When Intention Becomes Action

by Jill Satterfiled

The processes in our mind are often so subtle that we’re unaware of them. Originating, proceeding, being translated into words coming out of our mouths, or moving our body in some way, or even just moving our hearts: causes and conditions are happening all the time that we can tune into and connect with.

When we meditate or practice mindfulness, we watch the processes of our own minds. In the beginning it can seem like a lot of loud chatter, rapid and sometimes random memories, feelings, fantasies etc., just happening to us.

Over time though, as we begin to recognize how the mind works, we can witness and either participate or not—with a particular thought, the proceedings of a thought or feeling. Whether we like or dislike the thought or feeling, we can have a choice about how it goes on to live from this initial recognition. We have the choice of whether to let go, hold on to it, repeat it (seemingly endlessly), give space to it, and/or cut it at the root so it’s not coming up as often or much at all.

What I’ve found particularly interesting as I continue to sit on my internal perch of inner awareness, is how a seed of an idea can be formed from an intention—say to help others—can then turn into a bit of a fantasy. How could this manifest? I can roll it around in my mind, dream about it for a while, then begin to make it a reality in the ‘outer’ world in which we all share.

It’s an artistic process, really, and we can all be artists in this way. Ideas start in the mind and might manifest in someone’s garage (there are famous examples of this) for instance, and then have the opportunity to change many people’s lives.

So the intention behind the idea can be very important. Not only does intention set seeds that turn onto action, both in the mind and in outer reality, they also inform the process and can be the fertilizer for realization. Intentions are the volition for action. Intentions fueled by compassion definitely lead to action, because if you care you need to act—action takes care and care works towards relieving the pain and stress of others. It’s not passive.

It’s caring and compassion, and sometimes more time just being on the planet, along with personal and collective experiences, that propels our intentions and subsequent actions. We can move about in our world, taking care of whatever we are personally called towards, when we see the need. We can help each other and take care of each other.


Jill Satterfield is an Affiliated Instructor with AMT and a pioneer in the field of mind body awareness and has been teaching, consulting for organizations, and instigating mindful, creative educational programs for over 20 years.

An earlier version of this article appeared on Jill’s blog.

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