Is the path you’re walking making your truly happy? Ana Forrest, author of Fierce Medicine, reminds us that in order to live an authentic life and achieve our goals, it’s important to set your intent.
From Fierce Medicine by Ana Forrest
The path you’ll need to walk to achieve your goals is a long one. It’s easy to lose focus. That’s why it’s so important to set your intent every day. Renew your commitment to live life authentically daily. Most of us wake up, toss some coffee down our throats, and rush headlong into our day. Instead, if you pause to begin your day with a strong intent about what you plan to discover or why you’ll take a certain action, you’ll get better results. You can go out in the wilderness and wander, or you can go out and start tracking.
This doesn’t need to be an elaborate song and dance; I set my intent in the shower every morning. I stand in simple ceremony as the water pours over my head: I close my eyes and first picture cleansing white water rushing over me. Then I visualize the lavender hue the water takes on during certain stormy skies and picture that cascade cleansing my karma, the actions I take in this life. Finally, I visualize that gorgeous silver-gold-orange hue when the sun is setting on the water, and I imagine it washing over me. For me, that’s the symbol of prosperity. I don’t mean prosperity as in abundance of gold or money. I ask for the prosperity of good health, of being able to tap in to my creativity, of an abundance of students who can learn from me, of love and time enough for love. That’s real richness.
By now I’ve woken up a little bit. Then I ask: What would be meaningful for me to do today? How do I want to live this day? Setting intent isn’t simply making a list of things to do. It’s asking yourself: What action step do I need to take to walk into the person I most want to be? What’s the quality of energy I want in my life today, no matter what I do?
Be flexible. Some people work better with bookend boundaries as action steps—I will do this ten times. Others prefer to repeat an action step however many times it feels comfortable in the moment. Pick whichever approach feels better to you. But give yourself a generous allowance. If your intention is to do Yoga every day, but you define doing Yoga as two hours of sweating during which you raise your heart rate for twenty minutes, then anything less than that can feel like a failure. When I injured my ankle, I couldn’t meet my own definition of doing Yoga for a month and a half; I had to find other poses, use supports, do a lot of inversions.
Make your intent focused and doable. One of my students announced, “I want to be conscious and present 24-7.” Even the Dalai Lama would struggle with that one! I asked her to consider a different intent: “I want to be conscious for a whole breath.” That was a sufficiently ambitious goal for her right them; she could stay conscious on the inhale but her mind flickered on the exhale. She’d get there with practice. If you’re a parent who dreams of building a richer relationship with family, your intent might be to give each family member a quality moment, including yourself. Enjoy and relish the complexity and depth of that relationship for five minutes. Make it such a ridiculously brief amount of time that you can achieve it.
What’s your good intent? If you can’t think of one, start by focusing on your breath. Set your intent that once an hour, you’ll take ten deep breaths. What a simple but profound step!