When I was thinking up this post, I remembered a saying, which I thought was, ‘the road to heaven is full of good intentions.’ I Googled it, just to be sure. It turns out that I was nearly correct. The saying is actually, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’
When I discovered my critical error, I was shocked. What’s wrong with good intentions?! Thankfully, after some clicking around, I found some consolation, perhaps better explained with this quote: “Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works.”
It’s all about intention in action.
I often get caught in limbo between intention and action. Don’t we all sometimes? Take New Years resolutions. I didn’t officially make any, but if I did, I know that I’d be struggling to keep them in action at this point, two weeks into 2018. (I am a total sucker for chocolate/pizza/beer/wine/staying in pjs all day/not leaving the house for days at a time in the winter/avoiding the gym at all costs/and many other things that usually get ‘resoluted’ at the onset of a year.)
However, there are some areas of my life where it’s a little easier to put intention into action. Like stitching, for instance. Makers, you know that when you set about creating something, inherently there is intention. Thought goes into the materials, the process, the design, the intended use, the recipient. I often find an entire stitch project is the result of weaving physical material with good intentions.
This December I came up with the idea to knit hats for all of my Florida family members who would be coming North for the winter holiday.
I gathered all the materials (selecting pretty bulky yarn), researched patterns, and set to work putting my intention into action. I had never actually knit a hat before, so I started with one for me. Next up was Dylan, because his birthday was mid-December and we had bought yarn in Norway that he really liked.
This one was a little tricky, as the pattern he liked was in Norwegian. I used Google translate and a couple of other online resources specifically about Norwegian knitting to decode not only the instructions, but the chart. It mostly worked, but I got completely befuddled at one point. The directions, in English, made no sense to me. I figured I had two options, either just make up a stitch to take the place of what didn’t make sense, or get on Instagram and message someone who I know was from the States, but had lived in Norway and was a knitter.
I chose option two. (What did I have to lose?)
Despite never having made official contact with this woman before, and for that reason, not expecting a response, I gave a quick introduction and copied the directions into the message, asking for any light she could shed on the topic. Within an hour, she had responded with not one, but two different methods of achieving the stitch. I was blown away by her kindness. I thanked her profusely (‘tusen takk!’ a thousand thank yous) and got back to action.
I had six hats left to make (plus a headband for good measure, in case a certain someone didn’t want to mess her coif) when winter storm Benji arrived with ten inches of snow. I was snowed in for four days before I attempted to dig myself out. I took it to mean that the universe was conspiring in my favor to help me accomplish my hat goals.
Badda bing badda bang badda boom! Hats were knit, Christmas was days away, and I was ready! (A minor hiccup occurred when I got the flu and we had to cancel our two-day trip to Florida, but everyone still came up as planned and by that time I wasn’t contagious.) That first night altogether, I walked around the table placing a hat on everyone’s head under the ruse that I was an elf-in-training. To my delight, everyone liked them. They even got use out of them, as this winter we’ve had some pretty cold weather!
Putting intention into action with making can yield some pretty good vibes. Another good-vibe-generating, intention-into-action practice is yoga.
There are a myriad of personal reasons for practicing yoga. I like to get in a good stretch at least a few days a week because I like the aftereffects: the feeling that I’m strong and flexible, the feeling that my brain is a little clearer and calmer, the feeling that I’m connected to a community. I certainly don’t jump out of bed with complete gusto at 4:45am on yoga days, but I do manage to get myself up knowing that those feelings (and more) are just 60 minutes away.
Those personal intentions are always there. They’re what initially drew me to the practice in the first place, and they keep me going back. But there are other intentions that I can put into action during a yoga practice too. Intentions for others.
Yoga, to me, is a time to connect. Not only with myself and with the others in the room, but also with the intentions I hold in my heart. On any given day, I use a yoga practice as a dedication to someone or something in my life that needs some extra good vibes. In this way, the practice is almost like an active meditation, or prayer.
In the quiet times at the start or end of practice as well as during the challenging times when my initial reaction is to get consumed with the physical nature of what I’m doing, I like to check in with the intentions in my heart, and suddenly the practice has more meaning. On the days that I remember to keep checking in with my intentions, I have more energy and a clearer perspective.
When I was little I loved the saying that, ‘he who sings, prays twice.’ (I liked to sing.) I have the feeling that the same applies here - that practicing yoga with intention is doing double duty.
Message from Above
A little message from heaven got my attention shortly after Christmas. My parents flew back to Florida in the middle of a cold snap that was gripping the East Coast. My dad sent me a picture of my mom dressed for winter, in Florida. I noticed the hat she was wearing - it was the one I had given her for Christmas, light teal, cabled, with a white and teal pom pom. And yet, the cables looked smaller. I asked my dad if my mom had turned the hat inside out, which didn’t make sense because then she’d have to put the pom pom on the other side. My dad replied that my mom left the hat I made her for Christmas in North Carolina. When they got to Florida and it was freezing, they dug through storage to find any articles of winter clothing that haven’t seen the light of day in decades.
That’s how they found that hat, knit by my Nanny many moons ago. It was so similar, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew Nanny’s message immediately - that the road to heaven is paved with good intentions put into action.