This past January, I joined five other educators for the 2013 Certificate Program in Mindfulness for Educators, jointly sponsored by the Center for Mindful Inquiry (Brattleboro, VT), the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, and the Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal. The program includes bookend weekend retreats in January and December, a five-day mid-summer study retreat, and numerous readings from Buddhist and educational sources that are written and dialogued about both on retreat and in online forums. The learning community that has formed amongst the cohort of educators, the two principal teachers, and the two assistant teachers is joyfully unlike anything I have experienced.
A recent assignment was to choose a quotation from Sharon Salzberg’s article “The Power of Intention” or the chapter on intention in Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain; say what we think the author meant by these words; and express the why and how of these words’ meaning to us. What follows is my response.
In “The Power of Intention,” Sharon Salzberg writes:
Intention is not just about will . . . but about our everyday vision, what we long for, what we believe is possible for us.
I think Sharon is meaning here to highlight the broad range of intention, its
mundane-to-sacred continuum, and perhaps especially the sacred. I’m particularly struck by the words “what we long for, what we believe is possible for us,” because like so much else, we forget or lose track of what we long for and what we believe is possible for us. For example, when I was in my twenties and permeated with the images and wisdoms of the Bhagavad-Gita, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and similar tomes, I believed not only that enlightenment was possible, but that it was within reach and only a matter of months or a few short years before I realized it. Then the boxing ring of life threw me financial, marital, vocational and parenting jabs, and I gradually lost my faith that enlightenment could be attained. In the same way and during the same period, I longed to embody the wisdom of the sages and to be a guru like the ones I read about and felt drawn to. Here, my youthful arrogance was, sometimes painfully, transformed into humility and a slowly maturing perspective about what the spiritual life might actually entail. I realized that the path required patience, perseverance, sincere and timeless effort, and so much more.
If our intentions define who we are and drive us this way or that, then it behooves us to remember them, all of them, from the mundane to the sacred. If the power of intention informs our creating the life we envision for ourselves, then we best remember our intentions and put action behind our articulated words. So while I claim neither enlightenment nor wisdom, I’m grateful that what I have always longed for and believed possible has been rekindled over the past ten to fifteen years. And just like that, I find myself teaching in a school where, this year, a door has opened for me to introduce some 75% of our students into the realm of mindfulness. Along with this comes my intention to offer this work with kindness and equanimity.