Conscious Intention: Moving from Fear to Hope

Watching the daily presidential election news is like seeing Greek theater in your own living room. The archetypal tension between fear and hope, acted out respectively by John McCain and Barack Obama, parallels how we deal with hope and fear in our own lives. And slipping the chains of fear has never been more important for us personally, or for our country.

As my friend, social entrepreneur and author Jean Houston would say, "It’s jump time, and we are the ones we have been waiting for." (I think you’ll love this youtube video "We are the Ones" with incredible music by the fabulous Karen Drucker). Listen Here.

We are living in a time of great possibility, an unprecedented era of global change in which each one of us can make a profound difference. How can we live sustainably, in greater harmony with ourselves, the earth, and the rapidly changing world order? How can we create a future that brings the earth and all her people to a new level of cooperation and relatedness? The historic shift we hope for requires conscious intention, and the recognition that hope is more than a passive wish or empty words. To hope is to engage deeply with vision, and to make a strong commitment to action.

There are three parts to conscious intention:

1.) Creating the vision for a future that is more coherent, compassionate, and harmonious than the current reality.
2.) Discerning the difference between a vision based on fear and social pressure, versus one that is rooted in a greater good.
3.) Forming clear, concise intentions that move vision into action.

The late Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan referred to intention as the "hope of attainment." He recognized that we all live with many hopes, some selfish and some altruistic, and suggested that we set our hopes on the "best and highest attainment possible for us." That, I would suggest, is to be the agents of what futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard calls "conscious evolution." The evolution to a wiser, healthier, more compassionate world has to start in our own mind and personal life. Then it will naturally be mirrored outwardly in the world that we help to create.

For intention to bear fruit it needs to be clear, specific, and powerfully focused. Let me give you an example. For years I’ve hoped for greater balance, since burnout and busyness take a toll on my health, happiness, and effectiveness. But this vague kind of intention didn’t change anything. So I got more specific and created intentions that demanded accountability.

Specificity requires a detailed map of the territory, in this case balance. Where is balance found and what does it look like? Goals like working smarter not harder, moving toward financial freedom, finding creative ways to travel less while continuing to teach and make a difference, preserving time for rest, meditation, recreation, and exercise and seeing more of my family were easy to wish for. But I needed to get real. For example, howdoes a person work smarter and not harder? Sounds good in theory, but how can you carry it off? If I’d known, I would have done it a long time ago! So the first practical step was hiring a business coach who knew the territory.

The concrete steps I’m making toward balance (a perpetual work-in-progress) are bearing fruit in two ways, both through the expected avenue of taking aim at a goal and reaching it, and also in a nonlinear, more mysterious way. Unexpected allies are appearing. Opening the morning’s email is exciting (now that’s a switch!) because new opportunities are flooding in. So how does this amazing grace manifest?

Hazrat Inayat Khan taught that the energy we project toward the object of our intention is just as important as the energy that comes from it toward us. The connection between what we hope for and our own self is a field of infinite power and potential that can open doors that seemed to be closed, or were invisible to start with. What we seek also seeks us.

This two-way attraction can produce results far beyond anything we can imagine, which is why discerning the "goodness" of an intention is so important. King Midas, for example, had the intention to become super wealthy. But when everything he touched turned to gold, there was nothing left to eat and no one left to love. Life became a dead wasteland. Similarly, George Bush had a strong intention to invade Iraq. But to what end, this war?

A personal intention that I’ve discerned carefully and over many months is to do everything possible to support the Obama/Biden ticket in the November election. Hence, this blog. Change is not a vague political rallying cry or mere wishful thinking. It is a laboratory for conscious, collaborative intention. This takes sustained work on the part of many people. But this I know: The work we all do will be matched by that mysterious force called grace. That’s something we can count on unless we let the politics of fear, and our own personal demons, poison our discernment and sap our will.

It’s jump time, and the future is in your hands. If you agree, please email this blog to your own contact list. We are the Ones. We can do it!

Tips for Using Conscious Intention:

"Be the change you want to see in the world." Ghandi

1. Finding Your Vision: Sit down with another person and take turns speaking aloud for 15 minutes about your vision for your best personal future. What would it look like? Be specific in terms of relationships, career, living situation, health, and whatever your concerns may be. While one person speaks, the other witnesses silently with compassionate attention. Then the person who was the listener takes a turn to speak. When both people have finished speaking without interruption, then it’s time for conversation. Take another 30 minutes for discussion and the sharing of insights without trying to give advice to one another. You can also do this as a writing exercise on your computer, or in your journal. In any case, make sure to write your vision down in detail so that you can refer back to it later.

2. Discernment: How does your vision feel? Is it life-giving for yourself and others? Is it compassionate? Is it sustainable? Does it generate a sense of peace and joy? Does it make you feel more alive? Go back to what you wrote in about a week. Does it still feel true for you? If not, try the visioning exercise again. If it still feels true, wait another week, and discern a second time. When you feel reasonably confident that you’re on the right track go to step 3.

