correct this phenomena. Most of the time our mind is caught up in thoughts, emotions, and memories. Beyond this noisy internal dialogue is a state of pure awareness. The most effective tool Yoga offers for entering this state of awareness is meditation. Meditation takes you beyond the ego-mind into the silence and stillness of pure consciousness. This is the ideal state in which to plant your seeds of intention.
The Buddha said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” When we rest in the state of pure awareness or meditation, we can perceive directly where our thoughts are taking us. Unfortunately, when we try to do this without meditation using our conditioned minds we just produce more conditioned thoughts.
“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” -Albert Einstein
So you can use meditation to go past your thoughts and thinking. In fact, the best time to plant your intentions is during the period after meditation, while your awareness remains centered in the quiet field of all possibilities. How do you find this place of restful awareness? One way is through a breath awareness meditation. Try the following practice for 10-15 mintues after you get up in the morning:
“From within the body, become aware of your breathing, however it happens to appear. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Let the breath breathe itself, allowing it to be received in awareness. Notice where in your body you feel the breath most clearly. This may be the abdomen rising and falling, the chest expanding and contracting, or the tactile sensations of the air passing through the nostrils or over the upper lip. Wherever the breath tends to appear most clearly, allow that area to be the home, the center of your attention. Keep your attention connected with the inhalations and exhalations, sensing the physical sensations that accompany them. Let go of the surface concerns of the mind. Whenever the mind wanders away, gently come back to the breath. There is no need to judge or label the wandering mind; when you notice that the mind has wandered, simply return to the breath without evaluation. There is no need to force the attention on the breath; to strengthen your ability to become mindful and present, use the gentle power of repeatedly, non-judgmentally returning and resting with the breath.”
One thing to keep in mind is that many of us sit for meditation with a goal in mind….to quiet the mind, to find stillness, to find silence, to be pure awareness…the “to” list creates this paradox of doership as opposed to beingness. It is actually the use of force which is similar to how we approach many of our activities of the day. Our intention in this context should be not to force, but to allow.
When we use force to concentrate on the process or judge and label our thoughts we return to the conditioned mind with its antecedent dramatic thoughts. The process of finding stillness is about allowing. Concentration is struggle and struggle will bring more turbulence to the mind. We find peace and happiness in stillness. Stillness means lack of movement. Since the ego causes the mind to move, one must remove all ego, all trying, all desire to control. It’s like holding jello in your hand and forcing it to be still. No matter how hard you try you will never succeed. There will always be some vibrations from your body if only from your heartbeat. However, if you let it be and protect it from external influences it will come to a natural state of stillness. In the same way you cannot achieve stillness by holding the mind in the grip of the will. You cannot think your way past your thoughts. If you remove the cause of movement in the mind by letting go of the egoic need to accomplish and compete, then the mind will soon become still. You simply observe and allow. This is non-attachment and it is our path to experiencing the state of meditation.
After you finish the above practice spend a few minutes sitting in order to open yourself to the possibility of the universe. You will be able to focus on what really makes a difference in your life versus what seems urgent or dramatic. Discern what things you can do in your life that really make an impact on your roles and relationships. These items are the ones that lead to your productivity and happiness. Then set the intention to implement these things. After you set an intention, let it go — simply stop thinking about it. Continue this process for a few minutes after your meditation period each day.
As you finish this morning process set one more intention, the intention to free yourself the next morning to do the same practice. Now you can embrace the possibility that is the new day—every day!