While many of us take stock at the end of a year, set goals, or make new plans for the upcoming year, that sense of letting go of what we’re caught up in and the habits we’ve been living through are a part of our everyday mindfulness practice. Each time we sit for a few minutes, there’s an opportunity to let go of wherever our minds, attention, and awareness have gotten caught up in, come back, and re-align ourselves with our best intentions and efforts.
It might be a sense of bringing full awareness and attention to our experience, to the people around us, to a conversation with our children. It might be a sense of letting go of reactivity and coming back to resolve with more patience and clarity. It might also be balancing the tendency most of us have to get caught up in stress and giving more attention to gratefulness, positive moments, and things we enjoy. Or it might be a sense of wanting to bring more kindness and compassion to how we treat ourselves, how we treat others, or even how we treat the people we find difficult in our lives. All of that can be cultivated, sustained, and developed through any amount of time we spend in our mindfulness practice.
10 Minute Meditation to Discover Your Intentions
1. Find yourself a comfortable posture.
Dropping your gaze or shutting your eyes, notice the physical movement your body makes with each breath.
2. Check-in with your effort and intention.
What is it you’d like to bring to the practice today? Perhaps it’s an opportunity to settle and gather your attention or a sense of resolve and strength.
3. Bring that sense of intention and awareness to your practice today.
One way to do that can be within each in-breath, developing a sense of open awareness.
4. With each out-breath, come up with a word that captures your intentions for yourself.
Breathe in with awareness and maybe picture something or feel gratitude toward whatever feels appropriate to you right now. Breathe out with your intentions for this moment.
5. You might lose touch with your intentions
Throughout the practice and in life—you can come back again. If you lose touch with the practice and your mind gets caught up in distraction or reactivity or some sense of discomfort, that’s normal. That’s all part of the practice.
6. As the practice ends, pause for a moment with intention.
Choose when to move on with your day. Whatever you’re facing in life, all we indirectly influence is how we choose to relate to that. Reactivity and anger so often lead to more reactivity and anger. You can get caught up in self-criticism and in criticism of others. You can develop a more balanced sense of awareness, preciseness, and clarity through mindfulness practice.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Becoming more aware of where you are and what you’re doing, without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.
Yet no matter how far we drift away, mindfulness is right there to snap us back to where we are and what we’re doing and feeling. If you want to know what mindfulness is, it’s best to try it for a while. Since it’s hard to nail down in words, you will find slight variations in the meaning in books, websites, audio, and video.
The Definition of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness is a natural quality that we all have. It’s available to us in every moment if we take the time to appreciate it. When we practice mindfulness, we’re practicing the art of creating space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Practice:
When we meditate it doesn’t help to fixate on the benefits, but rather to just do the practice, and yet there are benefits or no one would do it.
When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increase our attention to others’ well-being.
Mindfulness meditation gives us a time in our lives when we can suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness—to ourselves and others.
8 Facts About Mindfulness:
What You Need to Know Before Practicing Mindfulness:
You don’t need to buy anything. You can practice anywhere, there’s no need to go out and buy a special cushion or bench—all you need is to devote a little time and space to accessing your mindfulness skills every day.
There’s no way to quiet your mind. That’s not the goal here. There’s no bliss state or otherworldly communion. All you’re trying to do is pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Sounds easy, right?
Your mind will wander. As you practice paying attention to what’s going on in your body and mind at the present moment, you’ll find that many thoughts arise. Your mind might drift to something that happened yesterday, meander to your to-do list—your mind will try to be anywhere but where you are. But the wandering mind isn’t something to fear, it’s part of human nature and it provides the magic moment for the essential piece of mindfulness practice—the piece that researchers believe leads to healthier, more agile brains: the moment when you recognize that your mind has wandered. Because if you can notice that your mind has wandered, then you can consciously bring it back to the present moment. The more you do this, the more likely you are to be able to do it again and again. And that beats walking around on autopilot any day (ie: getting to your destination without remembering the drive, finding yourself with your hand in the bottom of a chip bag you only meant to snack a little from, etc.).
Your judgy brain will try to take over. The second part of the puzzle is the “without judgment” part. We’re all guilty of listening to the critic in our heads a little more than we should. (That critic has saved us from disaster quite a few times.) But, when we practice investigating our judgments and diffusing them, we can learn to choose how we look at things and react to them. When you practice mindfulness, try not to judge yourself for whatever thoughts pop up. Notice judgments arise, make a mental note of them (some people label them “thinking”), and let them pass, recognizing the sensations they might leave in your body, and letting those pass as well.
