Living with Intention

by Betony, Blue Group, Jedi Temple

The idea of living with intention is used either as a spiritual discipline or as an exercise, and later a habit, as a tool for personal growth. The term can have different meanings to different people, but some key ideas provide unity to the concept, even as it is applied in different contexts.

Consciousness

In order to live with intention, we must be conscious of both the decisions we are making in our daily lives, and how these decisions may affect us later on. Ideally we would be focused and aware of our actions and environment moment by moment as the day progresses, but this requires great maturity; for most of us, grocery lists spin through our heads as we wait at traffic lights, and we often interrupt a task we are doing in order to begin another, not because we have thoughtfully changed our priorities, but because another idea occurred to us. Like Luke in Episode V, Yoda may as well say about us:

This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph.

So for many of us, part of the intention is the development of such consciousness.

As Jedi, our moment-to-moment consciousness, while perhaps a work in progress, is crucial to our ability to act in a manner consonant with our beliefs, for as Obi-Wan told us in Episode IV:

The Force is what gives a Jedi his power (in part it guides his actions), but it also obeys his will.

We seek the guidance of the Force, and also a share of mastery over it, but at the most basic level this is impossible unless we bring to consciousness our connection with it at the moment when it is needed. We cannot instantly stop agonizing over a fight with a friend for hours or days afterwards, but we can apply the lessons we learn in meditation to the present moment, the fight and the friend, by seeking to let go of distractions as they arise and to notice the world around us, our feelings, and the currents of the Force. This is stopping to smell the roses, in fact, but with a twist: we stop, smell them, and try to ground ourselves ever more in the present by our awareness of them. As Jude Watson teaches in a lesson attributed to Obi-Wan, “The present moment is the crucial moment.”[1]

Having a Goal

The second aspect of living intentionally is having a goal. Indeed, the word intention is defined in my dictionary as determining mentally upon some action or result, and in a semi-logical overreaction, according to many websites it seems that the idea of living with intention is to some interchangeable with that of getting what you want. Indeed, the interchange makes some sense, because the three-step process of forming an intention, speaking it, and then acting in accord (meaning, taking action to make it happen) is the basis for hundreds of self-help books, get rich guides and magickal works (not the least of which is Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking).

But the idea is not some kind of wishing genie in a bottle, and need not be used superficially. Instead, the setting of a goal can give life to the consciousness that we bring to our day to day life, by informing and directing it. We can use it to manage our anger, change a bad habit, or develop a good one, such as automatically connecting periodically with the Force, or driving under the speed limit. In fact, we probably already have many goals simultaneously, ranging from finding time to stop at the cleaners today to enhancing our spiritual growth, so this step also implies prioritizing, and making a commitment. Knowing that tomorrow and yesterday may both be different (each is or was a chance to express ourselves differently), to what will we commit ourselves today?

Making Appropriate Decisions

A final broad aspect of living intentionally is using the two internal steps above to change our circumstances externally, in a step that I will call decision making. In fact, this represents an opportunity not available to us if the first two steps are not in place. As an example, consider a hypothetical situation: a woman has a bad habit of blaming others when things go wrong if she is stressed or upset. Driving with her husband to a party, the two are held up in traffic and made very late. It’s now getting dark, and the final few miles of the directions to the party are hard to read and harder to follow. As it becomes clear that they missed a turn and are now a few minutes farther from arriving, the woman turns to her husband and snaps, “We wouldn’t be having this problem if you’d only remembered to print a route on MapQuest.” If the woman hasnt developed living intentionally, there is an extent to which she may truly not be able to control this behavior. Without consciousness of the moment, she may not know that the pattern of blaming others is common for her, and indeed she may not recognize her volatile state even as it is unfolding. Without the goal of curbing her anger and/or its resultant abusiveness set before hand, she may not have prepared herself, from her subconscious states up, to be aware that the stage is set for such an impulsive remark, so to recognize it before it emerges. In other words, consciousness without a goal is not sufficient in order to have a choice to act as usual or differently when the time comes, nor is having the goal if it is not accompanied by consciousness. The gift of both is an opportunity to make a different decision.

For Jedi, this decision-making process is, if possible, even more important than it would be for others, because our commitment to this spiritual path implies not only that we put ourselves in the way of personal growth, but that we have the intention to learn a measure of personal power, as well, to be used in service (although what that service is depends on our inner guidance). For us, this decision making is crucial to developing enough strength, whether that is bodily strength, influence and leadership, teaching ability or other, that we can act in accordance with that intention. Indeed, the title Jedi implies an outer aspect of calm and compassion, but hidden reserves of wisdom, strength, resilience that are both developed and manifested in this way: one conscious decision after the other.

