A Good Week Gets Better With Intention

It has been a busy week! I was interviewed for a piece in U.S. News & World Report about my favorite topic: real food!

I received a special kind of water bottle called a “citrus zinger.” It has a juicer incorporated into its works to flavor your water. It comes from zing anything, in Northeast Ohio.  I’m looking forward to figuring how to make myself a little lemon-water-to-go.

Then I received a new book by Michelle Segar at the Univ of Michigan called No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. Michelle and I are of like minds: It’s not about training for the Olympics; we both just want you to move a little bit more. She and I corresponded briefly by email, but long enough to know that we are of similar mindsets when it comes to your health, your plate, your wellness, your mindfulness. And I, like pretty much everybody, could stand to use a little bit more motivation.

And I have finally figured out what it means to set an intention.

What is an intention? I was introduced to the idea last winter by my friend and yogi Mel who is full of heart, full of brave, full of smart and, yes, full of intention. She said it’s good to “set an intention” for your yoga practice each time you get started. I had heard other people say that, too; I ignored them. But you ignore Mel at your own peril. So I smiled, nodded blankly, and tried to act like I knew exactly what she was talking about. Oh yeh, an intention, good idea. Yeh, definitely. Smile.

Yoga is on my list of things that I intend to do more often but, like many other things, tends to fall lower on the priority list than I intended. But I do get up and out of bed every morning, so I got this idea that I would “set an intention” before I went to bed each night or, barring that, when I awoke each morning before I got out of bed. The first few days were kind of a bomb. I really had no idea what I was doing, but I carried on. I’m good like that.

After a few days, I actually started to feel like it was making some kind of difference. It was getting easier, and I liked it. Some days my intention was kinda lame, I knew, but I can state with alacrity that it was always the best I could come up with. So, whatever it was, I went with it. I also had a couple of intentions, on the other hand, that sang with bells and sparkles and I knew it right away. After a month or two I was in the groove. I understood what an intention was, and I knew how to set one.

Now, at this point near the end of summer 2015, I am starting to understand what a difference it can make to set an intention. No one could explain this to me — I think you just have to figure it out for yourself. One day, when I was starting to feel a little cocky, I decided to set this for my intention: “I will revolve around my own axis.” That day, I witnessed an adult meltdown. But I did not take on any of the heat. I stayed in my orbit. I observed and assisted, but I continued to revolve around my axis. Only my own axis. Not the axis of the meltee. Of all the intentions I’ve set so far, that one is my favorite.

A few days ago, coming up empty on intentions, I decided on “I will be open to learning.” It seemed harmless enough. When I got to work my computer had crashed through the night, leaving no trace of a career-defining document I was sure I’d saved. I have a longstanding tendency toward the melodramatic. I of course resolved never to set that intention again. Despite having mellowed a bit on the subject, that particular intention still leaves me feeling a little burnt and crispy around the edges. 

I suggest you give it a try. Intentions can be abstract or concrete. They can help you to study, to stop eating when you are satisfied, to close your eyes and stretch out your arms to the ceiling a couple of times a day. Intentions are multi-purpose, which is an essential part of their charm. I weave them into the fabric of my days, and they make my weeks more resilient, productive, interesting.

Here is a partial list of intentions I have set. You can use these to get the juices flowing, but then I want you to make some of your own.

Put one foot in front of the other.

Keep your feet on the ground.

Be patient with yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

Be “self-ish.”

Be the axis around which you revolve.

Revolve around your own axis.

Fill up your own space.

Dance.

Pay attention. (I call this the “attention intention.”)

Be a big red circle. (I have no explanation for this.)

Put your money where your mouth is. (I broke a crown.)

Maintain your equilibrium.

Be open to new ideas.

Move before the day warms up.

Maintain flexibility.

Try again.

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