Tag Archive for: intention

Accept or Perish!…

There are times when we are so deeply consumed with our issues, we forget the little detail that the universe surrounding us is vast, and we are so very small. Reflecting on its vastness, compared to our tiny being, our lives –joys and sorrows, success and concerns, certainties and confusions, or solutions and conflicts, can all seem utterly insignificant. Within this cosmic perspective, what we experience may seem totally insignificant; however from an individual perspective, it is our reality that we cannot ignore. What a dilemma! In one hand is our insignificance in the face of the universe; on the other, there is the reality of our being. What can we do? Is there a balance? Is there a way where we can be significant despite our size in the universe? Yes, there is! Accept!


To accept whatever is, and whatever may be… That is, whether good or bad, big or small, pleasant or unpleasant, success or failure, accepting whatever there is in our reality. Acceptance gives us a moment of free breath and feeds us with new energy to move on. It creates an infrastructure to generating new alternatives; producing constructive choices; bringing healthy decision-making into the reality. Accepting, in essence, is stepping one step back from the reality, gaining clarity of vision and strategy, and stepping a few steps forward for firmer and more desired way of action taking. The counter attitude to acceptance is resistance, where we resist breathing, thinking, and trying to stop whatever there is.


You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”    – Jon Kabat-Zinn


In between these backward-forward steps, there are a few fundamental principles involved: intention, attitude and receptiveness. In previous articles, I have discussed how intention and attitude determine our course of life at any particular move or action (click for articles: How Would You Want to Lead Your Life? Accidentally or Intentionally… & Show Me Your Attitude, I’ll Show You The Way!); and how a receptive attention and awareness brings joy and marvels into our life (Attention to ‘Attention’). While intention guides us with the direction (goal/objective), attitude guides us within the process, and receptiveness brings us clear detailed vision. It is our choice whether to be judgmental, resistant, or accepting the reality at hand. We can either go on struggling with the waves/storms in our life, through resisting or ignoring their existence; or learn to find ways for survival by accepting the blunt fact of their presence! Thus, intention and a non-judgmental, receptive accepting attitude go hand in hand.


So what is acceptance? It is a concept derived from the word “accept” that has a much broader sense that it actually reveals. Etymologically it roots to the Latin word acceptare (accipere) that means “take something to oneself”, “take or receive willingly”, or “get or receive without effort.” Giving a little more thought, in a context where there is acceptance, there is naturally receptiveness! Hence, acceptance involves acts of receiving in return to giving; where in deep sense it as well involves many other related attitudes: forgive, forget, understand, empathize, embrace, let go, and let be!


Let’s think of the simplest example of acceptance. Imagine a beautiful gift that you receive. It is beyond your thought –in size, value, or fit. You are dazzled with delight! You love it! What would you do? Accept it with gratitude; say “Thank you!”; perhaps reciprocate with a kind gesture of sending flowers. Now I invite to think of a situation that a genuine friend complements you on how well you balance your work and personal life, that you create strong connections with people around you, and you maintain a positive outlook towards life. How would you respond? You would probably accept them all, with open heart! This time I invite you to consider your supervisor/manager at work, the teacher at school, the not-so-friendly neighbor next door, or the distant family relative giving you a “strong” feedback telling you that you do not balance your work and personal life well; you do not create strong connections with people around you, and you do not maintain a positive outlook towards life… What would your reaction be? Would you open heartedly accept them all; even ask for more?!


Your acceptance would probably not be as easy as in the first case. Why? Of course the feedback giver has a lot to do with your response. In general, within a deep authentic relationship, we have a more accepting attitude towards the feedback we receive. Nonetheless, does it really matter where it comes from; or the content –whether positive or negative? In fact it doesn’t, at all! There are many people who struggle with receiving positive or negative feedback; specifically on how good they look, how beautiful they are in a particular outfit, or how nice is their new style. Instead of simply saying a genuine “Thank you…” they try to find justifications to their positive look. It is mostly due to lack of self-awareness and self-acknowledgement. I know it, because I used to be one! Therefore, it is not about our response towards feedback, but it is our capacity in embracing ourselves as we are, accepting ourselves with our highs and lows, success and flaws, together with our insecurities and ultimately being whole. Brian Tracy says that the greatest gift we can give others is our unconditional love and acceptance; and I add that before expecting others giving us that gift, we can give it to ourselves: unconditionally accepting and loving ourselves!


