Updated: Aug 2
Photos by Pexels.com (SkitterPhoto)
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
"A new intention in August?" you ask. For those of us who have spent decades of our lives as educators, yes. The start of the academic year is a time for reflection, renewal, anticipation, and goal setting. Every teacher and leader I know is probably, right now, doing just that: planning, polishing, and preparing.
We have mentally gone back to June and thought about how the last year ended and what we need to do differently. Educators are nothing if not reflective. And we are self-critical. That's okay, too, as long as the voice of the inner critic isn't so loud that it drowns out the voice of possibility. A core belief that I have is that we can always be better than we are. Growth and personal development are the cornerstones of planning my year, and planning equals possibility. You have to believe that better is possible.
January, though, is when much of the world starts afresh. This past January, I noticed that many people were talking about intentions. They were sharing their intentions for the coming year. (insert wide-eyed emoji). An intention for the whole year? That seemed ambitious. I had set intentions for meditations before and forgotten what I had committed to by the end of the session. How does one set an intention for an entire year? And why?
Why set an intention for the year? I sat with that question for a few weeks this (North American) summer, and decided that the simplest answer for me is that an intention helps us orient ourselves. If we can distill all the "need to's" and "should do's" down to a single word or phrase, it can be both grounding and aspirational. I believe that after the unusual two years of the pandemic, we need that grounding. We need an anchor to help us focus on why we commit to challenging work in complex times. And we need an aspiration to remind us to find the joy in those endeavors that we have committed. If we can't find that joy right now, we have to pause and look for it. Find it in the mundane; find it in the minutiae.
In his book Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav teaches, "Every action, thought, and feeling is motivated by an intention, and that intention is a cause that exists as one with an effect. If we participate in the cause, it is not possible for us to not participate in the effect." (emphasis mine). Therefore, my intention this year is to find joy! Joy is my cause and I get to participate in the effect. In seeking the joy, I create the effect.
This understanding, which is new to me when framed this way, feels revelatory. I can't wait to experience this unfolding joy in the little things, and the big ones, too. Join me in finding joy this year. Set your own intention, or borrow mine, and share back how your every action, thought, and feeling is being motivated by intention!
Photos by Pexels,com (Natasha Fernandez)