It’s all about returning your attention again and again to the present moment. It seems like our minds are wired to get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the breath. We use the sensation of the breath as an anchor to the present moment. And every time we return to the breath, we reinforce our ability to do it again. Call it a bicep curl for your brain.
The Types of Mindfulness Practice
While mindfulness is innate, it can be cultivated through proven techniques. Here are some examples:
Seated, walking, standing, and moving meditation (it’s also possible lying down but often leads to sleep);
Short pauses we insert into everyday life;
Merging meditation practice with other activities, such as yoga or sports.
How to Practice Mindfulness
While mindfulness might seem simple, it’s not necessarily all that easy. The real work is to make time every day to just keep doing it. Here’s a short practice to get you started:
Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as 5 or 10 minutes.
Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, in lotus posture, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes out and as it goes in.
Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
We’ve all heard how crucial it is to set intentions, goals and targets. Powerful goals electrify us. Clear intentions energize and pull us forward. Without a clear cut intention, we’re reactive and don’t get around to doing the important things when we want them done. Instead, we spend our time fighting random fires.
Without clear intentions, anything might happen. And usually does.
Literally, intentions are like the steering wheel on your car. Their whole purpose is to give you control over where you’re going. But when setting intentions or goals, keep in mind that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Now, it’s good to have intentions at more than one level. When we get up into the more conceptual intentions, such as “I will contribute to the wellbeing of those around me,” these become like a mission statement.
But then, be sure you move on to decide specifically how you will go about implementing your mission in your daily life. Specifics are essential. How — specifically — will you put your mission into action today? What will you actually DO about your highest intentions?
It’s important to set intentions for yourself because this is where the rubber meets the road. Just say “I’m going to do this and this.” It should be nothing big and overpowering. Just some stuff you’re meaning to do or achieve short-term. Be sure to write them down on paper. When you list them out, you can clearly look over your results afterward and check yourself.
At the end of today or this time next week, did you do what you said you’d do? Expressed like that, it’s clear that we’re building a kind of internal integrity check within ourselves.
When you’re first starting to build this new intention-setting skill (habit), it’s important not to pile on too much. Sure, it’s easy to get all excited about turning over a new leaf, but it’s essential that you start where you are NOW, not where you think you SHOULD be.
There are things that, from experience, you already know you can do. Set your intentions to do those things (plus perhaps a little bit more) and achieve them. Then, when you’re comfortable doing what you say you’ll do, then you can begin to stretch your intention muscles a little more.
But as in any new regimen, begin easy. Begin with what you can actually do. And only after you get comfortable with the intention-setting process should you start going for real growth. Patience – taking small, measured steps – is more than a virtue here. It’s the key to keeping yourself moving forward. (Notice I said patience, not procrastination.)
Attempt too much too soon, and the end result will be another round of demotivation and discouragement.
Instead, go about this logically and gradually: keep your eye on the level you want to reach next year, and let today’s effort take you 1/365th of the way there. Do this, and you’ll see real, measurable progress as well as achievements you’ll truly be proud of.
It’s all pretty simple stuff, really. Just training yourself to keep your word to yourself.
When you are anxious or scared, the body releases stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and the likes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It helps you react fast when you’re about to be hit by a car and make you run faster when you need to get away from someone. But it works against you and robs you of your health and wellbeing when it’s a response to something that isn’t a physical danger. Like tax day or worrying about what your co-worker thinks of you.
Stress hormones can lead to weight gain, depression, anxiety, and they take a toll on your heart. You know you should do what you can to reduce the stress you feel and as it turns out, one of the most powerful strategies here is practicing gratitude and positive thinking. So choose happiness and know that you are doing wonders for your mental and physical health.
So what’s the bottom line? When you are mindful of all of the things you are grateful for in your life then you can learn to appreciate all the good even in the midst of the bad and cultivate happiness. Stop waiting for the right person, the right circumstances. Don’t wait for happiness to find you. Be happy right now. In this moment. And use gratitude to help you get there.
Adversity - Staying Positive When Life Falls Apart
We take a lot of good things for granted in our everyday life. A roof over our heads, a steady paycheck, a loving partner, the ability to go out for a run on the weekends. The specifics vary, but one of the big advantages of modern lives is the many awesome things we can count on. We’re not used to falling short, so when something happens and our life starts to fall apart, it’s easy to fall into thinking patterns that focus on lack and despair.
Sometimes the bad things are a result of choices we made. Sometimes they are outside of our control. In either case, it is up to us to decide how we react to each crisis. One piece of advice that is important to remember no matter what adversity you face is to make sure you don’t forget about how blessed you really are. Gratitude can turn what we have into enough.
