The Secret of Intention

As children we come into this world with a frightening degree of intelligence, a full blown and mature package of emotions and almost no experience, no touchstone on which to base the immediate flood of perceptions.  From the first moment we struggle to make sense of our surroundings.  Those conclusions we come to in those first few years, about how things work in relation to us, become our strongest beliefs as we age.

 Early on, I concluded that I would never get have what I wanted.  In order to avoid the pain of not getting, I renounced wanting.  Years later, after I had begun the work of the internal sacred marriage‑ the work of bringing all my disparate internal parts and pieces into harmony and relationship, my friend Dixie asked me during a Rosen session, “What do you want? “ I burst into tears.  It took a long time before I could even hear the question without dissolving, much less begin to clarify an answer.  Gradually, I began to learn that I was allowed to want, that the very act of asking brought answers. Seeking, was the clue to finding.

Recently, I saw a movie called, “The Secret.”  The secret is what the film calls the Law of Attraction.  It tells us there is a universal law, which says if we want something and can focus on and articulate the wanting, we will get it.  Well, this is what I had already discovered for myself.  So why did I have such a negative reaction to the movie?  I tried figuring out all the stylistic and psychological reasons why this might be so for me.  Even after taking all that into account and even though I could not disagree with the information, I still experienced an internal sense of wrongness.

A couple of days after the viewing I stopped by my favorite bookshop café. Right on top of a heap was a book by Timothy Miller called How To Want What You Have.  The words fell on me like sweet balm. I had to laugh- synchronicity had again delivered what I sought.

I rifled through the table of contents and the opening pages just to see what his “how-to” was but really the words “want what you have” were enough.  Wanting what I have is the next step.  Otherwise there is no end to wanting – it’s exhausting.  Thinking about all this I began to realize that the work of the sacred marriage is to want what I have.  This is the cultivation of desire as a spiritual practice.  It can apply to my real flesh and blood mate but it also applies to the skills, talents and beauty which I already possess.  Rather than discarding or ignoring my innate qualities while lusting after something shinier, I must pay attention what’s already here. 

Studies on attention conclude that, at any given time, each person has only a limited amount of attention at her or his disposal.  So no one can give 100% attention to two things at the same time.  It’s impossible.  By turning our attention away from wanting what is outside the marriage, or outside ourselves, we have more attention to give to what we already have. 

Attention is one of Timothy Miller’s suggestions. It is also one of Angeles Arrien’s precepts in the Four Fold Way.  “Show up,” she says “and pay attention.”  Years ago, when I was young and twice as opinionated, ignorant, and judgmental as I am now, met a woman who at my first glance appeared to have an unusually unattractive face.  She was married to a very handsome man.  It puzzled me.  I got over my prejudice, we became friends and gradually as I paid more attention to who she really was and less to my opinion of who that might be, I began to love her.  In the process I forgot about her face.  But as I kept paying attention to my friend I began to notice how lovely her eyes were.  Eventually, her features came into focus again for me but this time as the perfect frame for those beautiful eyes.

At the time I saw my experience with my friend as a lesson in overcoming prejudice with love.  Now I see it as a teaching about the power of attention.  Attention is the key, not the wanting.  How and where do we focus and distribute our attention? 

There is a further factor at work here‑ intention.  The two words share similar meanings.  However, their difference is pointed out in the first syllable of each word.  Attention has to do with concentrating one’s mental powers upon an object.  Whereas intention is about creating an internal purpose or determination to act in a certain way or to do a certain thing.

Attention brings the outside in, intention brings the inside out into the world to search for its match or mate.  Intention is more than observation, more than desire – it’s a coherent direction one sets for oneself trusting that the path will open in front of one’s feet.  Mary Magdalene walked the dusty paths of Galilee following her intention to study with and learn from the teachings of the Christ.  That intention rolled before her, opening a path through all obstacles of tradition, prejudice, and even her own demons.  Her determination to live what she learned carried her past the death of her teacher on into her own ministry.

Intention reaches beyond simple craving to possess- it implies a desire to engage with the world outside oneself.  It includes ideas of reciprocity, collaboration and mutuality. Intention derives out of the attention one gives to knowing oneself. Which brings us back to gnosis.  Literally gnosis translates as knowledge but  the word, insight might convey its meaning more completely.  Insight couples intellectual understanding with the knowledge of the heart and the wisdom of the body.  Insight informs intention.  Deep insight reveals the divine nature inherent in each soul.

And this is the real secret- one intimate connection with spirit.  When we allow ourselves to feel the intimate weave of the universe our souls fill up with enough love, enough knowledge, enough joy to satiate.  This is the end of wanting the great fulfillment of desire.

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