Application and Discussion

We all have different knowledge and application of these lessons, with some being adept, and others less practiced in living with intention. Below, I suggest three different, practical experiments centered around the concept, along with general discussion questions. I don’t think everyone (anyone) will be drawn to doing all of these; rather, I ask that you read them, and practice one or more that interest you, later discussing your experiences, and adding any other thoughts you have about the lesson. Those who are very advanced and familiar with the topic may instead wish to discuss stories or learning tools that were previously useful to them when they were working extensively with this idea. Do you, also, have exercises that you did to learn these habits?

Practical Lessons

1) Developing Consciousness

I present this exercise as specifically developing consciousness of the Force, but it may be used exactly as presented to draw the awareness to any needed area: our emotional environment, the maintenance of the days goal in the forefront of the mind, etc. One of the techniques that shamans use for guidance is called lucid dreaming, in which the practitioner learns to recognize a dream state as it is occurring, realize that he/she is dreaming, and then thereafter consciously choose the events of the dream because of this awareness. With the understanding that an unconscious moment is very like a dream, it makes sense that the same techniques for learning lucidness can be used in daily life as well to train the mind on the moment and develop awareness. In a dream, specifically, the shaman would look for a pre-chosen cue that would indicate the dreamstate (a few of us may remember Data doing this in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. His cue was the full moon, and he trained his subconscious to show him the full moon so that he would know he was dreaming; another common cue is to look for your own feet in a dream). Once you realize you are dreaming, you can choose to be aware.

For this exercise I suggest you choose a cue that you can expect to run into often enough in your everyday life. One that works well, from experience, is looking for birds, any kinds of birds. When you see one, teach yourself to stop, check your centering, and reach out to the Force. Notice if the Force has a feeling or message for you, and ask it for guidance if needed. Then go on with the day, with the intention of maintaining that awareness. Many other cues are possible if birds don’t sound right to you: pennies on the ground work well (and if you are open to magick, these can be collected and dedicated to some expense related to your goal for the day, or donated to a good cause, with powerful effect), as would clouds, VW Beetles (be careful when driving, though), bright yellow objects as a class, or many other possibilities. The only proviso would be that this should be something you naturally see 10 to 20 times per day, and not exclusively in one setting (i.e., only when at work or only at the park).

If you try this, do it for a couple days. How good are you at catching your cues? Do you feel that the texture of your day is different when you are doing it? Do you feel more conscious, and if so, is it just at the moments when you see the cue, or is it always? Does your Force connection become more habitual and satisfying? Finally, one of the benefits of this kind of exercise is that it gives the Force itself a way to arrange coincidences that give messages or reinforce the teaching. The penny may show up in the darndest place, for example, or at the strangest time. If you have this experience, what does it add to the lesson?

2) Setting Goals

Like the first exercise, this one is very simple; there is no need to have mastered being conscious of the moment to benefit from it (although it is of benefit even if you have). Nor is this one my idea. My mother told this story sometime soon after attending a Pema Chodron retreat (Pema is a Buddhist nun and author, for those not familiar with her). But we are not sure it was Pema’s story or idea. We agree it was Buddhist, and if I can find a reference I’ll give it. The essence of it is this: a Buddhist monk was talking about how one of his daily practices, which was to every morning choose a goal for the day perhaps to be more patient with a certain brother, or to be more aware while eating and drinking, or to remember to offer his small acts to the Buddha, like chopping vegetables or teaching his student. Then every night he would stop to reflect on how he’d done in attaining his goal. If he’d done well, very good! But if not, he wouldn’t be upset, but congratulate himself for having chosen such a significant goal, and he’d try again.

For this exercise, set aside 5 minutes at the beginning of the day and a little longer, maybe 15 minutes, at the end. In the morning center yourself, connect with the Force, and with its help select a very simple goal for the day (this goal can be to look for pennies (:->)). An example might be: my goal is to count to ten before I answer my daughter when she speaks to me in a whining tone of voice. Whatever it is, it should be something that might reasonably be important that day. If you are open to magick, this goal can be further fixed in the subconscious by making up an image around it while in a meditative state. You might imagine that you had an enormous quill pen, and wrote your goal on a golden tablet in your mind, or you might envision a big theater complete with velvet curtains and put your goal at center stage. Then go about your day, trying to maintain awareness of the goal. In the evening before bed, again take time to center yourself, and with your connection to the Force in place, evaluate how you did. Did you meet your goal sometimes? A few times? If you didn’t feel successful, don’t forget to congratulate yourself on your excellent choice of goal! What was holding you back? What could you do better next time? If you keep a journal, you may wish to record the days events in it. You may also wish to try it two or three days running, with either the same or different goals.

