Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tangled Intentions

There’s an old joke about a man who prays daily asking to win the lottery to no avail. Finally, one day, in the midst of his prayers he hears the voice of God saying, “Buy a ticket!”

Whether it is a prayer or a desire, a clear intention or a wish, we need to act in accordance if we want to give ourselves and the universe a chance at manifestation. Honest self-examination bringing to consciousness our unconscious ambivalence can go a long way in helping us see where we get in our own way. It’s best if we can do this inner exploration lightly, with some honest curiosity and as little judgement as possible. Let me use a simple example from my all-too-human life.

If I want to be well-rested tomorrow but stay up late watching videos tonight, I have to ask myself- What is going on here? Is there an immediate anxiety or sorrow that I am trying to avoid, or perhaps some ambivalence about bringing the fullness of my energy to tomorrow’s commitments?

Lately, when this happens, one of the contributing factors is simply discouragement over the "non-restorative sleep" that is sometimes a feature of the chronic illness I live with. That's the medical term for diligently going to bed at a reasonable time, sleeping soundly for eight or nine hours and waking up as tired as when you went to bed. In a kind of adolescent shoot-myself-in-the-foot-way a week of this can inspire me to think, "What the heck- may as well have some fun since I am going to be exhausted anyway!" 

If we can bring a little tenderness to what seems (and may be) blatant self-sabotage, we may start to notice when and under what conditions we find it hard to act in accordance with what we are sure are our clear intentions. We begin to see what are the real choice points in acting on what we intend.

My odds of getting a restful night’s sleep go up if I stop staring at any kind of screen by eight in the evening. I am more likely to do this if I have a great juicy novel on hand, do not eat anything after seven, and listen to wonderful soothing music as I do the final household tasks for the day. When I don’t want or manage to do these things- when I lie in bed watching hours of old episodes of Law and Order while eating salted cashews and gluten-free macaroons glazed with dark chocolate- I know that something else is up. 

In this particular episode of why-am-I-not-exercising-good-self-care I find that the only way out is to soften to  my own  discouragement, to allow it to be there, to hold it tenderly and offer myself the kind of support that I would offer another. "Yes, I may wake up as tired as I am now. But I know, at some point this will change. There will be restorative rest again. Taking care of myself before bedtime is something I can change, even if the quality of sleep is something beyond my immediate control." And slowly, I coax myself into the self-care I know helps me enjoy the life I have been given.

Because the great thing is, as long as life and love endure, I get another chance to do it all tomorrow- to clarify my intentions, to send out my prayers, to ask for help and take action that is in alignment with Spirit (within and around me,) in accordance with what serves life in me and the world.

Even as I write this I am overwhelmed by how loved we are- how we are held in endless mercy, how the generosity of life keeps giving us the opportunity to learn and deepen our lives, to forgive ourselves for going unconscious over and over, to simply do the best we can. 

Oriah House (c) 2013


  1. Thanks again for such poignant observations. You are such an exquisitely wonderful writer. The first thing I ever read of yours was The Invitation... it was a small but most meaningful book. I immediately went back and bought the rest of the them. I gave them to key people that I thought would appreciate them, they did.

    Over the years I've used it as a guide for the type of person I would want to spend the rest of my life with, haven't found them yet but maybe someday. Hmmm, it just occurred to me that I actually have all of those qualities (for the most part) and I guess that's the best person to be comfortable enough with to share a life with :)

    1. Hi AJ.....your comment could have been written by me. I am grinning with recognition of your words as I only recently was introduced to 'The Invitation' and cried with relief and joy at it's meaning. I too know that anyone i would remotely consider worthy of a partnership would have to be as moved by Oriah's words as i am. They bring me such comfort and inspiration. As do her weekly blogs. Lovely to read your comment AJ :-)

  2. Dear Oriah, a very suitable post for me again! As I mentioned before, I have to get up in the morning much earlier than I would like to, and that means the same for going to bed at night. Needing my 7,5 or 8 hours of sleep, I should sleep at ten p.m. - but my inner clock tells me something else, even when I'm tired. A part fo me is still active and wants to do interesting and often nourishing things. (Nourishing for spirit and soul - no food involved ;-).) I'm really missing something when I'm in bed so early, and there are no other opportunities to get it at another time of the day. So every evening, there is an inner struggle of two important needs. Sometimes one wins, and sometimes the other. Not always in a sensible way. I hope I find a proper solution to avoid this daily struggle some day, and doing it gently and coaxing - like you suggest - will be a big help. Thank you.

  3. Something new I am learning:
    When my humanity trumps what my spirit knows is best for me, I get to practice Self-forgiveness and then begin again. Since each moment is new I can take the next breath with the purpose of following the lead of my heart.
    You always inspire me, Oriah. I love what you write and find I usually relate to what is happening in your life. Thank you for sharing your truth.

  4. What a perfectly timed post for me - I often struggle with the routines that make me feel good and promotes good health. Eating well, going to sleep on time, exercising. The hardest one for me is getting to sleep at a decent hour! I think you are right that it has to do with ambivalence. When I start in on the sleeplessness pattern I feel like my body is telling me that something about my daytime hours has become routine and boring, which is a sign for me to move onto more exciting and passionate work. Thank you for sharing your words.