So you’ve made your New Year resolutions and it’s two weeks into January, how are you doing so far?
Every year I do what most people do and decide I’m going to get in shape or lose that last 10 pounds. And at the end of each year I’m in good shape yet my intention to be in better shape goes unrealized. I always start out with the best intentions but they don’t stick. Does this sound familiar to you?
In late December, I taught a class called “Let’s Get Intentional in 2010!” I spent a lot of time reading and studying what part of our brain helps us keep intentions. As I was preparing for the class, I decided that 2010 was going to be a radical shakeup year for me. I decided to train my mind and my body like an athlete. My practice would be to do Yoga daily for my mind and body, and then do The Work of Byron Katie (inquiry) to question any thoughts that caused me to feel a negative emotion.
Today is my 17th day of practicing yoga. I call it my 12-step Yoga Program because I am taking it one day at a time. My goal is to do this for the whole year and document the benefits of being intentional and of putting my attention on my intentions every day. My long-term goal is to be in better physical and mental shape by age 60 then I was at age 50 (I’m almost 58). I want to see how this insight and inquiry practice will enhance my life in new ways and change my brain.
So let’s talk about intentions. Being intentional is targeting your thoughts to help you bring about a feeling state that you want to have in your life. It’s always the feeling we’re after — not the thing we want.
If we go about our daily life unintentionally or sleep walking, we end up reacting to life and being buffeted or not by what comes to us. If we lack intention, one day drifts into the next and before you know it, months turn into a year.
When we live an intentional life, we can be observers of our emotions and thoughts and guide our own sense of happiness and peace. Our thoughts, feelings, actions and results line up. We create the life we want to live.
You’re going to think like an athlete and be completely focused on your goal. You and the goal are one – imagine you have already done it! Feel the feelings of having it done and bring those feelings into your daily life now.
How to Set Intentions
I recommend that you focus on your intentions when your mind is in a calm state. First thing in the morning is a great time to start. Daily I visualize my strong, fit body and bring in the feeling of strength when I am in Savasana – the yoga resting position.
This is a practice I recommend that you do daily. It is simple and take less then 5 minutes. First thing in the morning right after you wake up and your brain is calm and closer to the alpha state of dreaming/light meditation, focus on your intentions.
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Begin breathing slowly and focus on your breath. You want your inhale and exhale breaths to be the same length. Slowly breathe to fill your belly and exhale to let all the air out of your lungs.
The key is to use all senses to have your brain make this a sticky intention. With your eyes closed, imagine in your mind’s eye that you have achieved this long-term goal or intention. See yourself as strong and fit or whatever you want to intend for your life. Feel the feelings of having it accomplished, taste, smell and use all your senses to experience yourself having this thing you want. This is a key step in programming your brain to make this happen.
State your intention daily in the present tense as if it is already has been accomplished. “My body is fit and strong, and I feel energized.” Write it down in your journal and post it around so you are reminded to think about it daily and focus your attention on making it happen.
Make a vision board of your intention so you can see it daily. Cut out pictures from magazines and paste them on a foam core or bulletin board that show the feelings you want to have when you have this intention. Cut out pictures and words that have meaning to you and show the intention you want in your life.
Next week I will talk about the brain and how to train it to make your intention ‘sticky’ so you stay motivated to get it done.