on practices and setting intentions


When I was a young girl I grew up in a Catholic home, and for this reason, Lent (the Christian season of fasting and preparation leading up to Easter) was very important in our household.  I remember my mom teaching me how to say the rosary during Lent (creating a little altar with a crucifix on my bedroom dressing table, and saying the novenas along with me), and encouraging me to give up something for the 40 or so days before Easter -- usually something that was really painful to give up, too, like chocolate.  Still, I did it without complaint (more or less), since Lent was something we Catholics just did.

I'm no longer a practicing Catholic, and yet every Lent I continue to think about "what I should give up."  However, in more recent years, instead of giving something up, I consider what practice I'd like to start -- like working out, or reading a book every night, or doing something artistic or creative.  I try to choose something that, by Easter, I'll feel better having done it.  I'll be honest:  I'm not always great at keeping the practice up for the entire 40 days, but I do try.  And usually I don't tell anyone what I'm doing ... I just try to quietly keep up with it on my own.

This year, Lent began yesterday, and while I had considered various practices that I wanted to begin, my heart wasn't in it.  But then during the late morning, I was going through some earlier pages in my journal, and found an article I'd cut out of a magazine and taped in my journal pages.  Unfortunately, I don't remember which magazine it was or I would cite it; however, it describes an intention-setting practice that Mallika Chopra, the daughter of Deepak Chopra, does every day.  It seems like such a meaningful practice that I've decided to break from my own tradition of keeping these sorts of things close to the vest, and instead share it with you here.

So according to this nameless article, Mallika Chopra sets her intentions for each day by asking herself the following questions each morning:

1.  What will make me feel healthy today?  I love how broad this question is, because it allows you to answer freely, without constrictions.  One day, it might make me feel healthy if I hit the weights really hard at the gym, but another day, it might make me feel healthy just to talk a leisurely walk.  Still another day, a 20-minute disco nap might be on order.  Or maybe drinking tons of water.  I love the idea of tuning into my body and paying attention to what it needs from me.

2.  What will make me feel connected today?  This is about caring for important relationships.  For me, this might mean calling my parents and catching up.  Or sending an email to a friend.  Or doing something creative with my daughter.

3.  What will give me a sense of purpose today?  This might be my favourite of all the questions, because it, in essence, calls on me to ask myself "what can I do to make light?"  It might be that on one day I need to engage in some purposeful quiet activism.  On another day, it might be a gesture of simple but radical kindness.  On still another day, it might be simply donating to a cause that's important to me.  Again, the beauty of this question is that it allows me to stay on task in adding purpose to my life, but gives me the flexibility to alter it from day to day.

So yesterday, I began asking myself these questions, and going forward I'll be adding their answers to my to-do list for the day.  I'm really hoping this is a habit that sticks. 

I'll let you know how it goes.


Soundtrack:  Borderline (an ode to self-care) by Solange