At the beginning of my classes, we set an elevated intention as a group by chanting together the Sanskrit mantra,
"Lokah samastah sukhinoh bhavantu"
along with its English interpretation,
"May all beings everywhere be happy and free.
May the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life
contribute in some way
to that happiness and to that freedom for all."
I also invite students to set a personal intention at the beginning of practice. I ask them to bring to mind someone they know of who could use some extra healing, love, kindness, compassion, etc. in their life and to dedicate any benefit they might derive from their practice to the person they brought to mind. Or, students might choose to offer their practice to the Divine, in whatever way they conceive of the Divine.
As my teacher Sharon Gannon says, "The intention behind any action determines the outcome of the action." Therefore, if our intention in practicing yoga is to some day realize the highest aim of yoga: enlightenment, realization of the Oneness of Being, realization of the state of Yoga, then we must set an elevated intention for our practice. If we desire enlightenment, we must start working on being less self-centered and more other-centered, or as Sharon Gannon says, we must become "less selfish and more selfless." One way to work on doing so is to offer up our practice and its benefits to someone or to something other than ourselves.
I also find it valuable to set an elevated intention at the beginning of each new year (rather than a resolution). I don't make it overly complicated. Because words are powerful, potent, and magical, I just think of one or two words that are qualities I would like to develop or cultivate more of in myself and set the intention to do just that. This year, the words came to me on their own. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning on January 1, with the words "gratitude" and "devotion" very present in my mind. I said to myself, "Well, there are my words for 2023."
So I intend to move through this year with as much gratitude and devotion as I can, no matter the situation. And I intend to work on further developing my gratitude and devotion "muscles". I'll work too on further developing qualities related to gratitude and devotion, such as contentment, faith, surrender, and appreciation.
Do you have words of intention for 2023? I'd love to hear them! Send me a note, or share with me next time I see you. Thank you to Jivamukti Yoga teacher Andrea Kwiatkowski for the January Focus-of-the-Month essay, "Intention."
Blessings and love to each of you! Happy, healthy New Year!