Intention and Attention

January 3rd, 2017 by Dr. Nina Asher

2017 rolled in and with it the days prior, filled with people speaking about their intentions for the coming year. This tradition of setting resolutions, more recently referred to as intentions, is an old one. Like with anniversaries and birthdays, each new year compels us to take stock, reflect, and anticipate what is coming next, and what we would like to do differently.

We know that the newness of 2017 is really an extension of the dwindling days of 2016; but somehow, we ponder the landscape of the unknown, looking towards it as a kind of beginning. We fear the unknown, and yet, we reach for it, coloring it with hope for improvement.

2016 was not an easy year. But with all its troubles, most of us had moments of peacefulness and gratitude. As far as we know, 2017 will reveal its own distinct challenges; and hopefully we will still experience moments of gratefulness and calm.

When I began to reflect on the coming year, I could not think of a quality or concept that reflected an intention for 2017. Many familiar ideas emerged such as “being kinder with myself when I am struggling” or “reach out more quickly when I need or want contact.” But somehow, none of these took hold as something new for the coming year.

I thought a lot about the world picture that began forming itself many months ago, but is now here, known and not known for what it will bring. Many of us had good intentions, but somehow they got in the way of us paying attention to what was evolving in front of our eyes, and behind closed doors.

A week or so ago, while meditating, the following word arose: ATTENTION. And in the next breath I knew that INTENTION was not the right concept for me this year. Unless, I thought, my intention is to pay more ATTENTION to that which calls for it.

As the days inched towards 12/31/16, I let the word ATTENTION live inside me. When my mind wandered to a particular intention, it quickly drifted away to the words, “rest your attention on what needs it.” And, when my attention felt cluttered with the needs of others, I found myself remembering what is hardest, but most necessary. That is, keeping my attention on my felt experience.

Be it fear or confidence, confusion or clarity, paying attention will guide me to what comes next.