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Intention as a Seed for Action

It takes action to make meaningful change in our lives. And in order to make change in the direction we’d prefer, we have to water the seeds of the actions we want to practice. It’s been said that without a cause there is no result. But what is the cause of action? What is the seed of action?

Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “Thought is the seed of action.”

For some of us, if any and every thought leads to the seed of and action from that thought, it could be an unfortunate thing! I have had thought seeds I surely wouldn’t want to water and have them grow up into being real actions. You probably have too. I would venture to say we all have.

We have lots of thoughts of many kinds. In fact, our minds are continuously producing them without any help from us. We learn that well when we sit to meditate. It can feel like an avalanche of thoughts was unleashed as soon as we settled in. We have unintentional thoughts, but we can also direct our thoughts intentionally.

What is key is to recognize that actions that come from unintentional thoughts don’t always work out so well, unless we’ve cultivated really good habits of thought. Actions that come from intentional thoughts tend to be the kinds of actions that align more with our preferences and even our values.

What’s the use of intention without action? Or action without clear intention? Action without intention is like a ship without a caption. It’ll just be luck if it makes it to a safe harbor. Intention without action is a good first step, but doesn’t get us too far nor does it make an impact in our lives or the lives of others.

You may have heard the riddle that if there are three birds sitting on a fence and one decides to fly away, how many are left? Most people seem to quickly answer that there’s two birds left. But does just deciding to fly away make it happen? Just like deciding to get out and exercise more, or just deciding to be less reactive with a person you have difficulty with? It’s a good riddle for illustrating the fact that just deciding, or just setting an intention doesn’t insure follow through. It’s just a seed, and it may be a seed for something very beneficial. But a seed needs the right conditions and care to grow. And it needs to be watered regularly. Intention is surely a first step and a key factor. But action is where the rubber meets the road.

Intentions are also a wonderful and very useful way to check in on our actions. We can look back on our earlier intention and see how we’re doing, and see if we need a gentle course correction, or we could put some energy into renewing our intention. For example, when you first learned about mindfulness or the Mindful Life Program, did you have an intention for some kind of change? Were you looking to cultivate certain qualities, make a shift in how you live, or grow in some particular area? Were you looking to suffer a little less from an unruly and busy mind, or respond to challenges in your life in a healthier way? How can you water these intentions and have them lead to wise action and meaningful change?

Another useful way to look at intentions is with the lens of our values. Are our intentions aligned with our values? Or have we set some intentions to do some things or achieve some things that really, after some thoughtful reflection, don’t align when we really think about what a meaningful life is to us.

At the Mindful Life Program, we say often that a meaningful life is lived with attention and intention. Tied together with intention is attention. If we don’t cultivate attention, good luck staying focused on your intention, remembering it, and calling it to mind. Just as intention without action doesn’t get us far, having an intention, but not being able to attend to it, call it to mind, have the presence of mind to act on it also does not get us too far. One of the best ways to cultivate attention is shamatha or mindfulness of breath meditation, as it gives us practice in creating attentional balance and the ability to choose one thought over another.

I invite you to call to mind the aspirations, qualities or habits that you would like to develop in your life and choose one that you can take action on today. What action will plant a seed for that today? Set the intention to do what it takes to plant that seed today. Remember that while seeds are small, with good and regular care and conditions, they can become mighty. How can you take steps to nurture that seed today and over time?

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Mahatma Gandhi

© 2016 Mindful Life Program Inc

Intention as a Seed for Action

It takes action to make meaningful change in our lives. And in order to make change in the direction we’d prefer, we have to water the seeds of the actions we want to practice. It’s been said that without a cause there is no result. But what is the cause of action? What is the seed of action?

Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “Thought is the seed of action.”

For some of us, if any and every thought leads to the seed of and action from that thought, it could be an unfortunate thing! I have had thought seeds I surely wouldn’t want to water and have them grow up into being real actions. You probably have too. I would venture to say we all have.

We have lots of thoughts of many kinds. In fact, our minds are continuously producing them without any help from us. We learn that well when we sit to meditate. It can feel like an avalanche of thoughts was unleashed as soon as we settled in. We have unintentional thoughts, but we can also direct our thoughts intentionally.

What is key is to recognize that actions that come from unintentional thoughts don’t always work out so well, unless we’ve cultivated really good habits of thought. Actions that come from intentional thoughts tend to be the kinds of actions that align more with our preferences and even our values.

What’s the use of intention without action? Or action without clear intention? Action without intention is like a ship without a caption. It’ll just be luck if it makes it to a safe harbor. Intention without action is a good first step, but doesn’t get us too far nor does it make an impact in our lives or the lives of others.

You may have heard the riddle that if there are three birds sitting on a fence and one decides to fly away, how many are left? Most people seem to quickly answer that there’s two birds left. But does just deciding to fly away make it happen? Just like deciding to get out and exercise more, or just deciding to be less reactive with a person you have difficulty with? It’s a good riddle for illustrating the fact that just deciding, or just setting an intention doesn’t insure follow through. It’s just a seed, and it may be a seed for something very beneficial. But a seed needs the right conditions and care to grow. And it needs to be watered regularly. Intention is surely a first step and a key factor. But action is where the rubber meets the road.

Intentions are also a wonderful and very useful way to check in on our actions. We can look back on our earlier intention and see how we’re doing, and see if we need a gentle course correction, or we could put some energy into renewing our intention. For example, when you first learned about mindfulness or the Mindful Life Program, did you have an intention for some kind of change? Were you looking to cultivate certain qualities, make a shift in how you live, or grow in some particular area? Were you looking to suffer a little less from an unruly and busy mind, or respond to challenges in your life in a healthier way? How can you water these intentions and have them lead to wise action and meaningful change?

