Right intent is one of the elements of the Buddhist eightfold path, including “the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively.” Who wouldn’t want to aspire to harmlessness?
When I worked on an assignment clarifying my intent in the very first IHTP lesson, I understood that it was an important exercise in goal setting and motivation – helpful for working through the year long (or longer) program. The IHTP also needs to know what we are thinking; they need to protect the quality of their stamp of approval for the sake of their graduates, the facilities they work in, and for their own viability.
I am playing bedside in a local hospice to fulfill some of my internship hours. The very first person I played for was near death and unresponsive. As I played, my mentor suggested that I add a high F to my improvisation. With that addition, the patient gave a little sigh and settled himself int bed a little bit. Another F. Another little sigh, another little settle. Another F?
There is fine line between exploring to find what will help the someone relax, and experimenting- manipulating someone to see exactly what the limit of the music is. The difference? You guessed it – intent.
The effect of that high F was so astonishingly, dramatically, evident, that now I see just how easy it was to wonder, “what if I…,” instead of “what is helping” – to manipulate, instead of meet and follow what is already present. It is such a simple thing for delusion to take over and color our approach to this work.
This firsthand message shows me another facet to the importance of right intent. Our intent is our mission statement and our target, and we need to keep our eye and our focus on it. We have not only to identify our purpose for others, but to articulate it to ourselves, actively and regularly, so that we continually remind ourselves why we’re here.
How do you find that fine line in your own life? Do you have a daily practice, or is it easy for you to see where you need to go? Or something else?