Awakening Joy: getting down to the core

buddha in my garden...


“Getting clear on our highest intention establishes our most authentic connection to our heart and is a powerful part of awakening the joy within us.”


“The intention in our minds at the moment of any action determines whether we are
planting seeds of future happiness or future suffering.”

(both, James Baraz)

I’m wrapping up the first month of Awakening Joy and the two quotes above REALLY stood out to me from amongst all the reading.

I’ve given the general concept of intention a lot of thought in the past few months. I feel pretty good about my understanding of intention and how it works. But James Baraz’s suggestion that each of us have a core inner intention- something sort of “set in stone”, some bottom-line belief system about our lives shook me up a little bit. It DOES make sense to me, though. It’s like a foundation for everything that happens in our lives.

The problem is that if my “core intention” is NOT in alignment with the path I have to take to achieve joy, nothing in life can or will change. That is what scares the crap out of me. Because I don’t really know *what* my “core intention” is. The idea that there’s some sort of quiet auto-pilot secretly weighing in on al I do bothers me. It makes sense, but the fact that I really had no idea what it was made it an issue.

So, I just sat with it for most of the last few weeks. I usually gave it some thought while I was swimming, and could follow whatever trains of thought might pop up.

At first, when I started thinking about what my “primary intention” might be, one word came flying out- COMFORT. That always seems to be the driving force between the choices I make. What would be most comfortable, SAFEST thing I can do in any situation? How can I leave nothing up to chance?

When I tried to figure out why I was so attached to safety and a general idea of comfort, I kept having the phrase “protecting a delicate balance” pop up in my head over and over.

I think the “delicate balance” thing is definitely related to my health. My younger life was very *unbalanced*, health-wise, and it seems that once things evened out, I have become adamant about protecting that, no matter WHAT it takes. And it’s scary. Every single day is an unknown, at least where health is concerned. So I take no chances. I cover all my bases.

The thing is, I’m not sure I *want* to move away from this way of living. It feels like I fought way too hard and too long to get here, to learn how to do this.

It’s important to me. Sure, it shuts out a lot of spontaneity and surprise from life, but all of those combined can’t measure up to the toll a preventable health problem that spirals out of control can take on the body AND the soul.

For once in my life I feel like I’m a little more in synchronicity with my physical health. And I’m not willing to sacrifice that.

So there that is. But the whole “core intention” thing still felt unresolved. So I gave it more thought. It started evolving into an inner dialogue about EXPECTATION. Clearly, this is a big issue for me. I have written about it before. I feel, in a lot of ways, that I did not live up to some unspoken “expectations”. I’m a little resentful of that, in a way. Not resentful of any person or situation, because I don’t feel like anyone has spelled out anything for me. But I’m tired of feeling like everything is just not enough.

And as a result of that resistance to “expectation”, I think I often put myself in a position where I don’t allow any others to have any expectations of me. I don’t know if this is the same as people-pleasing. I know it’s related, but it’s almost a step removed. I don’t want to even go to that level anymore. It’s just exhausting.

If opportunities do come up, and they are in line with my energy level, then I accept them. But in general, I lay low. I don’t socialize. I don’t “put myself out there” anymore, at all. If I want something, I will work for it, make it a priority, but in general, I stay on the outskirts as a spectator. I don’t allow myself to be pulled in.

I keep myself at a distance- in fact, maybe I even pull away. This is so strange to admit because I am *so* sensitive and I desperately want to connect with people and form incredibly deep relationships. But I am terrified of letting people down, so the older I get, the less I allow myself to be in a position where someone gets close enough to place any sort of expectations on me, friendship or otherwise (volunteer, contributor, etc.).

Realizing this, this distance that I place between myself and others because of fear, is sort of devastating to me. Unlike the comfort issue, this *is* something I want to change. I’m hoping that being aware of it might be a good first step.

But that still wasn’t it, wasn’t the absolute “core intention”. Since the words “exhausting” and “energy” set off something deep inside me, I started following that whole train of thought….

Finally, a few days ago while I was swimming, I GOT IT. I got my core intention. The phrase “conserving [personal] resources” kept coming up.

Bottom line? I’m exhausted. I’m feeling DEPLETED, like I have very little left to give.

The truth is that I burned out a long time ago, probably back in late college, my early twenties. I think when I saw the bone infection/foot reconstruction stuff to its successful conclusion, I was just wiped out. When you have a big health thing go down, you either do what you are supposed to and see it through, or you succumb. There’s no middle ground. And to be honest, there’s very little courage involved. You either want to live or you don’t. That’s the choice.

