Intention And Direction In Daily Living

The following is an attempt to point out the significance of allowing goals, large or small, to give way to flight. Light, strong, vibrant, unfettered and informed by clear intention. This photograph, and the one published yesterday, speaks louder than anything I might say, however I’ve given it a go.

Peregrine, by Tony

To pop this image of the Peregrine, wings so perfectly gathered, so light yet so strong, eyes and whole body directed with clear intention might seem a fluke of timing. Would, however, the next moment capture something fundamentally different? Here the bird is caught bright eyed and…oh I don’t have the words for it right now. Beautiful though. One sees that something in infants and athletes, and others where body-mind is clearly communicating and moving with fluidity and grace.

Thinking further, could it not be that we humans are not so different from the birds with respect to intention – clear intention? Or at least the potential for clear intention; the expression being light yet strong. Here’s the thought, and sorry to be banging on about this. The photographer sets out with the intention of taking photographs. As the eyes take in what comes to them in the present, the goal (a photograph) slips into the background of awareness. Another example: you have an intention to drive over to the priory and that’s the direction one is going in, the goal of the trip. Then as one goes, letting the goal slip into the background, more subtle moment to moment information is able to impinge on the mind. And because the goal is less to the fore, and thus less of a distraction, the information coming in can be responded to appropriately, more readily and finely. One is especially able to act on the more subtle stuff. For example one inexplicably find oneself slowing down and then moments later finding that if one hadn’t, in the split second way of things, a lorry going too fast would have wiped you out on a blind corner in a narrow lane. Not to mention those blessed promptings such as remembering as one starts the car that the front door’s not locked! Less driven by goals, more likely to…fill in the blank. Goals are not bad, they just need to slip into the back seat, so to speak.

This is all really obvious and mostly taken for granted and out of immediate awareness. Perhaps this level of sensitivity to information only comes to light when, highly distracted, the front door IS left unlocked and one is prompted, once again, not to get ahead of oneself. This is the stuff of training in daily life a phrase we use presuming we share a common understand of what that involves. Do we though? Just what IS that training. Of course the details are unique unto each of us. However, like the bird, we need to give way to flight. Light, strong, vibrant and with clear intention.

The underlying intention of training in the way of the Buddhas is remaining true to that which the Precepts point towards. Thats a direction worth following I’d say.

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11 thoughts on “Intention And Direction In Daily Living”

  1. Thank you for a wonderful post, both the image and the words.
    As a public school teacher (secondary & adult) I was required to teach “Goal-Setting.” Why did this always result in muttering under my breath?
    When I began to train in Buddhism, I had a most worthy goal: Enlightenment! Note the capital E!
    The goals in my life seem to have been about me/mine, while the intention seems to come from another source. But are they separate?

    One prayer I use is, “please help me purify my intention.”]

  2. There’s a great liberation in being like this, isn’t there; a moving forward unfettered by the “top-down” driveness of deliberate thinking.

    It reminds me of a line in Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet where he describes aliveness as “the riverbed of endless possibility”. Clearly, there is vitality in this, amidst the conditions, and there is direction as well.

    It also reminds me of a comment Rev. Master Haryo made to Nancy and I when we were in the middle of difficult and changeable circumstances. He said: “Well, why don’t you stay with the plan and be prepared to change directions at any moment.”

    You have captured this in a wonderful way, Rev. Master Mugo. Thank you.

    In gassho, Jim

  3. Thanks for your input Jim. I must say I started to doubt my own thoughts, the sense they were making even to me, so it especially good to hear from both you and R. Margaret. Great quote from Rilke too.

    And don’t photographs speak so well, still and silent yet alive. My thoughts about photography have changed and their ‘use’ is obvious now.

  4. Margaret. No, I don’t think goal and intention are separate. It’s just that goal is out ahead somewhere and intention, is located, here and now within the bodymind. If I could spell the word, you know ‘the will to enlightenment’ that is what I see as being behind intention. You give us the world please?

    One can make intention into something hard and fixed I guess but being closer to home one is more likely to spot the hardness creeping in. Well, just a thought. Hope you can continue to leave comments, they are much appreciated.

  5. Dear rev Mugo,

    Just to say hi, and to say what an incredible image this photogragh (is)! Your thoughts on photography and this post are most inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

    In gassho,


  6. Dear Rev. Mugo,

    Following one of those whispered prompts, I clicked the link to your site on the computer belonging to some friends (I am house-sitting, and voila! Up flew your reflections and the bird, words and image I’ve long been searching for. My confident, mighty older son had asked me with great concern and some dismay how I could continue on my current life re-directing course without knowing exactly how much it would cost and how the money would come. Our conversation helped me, if not him, to see how serene reflection meditation and training have turned my ways of proceeding right around. Now I can share with him this link and perhaps allay his fears! Thank you, particularly for “Perhaps this level of sensitivity to information only comes to light when, highly distracted, the front door IS left unlocked and one is prompted, once again, not to get ahead of oneself.” It reminds me of the little Ryokan (?) poem about carrying your zendo on your back and leaving a window open. In gassho!

  7. Hi, Many thanks for leaving a comment. So glad you followed through and clicked on the link. Some of the best things in life come from those small moments when one follows those ‘whispered prompts’. Great expression if I may say so.

    I hope your son can appreciate his mother and her current ‘ways’. It must be hard to see ones parent ‘moving on’ when, heck!, isn’t the youngsters who are constantly being told to ‘move on’.

    BTW, I left out the name of your ‘friends’ because I like to presurve privacy, although I don’t think there would have been an issue in this case.

    You are in a lovely spot and as you know I enjoy being on that patch of land from time to time.

  8. How wonderful to hear from you. Thanks so much for leaving a comment and glad you like what I’ve been saying about photography and seeing and all of that stuff. Hope you are well. Maybe see you at the monastery some time…

  9. It’s remarkable and humbling that a bird by being just a bird can teach this perfection, while I can’t teach a bird a single thing.
    I once held a tiny bird on my hand that had flown against a window. There it sat, fragile, vulnerable, a bit dizzy; it had no weight, light as a feather. And than it looked at me: straight into my heart, beyond words.
    I put it carefully on the ground, it looked again at me, intensively, and flew away in a flash. I never forget those eyes.

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