Set your intentions and rejoice in your day

Thupten Jinpa teaches us two great practices to start and finish every day.

two candles, thupten jinpa, intention, rejoice, practice, buddhism, lion roar, shambhala sun

Illustration: Two Candles, by Gerhard Richter.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, we recognize compassion as the highest spiritual ideal and the highest expression of our humanity. The Tibetan word for compassion, nyingjewhich literally means “king of heart,” captures the priority we give to compassion.

In compassion training, an eight-week program I developed, we begin each session with a practice called establishing your intention. This is a contemplative exercise adapted from traditional Tibetan meditation, a kind of check-in where we connect with our deepest aspirations so that they can inform our intentions and motivations.

In everyday English, we often use the two words intention and motivation interchangeably, as if they meant the same thing. But there is one important difference: deliberation.

Our motivation doing something is the reason or reasons behind this behavior, the source of our desire and the drive to do so. We may be more or less aware of our motivations.

Intention, on the other hand, it is always deliberate, an articulation of a conscious goal. We set and reaffirm our best intentions to stay lean in the directions we really want to go. But we need motivation to keep going in the long run. If our intention is to run a marathon, there will be times when we will ask ourselves, quite reasonably, “Because Am I doing this? ”We need good, inspiring answers to overcome these problems. Conscious or unconscious, motivation is the“ why ”and the spark, behind the intention.

You can do this exercise of determination of intentions at home, in the early hours of the morning if it is convenient. You can also do this by bus or metro during your trip. If you work in an office, you can do it sitting at your desk before entering the day. You only need two to five uninterrupted minutes. Our intention is to set the tone for what we are about to do. Like music, intention can influence our mood, thoughts, and feelings: set an intention in the morning, set the tone for the day.

Practice: Establish an intention

First, find a comfortable sitting posture. If you can, sit on a pillow on the floor or in a chair with the soles of your feet touching the floor, which gives you the feeling of being on the floor. If you prefer, you can also lie on your back, ideally on a not too soft surface.

Once you have found your posture, relax your body as much as you can, if necessary with a few stretches, especially your shoulders and back.

Then, with your eyes closed if it helps you focus, take three to five deep breaths, diaphragmatic or abdominal, each time inhaling into the abdomen and filling the torso with inspiration from the bottom up, how to fill a jar of water. Then, with a long, slow exhalation, expel all the air from the torso, all the way. If it helps, you can exhale through your mouth.

Once you are seated, consider the following questions: “What do I value most deeply? What do I long for in my heart, for my loved ones, and for the world?

Stay tuned for these questions and see if there are any answers. If no specific answers appear, don’t worry; just keep the questions open. This may require a bit of habituation, as in the West, when we ask questions, we usually expect to answer them. Trust that the questions work even, or especially, when we don’t have the answers ready. If answers appear, recognize them as they arise and maintain the thoughts and feelings they may bring.

Finally, develop a specific set of thoughts as your conscious intention. You might think, “Today, I can pay more attention to my body, my mind, and my speech in my interaction with others. I can, as much as I can, deliberately avoid hurting others. Let me relate to myself. “I can use my day in a way that is in tune with my deepest values.”

In this way, it sets the tone for the day.

Once we become familiar with the setting of the intention, we can do this practice in a minute or less. This means that we can find opportunities during the day to register with our intentions. We can even skip the formal practice in three phases and do a quick reset by reading or singing a few significant lines. You can use the four unmeasured sentences:

May all beings attain happiness and its causes.

May all beings be free from suffering and its causes.

May all beings never be separated from joy free from misery.

May all beings remain in equanimity, free from prejudice, attachment, and aversion.

Practice: Make a dedication

The practice of fixing intentions is combined, in the Tibetan tradition, with another contemplative exercise called dedication.

The function of this exercise is to complete the circle, so to speak. At the end of a day, or a meditation, or any other effort we have made, we reconnect with the intentions we set out at the beginning, reflecting on our experience in light of our intentions, and rejoicing. what we have achieved. This is like taking stock at the end of the day. It gives us another chance to connect with our deepest aspirations.

At the end of the day, for example, before going to bed or while you are in bed before going to bed, think about your day. Briefly review the day’s events (including meaningful conversations, moods, and other mental activities) and touch on the spirit of setting up your morning intentions. See how much alignment there is between the two. It’s important not to get caught up in the details of what you’ve done and what you haven’t done. The idea is not to keep exhaustive scores, but to do a comprehensive survey to see the synergy between your intentions and your life that day.

Whatever thoughts and feelings this review may bring, just stay tuned. You don’t need to push them away if they have a negative quality, or grab them if they look positive. Just stay with what you experience for a while in silence.

Finally, think of something from the day that you feel comfortable: a helping hand you gave to your neighbor, an empathetic ear that you lent to a struggling colleague, not losing your temper at the pharmacy when someone did cua. Then rejoice, thinking of this fact. If nothing else, rejoice that you have started the day by establishing a conscious intention.

Do this brief exercise; three to five minutes is a good duration. If you normally do a little reading before bed, you can set aside three to five minutes at the end to devote yourself to it. If your habit is to watch TV, could you watch three to five minutes less? Or go somewhere quiet during the ads?

The joy of the day, even for the simple fact of the effort we have made, is important. It brings us something positive to bring to the next day and helps us take advantage of motivation to serve our intentions. Joy plays a crucial role in our motivation, especially in maintaining motivation for an extended period of time.

Exercise: Focused review

It is sometimes helpful to do a more focused review. This is especially true if we are struggling with a particular problem or are struggling, such as an eight-week compassionate training course! Every week at the Compassion Cultivation Training we work on certain qualities and attitudes that we aim to foster. Say, a week is self-pity. During this time, we set out to be kind to ourselves. In turn, at the end of a day, our dedication may pay special attention to the goodness we have shown that day.

Now, when we make such a specific assessment, most of us will find ourselves short. We will see the gaps between our intentions and our behavior, between our aspirations and our real life.

When this happens, it is important not to hit ourselves with negative judgments and self-criticism. We just recognize the difference and decide to try again the next day. This awareness will help us to be more alert the next day, opening up opportunities to bring our daily thoughts and actions closer to our goals.

Adapted from Thupten Jinpa’s book, A heart without fear: how the courage to be compassionate can transform our lives, courtesy of Hudson Street Press.

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