By Suma Varughese
Wanting, though necessary, stems from a dissatisfaction with the present and may be counter-productive. But intent comes from an acceptance of what is and a calm determination whose power goes beyond us
Recently, I have been struck by the enormous difference between the two mental states of want and intent. Want is necessary. Without it, we would never achieve anything, never understand the dictates of our soul, never grow. However, the state of want by itself can be counterproductive to the process of realization of the end. Whatever we long for, let’s say a holiday, a lottery win, a promotion, marriage or true love, may not happen simply because we want it to. Indeed chances are that the more we want it, the more it may fight shy of presenting itself before us. Why is that so?
The spiritual masters explain the phenomenon by telling us that we get what we want. When we are locked in a state of want, what we will get is more want, naturally. How does this happen? Any want or desire stems from a sense of dissatisfaction with the present. Longing for a holiday means that we long to get away from the existing circumstances. Pining for a win at Lotto indicates our discontent with our present levels of income. Looking for a marriage partner reflects on the inadequacy of singlehood and so on. All want comes from a resistance to the present and as such it actually disturbs the mind.
A mind consumed with longing is never peaceful and complete with itself. Imagine Devdas, Indian romantic character, for instance, who is so consumed with longing for his childhood sweetheart that he is totally unaware of the presence of love closer to him or of the possibilities of life itself. Living in a haze of unrequited love and alcohol fumes, he ends his life faithful to just one thing, a longing for something that is irrevocably past. Perhaps this is the stuff of romantic legend, but also an indicator of a pretty impotent life surely?
Many of us are like Devdas in some or other aspect of life. Perhaps we have a specific idea of a marriage mate. And when we do marry and find that our spouse does not live up to our ideal image, we renounce him/her in our heart forever, and live in longing for what might have been.
As seekers, all of us know how frustrating it is to be not in that fabled spot of absolute happiness, total equilibrium and peace of mind that we long to be in. This is particularly acute when we hit a rocky patch and become aware, to our chagrin, how fragile is our control over our thoughts and feelings. If only we could get control over our feelings, if only the turbulence of the thoughts would settle down, if only we could get to that stage where nothing and nobody can disturb us!
The more we want it, the more we get locked into our unwelcome thoughts and feelings and liberation has never seemed so far away. No wonder the sages say that at the final stage, even the desire for liberation must drop. Because want comes from a resistance of what is, it actually cuts us off from the larger forces of life and stops what we want from manifesting itself.
Intent, on the other hand, comes from a calm acceptance of the present moment. An intention for good health would emerge from a dispassionate acceptance of our present ill health, and a dogged determination to get the better of it. Because we do not avert our gaze from what is, we can actually determine what it is we need to do to heal ourselves.
Do we need a change of diet or lifestyle? A change of doctors, perhaps? Or the implementation of some exercise routine in our life? Whatever the need we act on it, and even if we may slip and slide in the beginning, the intention holds us firmly to the end task until it is achieved. This kind of calm determination has a power that goes beyond us.
The very universe conspires to bring about what we want, for it comes from a calm mind and a fusion of desires. We are no longer caught between resisting what is and longing for what we want. Intention comes from a one-pointed mind. For the state of intention to occur, we need a level of confidence in our ability to fulfill our wishes and our powers of determination and endurance. As these increase, our intentions become more powerful. We can reach the stage, for instance, when we can drop our addictions and habits in a moment, simply because of the power of our intention.
There is a yoga master I once knew, who used to tell students addicted to smoking or drinking, ”Drop it!” And a few actually did! Here the intention came from the master and was compounded by the faith the students had in him, but there is no reason why this should not occur by itself. The ultimate level of intention, of course, is when we can use it to impact the elements of which the universe and we are composed of and to generate changes within them.
For this, of course, such a level of attunement to the universe is needed that one must be no less than enlightened. At that moment, our powerful intentions can manifest the miracles that are associated with men of God. With intention on our side, there is very little we cannot achieve. Great dreams and ambitions become possible because that diehard determination chews up everything that may oppose it. With intention by our side, the world is our oyster.
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