This article is based on a talk on intentions that I gave on June 15, 2022 to the Mindfulness In Healing Sangha. It was inspired by a quote from lay dharma teacher, Dr. Larry Ward:

The work we are required to do is the same no matter who wins.

To heal and transform and create a brand new understanding of what it means to be human, in order to have a brand new society, to honor that humanity we now recognize.

To honor the creativity and mystery that we now recognize in our own lives and the lives of species around us  in the lives of the river and the mountain and the fox and the bear. …

Our intention matters here. Our bravery matters here. Our sense of vow is what I’m talking about. My vow is bigger than a political context. … It is a vow transmitted by time and space and heart and mind, that goes beyond time and space and heart and mind. So it sustains me as I ride the crest and the waves of life.

– Larry Ward, author of America’s Racial Karma: An Invitation to Heal

An intention is the desire in us to obtain whatever it is that we want. In this sense, it is equivalent to a goal. However, when it comes to a non-material intention, it takes on a different form – that of an aspiration, which has the quality of not having expectations. Aspirations help us keep on the path without being attached to achievement. For example, I have an aspiration to become a dharma teacher in the Plum Village tradition. This is my intention and I don’t get lost in when or if I will achieve it. We can easily get lost in goals. These two quotes demonstrate what intentions are with respect to practice,

It is important to sit with the clear intention to be present. At the same time, we need to let go of expectations. In a very real sense, what happens when we sit is none of our business. The practice is to accept whatever arises instead of trying to control our experience. What we can control is our wise effort to be present with what is. – Narayan Liebenson Grady, “The Refuge of Sitting”

Maintaining Skillful Intentions
We may be powerless to change the past, but we do have the power to shape the present and the future by what we do, moment to moment, right now. And in maintaining our intention to be as skillful as possible in thought, word, and deed, we’ll find the only true refuge there is. – Thanissaro Bhikku, “What We’ve Been Practicing For”

In the following video, directly from the sangha talk, you will find examples of intention.

Here is one more quote:

Our Highest Intentions
No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can always set our compass to our highest intentions in the present moment. Perhaps it is nothing more than being in a heated conversation with another person and stopping to take a breath and ask yourself, ‘What is my highest intention in this moment?’ If you can have enough awareness to take this small step, your heart will give you an answer that will take the conversation in a different, more positive direction.- Jack Kornfield, “Set the Compass of Your Heart”

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