Setting an Intention

I have had the wonderful opportunity of cracking open the front cover of quite a few books this summer and as I have, I found myself lingering on those pages before it all begins. You know the ones: the title page and copyright information on the flip side; the acknowledgements; introduction; and then the dedication. Lingering on this prelude, the wrapping before the good stuff, is really quite unlike me. I am the one that my Mom had to hide the wrapped Christmas presents from, only bringing them out on Christmas morn, not trusting (with good reason) that my slippery fingers wouldn’t work that scotch tape loose and explore the content on the wrapping long before it was permitted.

So I have taken notice of my lingering, especially of my lingering over the dedication page. Is there anywhere else before we offer our work to the world that we take time publicly to dedicate what we offer? And this is different from the acknowledgement, right? Authors acknowledge those who have shaped us and whose gifts have somehow contributed to or given space to the work that lies beyond those introductory pages. But the dedication is different. There is a hush when you turn that page. The industriousness of producing is suspended and in the realm of spirit, of intent, a wish is sent out into the stratosphere. “For Mom.” “For Uncle Benny.” “For those who have yet to come.” Nothing more is needed. It is enough to pause in doing and to direct the heart energy to one beyond what is produced.

On my retreat this summer, I was immersed in the Hindu practice of yoga and the philosophy of mindfulness that undergirds yoga. I found at the retreat that at the start of every practice of yoga or session on mindfulness, we took a moment of stillness. We came into a posture of comfort, quieting mind and body and then we set an intention, dedicating that which would come to a person, to a wish, or to a heart’s longing. And then at the end of the practice as we took a moment to integrate all that transpired, we returned to the dedication, the intention and gave thanks for the opportunity to have practiced that which we desired, that which we intended.

As we get ready to begin the new year together as church at UCW, I wonder at this mindfulness practice. When we pray before a committee meeting; when we pause at the start of worship for the opening prayer; as we gather for book group or lunch bunch or prayer group, what if we paused in our hearts to set an intention? To write our dedication page so to speak, to the work we are about to offer?

And in our lives outside of church – what would it mean to offer a brief prayer of dedication before we pressed the on button of our coffee makers or computers — writing on that blank page of our hearts: “I dedicate all my doing today to you, may all my doing be in alignment with your Love.”

What would it mean, as that first breath of the waking morning fills your lungs, to stop for a moment and offer the page of this day to the mystery of life, of love, of being?

I am increasingly alarmed by how much of my life I do not remember. Mark and I have been married long enough now to aid each other in the re–creation of our shared past, though I have to say that gives me just a small measure of comfort. He will correct me and I him in some remembering but I have to say, I would rather not need his aid. I would rather have been completely present and fully remembering my life as it was and is unfolding.

I was reading a book by the psychologist James Hillman recently in which he differentiated between events and experiences. He says life can be a sequence of events when what happens, simply happens to us. Or life can be a sequence of experiences when we engage and participate in what happens emotionally and spiritually.

I’d like to dedicate this coming year together to experiencing, not just to events. I’d like to take a moment of breath before all I do and dedicate all I do and say to that nimble, life-giving spirit of God that I find blessing and enlivening me in the most surprising ways. I’d like to take a moment of breath before all I do and say, to dedicate all I do and say to Jesus, my friend and companion, who is there to wipe a weary brow and offer a shoulder when I am spent and fear I can no longer put one foot before another. And I’d like to take a moment of breath before all I do and say, to dedicate all I do and say, to the mystery that graces me with insight into that vast and powerful creative energy that pulsates in and through all that is.

Before all I do this year, let me take time to pen a dedication page, to you, to our community of travelers, to pilgrims on the way, to lovers of life, to givers of grace, to hearts of compassion, to seekers in the midst of doubt and to those with the courage to plunge headlong into mystery. Let me dedicate this year to you, dear UCW, dear ones.

Peace to us all, Stacy