There’s a quote I love and would like to share with you by Melody Beattie. Here it is:
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
Think about how you can start to do this in your everyday life. A good place to start is to simply take a deep breath and pause for a moment when things go wrong and everything is starting to feel overwhelming. Then come up with one little thing you are grateful for during this time. It can be something as simple as being able to breathe fresh, clean air, or living to fight another day.
Find that something and start to build on it. What else are you grateful for? Keep making that mental list until the desperation starts to lift and you can start to think clearly. When you do, you can start to find your way out, no matter how bad things seem at first. And remember, you never know what good might come from the struggle you are facing right now.
When life gets crazy don’t forget to count your blessings and use gratitude to turn what you have into enough. Our ancestors were great at this. It’s time we picked that habit back up.
Career goals, life goals, business goals and, of course, resolutions.
There was a time, not so long ago, where I lived by goal setting — and told others it was the way to go. But I have to tell you a secret. I found something better to help achieve whatever you want to do and go wherever you want to go.
Sure, nothing beats a goal when you want to get things done. But an intention goes way deeper than that: it’s a powerful tool to boost your inner strength. And if you’re determined to grow through your actions, then an intention could be the key to unlocking a lifelong habit of excellence.
Here’s why setting intentions is the way to achieve your goals. Goals or intentions? Let’s have a look at definitions.
Goal: “An aim or desired result”.
Simply put: what you concretely achieve.
Intention: “Something that you want and plan to do”.
In essence: the process you go through until you get to “what you concretely achieve”.
I like to see goals as a practical, efficient way to see the future. Want to stay on track and hit a result? Then set a goal!
Setting goals work so well because it’s part of a cognitive process of planning and analysing. It gives you full control on how you’re going to move from A to B. And your brain loves that. It rewards you with feel-good hormones such as dopamine each time you engage in the process.
Sounds great? But in the meantime, life happens. You find it hard to increase willpower and self discipline and stick to the plan. When the time comes to evolve from motivation to resilience, it’s difficult to follow through.
If you’ve ever been stuck and found it difficult to embrace a positive perspective, then setting intentions could be a magic shift for you. Because your intentions support goals from the inside.
Setting intentions is the act of stating what you intend to accomplish through your actions. It’s a commitment to what you want the journey to be about as you move on or move up.
When you are intentional about something, your focus is in the moment: who you are, what you do, why you do it. And it requires presence along the way, checking inside as you work on the outside.
This is why setting intentions is the way to achieve your goals. Intentions bring a special quality of focus. They act as a powerful reminder of the bigger perspective. And they trigger introspection: result aside, what am I hoping to gain from the process?
The difference between setting intentions and defining goals
Let’s be practical. I will use this example because it was all over tik tok and social media over the summer: “I want to stand on my head”.
Let’s set a goal: achieve headstand and balance on your head for a good 30 seconds.
With that end result in mind, you’re going to practice hard, try (and fall, many times). Experience frustration (why others and not me) or even fear: what if the upside down is full of monsters? (Not kidding. For your brain, body upside down = scary thing).
Weeks, months or years later, high fives and champagne out, you’re finally upside down, noticing that (1) there are no monsters out there and (2) you need to carefully adjust your eyesight otherwise you squint.
How many of you would say “I made it!”? And think of the next thing to run after?
How many of you rejoice and then deconstruct the process: building upper body strength, overcoming fear, or developing the grit to stick to something that matters to you?
Now, let’s see what setting an intention would look like: simply to know how it feels to balance on your head.
You’re likely to pay attention to each moment where you get one inch closer to the end result. Notice that split second where you could lift your feet off the ground? What was missing to do more than 1 wobbly second? Is it balance? Strength? Lack of focus? Fear of monsters in the upside down?
Bear with me: we haven’t achieved the full 30 secs headstand yet. But part of the result is real already. You’re in it. You have a high degree of awareness of the whole process. You integrate the benefits as you work on your target, no matter what the end result looks like, no matter when it becomes real. Your intention supports your goal 100%.
I’ll say it again, goals are great to get things done. But I know human nature well enough to tell you that they can be a trap. A trap where you focus so much on the outcome that you ignore the journey, its lessons, and the joy of going through it.
That’s why I think setting intentions is the way to achieve your goals.
How to work with intentions
Let me share with you how I do it for myself. Usually, setting intentions is for me a process that follows 4 principles:
Each month, I have a bit of quiet time Then I have a look at my goals and I get to work with my intentions. As my holistic view of life is to align whatever I do with body, heart, mind and soul, I tend to do that with intentions, too.
Here's a few examples:
Goal: go to bed at early 4x / week.