3) Making Decisions

When I first met my Jedi Master, Jade, at a workshop more than a year ago, what really got to me about her (and the Jedi path) was her unique twist on this step about decisions. She’s a hypnotherapist as well as a Jedi, and I can’t begin to give you her lesson with the impact it had at the time, partly because hers was delivered while we were all half in trance, and partly because it was stated with an authority of voice that would be impossible to imitate in writing. But this next exercise is inspired by her anyway.

Jade’s primary lesson in Jedi 101 is that we are, in fact, what we tell ourselves we are. Feel tired, overwhelmed, afraid? It is probably because the feeling was triggered by an event, but then it was maintained by your internal dialog. For example, I do math research in real life, and constantly feel humbled by the quick students or brilliant professors around me; if I’m not careful, I fall into an inner dialog that sounds like this: “Wow, am I not getting this class. Liebler goes so fast, but no one says anything, I must be the only one who doesn’t get it; stuff like this makes me wonder what the heck I’m doing here …. ” and so on. It is perfectly possible for me to get so worked up about this that I feel stupid, and that’s one of my problems. Jade would say that if I want to do math, then I need to tell myself the story that makes it possible (and no other story that undermines it).

For Jedi, this is even more important, because the standard for Jedi is so high, the task itself is so complex, and not least because there’s often a lurking misgiving in our minds about whether it’s possible to be a Jedi in this place or time in any case. And so Jade has crafted the idea of Jedi Speak as a way of addressing this need. Jedi Speak means a personal set of affirmations, but crafted to craft us, to reinforce our role and mindset as Jedi. In Jade’s workshop she had us reciting after her: “I am a POWERFUL Jedi who MAKES DECISIONS” (I tried to put in some of that authority for you, did it work?), and I have to tell you that it was this part of the workshop that I took home and turned over again and again in my mind. I am a Jedi. It’s possible to be one, I am one. I am powerful. Wow. I make decisions. If I’m still in school after 6 crazy years, ITS MY DECISION. I’m not doing homework right now, and it’s MY DECISION. Am I going to get another sweet to eat? Again, MY DECISION.

This exercise is to use just one or two lines of Jedi Speak to look at one day in our lives with, perhaps, new eyes. To do this, use or adapt one or both of the following lines of Jedi Speak so that it feels as comfortable as possible to you (but keep it strong if it feels a little raw, it’ll work better):

I am a powerful Jedi who makes decisions.

I feel the Force, and it guides me in all that I do.

Then go someplace where you can be private (on the way to work in the car is good, or in the shower, or alone at home) and say these aloud to yourself. Say them strongly, even if it feels weird. Repeat them. Be loud. Spend 5 minutes or so doing this. Again, optional variations for those not opposed to a little magick: do these in trance, either internally or externally. If you say them out loud in trance, see if you notice any resistance, in the form of uneasy feelings, fear, an inner voice actually telling yourself that you’re crazy, etc. If you do notice this, try a Force Push to send those influences away, out of your aura, or use a lightsaber, envisioned in your hand, to banish them. If you say them inside yourself, use imagery to make them powerful: imagine the earth shaking beneath you, as though a cosmic lion had roared; imagine the sound of the words ringing off cliffs far away.

When youve done this, try to keep it in mind as you go about your day. Refresh it, if you can, in the car, or walking to the grocery. Think, as you do your daily work, about yourself as powerful and the decisions you make. Try to be aware of the decisions you are making them: spending some change on a latte, pushing past that yellow light, picking the darker suit so you have a bit more authority. And after about 24 hours or so, make a list of the decisions you made, being honest and including even the tough ones. Did you not quit your job, even though you felt like it when the boss got into a rant? Did a problem come up and did you choose not to take responsibility? And how did you use your strength? In which ways do you feel powerful, and in which ways not?

For your response to this lecture, comment a little in general on how you felt about doing this. Does the Jedi Speak make you feel strong or touched? How do you feel about the kinds of decisions that you’ve been making in life? How hard would it be to make different ones?

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1. I get the feeling this is repeated in other books, but one place it comes up is in STAR WARS: Jedi Quest, The Way of the Apprentice, p.65.