Last week I took a personal spiritual retreat. For me that means a day or more away from routines and obligations, with a lot of walking, a lot of journaling, and a lot of solitude. The retreats that help me most begin with an intention. This one was about trust. One a few years ago was about self apart from roles and responsibilities.
Intentions are different from goals. In writing fiction, each scene is said to start with a goal the character sets out to accomplish. Achievable in the future, measurable and external, the goal creates urgency and suspense. It’s a set-up for success or failure that keeps the reader reading.
Intentions are deeper, quieter things. They involve awareness, focus, and purpose in the present. Why am I choosing to do this now? Getting distracted isn’t failure but a nudge to refocus. Intentions may shift but can’t be checked off on a to-do list.
Goals have their place. They can motivate one to push oneself or meet agreed timetables. Some people claim to thrive on urgency and suspense. My goal with this blog is to post a short entry every Monday, come what may. My intentions are to connect with you the reader, to hone my writing, and to add a steady rhythm to a writing life of mostly longer-term projects.
5/1/2017 08:33:28 am
5/1/2017 09:32:40 am
We talk about "intention" a fair bit in Tai Chi. One's GOAL may be to improve our ease or grace in getting through Fair Lady Works Shuttle. If we make note of our INTENTION, we can effectively approach the problem, starting with evaluating where we are right now — properly weighted, arms correctly placed — in order to get to where we need to go — taking one step 270 degrees to the right, on one leg, while standing up straight, ending in a proper bow stance.
Lisa, that's a beautiful example. Intention has so much to do with what we're about in the moment. It seems to come up a lot in Eastern traditions and practices. I wonder how intention relates to mindfulness. Perhaps at risk of overgeneralizing, I wonder if goals embody a more Western emphasis on outcomes.
5/1/2017 09:56:43 am
Sarah, I'm going to print this and read it at Tai Chi this afternoon. But I don't think the best people to discuss it are going to be there today, because they are on a retreat themselves and may not have returned yet! Might be next week before I get back to you...
5/2/2017 09:49:14 am
Sarah, the consensus was... yes. One of our group spread her arms out and said the whole [American] concept of western expansion demonstrates our goal orientation.
Thank you, Lisa. This is helpful to me in clarifying my sense of what intention means. I'm also intrigued by the idea of deliberately shifting to rely on an inner compass. It also seems like it would break up any tendency toward routine or automatic pilot. I'm grateful to you and your class for this exchange.
5/2/2017 10:44:58 am
Sarah, both you and Geoff are welcome to join our amazing group on any Monday afternoon between 2:30 - 4:00 at Basics Co-op in Janesville. :) Until the weather turns nice, when we gather under some huge oak trees in a park.
5/2/2017 12:05:46 pm
Practicing under the oaks in Basics is pretty cool too. Fair Lady begins at 17:54. Amber, Garth and I have been practicing together for 5 years now. The others are behind the camera.
Leave a Reply.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.