On a recent summer day, a large group of family and friends were enjoying a picnic at a local state park. After eating, the kids jumped up to play, while the parents hunkered down at the next table for some adult time, which was abruptly interrupted.
"Clean up after yourselves!" shouted a sportily dressed woman, fast approaching. She was making her way towards the empty kids’ table, cluttered with cans, crumpled napkins, paper plates and sandwich crusts.
"We will! We are not done yet, we are going to clean it," one of the men tried to explain, but the woman charged on.
"This is a public park!" she shrieked, "You need to respect it, not make more garbage! The earth is so cluttered already!" The adults tried to assure her and explain again, but she began to furiously clean the table herself, asking "How are we ever going repair this earth with this kind of disrespect?!!"
At this point, the adults fell silent and just watched her clean the table. She muttered something else and moved on. But not completely. She left a cloud of smog in her wake. The environmentalist had effectively polluted the atmosphere.
Recently I heard someone quote Oprah as saying, "Intention is everything." That, as the above story might suggest, is not always the case. It is possible that the "environmentalist" may have been mentally unstable, but she also may have had good intentions that did not come through because her execution, her manner, was so distasteful. Her passion was misdirected, and resulted in creating the energetic opposite of the message she seemed to be trying to express.
Our behavior often tells a different story than what we say we value. But if you really want to live an examined life, you need to recognize that intention is only 50% of the deal, and the rest lives in follow-through, or execution. You cannot have one without the other. If one only executes or displays loving behavior while their insides are filled with resentment, well, we all know that experience: The "I love you" that feels like a knife in your heart, or the kind favor someone does for you that comes with an enormous, weighty, invisible IOU note attached.
There is no need for rigidity about the process of matching up. The goal does not have to be that you live in 100% alignment with your intentions 100% of the time. We are human and there are real constraints, but if you take heed of the Inner Actions below, you can quickly increase your ability to follow through on your good intentions and cultivate integrity, character and respect.
1) Don’t Wait to Do Good: When a good friend or acquaintance goes through a crisis and you are thinking about them and want to reach out to them but don’t, your good intentions are not worth very much. And if you run into them at a party or the grocery store and you try to explain and apologize to them for not contacting them even though you have been thinking about them, this sours your intentions even more, by asking the stressed person to take care of and forgive you! So if you think of a kind gesture, jump on it! When you have well intended impulses, follow through as soon as possible with an action that allows your best intentions to shine through!
2) Forethought: I talk a lot about this practice. Conscious living always demands a pause; a few seconds of contemplation before action, in order to clarify and strengthen your presence and impact. Before setting out on a new venture, making a commitment, or engaging in a business or personal relationship, bring your actions in line with your intentions in your mind. Imagine your execution, and the outcome. This requires that you slow down and check in with yourself. Is what I am about to do or say reflective of what I want to communicate, who I want to be? If not, what can I do to change that?
3) Get Real: It may be in vogue to wear yoga clothes and adopt an air of spiritual awareness and positivity, but the costume is not enough to earn your self, or others’, respect. If you keep saying to yourself you are going to do something, and keep dropping the ball or making excuses, it is likely that you are not being honest about your intentions. If you are chronically late and keep saying you want to be professional, perhaps you are not being honest about either being a professional, or what you secretly get from that incongruent behavior. And how about that personal trainer, spiritual mentor, or friend with whom you keep cancelling plans? You are telling yourself this is something you want to do, but perhaps there is some reason (and maybe a good one) you don’t.
I was recently invited to be a part of a large and highly influential business network. My conscious intention is to increase my connections and exposure to others and yet I kept ignoring this invitation. Finally I sat down and went within to address the inner conflict. I sifted through all of the various fears that might be expressing themselves in this resistance, to no avail. And then I heard a voice: "Look at it again." I got up and did a thorough investigation of the organization, and discovered that although some of the values they projected were in alignment with mine, many that I hadn’t previously noticed were not. Then the answer became clear: this was not the right network for me, and I opened to a more congruent opportunity.
Other questions you might ask if your actions keep betraying your conscious intentions: Is there some emotional baggage that needs to be cleared in the space between you and the other person or action that you are avoiding? Does this person or activity threaten something in you in regards to your status quo or your relationship to intimacy?
4) Start from here: If you really want to embody your intention to live an empowered life, then simply make an honest assessment of the gap. There is no reason to beat yourself up, feel bad about yourself in any way, or repeatedly apologize to others about the gap between your intentions and your execution. Then you can begin, however slowly, to modify your actions to reflect the intentions you hold for your dear self, right here, right now.
And remember, love yourself, no matter what.
Please, as always, feel free to contact me through my site at www.blairglaser.com/contact/ and let me know your thoughts!
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BLAIR GLASER, MA, LCAT, RDT has taught women around the country innovative skills and new ways of thinking to improve their experience in their bodies, at work and in relationship. She has run workshops at retreat centers around the country, including Omega in Rhinebeck, NY and at her studio in Woodstock, NY. She is a New York licensed creative arts therapist, teaches drama therapy at a graduate level at Pratt Institute, and has guest-lectured about drama therapy at New Rochelle College, The New School, and New York University. She has run drama therapy groups with several different populations, including a group for teenage girls that she was recruited to facilitate by actor-activist Jane Fonda . She is in private practice and also speaks at conferences and gatherings.
Blair also worked from 1998 to 2004 as part of the core staff of Eve Ensler's V-Day, a movement to stop violence against women and girls, corresponding with women all over the world about issues of empowerment. Blair's articles have appeared online in UK's feminist e-zine, FLOW, at Sexual Health.com, and in the Hudson Valley Arts/ Spirit / Culture publication; Chronogram. You can visit Blair's web site at www.blairglaser.com.
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