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The Heart's Intention - Jack Kornfield 6/20/17, 6:51 PM

The Hearts Intention

Becoming aware of intention is the key to awakening in moment-to-moment practice. In each situation that
calls for our engagement, some inner intention will precede our response. Buddhist psychology teaches that
intention is what makes the pattern of our karma. Karma, the cause and results of every action, comes from

the hearts intentions and precede each action. When our intentions are kind, the karmic result is very
different from when they are greedy or aggressive. If we are not aware, we will unconsciously act out of habit

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The Heart's Intention - Jack Kornfield 6/20/17, 6:51 PM

and fear. But if we attend to our intentions, we can notice if they spring from the body of fear or from our
deliberate thoughtfulness and care.

Every tradition offers prayers and meditations for setting the hearts best intention. Sometimes the intentions
are general. May the words of my mouth and the dedications of my heart serve you, oh Lord. May every
activity be a prayer. May my heart freely offer loving kindness and forgiveness. I vow to bring awakening
to every being I meet in thought, word, or deed. The Jewish tradition uses hundreds of prayers throughout

the day, to foster a seamless gratitude and love of the heart.

Intentions can also be focused on one day or one situation. May I remember my breath and center myself

each time I encounter conflict today. May I treat all those at work with kindness. May I take the time this
week to let my family know I love them.

In times of difficulty it is this repeated setting of our hearts compass that determines the result. Whether in a
family disagreement or community conflict, before we speak and act, we can become aware of our deepest
intention. Even the simplest words can have a vastly different effect depending on our intention. The phrase

What do you mean? can sound accusing and judgmental or considerate and humble. Our hearts are like
seismographs, picking up the tremors of intent.

Notice how this works in conversation. Do we speak from a subtle sense of control or self-righteousness, or do
we really wish to listen, to learn? If we set our minds toward freedom, our good intentions will help us to let

go of what blocks our openness. If we set our hearts toward compassion, we will reaffirm our love in spite of
whatever difficulties we face.

Instead of inflaming a bad situation, we can seek ways of touching the good in another. Without denying pain
and injustice, we can also look for the secret beauty of others. Our spiritual practice can be this simple: to see

with eyes of compassion and act with our wisest intention. This often has a surprising effect. Nelson Mandela

put it this way: Thinking too well of people often allows them to behave better than they otherwise would.

Do no doubt the transformation that can be born out of such conscious attention. When Ananda, attendant

and close friend of the Buddha, met a young outcaste woman at a village well, he politely asked her for water
to drink, but she was ashamed and refused him, lest her untouchability contaminate his holiness. Ananda

replied, I ask not for caste but for water. Her life was transformed by this simple kindness, and she joyously

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The Heart's Intention - Jack Kornfield 6/20/17, 6:51 PM

and lovingly followed Ananda to the monastery. There the Buddha blessed her and bid her to take up the

kindness Ananda had shown her and, by keeping that simple intention, to let the actions of your life shine
like the jewels of royalty.

It is in such small things that we fulfill the lessons of the heart. It is from our intentions that our life grows. It
is in opening to one another that our path is made whole.

This excerpt is taken from the book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

2017 - All Rights Reserved. Jack Kornfield

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