Working with intentions is one way to deal with afflictions that are causing you suffering. One of my reasons for coming to yoga was to let go of anxiety. I was riddled with it. It affected my every move. I loved when the teacher offered for us to set an intention at the beginning of class. This intention was a little secret I could say to myself and visit during class, imagining the anxiety floating away. Now, it’s one thing to have an intention, and another to cultivate it. How do you develop your intention so that you work on what’s causing the suffering?
None of us like to visit our suffering. But as the Eastern practices say, moving toward the suffering instead of away from it will lead you to freedom. Living inside the suffering is to have bodhichitta - a noble and courageous heart - as you live your life. At first, I found, through my work with intention, that I did let go of some anxiety during a yoga class. Connecting my body movement to my breath was centering and calming. It was as though the frenetic energy spun off of me as I went through Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations). My mind would come into the present moment as I focused on holding poses and moving mindfully. My thoughts would calm down and lose their rapidity; they’d come slowly and steadily so I could read them. I realized that my use of intention was urging me to study the cause of my suffering. Reminding myself of my intention would inspire me to study anxiety’s sensations. Without effort, my mind would watch these sensations - their rise and fall, their sharpness, their surprise attacks. Mindfulness and svadhyaya, or self-study, were like a pair of glasses, dissipating the cloud and clarifying the blurry. In the safe space of awareness within the yoga practice, I could identify these sensations as what they were - sensations, and nothing else.
Since the intention was to let go of anxiety, studying what it is to ‘let go’ is part of this. For me, a desire to abolish anxiety from my life developed over time into learning to live with it, even learning to make friends with it. It’s part of me, though it is not me. Maybe it even gives me a bit of bubbliness so I’m not comatose-chill in my everyday life. Maybe it makes me human. The study continues and I know it will never end. It’s not so bad to evolve from ‘letting go’ to ‘learning to live with’. Acceptance is widely recognized as a pathway to freedom. I accept that I will continue to live with anxiety. I trust that I’ll know when it’s getting out of control and the nervous energy needs to be released. The more aware I am that it’s coming, the sooner I can use my tools to shed it. I’m to the point in my studies that I even learn from anxiety. It has much to teach. Using intention to move toward suffering instead of running and hiding from it has indeed been a path to some freedom for me. This is yet another gift yoga has given me - the eyes to see what’s happening, to understand - the eyes of acceptance and liberation.