I woke up with a heavy heart one morning not too long ago. I rarely watch violent television or movies. But a few months back, I caught an episode or two of a popular drama with some especially vicious scenes.
Now, months later, a savage character from the show appeared in my dream, triggering a raging heartbeat and automatic muscle constriction.
As you can imagine, it took awhile to fall back to sleep. When I woke in the morning, these thoughts arose:
- “This world is hopeless.”
- “Why do we allow writers, producers, and advertisers to imagine such a grotesque world and undesirable future for us?”
- “Why do people find violence entertaining, so much so they’re willing to spend millions of dollars to watch it?”
Instead, we could imagine:
- A happy world.
- A peaceful world.
- A beautiful world.
- A bountiful world.
- A nourished world.
- A world without violence.
We Are What We Think
It might be tempting to downplay the impact of our individual and collective imagination, but these positive visions aren't just Pollyannish dreams. They could be so!
Consider what the Buddha said,
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with an impure mind, And trouble will follow you As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with a pure mind, And happiness will follow you As your shadow, unshakeable.
Of course, right action needs to come into the picture too, but everything begins with our thoughts, intentions, and our imagination.
Simple Ways to Be Intentional
Here are some simple ways to shake off habitual patterns and be intentional instead:
- At the start of each day, set a positive intention.
- At the start of each new action, set a positive intention.
- Examine your intention or any action for its potential impact. Will it help on the short and long run or will it bring harm in any way?
- Check in briefly throughout the day to see if you’re on track with your positive intention.
- Review your day before falling asleep. Did you stay true to your intention? If you’ve done well by your intention, pat yourself on the back. If it was rocky, don’t be hard on yourself. Just set an intention to do better tomorrow.
Direct Your Intentions for the Greatest Good
Intentions can be practical and encompass anything from losing weight to running a marathon to getting a degree. In fact, many people these days promote “intentional living” as the best way to create your very own perfect, cozy life.
Until it falls apart for one reason or another. Now, I don't mean to be negative. It's just the truth of this impermanent universe: whatever comes together will eventually part.
Besides, I feel the power of positive intention can go far beyond personal preferences and desires like these. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using positive intention on the practical side to lead a happier and healthier life. But let’s also make it a priority to direct our positive intentions for the good of others as well and even for the good of all.
Here are a few positive intentions you could try out for a day, a week, or a month - one at a time. Make an intention to:
- Be Patient
- Be Generous
- Be Kind
- Be Friendly
- Be Helpful
- Be Consoling
- Be Thoughtful
- Be Forgiving
- Be Affirming
What do these positive intentions have in common?
They’re other-directed. The simple act of decreasing attention on the self can put your woes in perspective and by doing so liberate you from a ton of unnecessary concerns. These types of intentions open your heart and cultivate a sense of connection with others, sparking joy and fulfillment instead of constant self-obsession.
As you can see from the aftermath of my dream, I sometimes feel hopeless myself. The problem isn't what arises in the mind, however, but whether we hop on the negativity train. I'm not perfect at it yet, but I try not to get stuck in hopelessness or negative thinking for too long.
It takes practice to be positively intentional in all that you think, say, and do. But slowly, slowly, if you begin, you'll succeed and as the Buddha promised, “Happiness will follow you, as your shadow, unshakeable.”
Do you feel like you're intentional in your life? I would love to hear.
Thank you for reading! I so appreciate your presence. I’d love it if you could take a moment to share this article on social media and spread the goodness. Thank you! With love, Sandra