The Power of Wise Intention

Wise Inten­tion is the bedrock of both ele­gant com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ground­ed living.

This topic is addressed in two of my books, Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall and The. Best. Relationship. Ever.

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I want to give a shout out to Lion’s Roar, and to the arti­cle How to Prac­tice Wise Inten­tion, writ­ten by Sylvia Boorstein.

So, what exactly is wise intention and why would I want some?

To put this in con­text, in Bud­dhism The Four Noble Truths, or per­haps more clear­ly, the 4 Pre­em­i­nent Real­i­ties, are the 4 Descrip­tors of the way it is.

You can read about this in Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall, but the gist is that we real­ize, end­less­ly, the unsat­is­fac­tori­ness of the life we cre­ate, and we try to cling to what we judge is good while resist­ing what we judge to be bad.

The way out, we learn: 

…of this cycle is through ces­sa­tion (nirod­ha). If I stop desir­ing, (through the dis­ci­plin­ing and emp­ty­ing of the mind) and live in the Now (because desire is always about want­i­ng (or avoid­ing) what I had in the past, or want­i­ng (or avoid­ing) some­thing in the future), my sense of unsat­is­fac­tori­ness (suf­fer­ing) will cease.

The cure proposed by the Buddha, is magga—the Eightfold Path of ‘sound living, one of which is “wise intention.”

On the “west­ern side,” there are a cou­ple of real­ly pop­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion mod­els, and they fea­ture 5 ele­ments: per­cep­tion, feel­ing, inter­pre­ta­tion, inten­tion, and action. 

I guess wise intention is important! 😉

Inten­tion is real­ly the check point… it’s like a safe­ty valve… for how your life goes. We use it in the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Mod­el to state clear­ly what we will do. It becomes a safe­ty valve as you ask yourself,

Is this (result) what I intend? 

Let’s say I’m annoy­ing myself in a sita­tion and I react by yelling. The sit­u­a­tion spins into anger and recriminations. 

At any point (prefer­ably just ahead of yelling…) I ask myself, “Is this action (yelling) get­ting me what I say I want? (my intention)”

The Thing about inten­tion is that it requires (as, real­ly, does all of this approach) that I pay atten­tion, con­stant­ly. I can’t get over myself and find a ground­ed way of being if I’m tuned out.

The key here is to remember that all I have control over is myself. 

Oth­er peo­ple are doing what they are doing, and none of what they are doing is about me. They are react­ing, or choos­ing not to react. But all I have to work with is what is direct­ly in front of me.

And my intention.

If my inten­tion is to live the eight­fold path… if my inten­tion is to have deep and mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships, then I must set my inten­tion as: 

do no harm. Pay atten­tion. Act so that each sit­u­a­tion has a chance to blos­som. Clear my mind from blame and judgement. 

In oth­er words, I am total­ly respon­si­ble for the only thing I can be respon­si­ble for… how I am in the world. How, in oth­er words, I act.

Notice I did­n’t say think. Up in my head I may still be yelling, judg­ing, curs­ing. (Know­ing me, I am!) This is just how my mind is. I need to see it and acknowl­edge it to myself (and to oth­ers who might be curious.)

But the key… the only impor­tant thing, is this: giv­en this sit­u­a­tion, and despite what’s going on in my head, what shall I do?

And the answer ought to be: I will act in accor­dance with my belief in the ben­e­fit of being present, col­lect­ed, and aware. In all things, to bring, and be, peace.

Simple, eh?

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is known on the web as the Sim­ple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Pri­vate Prac­tice Coun­sel­lor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the lat­est being The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

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