Becoming aware of intention is the key to awakening in moment-to-moment practice
In times of difficulty it is this repeated setting of our heart’s compass that determines the result. Whether in a family disagreement or community conflict, before we speak and act, we can become aware of our deepest intention. Even the simplest words can have a vastly different effect depending on our intention. The phrase “What do you mean?” can sound accusing and judgmental or considerate and humble. Our hearts are like seismographs, picking up the tremors of intent.
Notice how this works in conversation. Do we speak from a subtle sense of control or self-righteousness, or do we really wish to listen, to learn? If we set our minds toward freedom, our good intentions will help us to let go of what blocks our openness. If we set our hearts toward compassion, we will reaffirm our love in spite of whatever difficulties we face.
Instead of inflaming a bad situation, we can seek ways of touching the good in another. Without denying pain and injustice, we can also look for the secret beauty of others. Our spiritual practice can be this simple: to see with eyes of compassion and act with our wisest intention. This often has a surprising effect. Nelson Mandela put it this way: “Thinking too well of people often allows them to behave better than they otherwise would.”
Do not doubt the transformation that can be born out of such conscious attention. When Ananda, attendant and close friend of the Buddha, met a young outcaste woman at a village well, he politely asked her for water to drink, but she was ashamed and refused him, lest her untouchability contaminate his holiness. Ananda replied, “I ask not for caste but for water.” Her life was transformed by this simple kindness, and she joyously and lovingly followed Ananda to the monastery. There the Buddha blessed her and bid her to take up the kindness Ananda had shown her and, by keeping that simple intention, to “let the actions of your life shine like the jewels of royalty.”
It is in such small things that we fulfill the lessons of the heart. It is from our intentions that our life grows. It is in opening to one another that our path is made whole.
This excerpt is taken from the book, “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry” Jack Kornfield