‘Your intentions set the stage for what is possible. They remind you from moment to moment of why you are practicing in the first place’.
(Kabat-Zinn 2013: 1169)
In playing with this as a concept we could use a range of words, any of which may apply individually or not, such as vision, intention, reason, motivation. Whichever word we may choose to use, and they may differ in different circumstances, they all point to having a reason for doing what we are doing, knowing in what way what we choose to do has value for us in life at this time.
This is the reason for getting up in the morning, the reason for sitting down in meditation.
Why are we doing what we are doing? What is the context, the background, the reason for our current state? What is our intention? What is our purpose? How does this align to our values?
Having an intent gives a sense of direction, though it is not necessarily the destination or the daily steps.
We may have a number of purposes relating to different aspects of our life, such as for being a musician, as a mother, or in work. Each of these gives its own individual rationale for what we are doing, reflecting the multifaceted nature of our lives. In each area, to be present with that aspect of life, requires an awareness of our purpose or motivation in that respect.
Having a clear purpose allows the mind to settle into practice, and life, to become calmer knowing our direction. It is like lying in a lake, calm, floating there because we know that being there is where we should be, rather than thrashing around, trying to understand what is going on, to be somewhere else, and in the process sending out waves and disturbing the water, which also then makes it more turbulent to be in.
Without a sense of purpose, it can be very difficult to commit to practice or to anything else in life. Why bother? This should be something that is reviewed and renewed on a regular basis, that is up front and centre in how we approach life. In this way it can allow us to be where we are, reducing a tendency for the mind to wander off, or checking what other direction it might head in, or flipping from one thing to another.
So in many ways this is a dynamic approach, having a purpose, or purposes, may develop as life and practice continues, evolving as new moments arise. Our purpose is not necessarily there to provide something to strive for, not an objective to be achieved and ticked off. It is there to give us a direction and a reason for heading that way.
Whilst setting a direction, a purpose can be held lightly, being reviewed and held in awareness, providing the basis, the reason, for doing what we are doing, but not as an unbreakable law.
In meditations, whilst usually not seeking specific outcomes, we should know why we are sitting on the stool and meditating. Even our posture is one which suggests that we have a reason for being there. Without this there is a danger that we are just going through the motions, acting as if we are meditating.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013) Full Catastrophe Living. Kindle. London: Piatkus