“Well, that wasn’t my intention.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“I never intended for this to happen.”
I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of intention and with the power that one’s purpose can have in the definition of right or wrong. While it’s something that is entirely intangible and impossible to prove, we place such high value on it.
In yoga, we set an intention when we come to our mat. We decide what we need, what we’re looking to accomplish, and mostly what we’re dedicating our practice too. This is one of my favorite parts about a yoga class. I love centering my thoughts on what is truly important to me in that moment. The selfishness of the act feels refreshing and soothing, like how it would feel to be able to give myself a massage. It’s the notion of accepting that I need a little TLC and I’m going to provide it for myself, without worrying about anyone else. There aren’t many moments allowed in life for that kind of all encompassing and non-harming selfishness, and we must appreciate them.
There’s a lot of shared space in a yoga class. It is an incredibly personal experience that is happening in a room filled with other people. This inherently has strong potential for deep connections, but it also has the potential to make someone feel vastly uncomfortable. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to make that shared space feel safe. But how? Intention. The teacher must trust that his or her intention is pure and good before approaching a student, before even entering the room. If he or she is not entirely mentally or spiritually present, the class suffers.
But, I’ve always wondered, what if someone is positive that their intention is noble and right, but things still go wrong? In yoga, and in life, we have the capacity to inflict change and pain in ways we never mean, but does that make a difference?
In arguments I have with friends and family, phrases such as “that wasn’t my intention,” or “I didn’t mean it that way,” pass through frequently. Of course it matters whether or not we say things with a malicious purpose or not, but how much does it really matter? At the end of it all, the most important thing is not whether or not we mean to hurt someone, but only that they were hurt.
The law has it’s own spin on this concept of course too. It’s the difference between murder and manslaughter, community service and jail time. And because we’ve all been in the position where something we said or did caused unwanted or unforeseen consequences, we pity the “criminal.” We understand the pain of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and causing something we didn’t mean to happen. Yet, someone has to take responsibility. Intention only relieves so much of the hurt. Intention can only fix so much.
It’s not that I don’t think intention matters. I do think it matters, a lot. But, I tend to side with the victim in most cases. The hurt boyfriend, the betrayed best friend, the ignored sibling – their casualties are real. Just because someone didn’t meant to hurt them, it doesn’t magically erase their pain. It might make everything feel a little better to know that your suffering was just a bad mistake, but it may not.
I just think in general, we, as human beings, need to start taking responsibility a little more freely. Even if we didn’t mean it, even if our intentions were good, when things go wrong, we have to step up.
photo source: http://itrustican.blogspot.com/2010/10/our-intention-creates-our-reality.html