I remember feeling confused about the concept of intention. It was almost 10 years ago, and I was training to become a yoga therapist. My intention was to support individuals on their journey to holistic wellness, but I was being told by my teachers to “let go of outcome”. How could I hold the intention to help my clients heal (or have any intentions at all for that matter) and simultaneously not care about the outcome? It felt like a paradox.
I reached out to Elissa Cobb, one of my yoga therapy teachers, for guidance. She told me, “As soon as I focus on controlling the outcome, my intention ceases to exist…I have to let go in order to receive what I want.” Her perspective felt radical at the time, and it sparked a new understanding for me about the nature of intention that continues to inspire my work with clients today.
At the time, my confusion had sprung from a false association between “letting go” and not caring, when in fact the opposite is true. Letting go of outcome doesn’t mean you don’t care about your goals or your vision, it means that you are freeing yourself to be fully present in the moment so that you can actually manifest what you want. Manifestation isn’t magic. It happens incrementally through the moment-to-moment, day-to-day choices we make. Where your attention goes, energy flows.
Why trying to control the outcome doesn’t work
Here’s why intentions focused on a specific future outcome are often unsuccessful:
1) As much as we try, (99.99% of the time) we are not in control of how things turn out in the end. All we are in control of if how we show up in the moment.
2) When we try to control the outcome, and only look to how we want things to be different in the future, we lose sight of how we are showing up in the moment, and we are at a greater risk for experiencing stress and anxiety.
Anxiety is a future-oriented mood state characterized by worry, and stress often comes from feeling overwhelmed by looking ahead to everything that has to get done. As Seneca the Elder said, “we often suffer more from imagination than from reality.” Michael Lee, the founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, taught me that intention is about how we BE. And how we BE informs what we DO.
The big take-away
Intention is the PRACTICE of FEELING what you want, and the more you practice it, the more you manifest it! Intentions are manifested through the practice of Embodied Mindfulness. Rather than saying you want a certain thing to happen, ask yourself how it would FEEL if that outcome was already a reality (yup, right now!).
For example, let’s say you want to accept yourself more this year. What does acceptance FEEL like in your body? Is it light, open, soft, warm, connected? Your body is constantly sending signals to your brain for interpretation. A study found that people felt happier when they held a pencil between their teeth rather than between their lips – a fake smile tricked the brain into feeling happier!
So think of your intention as the mindful practice of “faking it till you make it”. Just like when you first started practicing yoga (or any other activity that requires technique), many of the poses probably felt awkward and uncomfortable, but as you continued to practice, those poses started to feel more natural and even pleasant. If you want to master anything, you have to practice.
The question is, what kind of experience do you want to manifest? Once you identify one to three words that describe how you want to feel (such as “Open”, “Connected”), let those words be your guide, like a mantra, and start practicing. Feel the energy of those words in your body. Breathe them into all the cells of your being. Let them fill you up. And watch what happens!
What about roadblocks?
It’s important to acknowledge that we are (unconsciously) practicing how to be all the time. For example, we practice worrying, complaining, doubting, feeling tense, or not having time for self-care.
Starting June 6th 2016, I’ll be leading 30 min meditation classes on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:30-8pm after my 6pm Flow class at YYoga Downtown Flow.
Yoga and Meditation Instructor Shivani Wells walks us through her journey with meditation, and tells us more about the new meditation classes offered at YYoga…
I started a meditation practice in 2002 while living in New York, and over the years it has evolved greatly and become a very important part of my life. In particular after I sustained a head injury a few years ago, breath work and meditation became an essential daily practice to manage anxiety that resulted from traumatic imprinting in my nervous system. I would be a very different person today if it weren’t for meditation!
I think it’s important for beginners to know that meditation isn’t always going to be blissful in the beginning, but that it gets easier with practice. The reality is that we are engaging in unconscious practices all the time. For example, we practice anxiety by unconsciously establishing ourselves in worry about the unknown. We are the architects of our own stress and negative thinking patterns. What’s empowering about that, however, is that we can choose to consciously engage in mindful practices that help us manage stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, and physical tension. It’s a practice!
Whether working one-on-one with clients as a yoga therapist, or when teaching a yoga class, my intention is the same: to help people become more consciously embodied beings. This intention stems from my experience with Embodied Mindfulness, the practice that is at the heart of the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy approach. What I love about Embodied Mindfulness is that it makes meditation accessible for beginners, and that it is a tangible practice of embracing our humanness.
Meditation is about shifting from a thinking state to an aware state. When we are in thoughts we aren’t present; our mind and body are in different places. Thoughts transport us to the the past, or future, or immerse us in evaluation, meaning making, and judgement. On the other hand, awareness is about entraining with what’s happening now without judgement. From the Embodied Mindfulness perspective, present moment awareness is achieved when we are fully inhabiting our bodies, without the need to fix or change.
In my meditation classes at YYoga I’ll be offering various styles, including Embodied Mindfulness, moving and seated practices, breath work, basic chanting, visualization, and more. This is to give students an opportunity to experience different techniques and to find a practice that works best for them in the hopes that they will develop a home practice.
I find it’s easiest to calm the mind after yoga-asana, and so I hope students will come for my 6pm flow class and stay for meditation, but students are also welcome to just drop-in to the meditation class…Click here to visit YYoga.
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy trainings in Vancouver!
Accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
Level 1: April 28th-May 1st, 8:30am-5:30pm $765*
Level 2: May 3rd-7th, 8:30am-5:30pm $995*
*financial assistance and scholarships are available. Email email@example.com for info.