There is a traditional Chinese ceremony where people float paper lanterns on a river as an offering to their ancestors. Launching a floating lantern is a good metaphor for setting an intention, which is a commitment to set the direction of future action and possibilities. Like carefully placing a floating lantern on the water and pushing it in your chosen direction.
Intentions can be subtle, useful and powerful. When we set an intention, we direct our energy and behaviour in a certain direction; normally towards purposeful improvements that we value. We can set intentions for many areas of our lives: for the next year or month, this week or day, to a particular meditation or event.
We can also set intentions for the different areas of our lives: home and family, social life and friends, work and career, creativity, religious or spiritual life, as well as around our body, emotions, mind. and senses.
Anyone who regularly meditates finds that their attention drifts away from the original intention of the practice. Our minds are very powerful and will naturally tend to find content that is more interesting than what we are currently doing, whether this is cleaning our teeth, taking a shower, walking to the train station, or noticing the sensations of our breath as we meditate. With meditation, setting a clear intention right at the start, and reminding yourself of the intention whenever your attention drifts during the practice, can make a significant difference.
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