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Thursday, January 15, 2004

Thoughts prompted by a new year

Recently, my Dharma brother, True Mountain of Peace, talked a bit about the difference between motivation and intention as regards his practice and this got me to thinking a bit about these and two other related concepts: aspiration and purpose.

My trusty Webster's defines motivation in total relationship with motive, and under "motive" it says, "something within a person (as need, idea, organic state or emotion) that incites him to action" or "a prompting force or incitement working on a person to influence volition or action." A motive can apply to any emotion, desire or appetite operating in the will of a person and moving her to act. Interestingly, emotion and motive both relate to action: they both contain the idea of motion.

Intention is the act of intending, and intent comes from the Latin meaning "the act of stretching out." The primary meaning is often used as a synonym for purpose or design as well as the state of mind or mental attitude with which something is done. In this sense it is a synonym for volition. The secondary meaning is to have the mind concentrated on some act or end and thus would also mean determined or resolved. Intention simply indicates what one proposes to do.

Purpose is "something that one sets before himself as an object to be attained: an end or aim to be kept in view in any plan, measure, exertion of operation. It is an object, effect or result aimed at, intended or attained." And finally, aspiration has as its first definition, "breathing; an aspirated sound" and then "a strong desire for realization (as of ambitions, ideals, or accomplishment." It is an end or goal aspired to or a condition strongly desired. To "aspire" is "to be ambitious, to yearn, long or seek." It is also to "rise, ascend, tower and soar."

At the beginning of the new year, many people make "resolutions," and from the attendance in my Yoga classes the first two weeks of the new year , I hazard a guess that to take more Yoga classes or to practice more Yoga was a major resolution for many people. The problem is, I've seen this before, and I know that by the end of February the attendance is bound to drop again. In looking for possible reasons for the short commitment to practice and the "failure" to live up to and maintain their resolutions, based upon our little survey above, I might suggest it is lack of clarity on our motivation first and foremost. The "intention" to make it to class x times a week, without a clear understanding of why you would want to, is bound to fade over time. Generally, this is because intention is so tied with "purpose" or goal, and while there are many purposes for practicing Yoga, all of them generally take some time to develop.

Yes, one may feel "relaxed" after one class, and if to "be more relaxed" is your intention or purpose, this may be wonderful. Except that the state of relaxation felt after class is, like all "states," impermanent. Sometimes all it takes is to find your car has been ticketed, or your cat has a flat tire, and the relaxed feeling is history!

Personally, I love the fact that "aspiration" is related to breathing, because conscious breathing, anapanasati is the basis of my practice. I aspire to know each breath as I sit or practice asana. One of my first meditation teachers said that it was perfectly normal and alright to have goals (purposes) for our practice. That we can practice with the intention to become more relaxed, more alert, more peaceful and happy, or enlightened. But that we had then better place those goals on "the shelf" and attend to what is happening right now. Motivation is what moves us. And my guess is that most of the new students coming to class (and those who have been away for the last few months) have not made their motivation conscious.

What moves one to practice? What moves you?

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 9:42 AM

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