Even though we are all equipped with the competence of unconditional love and acceptance, why is it that we cannot accept ourselves, others and things around us as they are? From the mindfulness perspective, where acceptance is directly related with attention, awareness, receptiveness, intention, and attitude, we have the tendency to label most stimuli as good or bad, with a judgmental attitude that resists whatever is coming. In fact we do so for the sake of protecting ourselves from the bad. Just like any double-sided sword, while we attempt to block ourselves from the negative, at the same degree we sterilize ourselves from the positive. Remember, everything comes in dualities, once we shut to one; we shut ourselves to the other! Simpler to say, labeling and having a deterministic conclusion, we eliminate the possibility towards a positive tendency. In other words, once we do not free ourselves from labeling in any way, we prevent our attention and awareness to be receptive enough to catch the stimuli that may help us generate potential alternatives, choices and marvels of what life has to offer. Literally, we shut our eyes, ears, and sensory skills to all the wonders of life.


On the other hand, when we are able to accept, we come to a point of surrendering, where we no more resist or struggle. At that very moment, because we are not resistant to whether good or bad, we become more receptive to the agents that we may make use of; we grow to be aware of their presence; we develop our mind to be aware of the potential they may bring in our life; and finally we are better able to set our course of actions towards our intention. So, while acceptance opens us new possibilities and ultimately chances for life; resistance and non-acceptance closes us doors, pathways, and ultimately takes us to the a dead-end route towards perishing. I am sure that knowing this simple fact may be valuable in choosing to accepting path rather than perishing!


P.S. This piece of article has attempted to touch and be a channel to understanding acceptance as a concept. Obviously, neither words nor articles are enough to deeply analyze its essence. It would take ages to thoroughly study and understand, perhaps through the Zen philosophy of the East –Mindfulness; the philosophical understanding of the Jewish traditions –Kabbalah (an ancient spiritual wisdom that seeks to understand and describe the divine living and being, guiding individuals and the world as a whole to improve); or through the mysticism within Islam –Sufism (seeks the Truth through experiencing the selflessness of the truth). Distinctively, Kabbalah, the word itself, etymologically means ‘receipt’ or ‘acceptance’, from the Hebrew root kabel (lekabel as verb). Against all backgrounds, it is obvious that all mystic philosophies seek for a better living and a healthier being of all kind. So as should we!


Show Me Your Attitude, I’ll Show You The Way!

Yin-Yang is a fascinating symbol in the Chinese philosophy, describing how the opposite forces –i.e. black-white, dark-light, hot-cold, good-bad, etc. are interconnected, complementary, and interdependent. They go hand-in-hand. In fact, their relation with one another intensifies and gives rise to each force. We may sense heat, through the presence of cold. We may perceive light, if only darkness is present. The darker it is, the stronger we are able to identify the light. The presence of these opposite forces, as in the yin-yang, is called dualities. We are surrounded within dualities, where an impeccable balance exists.

Despite the marvelous balance in life, we tend to lose, or simply are unaware of its presence. Have you wondered why? First, we better clarify what balance is. Semantically balance is; (1) an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady; or (2) a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportion. Our sense of balance or imbalance is very much linked to our capacity in managing our internal resources –such as self-awareness, self-confidence, self-regulation, autonomy, authenticity, hope, resilience, (self) compassion, gratitude, etc. In cases where we fail equal or proportionate allocation of energy, time, weight, attention, or significance to elements around us, we gradually lose our strength in managing these resources that actually are vital for our optimum functioning and well-being.

What makes us maintain or lose our balance? Think of each event we encounter or experience, people we converse with, or a feeling or thought we have. What do we do? We automatically evaluate and conclude with a judgment. We evaluate and judge all that is around us. We have a particular attitude towards the phenomena in our life –mostly positive or negative, and sometimes neutral.

Let’s clear this with a simple example: think of a thermometer that says it is +13 Celsius. Relatively, based on our experiences and contextual environment, we tend to come up with a positive or negative judgment. Through a process of evaluation we judgmentally conclude that it is hot or cold, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. However it doesn’t change the objective fact that it is +13 Celsius. Nevertheless, in more complex and emotionally charging situations –such as when involved in conflict of thought or a disagreement with someone or with own self, we may find ourselves fiercely reacting, or peacefully responding. The more emotionally triggered we are, the less we get to have a positive or neutral attitude.

