One of the lessons on the spiritual path is learning how to successfully set intentions. Intentions are a powerful way of creating a fulfilling and rewarding life. But as with most spiritual concepts, the ego tries to hijack the concept of setting intentions and manifestation. So let’s take a moment to understand why this happens.
As egos, we tend to view the world as a chaotic and unsafe place where anything can happen. The ego’s mission is to seek pleasure and avoid unpleasantries. Since the ego sees the world as limited in resources, the pursuit of happiness is viewed as a competition. From this perspective, being happy involves “getting ahead” of others in order to have more money, more material possessions, more exciting experiences etc. The ego will therefore be tempted to use intention setting for its own purposes.
From the perspective of our “Higher Selves” (which is our true nature), the world is recognized as limitless. There is no lack of resources or a limit to what we can create. The main block to our happiness is our inability to view the world correctly. If we were to understand the power that we have to change our reality, there would never be any reason to fear or to try to use self-will to compete with others.
Fulfillment Leads to Happiness
No matter what we attain or achieve in life (from a material perspective), we will never be happy. This is because when we are not struggling to achieve our ego desires, we are living in fear of losing what we have already gained. As a result, spirituality recognizes that the inner peace and happiness must come from within.
In the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying: “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all things will be added unto you.” If we were to replace the relatively ambiguous term “kingdom of heaven” with a modern term, we could rephrase this saying as “If you make spiritual fulfillment a priority in your life, everything else that you need in life will automatically be taken care of.”
Note that the things that we truly need in life are not always going to be the things that the ego thinks we need. Regardless, it is important to understand that fulfillment in life is a direct result of the impact that we make on other people’s lives. Therefore, the way that we find inner peace is via learning to express the true essence of who each of us are. We are each unique, and the more that we are able to come into a full expression of this uniqueness, the greater the impact we will have on others’ lives.
Some of us grew up knowing what we wanted to be or do in life. Many of these people have set a clear intention since childhood, while others have given up on their dreams. Still others do not remember what it is that they wanted to be, and/or don’t have a clear idea of their goal in life. So the first step is to have a clear idea of what you want. If you are unsure of what would give you fulfillment in life, then the first intention to set is to understand what your purpose in life is.
The Sincerity of Intentions
The intention must be sincere. The following attitudes are not sincere:
- “I’ll give it a try but if that doesn’t work, then at least I tried.”
- “I want this because I think this is what I’m supposed to be doing in order to be happy.”
- “My heart isn’t really in it, but I’m scared that if I don’t do it, I won’t be happy.”
In contrast, a sincere intention is set with a full heart-felt commitment to what is being asked.
Things to Avoid When Setting Intentions
When setting intentions, there are a couple things that should be avoided.
- Do not set intentions that interfere with free will. Setting intentions that involve other people reacting or behaving a certain way interferes with free will and is not a part of spirituality. Instead, this is what people refer to as “magick”.
- Don’t set intentions that are based on fears. If you are seeking a certain career due to the fear of a lack of money, this is not a true intention. If you are seeking a lover because you are alone and hate being single, this is not a true intention. It is simply an ego desire. Instead of setting fear-based intentions, it is recommended to first focus on raising your vibrations. The process of raising your vibrations involves cultivating love and gratitude for yourself, others, and your current life situation.
Methods for Setting Intentions
A proper intention is one that is made from the heart. As long as our intention is aligned with our heart’s desire, then we have set a proper intention. However, everything (including setting intentions) takes practice. Therefore, any or all of the following methods are recommended for those who are not yet skilled at easily setting and manifesting their intentions. The purpose behind these methods is to give notice to your Lower Self that you are serious about what you are asking. This is important, because in many spiritual traditions the Lower Self is the bridge between the ego self and the Higher Self (at least initially).
- Write your intention down. If you have an altar, it is recommended to place your intention on the altar.
- Say your intention out loud. The vibration of your voice is energy, and thus speaking the intention out loud gives your intention energy.
- Create a ceremony to honor your intention. A ceremony is a symbolic action that represents your intention. For example, you could drop a stone into water to symbolize the release of fear. Using symbology is helpful because symbols are the “language of Spirit.”
You only have to set the intention one time. This is akin to planting a seed. Once it is planted, there is no need to plant the seed again. Instead, you simply need to water the seed (via keeping your vibrations raised) and patiently wait for it to grow. Note that even while it appears that nothing is happening initially, the seed is sprouting under the soil.
