I have been pondering a lot lately about the word intention. It is a word that has been an integral part of my life for a long time. I even incorporated it in my business tag line, Set Your Intention in Stone. I am a firm believer in setting intentions even though I freely admit that I struggle more often than not to hold an intention for long periods of time without getting distracted.
So, what is intention anyway? Merriam-Webster provides these definitions:
The first two definitions are familiar to me and how I have understood the word to be used. I was not aware, however, of this third definition and it intrigued me. Regarding the medical use of the word intention, there is Primary Intention – the process of suturing a wound that was created by a sharp object resulting in a clean cut. And Secondary Intention – in the case of a wound that resulted in badly torn skin or lacerations such that the gash cannot be sutured together immediately and the wound must be allowed to heal from the inside out. What correlations can we draw here?
Upon digging further, I found this definition in the Oxford English Dictionary: The direction or application of the mind to an object; a conception formed by directing the mind to some object; a general concept. The word intention was used in a text by Avicenna, a brilliant Persian physician, scientist, and philosopher of the medieval Islamic world. One translation of his use of the word intention is “something that the intelligence has understood." And also, "to hold thoughts in place as opposed to becoming scatterbrained.”
The word intention is used a lot these days – perhaps even exploited - and is often scoffed at as New Age mumbo jumbo. But, the lines of hard science and the esoteric beliefs about our own abilities to impact energy fields are blurring. And scientific research on how the mind affects our realty continues to evolve at an ever-increasing rate.
Perhaps the most well-known phenomena regarding this idea of actualizing what you believe is what has been termed “the placebo effect.” Again, the definition is as follows: a beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment.
From sugar pills having the same effect as Prozac, to non-alcoholic beer causing drunkenness, and fake surgeries improving health – our beliefs seem to defy logic. In fact, drug companies must show that their drugs perform better than the placebo effect in order to be approved for use. Hmm, perhaps we should study the placebo effect with more intention (pun intended).
Then there are mind-over-matter feats that have been exhibited by individuals that seem miraculous. For example, a group of Buddhist monks have demonstrated that they can control physiological processes, such as blood pressure and body temperature. In one documented experiment, the monks were draped in extremely cold, wet sheets and placed in a room where the temperature was set to 40 degrees F. While meditating, the monks were not only able to increase their body temperature but also caused the sheets to dry completely - astounding medical doctors. Reference: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2002/04/meditation-dramatically-changes-body-temperatures.
And, of course, there is the Observer Effect, a result that physicists coined to describe the findings of the famous Double Slit experiment in quantum mechanics. This experiment seems to show that light/energy fluctuates between waves and particles depending on the presence of an observer. This conclusion is still being debated among physicists. Perhaps one day we’ll understand the true meaning and mystery of this phenomena.
Clear as mud, right? Thus I refer back to the dictionary to consider the compound verb, intend.
Putting those together we have the verb intend: “focusing within towards a certain outcome.” And then the noun, intention is “the act of focusing within towards a certain outcome.”
This is how I choose to use the word intention - the act of focusing within towards a certain outcome. And by the way, Optical Calcite is a stone you might work with to magnify your intention. In the Taoist belief, this stone is an enhancing stone, particularly when working to improve health, wealth, and prosperity. I fully intend to find a specimen of Optical Calcite and see for myself.
artwork credit: Thomas Sheridan Arts