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Living with Intention / Living in the Flow

(Further information about living with intention may be found in my book, Sacred Practices for Conscious Living)

A fundamental premise of all the materials found on my website is that we humans live in a context of collective consciousness. What we think, how we live, who we choose to be contributes to the quality of this collective consciousness. Because of this, the quality of our own consciousness, and that of everyone else, matters. At every moment, we both give to, and draw from, the wisdom of all of us, through all time. The hopeful part of this is that we never travel alone, always have available sources of inspiration, experience and learning from everyone who has gone before us. The other side of the equation is that we also are impacted by the less inspiring, more toxic elements of human thinking, feeling, and behavior.
All spiritual practices lend meaning and depth to daily living, and offer us ways to enhance the quality of both our inner lives and the way we choose to be in the world. Some, such as mindfulness, support centering, and practice in skillfully responding to life‰s challenges. Some, such as prayer and other forms of contemplation and meditation, give our lives meaning by connecting us to sources of inspiration and comfort. Others allow us to actively participate in co-creating the quality of our lives. One of the most powerful of these is intention.

Intention creates the frame around which we engage in any particular activity, state of mind, outcome, or way of being. It is like a rudder, in that it provides an inner sense of direction. It is a communication to our deepest wisdom about what we seek to be and achieve.

For the following exercise, all you need to do is be willing to practice engaging the beginning of each day mindfully, consciously, with choice. Following the exercise is a meditation to energize your ability to develop a more active, conscious relationship with intention as part of everyday life.

Exercise in Living with Intention

When you begin your day, before getting out of bed, take a moment to notice your state of mind and body. Do you awaken and look forward to the day, or do you find yourself already considering difficulties or challenges you don‰t want to face. Next, consider how you want to live this day, how you choose to engage whatever awaits. Take a few moments to ask yourself, “What is my intention for today?”
Be as specific or general as you‰d like. For example, perhaps you want to feel more connected to the people around you, so you might create an intention that focuses on your willingness to say hello to the grocery store clerk, the dry cleaner, or anyone else you might otherwise engage with less awareness and connection. Or, you might want to achieve a particular outcome. In this case, your intention would focus on your willingness to take whatever next steps are needed to reach your goal. These may include working through any resistance you might have to allowing your outcome, taking risks that frighten you, or whatever else you need to do to give yourself the gift of success.

Whatever your particular intention, remind yourself of it before you get out of bed. Hold it in your mind and say it to yourself mentally. How does it feel to hear your intention in your mind? Notice where in your body you resonate with your willingness to live this intention, or where you may tighten up around it.
Imagine what new choices and opportunities open up for you in the context of your intention š choices and opportunities you might have overlooked otherwise.
Make a mental note to recall your intention half-way through your day and then to repeat it to yourself before you go to sleep.
Many people find that creating an intention at the beginning of the day becomes a supportive part of an overall regimen for getting ready to meet the world.

Meditation: Supporting Living with Intention

Begin by settling into the bottom of the breath š traveling with the next outbreath down to the bottom.
There, find the still point that exists between each outbreath and the next inbreath.

Just be there for a moment or two, settling in.

Bring to mind how intention orients you to a particular flow, is your rudder, a way you stay connected with an inner sense of direction that moves you toward enlivening your choices.
Take a moment to sense, feel, and imagine the presence of this rudder, this internal sense of direction . . . find it in your body.

Next, bring to mind that you are part of a collective consciousness within which you have access to inspiration, support, and wisdom and that your place within this collective matters.
Your intention is like a magnet within the collective and it draws to you those opportunities, experiences, teachers, helpers . . . and anything else you may need to achieve the outcomes you seek.

Now, imagine that you are walking along a path that represents your developing relationship with intention š your deepening and developing capacity to co-create a better quality of life through conscious choice.
Become aware of the quality of the surface underfoot as you walk along this path, the natural sounds and smells around you, and the quality of the environment through which your path travels.

As you walk along, bring to mind whatever intention you currently hold as the most energized for you. Repeat it to yourself as you continue to take steps along the path.
Now, notice what you experience if you allow yourself to say “yes” to your intention . . . to be willing, with every level of your being, your intention to become reality.
Pay particular attention to anyplace in your body, mind, or emotions where you feel a pulling back, tightening, or otherwise drawing away from the “yes.” It‰s important to allow and accept mixed feelings š they tell you where you may need some healing in order to allow yourself to have what you seek.

Also notice where in your body the “yes” is particularly powerful. Enjoy that sensation for a few moments.

Now, keep walking, affirming to yourself that each step you take represents your conscious willingness to learn to live with intention more actively and powerfully.
When you‰re ready, come back to the bottom of the outbreath and return to the stillness. Rest in the stillness as you review your experience. Then, come all the way back, aware of the resonating tone of your journey in whatever way feels good to you.