3. Formulating Intentions: Start with one area and be specific. Lets say that you want a more fulfilling career. That’s your goal. Now think about how you might get there. Identify at least 3 clear action steps, which are your intentions. They might include things like networking with people whose careers you admire, going back to school to take a course or seeing a career counselor.

Just Show Up

Reflecting on the chaos witnessed this week in financial markets at home and abroad brought home to me today just how essential it is that everyone gets out to vote in this election. The stakes are just too high.

So much of what happens on that one day though, for many people, especially the disadvantaged, comes down to simple logistics.

Where is my nearest polling place? How do I get there? Can I manage to get out of work to get there? Can I find someone to look after my kids?

So let’s be prepared this time.

My intent is for everyone reading this post to take a moment to visit Vote and their polling place locator and do a little research ahead of time.

Find your local polling station.

Make sure you know how to get there.


This is your democracy, make your voice heard.

Lost and Confused on the Path

Question: During several years my life has been deeply spiritual. Meditation, reading spiritual literature and a constant inner work and process of spiritual and personal development has radically changed both my inner and outer life. I really felt connected to God and my prayers were literally answered in many ways.

Of some reason which I don

The Economics of Sin and Virtue

This post ran in The Washington Post’s "On Faith" section in response to the questions: Are the economy’s recent financial failures also moral failures? Are credit and debt religious issues? Do you have faith in the economy?

Money lies closer to people’s souls than they like to admit. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. destroyed other men’s fortunes as he ruthlessly built his own, but he assuaged his conscience by believing that God gave him every penny. Call it the Protestant work ethic gone berserk or hypocritical denial, the mechanism works. We manipulate our image of God to justify how the world is treating us. This is very far from Christ’s essential teaching that God abides in a higher world, but he left enough room for Christianity to believe that sin is punished by depriving the sinner of money while virtue is rewarded with a full bank account. Actually, Jesus went out of his way to warn his followers, in the Sermon on the Mount, not to store up riches on earth but in Heaven. The message has largely been ignored.

The great change today is that people expect sin to bring the greatest rewards. Who doesn’t feel at least a slight pang of envy to learn that Yasser Arafat, while ostensibly acting as a freedom fighter, secretly amassed billions in Swiss bank accounts, a pattern followed successfully by Saddam Hussein and the Iranian mullahs? The pious can point out that neither Arafat nor Saddam lived to profit from their stashed billions, but plenty of Mafia bosses died in bed after a lifetime of ill-gotten gains. Lest we limit this to the nefarious, almost every congressman expects to raise millions in re-election funds and earmarks once elected. This money may not go directly into their pockets — an open question these days — but they feel virtuous taking it.

On Wall Street we are told that the current domino effect of collapsing firms is the result of unbridled greed, a Christian sin, but not sinning meant a lower paycheck, if not getting fired. Traders are expected to maximize returns for their clients. The real problem was irresponsibility, lack of repercussions, and speed. Traders could move millions of dollars with the push of a button, no one cared if the institution they worked for was being pushed to extremes of risk, and now that Lehman Brothers has collapsed, the executives who skimmed millions off the top in bonuses will walk away whistling. At least they weren’t as bad as Enron. In this climate, it’s not how much you sinned but how much you took away before the bubble burst. None of this behavior reflects on God, however, or sin for that matter. As in Abu Ghraib, a climate of wrongdoing was created, morality became numb, and peer pressure did the rest.

We are divided about money because we are divided in ourselves. We hate Exxon for exploiting the general population as oil prices soar, but given the means, we’d buy their stock. The urge to covet wealth is shadowed by a rage that would tear the rich down. In India I was taught as a child that the deciding factor is Karma. Earn your money by good and virtuous means if you want your life to be good and virtuous. This is a reformulation of the biblical "as you sow, so shall you reap." In our fantasies we hope that bad people suffer for their bad money, but the law of Karma — or Jesus’s sowing and reaping — doesn’t work that simply. To be honest, I have no confirmed idea how good is finally balanced with bad, or how karmic repercussions are timed. So I prefer to stick with what my mother told me and try to keep my gains as well-gotten as I can.

What’s Your Intent for Peace Day?

International Peace Day is this Sunday, September 21st, and we at Intent are reaching out to the members of our community to learn how you will spend the day. How will you contribute to peace? What are your hopes for this world? What are your intents for the day?

Here are six videos of people from our community expressing how they plan to spend the day — in every way from developing peaceful relationships to sailing. Share your intent for Peace Day in the comments! (And if your intent is to attend a Peace Day event, check here to find one near you.)

Brad for Peace Day

Natalie for Peace Day

Sonal for Peace Day

Dawna for Peace Day

Macy and Brett for Peace Day

JJ for Peace Day

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