Framing our days between intention setting and joyful dedication, even once a week, can change how we live. It’s a purposeful approach of self-awareness, conscious intention, and focused effort—three precious gifts of contemplative practice—by which we take responsibility for our thoughts and actions and take charge of our selves and our lives. As the Buddha put it, “You are your own enemy / and you are your own savior. “
The Buddha saw: our thoughts, emotions, and actions are the primary sources of our suffering. Equally, our thoughts, emotions, and actions can be the source of our joy and freedom. Living, as much as possible, with conscious intention is the first step of this transformation. So, the following two exercises in intention and dedication are the first step to greater clarity and cohesion in our life, our work, and our relationship with others.
Exercise: Setting an Intention
First, find a comfortable sitting posture. If you can, sit on a cushion on the floor or on a chair with the soles of your feet touching the ground, which gives you a feeling of being grounded. If you prefer, you could also lie down on your back, ideally on a surface that is not too soft like a sinking mattress. Once you have found your posture, relax your body as much as you can, if necessary with some stretches, especially your shoulders and your back. Then, with your eyes closed if it helps you to focus, take three to five deep, diaphragmatic or abdominal breaths, each time drawing the inhalation down into the belly and filling up the torso with the in-breath from the bottom to the top, like filling a jar with water. Then with a long, slow exhalation, expel all the air from the torso, all the way. If it helps, you can exhale from your mouth. Inhale… and exhale…
Once you feel settled, contemplate the following questions: “What is it that I value deeply? What, in the depth of my heart, do I wish for myself, for my loved ones, and for the world?”
Stay on these questions a little and see if any answers come up. If no specific answers surface, don’t worry, simply stay with the open questions. This may take some getting used to, since when we ask questions we usually expect to answer them. Trust that the questions themselves are working even—or especially—when we don’t have ready answers. If and when answers do come up, acknowledge them as they arise and stay with whatever thoughts and feelings they may bring.
Finally, develop a specific set of thoughts as your conscious intention, for this day, for instance. You could think, “Today, may I be more mindful of my body, mind, and speech in my interaction with others. May I, as far as I can, avoid deliberately hurting others. May I relate to myself, to others, and to the events around me with kindness, understanding, and less judgment. May I use my day in a way that is in tune with my deeper values.”
In this way, set the tone for the day.
Exercise: Making a Dedication
At the end of day, for instance, before you go to bed or as you lie in bed before sleeping, reflect on your day.
Briefly review the events of the day (including significant conversations, moods and other mental activity) and touch back on the spirit of the morning intention setting. See how much alignment there is between the two. It’s important not to get caught up in the details of what you did and did not do. The idea is not to keep exhaustive scores, but to broadly survey to see the synergy between your intentions and your life that day.
Whatever thoughts and feelings this reviewing might bring, just stay with it. There’s no need to push them away if they have a negative quality; or grasp at them if they seem positive. Simply stay with it for a while in silence.
Finally, think of something from the day that you feel good about—a helping hand you gave your neighbor, an empathetic ear you lent a colleague in distress, not losing your cool in the drugstore when someone cut the line. Then take joy in the thought of this deed. If nothing else, take joy in the fact that you began your day by setting a conscious intention.
From A Fearless Heart: How The Courage To Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives by Thupten Jinpa.
I recommend reading the full article from Tricycle
May all beings attain happiness and its causes.
May all beings be free from suffering and its causes.
May all beings never be separated from joy that is free of misery.
May all beings abide in equanimity, free from bias, attachment, and aversion.