Living with Intent: Six Steps to Parenting in the Present
I believe we all have messy journeys. Sometimes we feel like we have life figured out: work, relationships, our physical and emotional health. And then, there are times when we meander from the path: falling into bad habits, wondering if we are relevant, and questioning our purpose in life.
For me, the journey has definitely been a winding one, but there have been tools that help me get back on track when life gets crazy. I learned how to meditate when I was nine years old (yes, my father is Deepak Chopra); through that practice, my father taught my brother and me what it means to live with intent. After our meditations, he would ask us to repeat the following phrase:
I am responsible for what I see
I chose the feelings I experience
And set the goals I will achieve.
Everything that seems to happen to me
I ask for and receive as I have asked.
He would then ask us what we wanted. As kids in Boston, we asked for things like tickets to a Celtics game or a trip to Hawaii. He would smile, and then guide us to ask for love, inspiration, hope, connection, and meaning. In this way, we began to ask for the qualities in our life that would make us feel healthier, happier, more connected, and purposeful. For me, intents come from the soul—they represent who we aspire to be as individuals, members of our family or communities, and citizens of Mother Earth.
As my life became busier, as I delved into my career, took on more responsibility, and became a mom, I forgot many of the lessons that had helped me stay anchored. My life, like so many others, often feels overwhelmed by the tasks and responsibilities that I need to do to just get through the day.
About two years ago, I was speaking to a group of 50 people about meditation and finding balance. As I shared tips on feeling healthy and finding purpose, my mind was having a separate dialogue. I was feeling noxious from the sugar and caffeine high from the chocolate chip cookie and double macchiato I had right before my talk. I was thinking about picking up our clothes from the dry cleaner, ordering snacks for my daughter’s school party, and buying food for our dog Yoda. I was overwhelmed, felt bloated, and was completely not present with the audience who was listening to me. I decided to lead the audience in a meditation so that I could deal with my own drama, and in those moments I admitted to myself that I was not living authentically. I made a decision to make some changes in my life—a journey I have written about in my new book, Living With Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy.
One of my driving intents is to be a good mom. However, I have realized that love alone—for my children, my husband, and my family and friends—cannot give me balance and unbounded happiness. The responsibilities that come with parenthood, careers, community, and friendships, the things that give us connection, can also create stress, anxiety, and make us feel overwhelmed. As women, in particular, we are so busy taking care of others that we often forget to care for ourselves.
My intent while writing my book was to examine my life and choices and remember who I am, connect to my deepest desires, and know how I can serve. I was fortunate to tap into the wisdom of great teachers like my father, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Andrew Weil, and Arianna Huffington.
In this inquiry I created a six-step path to INTENT that helps remind me on a daily basis how to live—and thrive—in the present.
- INCUBATE: Quiet your mind to tap into your deepest intentions; see where this leads.
- NOTICE: Become mindful of your thoughts and actions and pay attention to what they tell you about what gives you meaning and a sense of purpose, and look for signs that can point you toward your truth.
- TRUST: Have confidence in your inner knowing—and in the messages the universe sends you—and allow that knowledge to guide you forward.
- EXPRESS: Write down your intentions; say them out loud, or share them with others to fully embrace them and help you move ahead in your journey.
- NURTURE: Be gentle with yourself as you try to find your way. Intention isn’t always a straightforward path, just like life, and giving yourself opportunities to try—and fail—is often part of, and even crucial to, the process.
- TAKE ACTION: Once you’ve identified an intent, or even multiple ones, don’t sit and wait for it to magically manifest; instead take the practical steps that can make each become a reality. It may be easiest to choose one intention first and set short-term goals to help you get started.
My hope is that by sharing my journey, we all can find more purpose and meaning in our everyday lives.
Mallika Chopra is the founder of Intent.com and the newly released book, Living With Intent.