Living in the Flow

In the section on living with intention, I mentioned the idea of a rudder š of how creating intentions is like connecting with a rudder that gives us an inner sense of direction. In this meditation, we‰ll explore how that rudder also aligns us with a particular flow that moves us in directions we seek to go. When we are out of touch with that flow and have let go of the rudder, we may find ourselves bumping up against life in ways that create unnecessary difficulty.

A theme of this meditation is “no struggle”. There are many times we may need to exert effort and energy to achieve outcomes we seek, but struggle is an entirely different response to life challenges. When we struggle, we fight the very fact of what is. We demand, insist, protest that what is happening shouldn‰t be happening, that we don‰t want to be where we are. We end up using our energy and awareness to push against what actually needs our attention. We fight the very thing we need to engage in order to bring about whatever change, action, or resolution is needed to keep us safe, arrive at our goals, recenter ourselves.

Another theme of the meditation is that there is a certain flow that is an inherent aspect of our life experience when it is unfolding in a constructive direction, attuned to our deepest purpose and our most empowering intentions. When we are aligned in this way, life tends to move along smoothly, even in the face of challenges. The challenges, themselves, may be mighty, but when we are in the flow of that which is best for us, we meet these challenges with an ease not available when we struggle.

As you explore this meditation, be sure to allow mixed feelings. It‰s natural to move toward struggle when we‰re challenged, stretched, or otherwise in the presence of life circumstances that cause us pain, fear, or some other discomfort. Your mixed feelings are part of your wholeness, and they need to have a voice. As you learn to recenter yourself in the flow that‰s taking you in a positive direction, your mixed feelings will simply become one more aspect of the awareness you carry with you š and they will show you where you have healing work to do.

Meditation: Practicing Living in the Flow

Begin by centering yourself at the bottom of the next outbreath, in the still point that emerges when you become aware of the gap between the outbreath and the next inbreath.
Spend a few moments in the stillness, allowing your body, mind, and emotions to settle. Be sure to allow thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations to wander through the stillness when they arise, as you continue to focus on settling.

Bring to mind a time recently when you realized that you were bumping up against life š when no matter what you did, you seemed to be banging into whatever you encountered.
Notice how you were out of the flow at that moment. In some way, you were struggling with whatever experience you were having.

Take a moment to imagine that you become aware of the fact that you are struggling, aware that you have moved out of the flow of your experience into something choppy and jarring, even if only slightly so..
Notice where in your body you experience the quality of being uncentered and out of the flow. As you practice identifying this body state, you‰ll be able to identify those times when you‰re out of the flow sooner and more easily

Notice what happens when you make a choice to move back into the flow. Orient your awareness to that rudder you carry inside, the part of your experience that recognizes when you are out of the flow.
Experience what happens when you allow yourself to settle into the feeling of that rudder and allow yourself to release any struggle you may have been experiencing.

Letting go of the struggle is like allowing a heavy robe to fall from your shoulders. Experience the relief of letting go of having to push against what life has brought your way.

It also brings a sense of “rightness,” an inner, intuitive knowing that you‰re back on track, back in the flow.

As you continue to connect with the rudder, call to mind the fact that this rudder inevitably connects you with the flow of what is constructive and positive in your life š that it points you in a direction of fulfilling the intentions you hold.
Remember that being in the flow doesn‰t mean you don‰t have the capacity to expend energy and effort š to act, think, feel, not act, or anything else that serves the outcomes and quality of life you seek. What you‰ll discover, though, is that when you do these things within the context of the flow, they emerge with a surprising ease and effectiveness.

Recall, also, that when you are in the flow, you are automatically aligned with all those opportunities within collective consciousness that support fulfilling the intentions you hold within you, the choices you seek to bring to life.
Notice what it‰s like to consciously allow yourself to receive all the support, inspiration, abundance and help that automatically emerge to help you achieve the intentions you hold, the choices you want to bring alive.
Where in your body do you feel the presence of the rudder that aligns you with your flow? Simply notice where it lives and how it feels in you.
Become aware of where and how your willingness to allow the flow to guide you lives in your thoughts, feelings, and body.

Notice, as well, anyplace in your body, mind, or emotions where you may pull back from the flow, where you clench down around allowing it to carry you along in line with your intentions. If it feels all right to do so, let go of the tightness and notice what happens.

When you‰re ready, take a moment to settle back into the bottom of the breath, returning to the stillness.
Take a few moments to review your experience and, when you‰re ready, come back with the thought in mind that you are willing to allow yourself to become increasingly skilled at noticing when you‰ve slipped out of the flow and, then, allowing yourself to reenter it.

Notice, as well, what it‰s like to affirm that you are willing to learn to be more skillful in identifying and releasing struggle and, then, identifying and realigning with the ease that emerges when you are moving through life in line with your intentions.

© Nancy J. Napier, 1999

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