Exception: when you are engaged in a repeated action for which you set “minor” intentions, it is appropriate to set an intention each time. For example, before each meal you can say: “May this food provide nourishment to my body.” For medication and vaccines, you can say: “May anything that is not in my highest good pass through my body without causing harm.” Keep in mind, however, that when you repeat the same intentions on a constant basis, there is the possibility for them to turn into a meaningless repetition of words. In order for the words to be an actual intention, ensure that they always come from the heart (as opposed to saying them out of a sense of obligation).
Intentions vs. Affirmations
Note that there is a difference between intentions (which are not repeated) and affirmations (which are repeated as often as possible). While the point of setting intentions is to manifest something, the point of affirmations is to correct false beliefs in the subconscious mind.
For example, we may be struggling with a low sense of self-worth or belief in a limited universe. In such circumstances, we can repeat affirmations to ourselves such as “I am a divine being of light” and “I give thanks for the unlimited abundance of the universe.” By repeating these positive affirmations or beliefs, we are overwriting the negative, false beliefs. This is a process that takes time (some people suggest 3 weeks minimum), and the more often that the affirmations are repeated, the more power they have to override the negative beliefs. Note that affirmations do not attempt to manifest anything, but instead are simply a way of changing our beliefs and perceptions of reality.
Top-Level Down Approach to Setting Intentions
The more open we are to how our intentions are manifested, the greater the chance of being successful. For instance, we might think we need to write a best-seller book in order to achieve certain career goals. But it’s possible that those goals might be accomplished some other way that our egos would not even think of. When we limit how to achieve our goals, we are limiting the ways that Spirit can accomplish our goals with us. Therefore, it is recommended to take a top-level down approach to setting major intentions.
To do this, start with the most general (and most important) goal. This will be something like: I want to find fulfillment in my life. Next, think about how you want to do this. For example: I want to be somebody who creates things that impact others lives. I want to be a dancer or writer. I want to be a healer. From this point, you can now get more specific. Decide how you are going to accomplish your goals. You may decide you need to go to school, switch careers, open a business, etc.
When setting the more specific goals, you want to use synchronicity to point you in the right direction. For example, you could say: “Dear Spirit, I intend to be a writer. If this is in my highest good, could you please lead me along this path. Then proceed to work in the direction that you wish to take as a writer, but also watch out for what opportunities may appear. Once you set your intention, don’t be impatient or worry about whether something happens the way you would want it to. If it is correct for you, the opportunities will come as long as you stay relaxed and trust in the process.
Often, we can be tempted to force something to work if it doesn’t appear to be manifesting as desired. But when things aren’t working out, this can be a sign that the direction is not quite correct. Instead of using self-will to force an issue, use high vibrations to keep your intentions strong. When you keep your mind and energy centered on the intention, it gives Spirit the energy necessary to manifest those intentions into reality.
Anytime that you start to doubt if you are headed in the right direction, take a moment to sit in quiet contemplation and ask, “Dear Spirit, can you please show me the path that I should take?” Another request that is always helpful is: “Dear Spirit, can you please tell me if there is anything I need to know or do right now?”
Behind the Scenes of Intention Setting
To understand how intentions actually work, it is helpful to see what is happening behind the scenes. When we set an intention, our Higher Selves will hear the intention and be able to act on it (provided it is sincere). Our Higher Self will then communicate with the Higher Selves of other individuals in order to find a way to match your intention with the intentions and interests of others.
For example, if you set an intention to release yourself from fear, your Higher Self will look for the Higher Self of a healer that would be best suited to help you with this intent. But your Higher Self will not communicate directly with you by whispering in your ear: “you need to go to this healer”. To do such a thing would interfere with your free will, which is something that your Higher Self will not do.
So this is where synchronicity comes into play. For example, you may “randomly” stumble onto the website of the healer that is most suited to help you, or perhaps you may hear about the healer from a friend. Via synchronicity, you maintain free will to decide whether or not to take action.
Note that sometimes a person can become afraid of whether or not they are “following the signs” and doing what they are “supposed to do.” Although it is easy to fall into this trap, it is also unhelpful. Whenever this happens, take a deep breath and work on removing this fear (and fear in general) from your life. This can be done via raising your vibrations and working with a spiritual healer.
Intention and Energy
Sometimes, an intention will involve the actions of multiple people. For example, you might have published a book with the intention that it will be found by the people who need it the most. Or you may be a healer who sets an intention that you will be found by the appropriate people who are in the greatest need of your services.
In such situations, it is your vibration that creates the energy necessary to attract these people to you. Please note that you are not consciously trying to use your energy to do anything (such as attract people to you). Instead, you are simply raising your vibrations as much as possible while aligning yourself as much as possible to the needs of the universe through the act of surrender. The more that you can raise your vibrations while surrendering to the outcome, the more successful you will ultimately be.