Another useful way to look at intentions is with the lens of our values. Are our intentions aligned with our values? Or have we set some intentions to do some things or achieve some things that really, after some thoughtful reflection, don’t align when we really think about what a meaningful life is to us.

At the Mindful Life Program, we say often that a meaningful life is lived with attention and intention. Tied together with intention is attention. If we don’t cultivate attention, good luck staying focused on your intention, remembering it, and calling it to mind. Just as intention without action doesn’t get us far, having an intention, but not being able to attend to it, call it to mind, have the presence of mind to act on it also does not get us too far. One of the best ways to cultivate attention is shamatha or mindfulness of breath meditation, as it gives us practice in creating attentional balance and the ability to choose one thought over another.

I invite you to call to mind the aspirations, qualities or habits that you would like to develop in your life and choose one that you can take action on today. What action will plant a seed for that today? Set the intention to do what it takes to plant that seed today. Remember that while seeds are small, with good and regular care and conditions, they can become mighty. How can you take steps to nurture that seed today and over time?

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Mahatma Gandhi

© 2016 Mindful Life Program Inc

Mindfulness for Teachers Takes New Steps Forward  – February, 2016

( Photo: The Viewbank College teachers getting in the right frame of mind.)

While we’ve been offering various programs and presentations for teachers in the past and in a variety of locations, both our Colorado and Melbourne locations have begun providing professional development programs for teachers. In Melbourne, the second group of teachers from Viewbank College, a secondary level college are working with cofounder Mark Molony in the MLP Foundations course curriculum. The group will explore and practice the foundations of mindfulness practices and how they can be used to support themselves, their colleagues and their students.

In Colorado, cofounder John Bruna has been teaching professional development courses for the Roaring Fork RE1 School District since the fall of 2015 and the response has been very positive.

In addition, more teachers are taking advantage of the daily support offered through the Mindful Life Community. In fact, we are very excited that the staff at two different public schools have chosen MLC as a way to support all their teachers and administrators and have signed them all up for year long memberships. We are currently expanding the Mindful Life Community resources for members, and soon there will be resources specifically designed for educators. If you are an educator and would like to learn more about the support of the Mindful Life Community, please see www.mindfullifecommunity.org and feel free to contact us about group rates.

Mindfulness meditation may improve memory for teens

BY KATHRYN DOYLE

“These results are consistent with a growing body of research in adults that has found mindfulness meditation to be a helpful tool for enhancing working memory capacity,” said Kristen E. Jastrowski Mano of the psychology department at the University of Cincinnati, who coauthored the new study.

The researchers randomly divided 198 public middle school students into three groups: mindfulness meditation, hatha yoga or a waitlist. Most students were female, ages 12 to 15, and from low-income households that qualified for reduced-cost lunch.

Before the study began and after it ended, the students completed computer-based memory assessments and reported their stress and anxiety levels via questionnaires.

The meditation and yoga groups met for 45 minutes twice a week, for four weeks. In addition, students logged their home practice in journals that were collected each week.

Two trained mindfulness instructors led the meditation group in breathing techniques, formal meditation and discussion using written scripts with instructions on sitting posture, breathing and wandering thoughts.

Students were encouraged to take CDs with meditation audio recordings and use them for 15 to 30 minutes daily at home.

The yoga sessions were structured similarly, with trained instructors focusing on breathing, yoga poses and discussion. The kids in this group were also encouraged to practice at home daily using a DVD with yoga lessons.

Memory scores increased in the mindfulness meditation group by the end of the study, while they did not change in the yoga or waitlist groups, the authors reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Perceived stress and anxiety decreased in all three groups over time.

“Working memory is often conceptualized as being a ‘mental workbench’ that allows a person to keep information in mind long enough for reasoning and comprehension to occur,” Jastrowski Mano told Reuters Health by email. “It is involved in helping the brain shift information from short-term memory to long-term memory.”

Working memory is involved in many aspects of learning, like reasoning ability, mathematical problem solving, and reading comprehension, she said.

“Theoretical and experimental research suggests that mindfulness meditation is associated with changes in neural pathways and may be particularly effective in promoting executive functioning,” Jastrowski Mano said. “The practice of meditation – which requires sustained attention while simultaneously redirecting attention back to the current experience – is closely related to the function of working memory.”

Some of the benefit of the meditation sessions may come from the relationships the teens build with the instructors, said Gina Biegel, a private practice psychotherapist in San Francisco who was not part of the new study.

“These youth are not getting a lot of attention from chaotic home environments,” Biegel told Reuters Health by email. “People in the mindfulness community are compassionate and respectful and create a relationship they don’t get elsewhere.”

Present moment awareness and focus exercises can be helpful too, as teens are often multitasking with homework, mobile devices, music and friends, she said.

Teens may want to consider mindfulness meditation for more than just the potential benefit of improving working memory capacity, Jastrowski Mano said, as there is growing evidence that youth experience many different physical and psychological benefits.

“But more research is definitely needed to figure out which adolescents benefit the most from mindfulness meditation, and in what ways,” she said, and she and her coauthors are cautious about making broad recommendations to schools.

“That said, many schools are very enthusiastic about and open to integrating mindfulness practices into their schools, so it is certainly something worth considering,” she said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1NBO7WF The Journal of Adolescent Health, online November 11, 2015.
Read more at Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/17/us-health-teens-mindfulness-idUSKCN0T62KZ20151117#BzOAcypPtJKkMgis.99

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