Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

– Howard Thurman

Those of you who have aready learned shamanic journeying will know without me telling you that intention is the undergirding of a shaman’s work. Before we begin any journey (or other shamanic work) we repeat our intention three times so that it is firmly embedded in our consciouness, so that our conscious mind, our subconscious mind and our body have all heard and absorbed the intention of the journey. This keeps us on track, keeps us from wandering off aimlessly and getting lost. It enables us to sense when the journey is over and when it needs to be taken further by giving us an intended outcome against which to measure our progress in an experience that can overwhelm our senses, and in which rationality must be set to one side. In the midst of a changing inner landscape, our own intention is a lifeline to which we can hold, a solid ground onto which we can step while the marvels of the universe swirl around us.

This the usual context in which the student of shamanism thinks of intention. I am considering intention in a wider context as well. In order for any change in human circumstances to be wrought by us or by spirit, there must be intention. Intention can be described as will, pointed in a specific direction.archer

Intention is what the universe around us responds to. It reads our intention and moves to fulfill it. You can tell, to some extent, what the motivating intention for your life is by looking at how the universe shows up around you. This is more than just projecting your unacknowledged self onto the world around you. This is the world taking shape in such a way that it matches up to your motivating intention. So it behooves us to take stock from time to time of exactly how the universe is treating us. Are you constantly surrounded by work colleagues who decline to do their own jobs and then twist and turn so that they can blame someone else for their own failings? Check yourself to see what unexpressed deeply held intention you may have lurking below the level of consciousness that might give rise to such an arrangement in the universe. If that were me I would probably be intending to justify my withdrawal from / washing my hands of the real, human society I live in. When you do find one of those intentions, just notice it. Don’t fight it as you will just give it energy and make it stronger. Just notice it and let it go. If it persists, thank it (genuinely) for the learning it has brought you, tell it that now it is time for it to go, and send it on its way to its perfect place in the universe. Picture the intention blowing away on your exhaled breath like smoke in a breeze.

Then you will need to replace the unconscious intention with one that lines up with your intention for your life. This leads us to the question “Who am I?” or better yet, “Who do I intend to be in this life?” Put another way, “Who did I come here to be?”down the well

Long ago, when I first put my feet on this path, I spent some months questing in that direction. Wondering, living in the question, asking myself and the universe and listening for what the universe had to say. It is a method humans use. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes calls it “hollering down the well”. If you shout down a physical well you will hear a nearly immediate echo back of the words you just shouted, coming right back up the well at you. If you call out down the well into your uncouscious self (which is connected to our collective uncouscious and so to the unseen aspects of all that is) you will get an echo, but not right back up the aperture that you shouted through. Instead, you will find that echo in the world around you, possibly in a conversation you have or overhear, or a book you just happen to pick up, or a radio program playing in the background, a piece of music, a conversation about something completely else. If you wait awhile, still living into the same question, then probably the same answer will come to you in a different form. I have friends who ask the universe to give them the same answer three times in different forms and through different media, so they can have some surety it is an answer and not just noise. Not a bad idea. Do whatever sits right with you. But do ask. And do listen, expecting answers without preconceived ideas of what the answers will be.rock tower

As an example, that answer I received looked like this. In that drowsy betwixt and between state of consciousness as I was falling asleep I found myself flying through a dark, formless space. I flew and flew and flew until I came upon a stone column, rough and natural like a rock formation. I wondered what it was and the word “compassion” floated through my mind. Then I was asleep. This happened several times, with further columns discovered (“honesty” and “consistency”). Out of this grew an awareness of my basic motivating intention, living compassion out in the world, honestly and consistently.

I was thirteen at the time, so I did a lot of awkward, immature, ill-advised and embarrassing things in an effort to put this insight into practice. And I learned a lot. The most memorable thing, though, is that the universe was very forgiving of my stumbles and faux pas. It continued to advise me in the most lovely and subtle ways. You have probably had the experience of chuntering along, doing whatever you are doing, with the radio on in the background which you are not really hearing. Then suddenly a sentence leaps out of the background noise and enters your ears clear as crystal, just the sort of idea you needed to make a next step along your own path. Or you pick up a book, it falls open randomly and your eye finds on the page exactly the paragraph you need. Or you find yourself in conversation with someone about something mundane and something that they say, or the way that they say it, brings into sharp relief your own situation so that you see it completely differently all in an instant. These are all indications that the universe is acting as your friend and partner, your guide and teacher. That you are, in fact, on your own “right path”.falling-pages-21

Identifying your own fundamental intention for your life and self (which will very likely be different from mine!) gives you something OF YOUR OWN against which you can measure the validity of all the details, demands, requests, suggestions and so forth that life, your family and loved ones, your work and your world offer you. Does what is on offer / being requested / being demanded support my fundamental intention for my life? If not, it is not for me. If so, I shall enjoy it thoroughly and be

When you have a grasp on your intention, for you life or merely for some aspect of living, then is the time to make use of the trio of breath, will and imagination to set the intention into motion in the world. Use your will to call into being a picture, as multi-dimensional and techni-colour and surround-sound and olfactorily enhanced and everything else as you can make it in your imagination. Hold it there, an act of will. Speak a description of what you are seeing in words – this also takes will. When you have fully described what you are seeing / hearing/ feeling / smelling / etc., draw a long deep breath and then exhale even more slowly, blowing your intention and its “imaginary” picture out into the universe on the exhaled air. This is called the breath of intention. Do it as regularly as you need to in order to embed your intention into your life, your universe, your eveything. This is a powerful practice, not only for your own self, but for All That Is.child blowing

Us living out our truest, deepest, finest, highest selves is certainly a gift to us and possibly a gift to those around us who love us, maybe even to those who don’t love us. It is most assuredly an enriching gift to All That Is, enhancing hozho (balance and beauty) and allowing spirit to shine the joy of creation into the material world even more brightly.