The Crucial Importance of Intentions

Intentions are important, even critical. In our criminal justice system, a trial attempts to ascertain the intentions of the perpetrator. In our everyday relationships our intentions can be obvious at times we wish that they were not. Buddhism treats intentions as crucial to our success along the path.

This week, Jeff facilitated an exploration of intentions using a recent talk given by Tara Brach titled “The liberating power of conscious intention”. Consciously setting intentions and using mindfulness of our intentions can help us manage our unskillful habits. These practices can help us find stable ground, heal, and find freedom.

You can find Tara’s talk here:

In the opening, Tara tells the story of getting a bit lost in the California desert while on retreat. She was able to climb to a higher point where she saw the spire of the retreat center, an old church. Over the course of the retreat she used that spire to find her way back during several outings. Tara uses the analogy of a spire as a tool to help us to return to mindfulness of our deepest intentions.

Tara reminds of a quote from the Buddha:
“We live our entire life on the tip of intention.”

Our intentions are behind our thoughts, our words and our actions. Tara points to two domains of intention which lead to different outcomes:
• The first domain is our deepest intention
• What most matters to us, our liberating aspiration
• Intentions in support of our deepest aspiration
• The second domain includes intentions which lead to suffering
• Ego-level delusions

Mindfulness of our intentions is critical to reducing suffering
• The quality of our relationships is determined by our mindfulness of our intentions
• Intention is the seed that determines our behaviors and creates our experience

The most important thing is remembering the most important thing (what our life is dedicated to).

If we use the reasoning mind to “identify” our deepest intention we will come up with something nice but bland.

Making sincere contact with our deepest intention requires stillness and inner listening to sense what matters to our heart.

We may consider three dimensions of our deepest intention
• Our deepest intention always has to do with manifesting our innate potential (what we are)
• Our deepest intention is embodied. For an aspiration to be awake it needs to be a heartfelt experience and it comes out as sincerity
• Our deepest intention always relates to this moment, is experienced in the here and now.

Training in mindfulness of intention
• Connect with our deepest intention through the practice
• Learn to reconnect when we are lost

When our intentions are ego-centric we feel lacking, disconnected and isolated

Tara suggests a two-part practice:
• Connect with your intentions in the morning before you start your day
• Review your day to check in on whether you remained mindful of your intentions and acted in alignment with your deepest intentions.