At times we might say things because we feel they are the ‘right’ thing to say, even though we don’t really believe them, deep down. Perhaps we say them so that we don’t upset a relationship or for the sake of keeping our jobs. We might momentarily feel good by saying what’s expected, although when our beliefs and words are out of sync, we tend to experience a discordance. Over time this lack of harmony between our thoughts and actions causes stress and blocks energy. We simply are not at our best when we are out of integrity with ourselves.
On the other hand, when our beliefs and actions are in alignment, we feel a sense of inner harmony. We act in a way that is consistent with our values. When we proceed by honoring our higher selves, it is positively affirming and boosts our sense of self-worth. We are in integrity with ourselves.
A critical starting point to being in integrity is having clear intentions.
A critical starting point to being in integrity is having clear intentions. When our intentions come from our deepest heartfelt desires, they lay the foundation for living in integrity. Our intention might be to create a workplace that honors individual strengths or values diversity, it might focus on our relationships or caring for our bodies, or any of an infinity of deeply felt desires we might have for our work or lives.
Intentions are not goals or plans, like designing a new program or winning a contract or getting a new car or finding your life partner, they are higher order desires that stem from a knowing deep inside. We might find our intentions by looking at our goals or plans and exploring why we desire them. For example, perhaps at the heart of a new program is leading with courage or the reason for winning a contract is to make a difference in the world. Or, we might want a new car because we feel it will make us feel vibrantly alive or we desire a relationship so that we can feel a deep personal connection.
The pathway to our deepest desires is self-awareness.
The pathway to our deepest desires is self-awareness. From a place of noticing what is true in the moment, we gain clarity. We always have data to inform us: 1) the thoughts running through our minds, 2) the emotions that arise from those thoughts, and 3) the physical sensations that accompany our thoughts and emotions. When we continually listen inside, we can make ongoing adjustments to stay in alignment with our intentions.
Our thoughts have a creative power that can strategically shape our lives.
Our thoughts have a creative power that can strategically shape our lives. The key is being aware of our thoughts, actually noticing what our mind is saying in the moment. If we can catch ourselves at that point – when we have a thought, before any associated emotions and physical reactions come – we find a place of choice. We can either stay caught up in the thought, or we can let it go and choose another thought that aligns with our intention.
For example, if I think we’re about to move from gentle stretching to something more challenging during my yoga practice, I might think “Oh, know! This is going to be hard.” And I immediately lose any feeling of calm and my body tenses up. I can go with that thought and I’ll surely struggle through whatever challenging posture might come next, or I can simply let that thought go and return to the moment, feeling what’s there now. When I choose now, I have a sense of being alive and I’m closer to joy I intend to create in my life.
To cultivate present-moment awareness, we make time
to listen to the dialogue inside our minds.
To cultivate present-moment awareness, we make time to listen to the dialogue inside our minds. The idea is to notice what is naturally happening in our minds all the time. We just observe it, not judging, resisting, or getting attached . Maybe we do this for a few seconds before we get out of bed or as we are getting ready to fall asleep. Maybe when we brush our teeth or wash our face. Or when we sit down for a meal or at our desk, or when we come to a halt in rush-hour traffic. Observing what’s going on inside our heads, even momentarily, can provide such powerful information, even if it’s just once a day.
When we become familiar with the chatter in our heads, we start to notice particular thoughts and how we respond to them. We see habits of thought that don’t serve us – the very thoughts that get us out of alignment and lead us to places of disharmony. Once we notice, we can take action, perhaps by taking a breath (which can help hold the emotions and physical response at bay momentarily) and let go of the thought.
The noticing is key because it is from here that we can take action. We can let go of the thought and that might be enough, or we might consciously choose another thought that aligns with what we want to be creating in our lives – so we can live in integrity. We have the power to build new habits of mind that move our lives in synchronicity with our intentions.
We have the power to build new habits of mind that
move our lives in synchronicity with our intentions.
Below are some questions that we can use to begin exploring with curiosity the interplay of our intentions, thoughts, moments of choice and actions.
- What would I like to be creating in my life?
- What do I value? How is that important to me?
- When do I feel like I am in integrity, having a sense of harmony in my thoughts and actions?
- When do I feel a lack of alignment in my thoughts and actions?
- How do I experience discordance? What is the relationship between my thoughts and actions? What are my thoughts, emotions, physical sensations?
- When might I pause to notice my thoughts, emotions, physical sensations?
- What do I hear when I tune into my mental dialogue?
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* I took these photos of Sacred Lotus flowers at Vila Taranto in Verbania, Italy, which sits along Lake Maggiore.