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August 6, 2014

Chaturanga, savasana, mudra are familiar terms to me, and perhaps to you. They refer to core poses in yoga that are thought to affect our ability to connect to the spiritual world. Sitting in a yoga class after the mats are rolled out and noses are relieved of their morning stuffiness, we are asked to create an intention for the day’s practice. This is an interior moment, left unexpressed, that fills the mind with purpose. The body senses it. Intention is sealed with a prayerful hand gesture. Practice begins.

Sometimes intention is easy to come by. When there is tension, we seek release. When the mind is cluttered, we may seek clarity. Often we look for energy with which to achieve our daily tasks. Intention is something that rises up in us with purpose. If we listen, it speaks. It tells us what we need. I trust this instinct now, after years of yoga practice. But what about intention in my life, I think?

More often than not, I ignore the mindful intention to visit a friend, or to collect my writing into a coherent structure, or even to sweep the patio.

In the theatre, we actors practice intention. It is the driving force in a performance. It is what makes us worth watching. Without intention, we are set decoration. Actors dread being asked their intention without a clear answer. It means we haven’t done the work we are there to do. That kind of intention requires study, thought, understanding. It’s not the intention that rises up from a settled mind and body in a yoga class.

My morning walk with Aengus, the schnauzer who structures my day, is a kind of meditation. I use it to see into my thoughts, order the day’s tasks, rehearse my lines, edit my writing. But what I am asking myself is, when does the greater intention get formed? The intention that propels us to rise above the everyday. It seems to be left in the dust by these other intentions. It is the more important one but the one left unexplored, at least by me.

I can remember clearly wanting a family. Almost as soon as I knew that was what I wanted, the plan was set in motion. Not by me, it seemed—but of course it was me—it was as though the mere thought begat the many necessary actions to achieve the outcome.

I tell my children, adults now, to envision their dreams. My son is waiting to hear about a job prospect in his field. He says his friends caution him not to get his hopes up. But he would rather imagine himself working at the job and feeling fulfilled. I encourage him to feed his intention with positive thoughts and actions.