More of my teaching is moving to mindfulness of intention. A recent Calgary Herald article comes to mind, which encouraged parents to “put the camera down and treasure the time you have with your children now.” An excellent opportunity to be “in the moment”!
The writer, previously obsessed with documenting her children’s infancy, noticed she was focused on creating and saving moments for future public presentation, and simultaneously mourning the passage of time and infancy. She noticed the motivators of fear and guilt behind her work, and recommended just taking a couple pix instead of dozens.
I’ve noticed that I find it harder to remember events unless I have a photo documenting it. Perhaps that’s part of aging, or just being a busy single mom—sometimes it feels rarely possible for me to think/do one thing at a time and get it all done. I’d say it is both of these, plus something else: operating without clear intention.
Let’s take a moment to find the intention of this scenario mentioned in the Calgary Herald. Definitely, as the writer acknowledged, even her documenting of an event had little to do with the intention of savouring the moment. When our intention is not aligned with our heart and actions, this creates incongruence and suffering in our lives.
I can’t stress how important it is to understand what actually motivates our actions. Even eating healthfully will backfire if there is fearfulness associated with it: “I’d better eat better or else I’ll get sick.” Then we don’t enjoy eating healthfully; it feels like punishment and prevention, rather than a joyful opportunity.
How can we understand our intentions? Without mindful practice often we live and act oblivious to our inner truth. It is in learning to pay attention to our thoughts and emotions, the undercurrent that constantly during our thoughts, actions, sleep. Our undercurrent intenion will certainly pattern itself through many scenarios—do you feel under attack? Limited? Not enough time? Opportunity to be creative? Constant survival mode?
Start paying attention to this voice, to understand your true intention. Simple actions, even routines like cleaning, can become an undue stress in our lives when tied to thoughts of self-attack and victimization. No kind of vacation can cure this dis-ease, since, as my sister says, “where you go, there you are!” We bring our thoughts of self-attack and victimization to our fun, also!
The result is that no action can actually be truly fun or restful.
When we align our intention with our thoughts and actions with deliberate mindfulness, most actions, even grunt work, benefit from greatly reduced stress levels! How to make this real in the moment, quickly and effectively?
Find a way to feel good before you take action, and if nothing feels good, it is time to explore what is really wrong. Take, for example, doing the dishes: our gut response to a messy kitchen can be quite stressful. Stop, drop & offer thanks for the food you were able to prepare, for the cutlery and dishware that your hard work paid for and thus allows for a nice meal, etc. Or if the root problem is that you are always stuck doing this work and you resent it, time to make a plan. How to allocate the labor in a way that is fair?
But if we never stop and address our thoughts and actions with mindful awareness, we just can’t get there. Even such beauty as savouring our children’s youth can be tainted with our inner painful story, needlessly!