Friday, September 24, 2010


Fortunately for me, I do not read Details, the men’s magazine. No offense, but within sixty seconds of opening a recent copy I experienced a sinking feeling in my stomach--which I realized, by the way, was much too large.
How could I possibly get my hands on one of those $965 shirts, and the killer abs to go with it?
I’m not saying Details did it on purpose, but in a recent blog, the marketer, Seth Godin, told us dissatisfaction sells.
And he should know.
Normally, I’m not this crazy, but Details with its good-looking, successful, creative, powerful guys, made me feel dissatisfied with myself, my life, my looks, my house, my ass, and my watch—even though the damn thing is an Omega that will live longer than I will.
I exaggerate, but not by much. For a very long 15 seconds it was true, until I caught myself and became mindful of what was happening. Then I was able to breathe normally. I haven’t always been so lucky. Comparison, image, and ambition have conspired at times to make me truly miserable for days. Or made me do very foolish things.
We all have our Details. Maybe for you it’s the neighbor’s three-year-old kid who’s learning to speak Mandarin, his third language, or the guy who wrote the great novel, or the woman with the real estate portfolio and the great figure.
Or maybe it’s Gandhi who makes you feel like a loser.
Whoever and whatever it is, when it comes you have to pay attention. Your dissatisfaction will make you want something. Ask yourself the tough questions. What did Gandhi or Details stir up in you? Is your dissatisfaction making you want something that is in alignment with your deepest intentions? Go to the root.
My friend Howard Schiffer started Vitamin Angels because he was dissatisfied with kids going blind from not having enough Vitamin A. Howard has been so dissatisfied and so effective at getting other people to be dissatisfied that his organization helps over 20 million kids a year.
His next goal looks like 30 million kids.
Clearly, dissatisfaction is not always bad. It can drive you to do great things, but you have to dig for what it is you really want.
Otherwise, you may just end up with a ridiculously expensive shirt.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Something still isn’t working in your life. You ask yourself, why?
Many teachers would say how your life looks is a manifestation of your strongest intentions. Now, we have to be careful. Do we want to say that a person’s cancer is a manifestation of his deepest intentions? Or that she lost her job because that’s what she wanted?
I think not.
We do not want to ‘blame’ ourselves for the difficulties in our lives, though we may be committed to learning as much as we can about how best to live.
One might frame an illness or the loss of a job or whatever other hardships come our way as opportunities for us to learn. We do all we can to see how me might be responsible, for in doing so we claim whatever dominion we might have over the problems in our lives. In this way we do not forfeit any of our power. And yet, there is only so much we can do.
Suffering, loss, and disappointment are unavoidable. We seem to want one thing, but the universe seems to want something else. What are we to make of these in light of our deepest intentions for ourselves? If I allow that my life has meaning and that maybe all of existence has meaning, though that meaning is unfathomable to me in its entirety, then I can ask, What is the deepest lesson for me to learn from this experience? What is the universe or God trying to teach me? 
In this way we open up to the possibility of an intention bigger than ourselves.
            Though we may never know for sure whether our lives have meaning, we can all live our lives in a way that is deeply meaningful to us. That’s what you are doing as you go deep into what you want, opening to the possibility that you are part of a meaning bigger than yourself, a meaning that will carry you through the hard times. You are opening to the possibility that though you may be here on sealed orders, orders you will never fully comprehend, you are here for a good reason, even when things don't go as you had wished.

Affliction is able to drown out every earthly voice...but the voice of eternity within a man [or a woman] it cannot drown." Kierkegaard

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


You’ve decided on something you want in your life, but you have had a hard time making it happen.
             Let’s say, for example, you want a significant other in your life, but you don’t have one. You’ve gone deep into why you want this by asking question after question dealing with things like loneliness, sexual desire, fulfillment, self-esteem, friendship, security, children, stability, fun, companionship, laziness, and so on. You have come to a deep, satisfying place of knowing why you want a life partner and what you are willing to do to have one.
Now you need to look at counter-intentions, intentions of which you may not be aware, intentions which may be keeping you from getting what you want.
You ask yourself the possibly difficult question, “Why do I not want a significant other in my life? Given that I do not have one, this may be a manifestation of my strongest intentions. What might those intentions be?”
And off you go, deeper and deeper with each question. You are not looking for causes that are not under your control that can get you off the hook. You’re mining for the places where not having a partner is exactly what you want.
You may find, for example, that you feel you will not find someone, or that you do not deserve someone, or that if you do find someone, it won’t work out. You do not want to run the risk of sticking your heart out and having it broken. But keep going deeper. Ask yourself seemingly stupid questions like, why do I not want my heart broken? What will happen if my heart is broken? What is my alternative? Is my heart broken already? Am I broken? If so, what can I do to fix things? And so on.
If you do a good job, are honest and go deep, you will come to a place that once again feels like you are getting to solid ground. It may be a hard journey.You may find places that are wounded, places where you have felt like giving up, or where you are ashamed. Look at those places in light of the essence of what you truly want, the essence you discovered when you delved into why you want a life partner. If you delved deep enough into why you want a life partner you will have touched something that has the power to heal your fear, your shame, or whatever it is that is keeping you from going for what you want. An awareness of your deep intention will give you the strength to move through your counter-intentions.
At this point, stop. Take in what you discovered from asking both sets of questions, the why and the why not. Let it all sink in, not just into your head but into your body and your heart. Don’t try to figure it out.
            Let your body take you for a walk. Breathe deeply. Sleep on it. Trust that something is at work like a seed planted in rich soil. Give it time, and you may be surprised by a new sense of clarity and energy that begins to flower, and that the possibility of what you really want is more alive in you than ever before.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


