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An Intentional Practice

How we approach our day can determine its course, for better or for worse. Racing out the door, running late for work I left my packed lunch and hot tea sitting on the counter, forgotten in my haste to get out the door. Traffic was snarly for Amherst and I hit every red light and school bus stop through town. When I did finally land at school I raced to pick up my first group of kids. They were unsettled, boisterous and not focused on the lessons. I found my frustration mounting with each minute. Clearly a bad beginning to the day and it wasn't looking to get any better.

By noon not much had changed and I was feeling very grumpy and ungrounded. It seemed that whatever could go wrong, did go wrong, and all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and start the day over. I was ready to throw in the towel and call it a day, but still had afternoon commitments at school, so couldn't just leave.

Since I'd forgotten my lunch, I stepped out to my car during a break to pick up some food. As I sat in my car I took some moments to reflect and regroup. I did a scan of my energy bodies, tuned into my breath and settled into my seat. I usually begin my morning with setting an intention for my day, even if it's just a brief check in. I realized however that in my morning rush I hadn't taken the few minutes to mindfully reflect and set the tone for my day. So in the quietude of my car, I reflected on my morning and how I wanted my day to proceed. I then created an intention to carry me through the rest of the day.

Most mornings I wake up before the sun rises and have time for my yoga and/or meditation practice before I head out for the day. I take time to reflect on how I slept, what physical aches and pains I might have and note my feeling state. This scan of my energy bodies is in preparation for setting an intention, because we have the choice to meet the day with gratitude or to meet it with indifference or complaint.

When I set an intention, words are framed in the positive, so that monkey mind latches on to that which will steer me in the right direction, even if I'm not feeling that way in that moment. Our words have power whether they are spoken out loud or held internally. An intention can simply be a short phrase or it can include a sentence or two. Starting an intention with I alerts the ego that it needs to pay attention. I is usually followed by a verb and then comes the telling part. For example, "I breathe in peace," "I find stillness in each moment," or "I express clearly from my heart, allowing my voice to be heard."

It's best not to start with "I know" because on a deeper level your soul, inner self, intuition does already know this. It is already the truth; the conscious mind just hasn't caught up yet. Wording such as "I would like," When I'm ready," or "I can't wait" either project the intention into the future or include a word with a negative slant, so are not good choices either.

Keep it in the present and use positive wording for best results. I often write an intention in my notes on my phone and read it during the course of my day. It's a great reminder of what I'm striving for and gives me easy access without having to try and recreate it. If an inspiration pops in to tweak it, either by changing words or adding to it, I include those changes to keep it fresh and relevant.

Can you guess what happened during the second half of that god awful day? My day took a 180° degree turn and suddenly it was like stepping into a bright sunny day after being soaked in a drenching thunderstorm. Everything fell right into place. When I went to pay for my food, my server forgot to charge me for my drink, and when I tried to make up the difference, he said it was on the house because it was his fault. Back at school, each one of my afternoon students were fully engaged and playful. After work, I picked up groceries at Whole Foods and everyone smiled, said hello and went out of their way to be helpful. My two other stops of errands went the same way. I was experiencing little kindnesses at every turn.

Now this kind of dramatic turn around doesn't happen every time I set an intention, but time and time again it positively has an impact on how I interact with my surroundings. When the attitude is gratitude, it shapes my experience of the world and how I respond to those experiences.

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