Setting Intentions

Setting Intentions

When I got the email from Diana Hostettler at Mind Body Align to write a blog on Setting Intentions, I was flattered and terrified.  I can get up and speak ad lib in front of 100 people but to put my thoughts down on paper makes me panic. However, in the spirit of all that I have learned at MBA, I felt I had to accept the assignment.

What is “setting intentions?” Are “intentions” like the resolutions we make in January every year that we never keep? Are “intentions” like those punishments we use to make sure we lose the weight we gained from eating the delicious food during the Holiday season?

No, they are not.

An intention is a guiding principle for the way you wish to show up in the world. When you set an intention, you are activating your receptivity. If you go out in the day without setting one, it’s like you are riding a bike with no direction. When you do set an intention, you are putting out that which you intend to attract into your life. But how do we get there? How can we connect to our inner wisdom to chart our course for 2019?

Since I didn’t know the answer to my question, I did research on this subject. There was a lot of guidance explaining how to set intentions, but I liked the information from Deepak Chopra, which I’ve paraphrased below.

Chopra states that “the sages of India observed thousands of years ago that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires.” Here are the five steps in his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Science, to help us harness the power of intention.

  1. Slip into the Gap: The “Gap” is a state of pure awareness that takes us away from the chattering monkeys in our minds. Meditation is one of the most effective tools we have for entering into the stillness of pure consciousness. This is the ideal state in which to “plant your seeds of intention.”
  2. Release Your Intentions and Desires: Once you’re established in a state of restful awareness, release your intentions and desires. The best time to state your intentions is during the period after meditation. After you set your intention, stop thinking about it and let it go.
  3. Remain Centered in a State of Restful Awareness:  Let your intention go into the positive vibrations of your meditative state. Let your higher self take care of the outcome.
  4. Detach from the Outcome: Let go of the need for a specific result and “live in the wisdom of uncertainty. Intend for everything to work out as it should and allow opportunities to come your way.”
  5. Let the Universe Handle the Details:  “Your focused intentions set the infinite organizing power of the universe in motion.” We don’t know what the outcome will be. Many times we have a plan in mind and our higher power sends us something better than what we had envisioned.

When you are working on your intention, make sure you keep it positive. Instead of saying I want to take off these ugly 10 pounds I stupidly gained—try the more positive version—I want to love my body and eat healthy food that nourishes it.  Your intentions can change and evolve. Many people find it helpful to keep a journal to decide what intentions are meaningful for them. You can also write about your outcomes after you start doing this. I love reading old writings to see how I’ve evolved and grown. It can be amazing to see how things that upset me in the past have been healed.

I’m glad I took the challenge to write about “setting intentions.” I thought I knew a lot about this subject, but I really didn’t.  Now, I have a roadmap to help me bring this into my daily practice. One of my new intentions will be to face challenges in a positive way. Writing this blog was a significant experience and I highly recommend it to others who may be asked to contribute.

Service is a love language

Service is a love language

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.

1 Peter 4:10

We have all been given specific talents and gifts.  We are all called to serve. Whether in our homes, offices, or communities, we feel the call.

At home, some of us have been called to be mothers.  The words maid, chef, and chauffeur sometimes feel awfully familiar.  The daunting tasks of laundry, dishes, homework, and taxiing from sport to sport, have us feeling like we are constantly treading water.  

When we work, we are trying to please our boss, client, or customer and hope that money keeps coming in the door, or that we get that next big break.

In our community we want to be involved, volunteer, and feel like we are a part of something “bigger” but… other commitments compete for our time.  

So… what if we change our thinking, our perception, or the way we view what we are doing?

I’ve always loved the quote by Maya Angelou…

“When we give cheerfully and accept thankfully, everyone is blessed.”  

It’s true, right?  Think of giving a gift to a special someone.  How does that make you feel? I think about when my kids are invited to a birthday party.  They are always so excited to go shopping for the present for the birthday boy or girl. They wait with anticipation until it’s time to open the gifts, just so they can see the face of the person who is opening and see how excited they are.  Giving to others brings them joy.

So, why not think the same of service?

Service is a love language that we can all speak, and in doing so, receive joy from.

Although I’m not sure laundry will ever be on my list of something that I enjoy doing, I have chosen to look at it as something that I can do to serve the ones I love.  When I grocery shop and prepare meals, I choose to be excited that I am able to serve my family with my cooking. When I take my kids from soccer to ballet, I can be excited that I am able to spend the time with them in the car, serving their needs while doing so.  

In our vocations, we can perceive what we are doing as a daunting task, or we can choose to use our talents to do our job and see that we are a part of something bigger than just the task at hand.

In our communities, we can choose to use our gifts to serve in whatever way we can, and that can bring us joy.  

There are so many ways to use our God-given gifts to serve others that even the littlest of things count, such as:

  • The next time you go to the store, try holding the door for the person behind you.
  • When you are on the road, let a car go in front of you in a traffic jam.
  • When you are out to eat, stack the plates and tidy up for your waitress.
  • Tomorrow morning, pick up coffee for a co-worker that might need a little pick-me-up.
  • At work, tell your boss how much s/he is appreciated.  
  • The next time you are in a store, at the mall or on a walk—smile at a stranger passing by.  

Serving comes in so many forms in all areas of our lives.  I challenge each of you to get out there today and change your way of thinking.  Don’t think of the “daunting tasks” that need to get done. Don’t think of “all the things on your plate”. Be excited that you are living on this earth today and that you have the ability to change your perspective. Be grateful that you are given this opportunity to give (serve) cheerfully, and then accept thankfully.  Everyone will be blessed.