So what is attitude? Semantically, it is a ‘settled way of thinking or feeling about something.’ Colloquially, it is how we respond –or at the verge of responding with feeling, thought, or behavior, to a phenomenon. We may create balance through adopting a particular way of attitude towards what we encounter in life -negative or positive; good or bad; beneficial or threatening; or neutral. The more we have negative attitude, the greater we grow to be off-balance. In fact, by nature, we are genetically hardwired towards a negative tendency –the so-called negativity bias. Our mind is highly skillful in spotting the negative –as threats, dangers, etc. to keep us safe, as well as prepare us for fight or flight. Despite our natural inclination, we have the ability to regulate and adopt a particular desired attitude, even at emotionally challenging situations.

So here comes the golden question: what sort of attitude are we to adopt, so as to maintain an impeccable balance in our life?

From a mindfulness perspective, Jon Kabat-Zinn emphasizes the importance of a non-judgmental attitude in a purposeful attention to the present moment experiences. Interestingly, during the process of a focused attention practice, we explore a lot of things -that we like, or do not like. We judge ourselves with a negative attitude, realizing that our attention has drifted away to thoughts. Similarly, we tend to praise ourselves for doing so well in the practice; nonetheless our attention has already drifted away –into a positive judgment! Either way, our mind and attention wanders, and it will always drift away into thoughts or stories. Neither positive nor negative judgment, but a neutral attitude facilitates our practice; through realizing that the mind goes off and we’ll bring it back. Just as in the +13 degrees Celsius example, our attitude towards the mind wandering, need to be an objective (neutral) one. Once we are able to adopt such attitude towards new explorations, new experiences, and new feelings, we may become more skillful in minding the positive.


Show me your attitude, I`ll show you the way!

So, our optimum functioning and well-being rely on our ability of regulating our behavior. And our actions and behaviors have direct link with our intention and attitude. In my previous article (How would you want to lead your life? Accidentally or Intentionally?), I tried my best to explain how our intention is the antecedent of our outcomes –or end result. It is manifested with our actions or behaviors. Likewise, our attitude defines the characteristics of our behaviors, determining the path towards our desired outcome.

If these concepts displayed on a linear path, it would start with intention, following attitude, then action or behavior, which all lead to outcome. [Intention -> Attitude -> Action/Behavior -> Outcome.] So, while our intention to reach an outcome has deterministic effect on our actions and end result, our attitude –linked to our behavior, has crucial impact on the quality of the end result.

A long story short, now that we know we are able to develop our skills in regulating our attitude, why shouldn’t we!!! This way we can facilitate our course of life, through adopting a desired attitude along the process of setting our intention and behavior towards our goals. We are built in with the ability to manage our perception and ourselves over what is happening around us. It is not what happens, but how we react to it that counts! So, meanwhile our mind keeps spotting the negatives –errors, failure, flaws, threats, etc., we are able to consciously choose to take a neutral attitude, by simply taking the phenomenon objectively and as it is. Such attitude is vital, as long as we do not let the mind entirely do its job, but take charge. This way we may create a great impeccable balance –opposed to a huge imbalance; where all phenomena will seem more pleasant, rather than depressing.

Let’s conclude with a practice –as practice makes perfect! In your next meditation practice, I invite you to particularly observe your attitude. At each inhale and exhale, focusing on your breath, observe your attitude and how it reacts/responds when your mind drifts away to thoughts, feelings, or stories. Ask yourself whether you are taking it compassionately (positively), or judgmentally (negatively); or may be just (neutrally) accepting the fact that it has wandered off, again! With each exploration (positive-negative-neutral), guide and train your mind in adopting a gentle, compassionate and if possible neutral attitude towards its acts.

How Would You Want to Lead Your Life? Accidentally or Intentionally…

“To be or not to be! That is the question!” These are Hamlet’s famous words, in his overthinking between the two extremes –life and death. He essentially questions the very purpose of his existence, seeking the meaning in living. Shakespeare, genius of all times, may have not been aware that Hamlet’s quotes would be valid for all times. However, it seems that it is so! Don’t we all find ourselves, every now and then, questioning the meaning of our existence, and often wonder our life purpose. In my perspective, what happens between birth and death is the essence of life, so we better make the best of it. And our very existence lies on our intentions: the intention to live, to explore, to learn, to enjoy, and to make the best of it!

