The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

On Intentions

There is a saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. As often, it is a saying that has multiple interpretations. It doesn’t have one true meaning or one true interpretation. Which is an invitation to think about it as well as about intentions.

An area where I regularly find myself confronted with intentions is when it comes to practicing something, for example, meditation. The intention there can be a chosen one as well as the acceptance of what one understood to be the instructions. In essence, with meditation, the intention most probably will be to pay attention to one’s breath for a specific amount of time. Diverting intentions can result from other approaches to meditation or from deciding on a different implementation.

What I know of such an intention is that it has to deal with praxis. The mind tends to wander, and in those moments, I tend to forget the intention. When I remember it, I can come back to it. That’s the movement of meditation. That’s why it is called an intention and not a result or an achievement.

Intention thus is part of my learning process. It is something I know to have an uncertain outcome. At the same time, it is the best option I have to notice what is necessary for that intention to work out as well as possible. It is learning that helps me create circumstances that assist my intention. There is no option available that will guarantee success, as the process the intention is addressing is beyond my control.

Intention is how I can deal with uncertainty. It is how I can add some sense of control to a process that cannot be controlled. It also addresses a process I want to gain awareness of and, as it relates to my experience, no one else can perceive as well as I do.

Something quite different is an intention that I’ll use to address someone else or a situation. That is the process that I hardly can perceive as it happens within other people’s experiences and only partially within my observation. These are situations in which I have to actively seek information and need to take the time to gather and analyze it. It’s a process I actively experience leading to my ability to have much more awareness of than of those processes I can only observe.

It thus seems that the difference in awareness and ability to observe decides the impact an intention may have.

Consequently, maybe, the saying has nothing to do with intentions as such, and everything with the attention one gives these intentions.

A useful reminder here might be that it’s not sufficient to have an intention. It is necessary to trust oneself enough to believe in one’s ability to implement the given intention. That’s as close as I get to explaining what Yoda meant when he said “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” This also means that I need to find a way to believe in other people’s ability to implement the intentions I shared with them. It starts with figuring out if their intention is aligned with mine. And it doesn’t end with thinking about the consequences implementing my intentions has.



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