Body intention: I am rested and energised.
Goal: Set boundaries in a relationship with a friend who constantly crosses emotional lines. Nicely.
Heart intention: I am compassionate towards people who is not where I am at right now.
Goal: stop for 5 minutes each day and do some breath work.
Soul intention: I am in tune with my feelings.
I remind myself about my intentions every day. I review progress on my goals every week.
Setting intentions on the back of your goals can act like magic. Because you bring the wider perspective of growing through your actions. You get into a self-exploration routine. And you do so each time you analyse your results.
How? By giving your inner a leader a voice to ask ”is there another way to do this?” each time you feel stuck.
How do you go about your goals? Post your ideas in the comments on Facebook or right here on the blog.
An intention is a guiding principle for how you want to be, live, and show up in the world — whether at work, in relationships, during your meditation, or in any area of your life. Ask yourself, what matters most to you? Your answer could form a powerful intention, for which you can align your thoughts and attitude for the day ahead. Having a clear intention with you at your fingertips can help guide your actions as you move through the day.
But an intention shouldn’t be confused with a goal — it’s not something you attach an expectation or evaluation to. It is something you want to align with in your life. It’s an aim, a purpose, or attitude you’d be proud to commit to.
Intentions must come from your heart; they are not the tangible “boost sales by 25%” or “get a promotion” kind of smart goals that you set at work. They are heart-driven and evoke feelings and purpose, like “practice being non-judgmental of myself and of others,” “send compassion out to the world,” “open my heart,” and “let go of fear…” Setting an intention is a way to bring your heart and mind into alignment.
Why Set Intentions?
Setting an intention at the start of a new year, on your birthday, when a new month begins, or at the beginning of your day or week can be a powerful practice because it’s the first step to embodying that which you want. Wayne Dyer said, “Our intention creates our reality.” And how many times have you heard “What you think, you become,” or “Thoughts become things”?
If you’re focusing your mind on a specific intention during a meditation, you are bringing it to your focused mind, your thoughts, your heart … and in turn helping to bring it into your reality.
How to Set an Intention
Your intention should be closely tied to your personal thoughts, values, and perspective on life. Intentions can be a clear and specific wish, or as simple as a word or phrase you’d like to align yourself with, like “open your mind and heart,” “love,” “vulnerability,” “strength,” “kindness for myself and others,” “peace,” or “freedom.” Try to keep the intention positive, so instead of saying “stop being a coward,” or “spend less time alone,” choose the intentions, “be courageous” or simply, “community”.
Here are some thought-starters to help you get started in forming an intention:
10 Intentions You Can Borrow
You can borrow one of these if it resonates with you, but try to create something personal for yourself.
Intentions Put to Practice
Silently stating your intention at the beginning of your day, week, or meditation won’t be enough. You must revisit it often and when needed. Call it to the center of your mind when you feel off center and need to reset. Intentions are a wonderful way to help you stay grounded and reconnect with what matters most. We are going to use the phases of the Moon to remind us when to set our intentions for the month (New Moon) and when to reflect on them and see which ones we've accomplished and which ones need more work (Full Moon). The New Moon for September is the 7th. The Full Moon is the 20th.
“Intentions compressed into words enfold magical power.”
Would you like to live abundantly full of happiness and contentment? How about a life with excellent physical and mental health? Greatly increase your chances of that happening by showing and sharing gratitude. That’s right, something as simple as practicing thankfulness and expressing how grateful you are for the people and things you have in your life has a powerful impact. Here are some simple things you can do starting today to show your gratitude.
• Tell the people you love how grateful you are for them. We often take the ones closest to us for granted. Make a point to do it regularly and be specific to make it meaningful.
• Think about the people who challenge you. Express your gratitude for how they help you grow and make you stronger.
• Take a few minutes each week to write a letter or email to a person who has made a difference to you at one point or another. This could be a teacher, a mentor, an old friend … anyone you can think of.
• Give the gift of your time to someone to show without words how grateful you are to have them in your life. This is particularly important for the elderly people in your life. Your time with them is limited. Make the most of it.
• Start using a gratitude journal and make the time to write down three things you are grateful for every single day. It will brighten even your worst days and put things into perspective.
• Forgive yourself when you don’t reach all your goals, or things don’t go your way. Be grateful for what you have and what you are learning from each experience.
• Compliment the people around you. Make them feel good about themselves. It’s a powerful way to show gratitude in an indirect way. Small, meaningful gifts and acts of service do the same.
• Pay it forward. Do something nice for someone you work with or a total stranger. Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to spread gratitude and bring more positivity into the world.
