We tend to associate the energy of intent with complicated or profoundly meaningful actions that require our full attention and effort in order to succeed. For example, walking a tightrope, taking a test, and taking a vow are all tasks that call us to be fully present and single-minded. However, intent can also be applied to everyday events, like eating breakfast or going to work. In fact, everything we do benefits from the presence of intent, which has the power to transform seemingly mundane tasks into profound experiences. You only have to try it to find out.
Intent is one of the cornerstones of the Zen tradition of Buddhism in which monks work for years to develop the stillness and sharpness of mind to do only one thing at a time. Most of the time we are doing one thing and thinking of something else, or even doing three things at the same time, such as talking on the phone, doing dishes, and boiling water for tea. There is nothing inherently wrong with multitasking, which seems necessary at times, especially in the midst of family life. However, balancing this with a healthy dose of intentional activity can provide valuable insight into the benefits of doing one thing at a time, being fully present with whatever the task at hand happens to be.
From the moment we wake up, we can apply intent to our situation by simply saying to ourselves, “I am aware that I am now awake.” We can use this simple tool throughout our day, saying, “I am aware that I am driving to work.” “I am aware that I am making dinner.” Or even, “I am aware that I am breathing.” As we acknowledge what we are doing in these moments, we come alive to our bodies and to the world, owning our actions instead of habitually performing them. We may realize how often we act without intention and how this disengages us from reality. Applying the energy of intent to even one task a day has the power to transform our lives. Just imagine what would happen if we were able to apply that power to our entire day.