During the exploration and focus on intention in my yoga classes, though I rarely suggest an intention, I did for those weeks suggest some. For a couple of weeks, the intention was simply “healing,” whether you know you need healing or not. Interestingly I got more feedback on that particular focus than I had gotten for a LONG time. Almost all of it was very positive. Quite a few people, including myself in that exploration, found things shifting in unexpected ways, or found that often the intention for healing revealed and conflicted with some unconscious intention, and found that it almost always led to a qualitatively better experience of a pose or a practice or of oneself. It is my belief that having “healing” as one’s intention, on the mat or in life, can lead a person to amazing and profoundly meaningful and helpful results.
“Healing” is a very broad and non-specific intention, and a few people did object to the idea. The next couple weeks, to make it more specific, during the centering meditation, I guided students to reflect, if you were to experience healing or something shifting for the better in your body, emotions, mind, relationships, job, life, how would YOU be different? What would be the QUALITY of the difference in how you experience yourself or your life? Take that quality as your intention since the actual change may or may not occur in the specific way you might imagine or hope, but the QUALITY of the change is TOTALLY in your control and can certainly be realized. This reflection very often will reveal what one’s higher intentions/aspirations are.
The last couple of weeks of exploring intention I guided during the beginning meditation that we all know someone or ones who suffer in their life or body or mind more than we do, and maybe we could “try on” practicing in such a way that it would benefit that one or those ones. It is my personal opinion that if we want to realize the Highest, in our Self in Life, we need to break out of our little shell and into a bigger perspective on ourself and Life. Certainly anyone attracted to a Loving Kindness yoga school is going to already have some sense of and care for others and not just one’s little self, but have we “mastered” it yet? Great Power and Insight are only given to those who have the Highest Interest of Everyone in mind, and is certainly not for those wanting it for their little selfish motivations.
If we do our practice, or life, for the benefit of all beings, that is part of the Bodhisattva vow from the Buddhist tradition. That is how Amma, my Teacher, has lived her life, and why millions around the world come to her for her hug and blessing (I’m writing this on a break during the programs in Detroit with her). Amma teaches us to serve God by giving selflessly of ourselves. For those who are called to live like this, it is a quick path to Bliss.
While exploring practicing for the benefit of some other(s), we might find that it can steer how we are acting and what we are doing since we want to offer the best results that we can. If I am struggling and fighting in a pose, do I really want to give the suffering being I know more to have to deal with? I can make effort, MUST make effort, but of what quality? If I make honest and sincere, yet calm and focused, effort, the results I have to offer to the suffering one will be better, right? While practicing in this way, or right NOW, we can at any moment ask ourselves, “Is this what I want to be offering?” and then change or not change our actions or approach accordingly.
I have led that particular focus before, and then and this past time, I have gotten some negative feedback about it from people who feel that they give so much in life and their yoga time is the little time they take for self-care, and they didn’t like “being made” to have it be for giving, too! That is a totally understandable reaction in that case, and of course this, or any, intention may not be right for everyone at every stage in their life and practice. If that intention resonates or seems meaningful or interesting to a person, then great, go with it! And if it doesn’t, perhaps it reveals an imbalance in life that might need to be dealt with, or it might simply be revealing the “edge” of one’s capacity for giving. Having an edge on how much we can give is natural until we have plugged into the Source and are no longer like batteries getting depleted and needing constant recharging.
Given all the above thoughts on intention and encouragement toward having “higher” and potentially more selfless intentions in our Yoga practice, or life, having taught in a gym situation for 14 years, I do know that the Soul/Higher Self must communicate It’s guidance and wisdom through the (crazy) mind that it finds Itself working with/in. Many people have begun their yoga practice, myself included, just to get stretched out or because their doctor said they should, for example, or in my case, to be able to put my legs behind my head (my spiritual practice at that time was “separate” from my asana [posture] practice). Only later did I/we realize the possible depths that Yoga can reveal. These are examples of how intentions can and do change as our awareness and experience grows and deepens.
We can remember, of course, that there will be overlap in the results we get practicing with different intentions, but would you prefer to have a healthy body only or would you prefer to realize your True Nature and have a healthier body and healed mind and emotions as a side-effect? In some ways, the choice is as simple as that.