Friday, May 21, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about intention the last week. It's a tricky subject.

Sometimes, your intentions are the most important thing; they can eclipse the consequences or circumstances of your actions. At other times, they don't matter at all.

But then there are times when they intertwine and interconnect with the consequences of your actions so intimately that you can't distinguish one from the other. When, though your intentions may have been good, or at least not to cause harm, the consequences were harmful, and no amount of explaining or apologizing will separate your intentions from what actually happened: they are inextricably, finally, one.

During my first class at Yoga To The People, I heard something that has been lodged in me ever since. Greg was teaching, and as he was about to release us to go through the warrior flow at our own pace, he said, Maintain the integrity of your breath. Move with intention. Make your movements smooth and purposeful. If you cannot hold a pose, move because you recognize that. If you don't feel ready to go to the next pose, don't move. Show up for yourself. This is your time to be selfish: to decide what you need, when you need it. To do those things on purpose. Take advantage of it. This practice, this hour, is your gift to yourself. Be present in it.

I've been thinking about those sentences for years, to the point where I can still hear Greg's voice saying them in my head. There's something to the idea of purpose, of intention, that really got to me.

And it applies to everything. This concept of intention, of showing up for yourself: it's important at work, important in friendships, and crucial in teaching. I played Ad a song I had written last fall, and as he was listening he looked at me and said, You know, you can't get what you want if you don't ask for it. And he's right. I've been working on that the last year. When my students frustrate me, I step back and ask myself what I intend the consequences of my reaction to be. Often, that has the effect of me asking them for something instead of demanding it, or standing firm where once I would have weakened. Asking myself what my intentions are forces me to look at what I want and, perhaps most importantly, to show up for myself by asking for it, or not asking for it, depending on the situation. I'm learning to wait for the things that are worth waiting for, and to ask for the things that I need.

It's not easy. Last week I had a lot of opportunities to step back and take a look at how I was behaving, and I didn't. And I had a lot of opportunities to be an advocate for myself, and I wasn't. But there were times that I was, and though in the grand scheme of the week they felt few and far between, they are important to recognize. I'm learning that showing up for yourself can mean a lot of different things: if you react poorly, or chicken out of saying something important, that it can often take a lot more courage to apologize or to speak up for yourself. But doing that, acknowledging that you messed up or that you do want something after all, are also forms of showing up for yourself. They are ways to make your intentions known.

Jason and I were talking on Sunday about relationships, and I brought this up. I expressed my desire to be in a relationship because I decided to be there - and that I don't want to be in one unless I've made that decision. I feel like so often I just kind of find myself places and turn it into something that I enjoy, instead of actively seeking to be somewhere or with someone specific. I told him that I want to make the conscious decision to be with someone. Because that's really what it's about- the choosing. That it is what makes all of the great relationships I know amazing: at some point, both people have stepped forward and said, I choose to be with you, to share with you, to laugh and cry and be angry with you. To grow with you. They have declared their choice, their intention, in the way that best fits where they are in life. I want to do that, and do it on purpose.

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