Keeping Tabs on Yourself

For some reason, I never really associated spirituality with what I thought. I guess I had a rule that said, as long as I don’t act on my thoughts, they can’t hurt anyone. As long as I kept my thoughts inside, all bottled up, then I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I had a lot to learn.

My delve into spirituality led me to conclude that my thinking was the more important part of the process. Because my thinking is the first thing that I can control. And my thinking leads to my actions.

I don’t see any of spirituality as prohibitive. Meaning, it’s not here to stop us from doing what we want. We do have free will. What spirituality brings to the table is this: you can ask for help in changing how you think. I do this all the time, as I seek to find new solutions or drop old thought patterns. And you can too.

Using my prayer time to ask for help in changing my thinking is now my go-to tool for when I want to move past an issue, or find clarity in my life. It’s my way of saying, if there is someone up there helping me out, what I need is help to change my thinking. Because my thinking is where all my power resides.

I don’t see myself sitting on the sidelines, waiting for my mind to change. But I do see myself as assisted, when I ask, in making changes to how I think. The most common way I do this is through intentions. To me, intentions are just prayers that have an idea of where they want to go in them. They bypass the asking, and go straight to the heart of the matter: here is what I want, they say.

Intentions can be as narrow or as broad as you prefer. There are no rules that I have found, and no magic words. What matters is my intent (my attitude) as I set the intentions. Some days I am better at this than others, but here is my general formula.

If I am seeking to see something new (new idea, new solution, new way of doing, new way of seeing) then I say, I am open to, and then fill in the blank. I might say, I am open to seeing a new perspective on this issue I am worrying about. Or, I am open to being surprised by what I learn in this meeting. Or, I am open to being more forgiving to those who annoy me. You know; normal everyday type stuff.

If I am ready to move to the next level, then I set an intention that provides a bit more direction. I have a sense of where I want to go, even if I don’t know how to get there. For this sort of intention, I say, I intend to, and then fill in the blank. For instance, I intend to let go of my fear over doing this new thing. Or, I intend to be nicer to the person who never cleans up after herself. Or, I intend to look for the good in this situation. All intents that help me remember where I am headed, and invite in help for this journey.

When I am certain of where I want to go, I use a specific intention. I intend to leave work by 5 so I do not miss my son’s game. I will practice with my drum sticks every day this week. I intend to create a new course on spiritual goal management. You get the picture. Whatever it is that I specifically want, I set an intent. Implicit in all of my intentions is my openness to getting help in what I want.

Whatever it is that I specifically want, I set an intent. Implicit in all of my intentions is my openness to getting help in what I want.

Intentions are helpful to me because they get me moving in a positive direction, when often I need the most help because I am moving in a negative direction. I worry over those I love. I worry over world events. I worry for people I have never met but I assume are suffering. Normal worry that we all have. By shifting my focus to what I intend, I feel like I am doing my part to try to stay positive, uplifted, and oriented toward the good.

If I am at a loss for what to intend, I often reach for a tried-and-true “I choose love” for the situation. This one prayer is like a multi-tool that you can carry with you everywhere you go. It says it all, with just a few words. It says, I don’t know what to do with this terrible event, but whatever else, I choose love. It’s my way of saying, if nothing else, I want to move away from fear, and toward love.

That’s how I see the spectrum of emotions. Love at one end. Fear at the other. I may not know how to get to where I want to go, but I know I want to head toward the direction of love.

Intentions have the benefit, as well, of feeling more empowering. When I am in worry, it helps me to stop, use an intention for what I truly want, and thereby stop the cycle of unproductive worry. It also helps to remind me of what I want, which can often be something that gets lost in a jumble of thoughts.

Using intentions also keeps me clear. Some days I get caught up in emotional drama, other people’s business, or even events that are outside my control. An intention helps to remind me what I want to accomplish. Who I want to be. What I want to think.

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