Dec 20 2017

January Theme: What does it mean to be a People of INTENTION?

Published by at 5:53 pm under Minister's Musings

Resolutions or Intentions? A Difference in Direction

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones, with help from the Soul Matters team

 

“Here’s what I discover,” Katie Covey begins. Katie is on staff with our Unitarian Universalist Soul Matters Sharing Circle—a circle of congregations with whom we share monthly themes and spiritual growth. After brainstorming with colleagues about this month’s theme—“What does it mean to be a People of Intention?”—Katie comes to understand that “intention is different from setting goals or resolutions. Intention ‘pulls us into’ who we truly are. Goals and resolutions ‘push us out’ into future possibilities. To set intentions, we listen to our inner voice, which tells us who we truly are.”

Some of us find it hard not to buy into the familiar January ritual of setting “resolutions.” Aren’t we all always trying to “become better”? Even our Unitarian ancestor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote a passionate essay about the value of “self-culture,” which was his word for self-improvement. Our society has been entranced with the lures and promises of self-improvement ever since.

But more and more, I wonder if such “self-improvement” is what we really want. Wouldn’t I rather be “pulled in” to my deeper self this year, than “pushed out” into another round of striving for accomplishments? I don’t know about you, but I have spent far too many years caught up in societal expectations around looks, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, intelligence (including the gender-coded message to hide our intelligence). My own internalized oppression about striving for some kind of “perfection” in order to be lovable flies in the face of all I believe as a Unitarian Universalist: that we are inherently lovable just as we are. And that we are always growing.

Instead of taking this New Year as another opportunity to leap into “self-improvement,” measured by some external standard, let’s pause. Let’s ask, “What hunger really has my heart?”

          There is a big difference between becoming “better” and becoming ourselves. Self-improvement is not the same as self-alignment. Wanting to get from point A to point B is quite different from longing to find our inner anchor.

So this month, our most important work is to make room. May we, as a people of intention, keep our attention close to the present, on who we already are at our center. May we make space for listening before we leap into striving.

Intention, for me, is about setting a “good holy direction” for ourselves—holy, because it comes from our authentic core. With that grounding in our human being, we’ll know what we want to do.

 

With love and faith in our journey together,

 Rev. Nancy

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