“Our intention creates our reality.”  – Wayne Dyer

You might be wondering how… Before getting to that, first we better clarify what intention entails. Intention is directly linked with a purposeful life, as Carol Ryff explains, that involves clear comprehension of own goals and sense of direction. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn it represents the act of engaging and responding with a purpose. We give direction to our life, set goals, and choose what to happen and experience through our intentional acts. Every choice we make –or do not, involves some sort of intention that determines the course of life. It is the seed that creates the future.

Think of the last meeting you had at work; or the last conversation you made with someone. How did it go; or what did you start with? Do you think you had a total random course of direction and result, or you had a purposeful set of ideas and actions towards a desired outcome? Most probably it was purposeful –intentional, rather than –accidental! It is the intention with which we sit at a meeting or engage in a conversation, that determines the desired outcome. As Gary Zukav states, we continually perform, consciously or unconsciously “fundamental creative acts” that are relied on choice of intention, and create consequences, which the chooser takes on responsibility.

Intention is the seed, action is the plant, and outcome is the flower!

In concrete cases, such as business plans, we are more clearly aware about our intentions, both in terms of setting them and putting them into action. However, in cases where emotional aspects are involved –such as an unresolved conflict within ourselves or with someone we care for, we are less aware of our intentions. Unconsciously skipping the intention-action steps, we may find ourselves ending up with the outcome, unaware how we got there! At that point, if we are happy with the result, we get to be lucky; but if unhappy, we try altering the outcome.

So what do we do? Are we to live by on automatic, letting our path be determined by randomly chosen attitudes and behaviors? Or are we to take the lead and choose for ourselves; draw the paths we wish to walk through; and form the desired attitude and behavior, which will turn into action and later on to outcomes? If your pick is for the first one, no need for any action taking; keep on living as you do! However, if you prefer the latter, then read on!

“Every intention sets energy in motion, whether you are conscious of it, or not!” – Gary Zukav

Scholars such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Shauna Shapiro, Ellen Langer, Denise Reid, etc. emphasize the importance of intention within the mindfulness field of study. They commonly propose that a mindful state of being involves a purposeful attention on what is available at the present moment. Though differently defining, they highlight intention as inseparable component: “paying attention on purpose” (Reid, 2011), “active attention to intention and awareness…” (Langer & Moldoveanu, 2000), and “attention in a particular way, on purpose…” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Scientific research in mindfulness show that, the act of “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment in a non-judgmental way” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994) leads to a peaceful, balanced, and relaxed state of mind; and physical, psychological and emotional health and well-being.

In colloquial terms, intention –as a vital component of mindfulness, is important for our health and well living. For a mindful state of being –or in practicing mindfulness, the activity of paying attention is suggested to involve a purpose, a goal, or a determined direction, rather than random one. Think of a short practice of mindfulness… Focusing on the breath… The action would be paying attention on the breath… The intention would be keeping the attention on the breath… Each time our mind in thoughts, ideas, or feelings drift away from the breath, we would simply be taking our attention back to the breath… While the mind would have its own agenda –as drift away to other thoughts or time and place, our job –through our self-determined intention, will be to bring it back!

Paying attention to the breath, with the intention to keep it there, is among many practices of mindfulness. In what do they serve us? They allow us to be aware of our intention. They open our sight to clearly notice our energy in motion; help us to consciously make our choices, and assume the responsibility; and finally enable us to be less surprised and more pleased with the result!

Here is a practice sample. Very simple… Sit in a comfortable seat, spine and back straight, keep your eyes closed –or half open (to avoid any stimuli taking your attention away!); let your shoulders, arms, and hands loose; and take a deep breath… Let it go… Take one more deep breath, and let it go again… Take one last breath; this time let it go slowly! Your breath is what is with you at all times, in the here and now. Use it as the anchor to the present moment. While breathing in and out, focus your attention on your breath… At each inhale, observe your chest rising; and at each exhale observe it going down… Notice the cool air you breathe in through your nostrils, and the likely warmth of the air you breathe out… When you notice that your mind has gone wandering, notice that it has wandered. Since the intention during this practice is to keep the attention on the breath, gently bring it back to your breath.

You may use a timer, programed to five minutes, and gradually increase by a minute, every two-three days. Enjoy the practice!