Time for a one sit dharma talk.
Intention is at the core of Buddhist practice and intention is where we have power. According to the lore, a person is the product of their actions and karma, which means, your personal experience right now in samsara is a product of causes and conditions, and you ultimately decide how you experience life. You don’t get to stop an asteroid from hitting the earth and wiping us all out. But you do get to decide how you experience that event. And, since you and I are part of and indivisible from the universe, the way we experience life (that is, our subjective experience of life) affects and is inseparable from the events that happen to us, by us, and associated with us. You and me us. Get it?
Dharma teachers and practitioners have gotten carried away with the sentiment of “life sucks learn how to deal with it” and “you don’t get to decide what kind of experiences you have”. These are common notions in the world of practitioners, and I don’t find those sentiments helpful. Buddhist practice at its core assumes we have the power for our own salvation. Buddha’s last words were “Work out your own salvation with diligence” He chose those words carefully. In a sense those last words are the essence of Buddhist practice.
Working with intention skillfully is not something that I hear many dharma teachers talk about – at least not with those words. There is a notion of “unskillful effort” that can be harmful in a certain sense, but overall, my practice experience has shown me that there is more danger in underestimating our own innate capabilities. One can learn a lot from tense, unskillful, dukkha-ridden effort. Without experiencing the strain in over-effort, a person doesn’t know how to ease off, they don’t have the higher level sense of things. Over-effort can be useful to show a practitioner “wow, I don’t control the mind” – well, yes, but even more so when you don’t know how it works!
How it works? Hmmm….