• Give a hug and a kind word to someone who’s struggling. Show them through physical affection that you’re there for them and grateful to have them in your life.
• Show your body and mind gratitude for what they do for you day in and day out by taking care of yourself and investing in regular self-care.
I’ll leave you with a quote. Take a moment to read it, re-read it, and really let it sink in.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
William Arthur Ward
Practicing gratitude regularly has an impact on your life, your health, and your mental and emotional wellbeing. But it doesn’t end there. It will also have a big impact on those around you and the world at large when you start to turn your gratitude outwards and share it far and wide.
Roman writer and philosopher Cicero called gratitude the parent of all virtue. In other words, if we practice gratitude we’re also getting better at things like kindness, generosity, orderliness, courage, honesty and respect to name a few. What does this mean in practical terms? If we practice gratitude, we can’t help but become a better person.
Now let’s take this a step further. What if, instead of simply practicing gratitude for yourself, you take it out to the world at large? What could happen? What force of good could you create? There is no telling how many lives you could influence for the better. Let’s take a look at how you, I, and everyone else reading this can start to turn their gratitude outward and share it with those around them.
Random Acts of Kindness
Do something kind for a stranger. This can be something as simple as giving an open and honest smile to a stranger on the street or a few kind words and a compliment for the cashier ringing up your groceries. Or it could be taking a meal to an elderly neighbor or buying a drink for the person behind you in the coffee shop drive-thru line. Make it a goal to do something kind for someone each day and do it intentionally.
Respect And Thank Those Who Serve You
There are so many people in our communities that serve us from first responders to the waitress at your favorite restaurant. Make it a point to be respectful and thank them with words, with actions, and in the case of that waitress with a generous tip. Show them how grateful you are for everything they do to make your life easier.
Volunteer In Your Community
What better way to show your gratitude than to give your time and your skills. There are many opportunities for anyone to volunteer in various projects and for a variety of different causes. See what’s available around you and make an effort to put in some time to volunteer each month. Not only is it a wonderful way to give back and spread gratitude, but you’ll be amazed at how much you get out of it.
Develop Deeper Relationships
Last but not least, I would like to encourage you to work on developing deeper relationships. You will have a stronger sense of gratitude and lead by example when you make the time to listen and actively work on coming closer to the people you love.
Now that you have some ideas, the ball is in your court. What will you do today, this week, or this month to spread gratitude in your own circle of influence? Go out there and make an impact. Make the world a better and more grateful place.
But What If You’re Stuck In Negativity?
Practicing gratitude and focusing on positivity is easier said than done. Especially if you are struggling with anxiety and depression. If you ever find yourself spiraling into the deep pit of depression then get help if you need it. There’s nothing wrong with talking to a counselor or getting therapy. It’s the smart thing to do.
When things aren’t quite that bad, there’s a lot you can do to get yourself unstuck from all that negativity. Start by acknowledging them and putting them into words. How exactly do you feel? Is it anger or annoyance? Frustration or disappointment? Try to be specific. Dig deep. Yes, it can be painful and some people prefer to avoid thinking about these feelings, but the first step to getting yourself unstuck is determining exactly where you are emotionally.
Once you’ve identified the feeling, you can start to work on discovering what caused them. Sometimes the answer is obvious. Other times, not so much. In either case, I encourage you to dig deep because often the obvious answer isn’t the real root cause. Yes, you may be mad at our spouse for running up the credit card bill, but if you dig deep, you may discover that there are some underlying core values that don’t align between the two of you.
Once you find the true reason for your negative feelings, you can start to work to resolve them. What that looks like will vary from case to case. The important takeaway here is that it gives you something specific and meaningful to do. You no longer feel out of control or helpless. It’s something you can work with and that alone will help you think more positively.
In addition, it allows you to distance yourself a little from the negative feelings. You may still be upset with your spouse, but it also gives you the space to remember everything you love about him or her. It gives you the space to act outside of the negativity and have a good relationship while you work things out. And sometimes, it may give you the mental space you need to realize that it is up to you to decide if you want to continue to dwell in the negativity, or choose a route of forgiveness. You can’t change everything or everyone. Sometimes your path toward positivity is to acknowledge your negative feelings and then let them go.
Of course all of this is easier said than done. A journal can be a great tool to help you along the way. Try talking to a close friend or confidant when you feel stuck and you can’t see a path towards positivity. An outside perspective can give a lot of clarity. Meditation can be helpful as well.
Last but not least, surround yourself with positivity. Get outside and enjoy nature. Spend some time helping others. And don’t forget to remind yourself regularly of everything you have to be grateful for.