We are all beautifully adorned elephants traipsing through narrow streets.
In Sunday's class, I shared the story of the beautifully adorned elephants walking in the big celebrations in India where their trunks would wreck all the many vendors, grabbing anything tasty and sparkly within their reach along the narrow streets. Once their trainers gave them bamboo shoots to hold with their trunks, the vendors were left undisturbed as the elephants had something to focus on instead of grasping at every outside distraction.
This story can be likened to our own experiences, as we may be tempted to grab at any shiny thing that we see because we are without intention. When we become distracted from our own vision, we are essentially robbing ourselves of our own authentic existence. We cling to the goals and accomplishments of others. When we don't know what we want or how to express it, we may try to live through others' expectations. Instead, if we grab onto that bamboo shoot of purpose and intention while walking through a life of sparkly distractions, we tap into a life of our own potential.
So, how can we design a life of intention that leads us back to our truest selves? Here are three ways:
Practicing with Intention
In the words of Donna Farhi, "...it matters less what we do in practice than how we do it and why we do it. The same posture, the same sequence, the same meditation done with a different intention takes on an entirely new meaning and will have entirely different outcomes." It becomes the difference between taking a yoga class and practicing yoga. Think about it - anyone can step on a yoga mat for an hour and walk away feeling like they got a good stretch in their hamstrings or low backs (and there's totally nothing wrong with that). But, when stepping onto your mat with a greater intention, we can experience the real essence of yoga. Tree pose becomes more than a glutes and core strengthener, inner thigh and quad stretch, and balancing position. It becomes a posture where we can experience dharana, where the mind begins to settle on one point as we focus our gaze (drishti) on the wall in front of us. We can practice the yama (part of yoga's ethical precepts) of satya, or truth, as we settle into our version of the pose, not trying to strain into the "fullest expression" of the pose we saw on social media. We can find a deeper connection to our breath while standing tall.
If yoga is not something you practice, try bringing more intention and purpose into any other type of practice you engage in.
Eating with Intention
Picture this - you devour your breakfast while standing at the kitchen counter, scrolling through your phone. You eat your almost-forgotten lunch in front of your computer as you pound away at the keyboard. By dinnertime, you're so exhausted that you decide to eat on the couch while binging your favorite show, making sure to check your phone when you receive a notification, leaving you feeling unrested the next morning, only to start it all over again. Does any of this sound typical to your day-to-day?
Now, I completely understand that it is a privilege to have the time and resources to work on your eating habits. However, this doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing practice. How can you find ways to eat more mindfully and with intention? Maybe it means turning off devices during meals (or at least one meal a day!). Maybe it means pausing before a meal to acknowledge where your food came from and giving thanks to nature and the people who were involved in getting it to you. Maybe it looks like chewing your food slowly and completely, allowing for your full attention during the experience by engaging all five senses. Maybe you take the time to witness the emotions and physical sensations that arise before, during, or after your meal. My friend and teacher Margaret James explains this so eloquently as a rest and Ayurvedic wellness coach. Check out her IG post here that showcases how to "eat with love and devotion". She has taught me SO much when it comes to eating mindfully and intentionally as it can help with digestion, energy levels, and even better sleep.
Living with Intention
I'm a sucker for a good routine. I love schedules, planners, calendars, and lists. I love waking up every day with a set of habits that create a framework to support my mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. Whether I'm at home or traveling (haha, not so much) I try to start my day with these habits, allowing for flexibility if needed. And, just when I think, "Oh, I'll be fine if I skip XYZ.", I see it play out in the rest of my day through low energy, lack of motivation and focus, sluggish digestion, and moodiness. I hesitate to share my morning routine because the purpose is not to say that you should do this too. I am not a fan of the "what I eat in a day" posts that make you feel terrible for not following. We are all individuals with specific needs, right? So our daily habits should be unique to our specific needs. I will, however, share that moving my body within the first 30 minutes of my morning is essential for my mental health. I will share that drinking warm lemon/lime water upon waking helps me feel energized, replenishes my body of lost fluids during sleep, and gets my digestion going for the day. I will also share that spending an obscene amount of time making my one and only mug of coffee for the day allows me to slow down and be fully present while making the most luxurious, velvety beverage (stay tuned for my favorite coffee recipe).
These are just a few of my morning habits to support the rest of my day. Perhaps a morning routine sounds unrealistic and ridiculous to you and you feel you would benefit more from a few individualized evening habits (because ultimately our day starts the night before, right?), then make that work for you! If you are reading this with curiosity and want to brainstorm some ideas to help set up your days with more intention, I'd love to support you. Let's connect!
How do you live with intention?
What are some other ways you practice intention? Are you consuming with intention? Speaking with intention? Working with intention? Creating with intention? Can you see and feel the difference when something is done with or without intention?