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.
Examples of useful intentions include:
For this meditation
- To remain alert and aware, calm and connected
- To be kind to myself when I notice that my attention has wandered
- To relax physical tension and tightness and release held emotions
For this day, week or month
- To respond skillfully rather than reacting automatically
- To connect into the present moment and find sanctuary there more often
- To notice and appreciate thoughts that are useful, expanding and nurturing
- To clearly observe thoughts that are not useful, limiting and depleting
- To clearly observe old habit patterns that no longer serve me or others
- To be patient with myself and others
- To notice when my attention becomes drawn into unintentional thinking
- To fully appreciate my body
- To be kind and compassionate with myself and others
- To be open to the possibilities of each moment
- To speak wisely and skilfully
- To listen with openness, kindness, patience, and appreciation
We tend to lead busy lives, sometimes struggle to find a little bit of peace and stillness and before we know it another year has passed by. Taking the time to set clear and purposeful intentions not only helps guide our behaviour in the right direction during meditation practice, we can also bring the same motivational clarity into each day, week, month and year – as well as other areas of our lives.
Find somewhere undisturbed and sit in a comfortable, dignified and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware.
There are two guided practices for this session. You can close your eyes, or lower your gaze while the meditations play.
- Play the first settling practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps.
- Then play the second practice, which is about setting an intention at the start of a breathing practice and remembering to bring the intention back to mind whenever our attention drifts. There are periods of silence.
Suggested weekly practice
- Set an intention at the beginning of every meditation practice
- Explore setting an intention for the week or month. For example, maybe to notice the sound of your own voice and to speak wisely, or about noticing and being kind to people who would otherwise remain unnoticed, like a waiter or shop worker.
- Review different areas of your life: home and family, work and career, social, creative, spiritual, etc, and set one or two simple intentions that you can follow.
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