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How to Set an Intention

Have you ever sat down to meditate on your own, without an app or guide, and wondered where to start? It can be a little intimidating.

Setting an intention from the outset will ease you into your practice. It's a simple but thoughtful process. One that has you look inward and ask "What do I need in this moment?"

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is “How do I set my intention for my practice?” and "How do I choose my mantra?" 

First, let’s define those two words as they are often used interchangeably. 

Intention is the overarching aim of how you want to feel in your practice. It’s the broader focus of what you are looking to develop and pull forward in yourself. It can be an emotion, a feeling, a quality, or a goal — the intention is what you are looking to achieve while sitting in meditation.

mantra is a word, sound, or phrase you repeat in meditation. A mantra is often taking your intention and using it as a single word or forming it into either an affirmation or phrase and repeating it on each bead of your mala.

To simplify even more: An intention is the overall feeling of the practice (the goal of what you are wanting to cultivate), while the mantra is what you repeat to get yourself there.
So, how do you set an intention for your practice?
  • First, find a comfortable seat.
  • Next, close your eyes. Take a deep inhale. A deep exhale. With your spine straight, keep taking long inhales and exhales. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed. Your tongue isn’t clinging to the roof of your mouth. Your teeth aren’t clenched. The space between your eyebrows is resting.
  • Now ask yourself: What do I need right now? How do I want to feel? What's a word that is meaningful to me in this moment?
  • You can also ask yourself: What do I need to release? What is not serving me? What are my limiting beliefs? And you can turn these around into positive intentions.
  • On your next inhale, choose a word. (Or two. Or three.)
Whatever comes to you in this moment is the intention for your practice. Let it come with ease. 

For example, when I sit down to meditate and go through these steps, asking myself what I need, I sometimes come back with one, two, or three words. An example would be grounding, love, and support. 

I have set the intention for my practice. I have identified how I want to feel.

Knowing that this is my intention — that I want to feel these things with every fiber of my being — I turn this into my mantra. 

“I Am Grounded. I Am Love. I Am Supported.”

The example above is an affirmation-based mantra. Affirmations are positive statements that are proven to help re-wire the brain for positivity, gratitude, and happiness. 

You can also use Sanskrit mantras, such as "Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti," which represents all-encompassing peace. 

Your intention can change for each practice.

I like to think of it as a cyclical evolution. When we take the time to sit in our practice and ask ourselves what we need, we identify an area we want to cultivate. We start to honor this quality (which we already have inside of us, we just need to bring it forward). And then at some point, we feel we are embodying it. We then choose to release it and start the process all over again.

Setting intentions is a powerful thing, and can be done in all types of situations to empower you and support a lifestyle that incorporates mindful living. 

A beautiful way to reflect on your mindful journey is to keep a meditation journal to track the intentions you’ve set and watch how you’ve grown. Often times an intention can change between each practice, each month, or each year. 

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