Answering the call can bring us such joy if we just choose to be the faithful stewards that we were called to be.

Helping Others, Helping Yourself – a lesson in self-care

Helping Others, Helping Yourself – a lesson in self-care

I need to be completely transparent here.  When I was asked (in January) to write this blog for Mind Body Align, I knew very little about what went on at the Butterfly House, nor did I think that I would ever write a blog.  However, always being up for an adventure, I thought why not? It isn’t due until December. I can do this!

The topic, Helping Others, didn’t seem hard.  That is what I do, right? I mean, I am the oldest in my family (also known as, the caretaker), and retired from the local child support agency after 25 years of helping people establish paternity and child support orders for their kids (I should write a book about THAT!). In addition to that, for 6 years, have been the Intake Director for Starfish Project, which helps those struggling with addictions find treatment options.

Helping others is in my wheelhouse.  Super simple, right?

Doing the Research

What my crazy undiagnosed ADHD brain completely and conveniently glossed over was the second half of the title, Helping Yourself.  Oh. Stop. Helping Yourself? Like in, Helping Myself? Well, that is a game changer.

And, the way my brain works, I immediately launched into an in-depth study about self-help.  Let’s look at the research, study flow charts and statistical data, get some great graphics, a couple of good stories, and maybe a catchphrase to tie it all together.  Never mind if it is something that I can apply to my life or circumstances, just do the research!

With that spectacular goal in mind, I forged into the year and started attending the Coffee Talks – I wanted to know the audience, right?  I had already had discussions with our pastor about meeting with him to do some self-care. Perfect timing, let’s do that!

I looked up articles and studies on self-care and read them intently looking for great information and skills that I could pass on.  I looked at this assignment as a way to help the audience get information, but did not pay attention to what I was doing, nor did I apply it to my own life.  I was still running at a crazy pace. I wasn’t taking breaks or cueing in on what I needed. By March, however, I had noticed a couple of things.

Revelations and Purpose

First, I really liked the Coffee Talks.  I mean, I really liked them. I found the connection with other women was something which had been missing from my life.  Second, meeting with the pastor to talk about self-care in ministry was not painless. It forced me to focus on things about myself that I would rather not have thought about or acted on.  It made me quiet my hyperactive, squirrel-chasing brain for an hour or so and really work on myself.

Finally, the research and data did not really address the issue in the way I had hoped; it all seemed a little clinical.  So, I decided to regroup and to focus on what was working for me! This was great because I went into the second quarter of the year with these revelations and armed with a new sense of purpose. I pushed on.

The Big Crash

There were many summer events for Starfish. We were also involved with people going into treatment and returning to the community after treatment.  Meetings with the pastor were not happening at this time. We were just too busy.

A short break with a one week getaway to Western Michigan on the lake was decided on.  No real plans, just a relaxing time to reconnect with my husband and disconnect from the non-profit.  We had a great time. We ate good food, walked on the lovely beaches, and walked the streets of Saugatuck with our dogs enjoying the small shops and restaurants. We slowed down the pace of our lives.

On August 25th we got back into Mansfield late.   The next day was church and family time. And on the following day, August 27th, my mother died.  She was in hospice care, but even the caregivers were taken by surprise because she literally woke up, had breakfast, took a nap, and never woke up.

Permission to Pause

There was no obvious need to complete her funeral arrangements which were pretty much pre-planned, but there were some details to finish.  I felt like I was in slow motion and everything required more effort than normal.

I kept forgetting things.  I tried to keep going as best I could, but I knew that I needed a break. I needed time.  I needed to help myself.

So, I did something very uncharacteristic for me.  I did nothing other than what had to be done for that current day.  I did the minimum necessary for 2 weeks. No work, no new clients. I sat, slept, read, cried, and sat some more. I applied some of the “research” for this blog to my life, and it helped.

These are the lessons from my year:

Helping others is an act of love.  Coming from my Biblical perspective, I am commanded to love others as I love myself. As I love myself.  I can not properly love (help, support or nurture) others if I do not love myself first.

For me, it means that I need to acknowledge that I am loved by God and valued by Him just as I am (crazy brain and all).  It means a level of acceptance that believes I am worth loving, nurturing, and protecting, without feeling guilty or begrudging myself the same help I would give others.

Helping others will drain your emotional resources. Because that’s true, you must make allowances to replenish your spirit.  You cannot serve from an empty vessel. What is it that fills your spirit? Is it walking in the woods or reading a great novel?  Do you feel replenished after time spent alone or with family?

I found that what worked for me was connecting intentionally with my husband, children, and grandchildren. This means making time to really engage with them by turning off my phone and interacting.  The same thing applied to my connection with God by finding a space without distractions to allow Him to work in my spirit and rebuild me.

Helping others can be non-stop, and all-day-every-day,  if you let it happen.  In the middle of helping with others, whether it’s family, profession, or your calling, it is easy to come out of the experience tired and burnt out. When you are feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, it is okay to give yourself permission to pause.

Even though preparing for this blog, Helping Others, Helping Yourself was not what I expected, it’s been a useful and worthwhile journey full of self-awareness and valuable lessons learned. This time spent learning about what I need, and what it takes for me to stay balanced physically and emotionally allows me to better serve others. This journey to stay balanced is something I will always be working towards, and taking a pause for self-care allows me to be more effective at helping others, as well as helping myself.