When working with clients or students, I often begin the session with the question: “What is your intention for this experience?” Sometimes people are puzzled by the question. I respond with, “what are you seeking or hoping for?”. In the dictionary, Intention is defined as: “your plan or goal”; ”what you mean to do or have happen”; “providing accountability, focus and commitment”; and ”helps to gain control of life by giving meaning to our thoughts and actions”.
Sometimes our intentions are influenced by expectations, our own or those of others. Expectations may be coloured or influenced by strong beliefs. For instance, if we believe or expect that we will fail or become ill, simply because a core message playing out in our brain tells us so then our intention will be weak or unstable.
What if our intentions hold an air of expectancy? Expectancy fosters a state of hopefulness which can create more space for possibilities. When intentions are infused with an atmosphere of expectancy we release judgements and preconceived notions. We open ourselves up to discover what gifts might be hiding beneath the surface of our challenge.
In my previous newsletter, I invited people to share their word or mantra for the year. My mantra was “may I be a compassionate presence”. To be a compassionate presence to whomever or whatever showed up in my life. It seemed a worthy intention to point my compass.
This spring I attended a 6-day training in Hockley Valley. My soul tricked me into believing I was signing up for a spacious, restorative retreat in nature. I quickly discovered I had enrolled in a 6-day intensive program, beautifully designed to crack my heart open and uncover much that was hiding. The experience was deep, painful, illuminating and exhilarating. I returned home feeling renewed and hopeful about my intent to be a compassionate presence.
That lasted a few days. Then life happened. I found my softened, open heart started to really feel some of the “things” of life. I was disarmed and uncomfortable with the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing. Being a compassionate presence required extensive energy and honesty. I could hold it for a time, but the loud rantings and expectations of my inner critic left me reeling and exhausted. I wanted to wall myself off and just enjoy the peacefulness of nature.
I realized that I was very restrictive in how I held compassionate presence. My ultimate discovery was that I have a limited amount of compassion available for myself. My misguided expectation meant that I should be more understanding and more patient with others. I shouldn’t still be feeling certain emotions and holding certain beliefs. I should know better. Humbling? You bet.
There is an old saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. We cannot wholeheartedly offer something to another that we are not offering ourself. There are times when our own chalice must be open and receptive to what it needs and desires in order to feel whole. From this place of wholeness, compassion flows easily.
So I have refined my Intention. My Intention is To fully embody a compassionate presence. No matter what life presents, may I always be open and receptive to the abundant flow of divine love from the One Heart. From this place I ask “In this moment, who needs my compassion?”