“Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.” -Thich Nhat Hahn
I remember being 6 years old and whining when my mother came home and had me to my chores over again. I grew up in a home where we all carried our own weight no matter our age. We couldn’t work so my parents decided that we would be in charge of dusting, making our beds and learning how to do laundry. I remember my parents saying, “do everything as if it were for God.” Well, I did not know what that meant. I just thought they were trying to make me feel guilty. Now that I look back at that saying I see the beauty I didn’t see as a child.
In my lifetime I have done countless mindless and seemingly pointless things. I have felt empty and drained even though I was not straining or working hard at all. I have sat on the couch for hours just watching images on the screen because I was lonely or because I was bored. I have used the adult version of the “time-out” to just sit there with absolutely no thoughts. While I think we can all use a personal time-out every now and then, I also realize that instead of letting myself be completely empty, I can set an intention for those moments of silence or the moments of crazy when you just need to focus. Instead of being an empty vessel, find one word to think about.
An intention is a thought. A good thought. An intention is something you wish for. It is something you hope for. An intention is like holding something or someone in your thoughts. Intention is the recognition of something and having a non-judgemental thought about it. Intention is awareness.
Let’s say you are washing dishes and you are annoyed because you don’t want to do them.
Recognition: “I recognize that I am feeling annoyed, this is what annoyed feels like.”
Action: Take 3 full inhalations and 3 full exhalations
Intention/thought: “I am at peace”. Repeat this phrase to yourself while you are doing dishes and as you continue taking deep breaths.
Another example is:
Let’s say you are practicing yoga and the instructor asks you to set an intention for your class.
Recognition: “I am really tired today and would rather be at home sleeping, this is what tired feels like”
Action: Focus on your gentle breathing. Feel your belly rise up as you breathe in, and fall as you breathe out.
Intention: “I am blessed to have the ability to move my limbs. Today, I practice for those who are unable to move about
Using one word or phrase intention is a mindful meditation. Meditating or thinking about one word helps with focus and attention. I know some people don’t know or understand the idea of meditation. It can be quite daunting for some people. If you are not a meditator and need a place to start here are some tips:
1. Make it your own: Start small. Start with breathing and just repeating the word “peace” throughout your day. Choose words that resonate with how you want to feel throughout your day.
2. Let it be a personal practice: This is an internal practice. No one needs to know all of your inner thoughts, prayers, etc.
3. Use an app: I have some reservations about meditation apps, however there are a few good ones that might be helpful for beginners or for anyone needing a reminder. Some free meditation apps go off at random times during the day. The sound works as a reminder to take a moment to relax and breathe.
Finding what works for you is important. Sometimes the things that have the biggest impact in our lives start as simple and easy practices. The less complicated you make it, the more you will want to do it. Soon enough you will do it automatically and not even realize you are doing it.