As we travel the Dharma path we:
1. Receive Dharma teachings (through written and spoken word.)
2. Reflect on how these teachings are relevant to our lives.
3. Practice with the teachings and our reflections, either formerly in meditation or informally in ordinary activity.

We need the dynamic marriage of humility and confidence to proceed. Humility to know what we don’t know, and confidence to trust that we can realize the deepest truths of the Buddha’s path.

Wise vs. Obsolete Intentions

Do you know what your intention is right now? As you read this? Pause and reflect.

The Buddha said, “everything rests on the point of intention.” Everything. Our entire practice. Our intentions guide our activity, they direct our choices, they fuel our reactions, and they determine what karma (consequences) sprouts from the seeds of our actions.

We are always being motivated by our intentions, but do we always know by which intentions? Are your intentions ones that lead you toward greater awareness or are they ones that keep you stuck in limited ideas, identity and unskillful behavior patterns? All too often, what I call “obsolete” intentions – that is, intentions that are based on outdated world views, habits and self-image learned early in life – are at the helm.

Obsolete intentions frequently spring from a feeling of insufficiency or deficiency, a perspective that sees oneself – and the world at large – as lacking. Lurking within is a sense of not being enough, of not being good enough, of being fundamentally flawed and inadequate. Without careful attention, these old intentions fuel attempts – and therefore create intentions – toward endlessly improving oneself, toward self-judgment and blame, toward shame and hiding flaws, toward relentlessly trying to get what one feels is lacking (often love, respect, or approval.) All of these old intentions keep us perpetually busy and self-involved, and they reinforce a condition of chronic dissatisfaction.

What type of intentions – obsolete or wise – have guided you today? In your conversations? In the character of your self-talk, in your meditation practice, in how you spent your time, or when in difficult circumstances?

Caught in the agitation of our obsolete intentions, we forget the simple wisdom of our practice, of learning to relax into awareness, of greater self-knowledge and responding to ourselves and others with kindness. What are your deepest intentions? Do you seek to learn how to untangle your patterns of suffering? Do you trust the possibility of an inner well-spring of compassion and love?  Do you wish to experience the openness, ease and freedom of seeing beyond the small box of your conditioned ideas?

Suzuki Roshi said, “the most important thing is to remember the most important thing.” Practice is not just remembering to return to the breath, practice is remembering to return to the most important thing.