But twenty-somethings who are just starting life are not supposed to be burned out. They are supposed to be full of energy and resolve and want to conquer the world. After the bone infection and the surgeries tapered out, I never allowed myself to just BE for a while.

For me, it was, like, “now I can start life! Real life! A life beyond health! Now, what’s next?” I think I always thought something Big and Fun and EXCITING was next, some reward I was working towards. And maybe I am STILL waiting for that.

It was never “wow, you just went through a lot, this IS and HAS been your life, take a breath, figure out who you are, regroup and re-evaluate for a bit and thoughtfully plan the next move.”

The reason I am so obsessed with comfort and safety, with not putting myself out there or allowing people to have expectations of me is because I feel like I have very little to give. I feel like I wake up every day with just a little bit of energy and focus, and to make it through the day, to be the person I am, to have a loving and engaged connection with my family and my pets- that requires all I’ve got. So I don’t offer anything else to anyone and I try to hide so they don’t ask me for anything.

I feel a little depleted. I know this sounds terrible, but it’s truly not. It was such a huge relief when I admitted it to myself. It’s like a huge awakening. I get it now, why I make the choices I do, why I live the way I do. And it’s so perfectly OKAY to feel this way.

But is this congruent with a joyful life? If I want to be happy, will it mean I have to step out of my box and radically change everything? Will it mean I will have to dig down deep and find energy and motivation that I’m not sure I have or want to have?

I don’t think so. I think the one thing this whole thought process, this whole digging deep to find the “core intention” has taught me is that I’m going to have to REBUILD.

I’m going to have to rebuild my cache of resources and energy and inspiration.

I need to start at the bottom and work my way up. I always assumed I was already at the top, full-up, and for the last few years I’ve been squandering my energy and attention and “gifts”. But now I feel like I got a second lease on things.

I think the key will be nurturing myself, nourishing myself, choosing things that bring energy and joy to me. Saying no to anything that depletes me or is not right for me. I’m not who I thought I was.

For me, this will be about beginning anew rather than trying to dust-off and repair things that I thought were broken. Those things weren’t broken, they just WEREN’T THERE at all.

Now I get to discover and move forward- I get to figure out what makes me happy and brings me joy and makes me feel alive and energized.

[If you have read all of this, thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was just HUGE for me and I wanted to share it in case anyone else felt similar. We’re all told that our lives are about building us up, but so much happens to us in our lives, things that take from our energy and our engagement with life. If we don’t stop and let those things rebuild- heal up- we’ll never be fully able to appreciate life.]

2 thoughts on “Awakening Joy: getting down to the core

  1. I would give you a hug right now 🙂 Very brave and amazing to follow your train of thoughts and how you figure things out for yourself. I don’t think many of us even try to face those difficult feelings and unsettling issues that linger around. We usually try to drown it out with other distractions. So I think it’s HUGE that you know what you are working towards or perhaps wanting to change.

    As you explained the core intention and how without alignment, we can’t change… I felt a bit of a tinge, because that totally scares me too! I don’t know if I can wrap my head all around it right now, but I suppose, unconsciously there is some undertone about what we truly believe we can do, what we can achieve, what we deserve. Things we can’t even pinpoint or admit to ourselves, but it’s there and it can be a barrier I suppose. I think perhaps that is why many people have to learn to truly acceptance the notion of abundance and possibility, because otherwise we are limiting ourselves and not even knowing it. Is this even making sense?!

    I wanted to say that I think your want of comfort is not a bad thing at all. Having a sense of balance, sort of like a equilibrium state kind-of-thing… means that from there, you can reach out and try things and take changes, knowing you always can go back to the safe state. What’s bad about that?! I don’t think you have to forfeit comfort and safety, I guess…

    I’m totally feeling the need for nourishment as well. I’m realizing more and more that we all want to give and share of ourselves… but something has to fill the well, too. How do we nourish and feed our souls? Sometimes I wish that I could unplug for a year and just disappear into lah-lah land to replenish… but other times I think it’s a crazy dream that is not even possible. However, I know that in daily life, growing older, I’m getting more picky about what I do and really evaluating how I spend my time, what I allow in my life. Because there’s no sense in getting wrapped up into things that truly don’t matter to you personally… here I am blabbing away! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, your posts are always very thought inspiring 🙂

  2. What a great and heartfelt post! Thank you for sharing so much of your personal thoughts, feelings and insights. I think once someone has gone through some scary health stuff, it always sits in the back of the mind like a little whisper of “be careful” when contemplating doing something out of the ordinary. I love that you had a big ‘aha’ moment. Your post has gotten me thinking about what my core inner intention is…hmmm.

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