Intention is one of the most amazing scientific discoveries in recent years, and is something that spiritually adept people have known for thousands of years. Your experience of life responds to your intention.
In the past, you may have heard the word "intention" used to express a regret. If someone says, "I intended to be at work on time," we understand that he arrived late. It's almost as if the word intention, in this context, brings about the opposite of what we want.
One of Leo Tolstoy's characters, Ivan Ilych, was a sick man who realized that being upset only made his symptoms worse. Tolstoy says of Ivan that, "…he said that he needed peace, and he watched for everything that might disturb it." Naturally, he got what he watched for. This great literature shows us our human tendency to focus our attention on what we don't want.
But if we want to have a wonderful experience of life, it's crucial that we overcome this tendency. One of the revelations of modern physics (not to mention ancient spirituality) is that our observation shapes the very thing that we observe. When we live from fear, then we let fear shape our lives by what it observes. On the other hand, if we set a loving intention for ourselves, then we make it our practice to watch for all that loves.
When students of quantum mechanics and spiritual seekers speak of intention, we mean something much more definite than "what we think we want." In this realm, intention refers to a decision, which the universe then carries out. Intention is so powerful that we do not have to force anything. We’re not trying to "make" something happen. We set an intention and trust God or the Universe to do its job.
One of the most touching examples of the power of intention comes from a couple that served as foster parents. For a time, they provided a home to a boy named Stephen, who was, by all accounts, a compulsive liar. There were lots of reasons, given his background, for this trait to show up in Stephen's behavior, mixed in with a child's wonderful imagination and desire to please. Many people wasted time and energy trying to get Stephen to admit when he wasn’t telling the truth, and they unconsciously enjoyed their martyrdom when he didn't.
Stephen's foster parents went a completely different route. Their intention was not to play martyr, but to see Stephen become honest, and so they treated him as if he was an honest person. I want to make it clear that these people were not deluded, and they were not naïve. They had a very good idea of what was true and what was not true.
Stephen's foster parents responded warmly to the things they knew were factually true. But their observations when Stephen was lying were even more important. In response to Stephen's fantastic stories, they found an essential truth to and responded warmly to that. For instance, when he told an unlikely story of saving someone's life on the playground, they stuck to the truth by responding that, "You are such a brave young man." Then they went on to list the many ways they had seen him be brave, such as moving in with them and making friends at a new school. In time, Stephen observed himself to be what his foster parents intended him to be, and so had no need to make up stories to prove it.
Such is the power of intention.
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