Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ritual Resources: Binding Intentions

How mindful are you, when you begin something, of why you're doing it--what your aspirations are, what you're focused on, whom you're holding in your heart?

It's easier to do that in relation to something big, like following a pilgrimage route. Or something dramatically set apart from the practice of ordinary life, like reading a spread of Tarot cards, or walking a labyrinth, or meditating or praying with a set of beads. It's less intuitive with something like meal preparation, or simply beginning a new day, or making love.
Giving deliberate voice to an intention reminds you that what you're doing has weight, that it's worth noticing, worth pursuing mindfully. What would it be like to speak an intention before you stepped into a shower? Before you went out for your morning run? Before you shucked your pants down to enjoy a few minutes of self-pleasure after work? Before you opened the door of your apartment when your online hookup knocks? Before you started slicing the vegetables for the meal you're preparing for a table full of friends?
An intention doesn't have to be elaborate, or intensely goal-oriented. You might intend to appreciate the cleansing power of water as it courses over your skin. You might intend to connect with your breath and calm your mind on your run, and to notice the colors along your path. You might intend to slow down and pay attention to the sensations of your whole body, and not just your cock, as you masturbate. You might intend to treat your trick as a brother you're privileged to meet and spend an hour or two with, even if you expect not to see each other again. You might intend to notice the texture of the vegetables as you cut them and to think with gratitude about the labor that went into their growth and harvest. You might as you begin your day intend to be open to new experiences, or to take risks that you'd normally avoid.
Your intention is more real if you speak it aloud, or write it down. More real if you speak it to someone else as witness. More real if there's a durable and visible reminder. (This is, on a grand scale, after all--duh--the point of marital vows and wedding rings.)
So here's a simple building-block of ritual that you could incorporate into any number of daily practices. It's borrowed from the Hindu tradition of tying a red thread, called a mauli or kalava, around your wrist at the beginning of a puja, as a way of absorbing the power of the observance. Keep some colored thread on hand. When something feels like it has enough weight (or you want it to have enough weight) to warrant your ongoing focus, speak your intention aloud to yourself, and then tie a length of thread around your wrist or ankle to keep it real when the words have died away. Better yet, speak your intention to someone else. Ask him to do you the service of binding your intention to you by repeating your words as he ties the thread. ("David, I bind to you today your intention to…)
If you develop group rituals from the grass roots up among a circle of brothers, this is also an element you can include in larger ritual structures--like the lingam puja I described in an earlier Ritual Resources post. The practice of listening carefully to one another's intentions, and of mirroring them back to the speaker as best you can, is itself a cultivation of mindfulness and respect; forgiving your witness for not getting it perfectly and helping him recover your words as he repeats them is itself a cultivation of lovingkindness and release of ego.
You only have so many wrists and ankles, so this isn't something I recommend you do twice a day. If you ask your trick to do it with you, he's likely to head straight for the door. But a longer-term boyfriend or life partner might be more tolerant, and more on board with sharing the practice; as might a table of friends at a major holiday. And you'll have the experience of the everyday becoming something a little closer to the remarkable.

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