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Growing Intention

By February 4, 2017Blog

Spilt Milk Yoga isn’t about the age of your chil­dren. It’s about YOU as a human in progress. I wrote Spilt Milk Yoga because I need­ed a way to give shape and a sense of progress to the mush of reac­tions, prac­tices and aspi­ra­tions going on in my head.

I have used this Inten­tion chap­ter numer­ous times regard­less of my children’s ages and for dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, and my answers are always dif­fer­ent. I wrote the guts of this chap­ter when my chil­dren were 3 and 6. Now they are 13 and 16 but I am still prac­tic­ing Inten­tion. I guess that’s why it’s called “hav­ing a Prac­tice”; it’s ongo­ing.

In this blog I’ll share the Spilt Milk Yoga chap­ter on Inten­tion and my self-inquiry answers today, as I prac­tice using Inten­tion to choose what I grow in my inner gar­den.

choosing what I grow in my inner garden

With inten­tion as your com­pass you will always be trav­el­ling in the right direc­tion.


I’m in the back gar­den. It’s a nice day. My 6-year-old is jump­ing on the tram­po­line. My 3-year-old, who is a lit­tle less pre­dictable in her ric­o­chet tra­jec­to­ries, gets on too. It is a delight­ful, play­ful, good thing to do. It’s also tinged with dan­ger, anx­i­ety and a high pos­si­bil­i­ty of things going wrong. I am enforc­ing turn-tak­ing. I am keep­ing them safe. I am on hand to catch, guide, observe, encour­age, res­cue, rep­re­sent in the nego­ti­a­tions, edu­cate in good cit­i­zen­ship and lov­ing rela­tion­ships. Play is com­plex work!

I am also think­ing that it’d be good to hang out the wash­ing, that I need to get ready for the next thing, that I need a show­er, to shop for din­ner, and that deep down I want a break. I’d like to be hang­ing with anoth­er adult, per­haps at a work­place, or in my stu­dio, doing my thing. I can’t let go of the feel­ing that I want to be some­where else. Yup, I’m frus­trat­ed, stuck, feel­ing my poten­tial going to waste.

Of course, being with my chil­dren is won­der­ful, most­ly in fact. Won­der­ment and joy are a big part of our days togeth­er. I don’t want them to ever think I resent­ed moth­er­ing them or felt bur­dened by them. It is my own thoughts and habits bur­den­ing me. I want to be with my chil­dren and clear of the bur­den. I know there is no sub­sti­tute for being here, putting my all into this impor­tant work of play. But in this moment, I don’t feel ful­filled, stilled, at peace. I feel life is pass­ing me by, hap­pen­ing some­where else. I feel torn, under­uti­lized. Is this the thing; that ful­fill­ment is in any moment regard­less of place and task? I imag­ined the pre­req­ui­sites for ful­fill­ment to be so much grander than this. It is good, this moment, but I am at sea about my pur­pose.



Inten­tion is behind every action. Inten­tion lifts you out of the ruts of old habits onto more a con­scious path. Con­scious inten­tion is a com­pass that ori­ents you to your true north. In new sit­u­a­tions inten­tion will guide you where you have no map. With­out inten­tion you are more like­ly to react to pres­sure in the moment, to make hap­haz­ard and incon­sis­tent deci­sions and feel doubt­ful that you are going in the right direc­tion.

The prac­tice here is inten­tion. Being inten­tion­al means you are more respon­si­ble for how your actions shape your life.  To form inten­tion it is nec­es­sary to tune in to what you are want­i­ng to devel­op, what you aspire to, and the goals you may have in any sit­u­a­tion. It is impor­tant to frame it in the pos­i­tive. Rather than some­thing you are try­ing NOT to do “To not com­pare myself to oth­ers”, make it some­thing to DOTo stay cen­tered in my own worth”. From here you have some­thing to hold onto in chal­leng­ing moments.

To appre­ci­ate the joy and worth of this moment of play.

To stay steady in the face of my child’s anger.

To be present when my child comes to me for a cud­dle.

To val­ue the good things I pro­vide for my child.

The vaguer your inten­tion, the vaguer the result. Your inten­tion will change and devel­op but it is impor­tant to prac­tice artic­u­lat­ing your inten­tions nonethe­less.



Write down a recent moth­er­ing sit­u­a­tion you found chal­leng­ing. What was chal­leng­ing about it for you?

My daugh­ter is dis­tressed start­ing a new school and it is tak­ing her a lot of inner strength to get through the days. At home she’s telling me how awful it is for her. I want to fix it for her, take away the anx­i­ety and fear she expe­ri­ences. But when I hear her dis­tress I start to cat­a­strophise too, “per­haps this was the wrong deci­sion”, “what if she’s not ok?” “what if… what if…”. I want her to learn how to steady her­self, not to run away from the chal­lenge she’s fac­ing, I can see it’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op her resilience. But I get dis­tressed at her dis­tress. This won’t be the only time life will be chal­leng­ing, I want to assist her know­ing that there is a valu­able oppor­tu­ni­ty here to devel­op some life long skills and philoso­phies, that she isn’t pow­er­less. I want to be able to be along­side her, not to give deaf advice or push her to get over it, or deny her expe­ri­ence.

What are you want­i­ng to devel­op in moments like this?

I want to devel­op my own steadi­ness in these moments, my own resilience, trust, accep­tance and pow­er to act. I want to be tru­ly along­side at this time, steady, accept­ing, present. 

Turn this into a State­ment of Inten­tion. (Remem­ber to frame it in the pos­i­tive.) My inten­tion is to: use steady­ing prac­tices when she comes to me in dis­tress, to breathe con­scious­ly in order strength­en my own sense of accep­tance, pur­pose and faith in our abil­i­ty to learn and grow. To be present for her, to lis­ten for cues for when to coach her toward action.

Put the above two answers into a state­ment;

In my life as moth­er I am prac­tic­ing: steadi­ness. 

So that: my chil­dren can come to know  and accept their own fear along­side their pow­er to act in the face of anx­i­ety. That they feel my love and steady pres­ence along­side them as they learn to be along­side them­selves.

What is one way you could you prac­tice this inten­tion in your moth­er­ing day today?

When we check-in after school I’ll slow down, breathe, sim­ply lis­ten to her expe­ri­ence, and trust that she can meet this chal­lenge. I’ll reflect back to her any action I hear that she is tak­ing to cre­ate healthy choic­es for her­self in the face of her anx­i­ety.

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