In high school, my best friend and I used to have conversations about her dream to become a singer all the time. She was shy about singing, but she had a fabulous voice, and in all my 16-year-old idealism I wanted to believe that she could make it in the entertainment industry if she worked really hard. But part of me was also skeptical and agreed with her that all aspiring artists end up as starving artists at one point or another because they just aren’t good enough to make it. Now I know I was both partially right and partially wrong, and here’s why:
My friend could have made it big in the music industry, but not because of hard work or talent. She could have made it big simply because it’s what she intended. And in fact, anyone who focuses their attention on a specific outcome will achieve that outcome.
Yeah, I know, how could I possibly make such a bold claim???
The secret lies in Deepak Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, in the chapter titled “The Law of Intention and Desire.” You can check out the audiobook on YouTube here, and start from 42:00, the beginning of the chapter. It ends at about 54:00. However, I’ll also outline the concepts for you here, so this is one of the few posts where you don’t have to click on the links before you read on!
In essence, the Law of Intention and Desire is as follows: if you have a single-pointed focus on a specific outcome that you desire, and you focus your unwavering attention on that outcome through any setbacks or obstacles, then your desire will eventually manifest. That’s it! It’s that simple. But then there’s the “Why?” component that any good reader would ask. Here’s how it works:
The first step is to understand a few fundamental principles of eastern spirituality (aside: when I say eastern, I’m referring mostly to spiritual knowledge that originated in India long, long ago–not to be confused with “Hinduism”). One of the most basic spiritual ideas is that the soul of every human being originated from “the source”, or the “supreme being”, which is some abstract, formless, timeless, luminescence that exists somewhere beyond the confines of the universe. Most organized religions refer to this as “God” (but call it whatever you will), and many, many people have accessed its “presence” through meditation. I’ll talk more about this being in another post, but for now, this is all you need to know.
That being said (haha), you can think of the energy within all of us–the energy that animates our bodies and allows us to be conscious of the world and aware of ourselves—as an extension of that same original source. As Deepak says, “the universe is your extended body”, and that we are aware of our reality is a privilege unique to the human species. As humans, we can therefore use this energy within our own bodies to manipulate the energy and informational content of our extended body—the environment, the world—to cause things to manifest in it, as long as we consciously focus on the intended outcome.
Now is where things start to get a little more philosophically dense, so I’ll hand it over to Deepak to explain:
This conscious change is brought about by the two qualities inherent in consciousness: attention and intention. Attention energizes, and intention transforms. Whatever you put your attention on will grow stronger in your life. Whatever you take your attention away from will wither, disintegrate, and disappear. Intention, on the other hand, triggers transformation of energy and information. Intention is the real power behind desire. It is actually desire without attachment to the outcome.
I can’t honestly say that I really understand the difference between attention and intention, only that I agree that 1) whatever you put your attention on in life will grow stronger, and 2) desire without attachment to the outcome is key to realizing your goals. That is one of the most important caveats about the law of intention: you must intend a particular outcome without attachment to the result in the process, because attachment is what allows you to become discouraged in the face of obstacles and challenges. Discouragement can take the form of changing your single-pointed focus (i.e. Instead of becoming a professional concert pianist, I’ll just teach music because I can’t get a gig anywhere) or giving up on your original goal altogether.
Another basic tenet of spirituality that’s heavily related to detachment is what Deepak calls “present-moment awareness.” Essentially, he means detachment from the past and future, and grounding in the present:
Both past and future are born in imagination. Only the present, which is awareness, is real and eternal. It IS. It is the potentiality of space-time, matter, and energy. It is an eternal field of possibilities, experiencing itself as abstract forces…These forces are neither in the past, nor in the future. They just are.
What I take away from this [very philosophically dense] quote is that the present holds infinite possibilities and infinite potential, because it hasn’t yet become known, like the past, but it’s within our control now, unlike the future. Present-moment awareness is incredibly powerful for this reason. Deepak describes its power better than I ever could here:
One-pointed intention is that quality of attention that is unbending in its fixity of purpose. One-pointed intention means to hold your attention to the outcome that’s intended with such unbending purpose that you absolutely refuse to put your attention on obstacles. There is a total and complete exclusion of all obstacles, and if you have life-centered present moment awareness, then the imaginary obstacles, which are more than 90% of perceived obstacles, disintegrate and disappear. The remaining 5-10% of perceived obstacles can be transmuted into opportunities through intention.
The only other caveat of the law of intention is where the “why” explanation gets a little messier, because it’s that you must use your intentions for the benefit of mankind, which will spontaneously happen if you’re aligned with the other 6 spiritual laws of success (so this post may serve you better if you just read the rest of the book). What alignment with the other 6 spiritual laws of success looks like, I have no idea, but it’s sort of a beautiful thought—that your desires will manifest as long as you are benefiting both yourself and those around you.
I’ve seen examples of the power of intention in my own life, which are far more easy to understand than all this spiritual jargon, so I’ll help you out. My current boss is an incredibly accomplished woman: she started a charity-based non-profit for women and children of the Tenderloin, one of the poorest and most underserved districts in San Francisco, in the early 1980s. She soon realized that, despite the more than 4,000 children living within the 8 block radius that is the Tenderloin, it was the only neighborhood in San Francisco without a public school. Her intention was to found a public elementary school for the children of the Tenderloin so they wouldn’t have to be bussed to schools all over the city, way back in the early 90s. Eight years later, despite the cynicism of powerful members of the SF Unified School District who scoffed at her dream, she successfully opened the Tenderloin Community School in 1998. She never shifted her focus, lowered her standards, or let obstacles deter her, and I think we would all agree that her actions were intended to benefit mankind. I’ll also add here that, before she came to San Francisco, Midge attended and graduated from divinity school in Chicago, so I’m inclined to believe that her spiritual knowledge is more than a mere coincidence in her success.
I’ll leave you with one last, personal experience that strengthens my belief in the power of intention. Last year, as a senior in college, I had a lot of conversations with my therapist about how to navigate dreams and a career and the real world after leaving the comfortable, college bubble. I described to her my fears of failure if I strayed away from the beaten path of stereotypical Asian American careers, and I remember feeling like the road to realizing my dreams was complicated and fraught with difficulties. She responded with one single sentence that has stuck with me since: the only thing you need to do to achieve your goals, is go after them. Pure and simple. Just go after it, and don’t leave room for fear.
One year later, I’ve realized my dreams of living and teaching in San Francisco and traveling back to Sevilla. I can no longer make limiting excuses for myself, having experienced the power of intention.