Intent–as the term is used to describe how to carry out the Andean meditations–is a fascinating thing. Intent is like an apocheta (a Quechua term), a doorway into another type of energy, into another way of experiencing the world. On the surface intent is easy to understand, but as we go deeper into what intent really is it becomes more and more mysterious.
Sincere Pretending. Intent is the active ingredient of the meditative-like processes that constitute the Andean Cosmovision. The meditations include some pretty strange (from a Western perspective) instructions, such as “connect your energy to the energy of the river” (part of a river-side meditation that we will cover in a later blog). The way you actually accomplish this is with intent. Intent can be thought of simply as ‘sincere pretending’. Sincerely pretend you are carrying out the various steps of the meditations and experience what happens. This level of understanding intent is all you need to explore the vast experiential realm that is available through the Andean Cosmovision.
There are, however, deeper levels to intent, and if you are interested in peering more deeply inside then keep reading. Let’s begin by considering both parts of ‘sincere pretending’. First note that it involves pretending, this takes us outside of the realm of having to distinguish between what is true and what is false, to a place where we don’t have to be either skeptical or gullible for there is nothing to believe (see Why a Swan). Second, the pretending is to be sincere. Sincerity itself is an interesting thing, why is it that a computer cannot be sincere (sincerity just doesn’t seem to apply) while a human being can? The answer is that sincerity involves something more than thought, sincere pretending is more than just an intellectual exercise. Sincerity has to do with the heart, and through the heart something deeper.
Intent vs. Intention. The Andean mystic don Americo Yabar draws a distinction between two ways of acting in the world. This distinction is sometimes translated into English as the difference between intent and intention (the difference don Americo is expressing is not reflected in how the terms are normally used in English).
Intent is powerful, intention is not. If I have the intention of going to the store it is really just a thought, maybe I will go to the store, maybe I won’t, it rather depends on several factors including whether I really want to go or not when the time rolls around. With intention there is less than a 100% commitment to the act.
Intent, on the other hand, is a different animal. A friend of mine grew up in Cusco, Peru. One day, when he was a child, he decided to skip school and wander around the city instead. He was walking down a street when he saw his father. Now his father was a very powerful, and at times, a very fierce man. My friend ducked down a side street and began to walk more quickly. He was afraid to turn around to see if his father was following him but he could feel his father catching up with him. He turned into another street and found himself in a dead end with high walls all around. Just before he heard his father shout his name he scampered up over the walls and down into another street. It was an impressive feat that he accomplished with ‘intent’. The next day he went back to the same spot with the intention of climbing that wall again, but he simply could not do it, it was far too difficult a climb.
This story reminds me of other stories, of mothers who lift cars off of their children, or of some less impressive (but to me still amazing) events in my life when my body reacted with grace to some situation while my mind stood by and watched as my actions unfolded. So what creates, or allows, intent? I believe it is a lack of interference by the mind, by the intellect. Intent is available when the mind is not having doubts about whether the act is possible, when the mind is not considering how the act (or the actor) may be judged by others, when the mind is not thinking about the future or the past or of anything that is not present in the moment.
Carlos Castaneda writes of times when we act with ‘controlled abandon’, a very nice term and one that I believe is the same thing Americo is talking about when he speaks of intent. The questions that ‘controlled abandon’ bring to my mind are ‘exactly what is being abandoned?’ and ‘exactly what then is in control?’ What is abandoned, I believe, is our own intellect, our thinking, and its normal control over our acts. One of the most powerful aspects of the intellect is our ego. Our ego consists of all of the thoughts we have about who we are, our story, our identity, our self-concept, our beliefs about ourself. The ego stands in contrast to who we actually are, which is beyond any thoughts we have about ourselves. So if the intellect and its ego are abandoned in acts of intent, who then is in control of our ‘controlled abandon’? Some aspect of our being that is beyond thought…
The Cosmos. This brings us to something that Americo told me, rather in passing, he said that our intent is that aspect of ourself that is the infinite Cosmos.