Engagement and Intention

From: What to do about Christmas?
Full Transcript
Ken: When you are fully engaged in a situation, how conscious are you of yourself?

Student: No, I’m not.

Ken: Okay. When you're not fully engaged, how conscious are you? And a wonderful example of this is, "I’m bored."

Student: Is what?

Ken: "I’m bored." Because boredom is all about self-consciousness.

So, I want you to take some of the situations you are likely to encounter in the next three or four weeks, you know, this wonderful holiday season. And imagine engaging them completely, whatever they may be.

Now there’s an important piece in engaging something completely: you have to have an intention. And what many people do is go into situations without a clear intention. And when you go into a situation without a clear intention you get carried away in the currents of whatever reactivity that situation provokes in you, because that’s where you’ll end up going. And that’s how you get lost in your own feelings in your own reactions.

But if you have a clear intention then you can fully engage the experience. You may or may not be able to affect or make much progress with your intention but then that calls into question what are you actually doing there? Should you be there at all in that situation?

So imagine going into these various situations. And I would like you to pick one, one that you may think will be challenging and take a few minutes to become clear about your intention and then imagine going into the situation and engaging it completely. And that’s what will do together now.

Katherine: Can you sort of give an example of that? Say your intention is to buy your mother a present?

Ken: Well lets say your intention is to visit your mother, okay?

Katherine: That’s so complicated! [Laughter]

Ken: That one is so complicated? Well, no, I think that’s the important one, because buying a present is just part of that, isn’t it?

Now what’s one’s intention in visiting one’s mother in the holiday season? And that’s a very good example. What is your intention here? Why are you doing it? That’s what to think about and reflect on.

And when I say think about it, that’s really a bad use of language on my part. You have this situation in front of you, feel it and feel what your intention is and see what comes up. Why am I actually going here?

And you can ask yourself why again and again. Well I’m going because I have to. Well, why do I feel that I have to? That takes you to the next level and so you just keep cutting into those levels. And at some point you are going to hit a feeling which you may or may not be able to put into words but it will be really clear. Okay?


Ken: Okay. What was your experience here? Let’s hear from some people we haven’t heard from to this point.

Helena: I am well aware of the fact that I have done many things in my life... a sense of obligation [unclear].

Ken: So one point there is, when we are coming out of a sense of obligation it feels like something is being imposed on us. But when we become clear about our intention, then there’s a sense, “Oh I’m doing this” and do you feel as separate from the situation then?

Helena: No, not really, no. It’s just part of me.

Ken: So rather than something being imposed on us from outside, we discover our own connection with the situation and what we intend to do with it.

My apologies, Katherine, because your first example would have been fine to take: What is my intention in buying my mother a present? What am I intending to do here? You could have worked with that just as well. Okay.

Anybody else? This give you any clues as to how to approach things?

Student: Yes.

Ken: What were some of the clues?

Student: Well I found my lack of clarity over a Thanksgiving where I felt trapped for a few days. Literally trapped. I really wasn’t, but inside I just felt trapped and this whole exercise is giving me that awareness that had I had this intention, those days would have been less trapped, I would have been less trapped.

Ken: Well not only would you have been less trapped but you might have actually enjoyed them! [Laughter]

Student: Oh what a change!

Ken: Yes and both your point and Helena’s point. When we feel something is done to us, we feel separate from. But by being clear about our intention the only way we can become clear about our intention is dissolving the sense of separation from the situation: I’m in it, what am I doing here? And then we can engage it. Then we lose that sense of self by being clear about our relationship with the situation.