            Yesterday we talked about asking yourself deeper and deeper questions as to why you want something in your life. This could be simple, like my mother asking herself why she wanted to paint her kitchen cabinets ,or it could be something trickier like why you want a life partner, a new career, or a child.
Gurumayi, from the Siddha Yoga lineage, talks about asking questions and “extracting the essence of your thoughts”, and then “crystallizing that essence into something worthy of manifestation.”
That sounds serious, serious about how to live fully and happily in accordance with your deepest values. 
Maybe it sounds too serious for you, but there’s nothing wrong with girls—or boys—who ‘just wanna` have fun’. No one is suggesting you not have fun. Fun is good. The Dalai Lama says the purpose of life is to be happy. We’re all about fun and happy, but you might want to ask yourself a few questions to begin to find the roots of your wish to have fun. You may end up being happier if you do.
Often, we get what we think we want and we are not happy. Why? Because we have not looked for our deep intention, so we either end up getting things that we did not truly want, or we get what we want, but we don’t recognize that we’ve gotten it.
Gurumayi, puts it this way, “If there is no clarity about your intention, you may be deprived of its fruits.”
Or to paraphrase Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you just might not know when you get there.”

            Why would we not acknowledge what we really want in our lives? Because it scares us. It exposes us. It’s like taking our clothes off and standing there naked for everyone to see.
It’s not for the faint of heart. But if you do it, you may find that you are not standing there by yourself naked. Surprising forces may gather at your side. Doors may open that you did not know existed.
As William Murray says in his book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, “[T]he moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen… assistance[.]”
So, not to fear, help is on the way, but you have to commit fully, and to commit fully, you have to know what you want and why.

Once again, my thanks to Dana Drobny,, of SB Adult Education who teaches a great course in clarifying intention.                                   

Monday, September 20, 2010


Whenever you think about something you want in your life, consider asking yourself, “Why do you want that?”
Think of your want, wish, or goal as a leaf on a tree. You ask questions about what you want until you reach the roots. The roots are where you will find the deeper intention behind what you want.
I recently did this with my mom who is ninety.
“I want to have my kitchen cabinets refinished.”
“Why do you want to do that?”
Of course I explained in advance what we were doing, otherwise she would think I was just giving her a hard time, like I usually do.
 “Because it will make me happy.”
“Why will it make you happy?”
“Because they will be nice and clean and beautiful, and they will look good when my friends come by.”
“Will it make you happy that your friends will think your place is beautiful?”
“Yes, but it’s more about me. It makes me happy and grateful that I have a nice, clean home. I am grateful to God for my beautiful home.”

I was a little blown away at this point. My mom is a ninety-year-old Sicilian woman raised, as you might guess, as a Catholic. She’s always been a believer and a churchgoer, and her faith as she has gotten older has deepened, which often happens as people approach the end of their lives, and she has always liked beautiful things, but I was taken aback at how a beautiful home was such a portal to something deeper for my mom.
My mother’s deep intention behind painting her kitchen cabinets was beauty in her home and connection to the sacred. A beautiful home connects my mom in way that a walk on the beach, for example, might not.
Given that my mom now spends most of her days in her home, that's a deep intention. That’s a good reason to paint some kitchen cabinets.
So, what’s the intention behind what you want?
Ask yourself questions until you get to the roots. This can be tricky to do on your own. We’re often a little afraid to discover our deepest intentions. You may find you no longer want what you thought you wanted. So, you might want to try this with a friend, or a coach.
Next time I'll go into why your happiness and success may depend on connecting to your deepest intentions. 
If you live near Santa Barbara, Dana Drobny teaches an Adult Ed class on intention. She can be reached at I can be reached at