Here we are in January. The new year. This time the new Decade. January is the month when we make Resolutions—and usually forget them in a week. Instead of resolutions, I offer myself one word, an Intention, that I can muse on and meander beside throughout the year.
One year I took the word Gratitude.
Another year Generosity, and a third Beauty and Bounty, which I liked so much that the following year I repeated it as Bounty and Beauty.
An intention requires no effort, no demands for success. It is simply that throughout the year I remember my word and pause to look around, especially in challenging moments, reminding myself of gratitude or the beauty and bounty and goodness and generosity that lies about me, that fall as blessings with mercy and grace, unearned.
An intention is similar to an affirmation, but different. Those who remember Shakti Gawain’s book Creative Visualizations know the power of affirmations: to affirm in clear, positive language what you want—that is, to make it firm by imagining it as already so. The prayer of affirmation is one of the strongest prayers you can pray.
You might, if unemployed for example, use the affirmation, “I have the perfect job that fulfills me creatively and financially.” Isn’t it a prayer?
One woman I know affirmed: “I am a clearing for the unexpected, unimaginable magic coming in my life.”
An Intention is different. It is merely a reminder of blessings. It asks for nothing. (This, by the way, is the highest prayer of all.)
==Yes, Gratitude! For all my blessings, including for setbacks for these lead me to deeper understanding or bursts of creativity.
== Beauty, Bounty. Do I see it? Can I live it? Why do I allow in thoughts of doubt and fear? If my thoughts are full of fear, anxiety, insecurity, inadequacy, envy, worry– then these becomes my reality. With our thoughts, says the Buddha in the Dhammapada, we make reality.
“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.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable. . . .”
This year I’ve taken the intention CONNECT.
It seems like such an easy word.
It turns out it’s not.
What I want is to connect (with friends, family, the earth, air, world) at deeper, more loving and intimate levels, to communicate better. To be open, authentic, without posing or pretension. Already I discover, only a few days into the month, that it involves a dozen other qualities as well: TRUST. PATIENCE. STILLNESS. DEEP LISTENING. And finally, FORGIVENESS—of myself and others.
Take TRUST. First, I must dare to become vulnerable. I must trust the other person will not hurt me if I’m authentic, “real.” This does not come naturally. Most of us were reared on axioms of self-reliance, stiff upper lip, self-governance. Don’t ask for help. Never reveal weakness. Solve the problem yourself, and only afterwards admit (if you must) that you were vulnerable, confused, or scared.
It means, too, that I must not barge into a conversation to hear myself talk or else to solve the problem under discussion. Sometimes the person talking to me is actually not looking for answers but processing information, or analyzing an upcoming decision. I must practice PATIENCE, therefore, when she starts repeating herself or stumbling in her efforts to reach for words. Sometimes, I must just be STILL. Often a person wants nothing more than validation for what she’s feeling. What she wants is simply to be heard. Can I do that?
Instead of solving her problem, can I simply listen or prompt with questions. “That’s interesting, tell me more.”
I thought I was taking on something easy, like an attitude of gratitude , or recognition of the beauty in people and our world. Instead, I see it involves real work: to allow myself to trust, be vulnerable, to stumble, to fail and then get up and try again in my intention more deeply to Connect. If I connect deeply to other people and to the world around me, I am connecting to God, living intentionally at a more deeply spiritual level. A new year. A new purpose which could be for us all.
© 2020 Sophy Burnham.