Insitute of Noetic Sciences: I want to welcome you to the Shift In Action Intention Download Series. We are very excited to have as our guest today, Angeles Arrien. Welcome, Angeles!
Angeles Arrien: Oh I’m so excited to be here. Thank you, Angela, for this opportunity.
IONS: Thanks for joining us. Angeles is an anthropologist, educator, award-winning author and consultant to many organizations and businesses. She has taught in the University of California system at Berkeley, Los Angeles, Irvine, Davis, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco, and is an associate professor at two bay area graduate schools: the California Institute of Integral Studies and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. She lectures internationally and her work with multicultural issues, mediation and conflict resolution has been used with the International Rights Commission and the World Indigenous Council. With all of your international, corporate, and university experiences can you tell us, Angeles, what is your most significant personal experience of the power of intention?
AA: Well for me it has really been around the intention that I have held since I was 23 years old – is a great curiosity about international work and bridging work and what we have in common as a human species beyond our cultural conditioning and family imprinting. So holding that intention has allowed me to travel different parts of the world and also to create great friends cross-culturally and also to recognize how interconnected we all are and that we all want to make a contribution and we all are curious about learning from each other. So for me, that’s been a far greater experience and dream than I could have possibly imagined – and how all of those doors have opened up simply because of my own desire and intention to do bridging work and to foster more tolerance and understanding in world.
IONS: So did you set a personal intention to travel internationally, or what was…
AA: I did. I always knew two things when I was very young: number one, I wanted to teach; number two, I wanted to do something that was international. Those were the two great intentions and I just never realized it would manifest to the degree that it’s manifested and is still manifesting. I’m excited about Rumi’s line, “let the beauty of what you love be what you do” and I’ve always been really committed to: can I really do what I love? And so I made a conscious intention at 33 that I only wanted to work in areas that had heart and meaning and fire for me and I named them and just persevered in that intention. It was just amazing how synchronicity and important strangers and placement allowed me literally do what I love for many, many years now – almost 40 years.
IONS: So by setting that conscious intention when you were 33, since you’ve done a lot of indigenous work, did you do any ritual or how was your intention set consciously?
AA: My intention was set in the form of prayer and also in the form of affirmation.
IONS: That leads into our second question, which is: are there any viewpoints or scientific experiments that have most affected your own view of intention?
AA: I think that for me [it’s] staying connected to the quality of hope. I’m like Vaclav Hovel in the extent that someone asked him if he was an optimist or a pessimist and he said, “well, I’m really not an optimist because I don’t believe everything’s going to turn out well and I’m really not a pessimist because I don’t believe everything’s going to turn out horribly, but I do cultivate hope in my heart,” he said “because it’s the only antidote to cynicism, fear, apathy, and malaise.” And what has always been important, part of my own nature [and] character has been hope and hopefulness and always connecting to what uplifts my own spirit and empowers others. I’ve been really an advocate of inspiration and hopefulness and empowerment of the human spirit because I do feel that that’s where we flourish, is when we can make a contribution that’s in alignment with our gifts and talents and then we move into true service. So I think if there’s a viewpoint, it’s around hopefulness. As far as scientific things that have captured my imagination, I’m really interested in the “strange attractor” thing from quantum physics and also in synchronicity. I’m interested in what motivates synchronicity, or the causations of synchronicity.
IONS: Well those are excellent viewpoints. What practices do you see as most effective for cultivating our intention at the highest level?
AA: Well I think definitely, I know for me, that the practices of mediation, prayer, affirmation, and the practice of trust – staying in the place of trust and curiosity. Flexibility and patience: cultivating those, I think, are great doorways for being open to not only my plan but the mystery’s plan. I love what the Inuit people say, that there are really two plans to every day: there’s my plan and there’s the mystery’s plan, and how to make room for the both/ands. I’m interested in the relationship between effort and grace in that many of us, if we look at our life: where did we effort, where did we have periods of grace, or do we effort more than allow grace or do we trust grace more than our own effort? And we need the both/and to be a participant of the both/and, but if I’m a person that’s constantly efforting then I need to learn how to surrender. And if I’m a person that’s totally just relying on grace then I need to learn more about intention.
IONS: Can you talk a little more about that?
AA: Well I think that many people – it’s all based on different trust levels. I think that people who trust themselves more than the mystery will set goals, set plans, and high intention for manifestation. People who are open to grace trust the mystery more but they need also to participate more with the mystery, which is setting intention. Those who are efforting a lot in setting goals and planning and strategy and so on need to surrender and trust more. So it’s a both/and: one involves intention, both involve action, intention, and trust.
IONS: So do you see the intention setting as being more of an effort thing or grace thing?
AA: Well I see that trust is the platform where intention can catalyze grace and can catalyze effort that’s in alignment with grace and trust.
IONS: So I know you said you are interested in…
AA: I think that if I don’t have a strong trust base I will have a strong fear base and it’s out of trust that I can work with intention.
IONS: So you’re having to trust that your intention will be fulfilled – is that where the trust comes in?
AA: Yes, that. And that if I trust just generically, I am more open and curious and as a result then my actions will be more aligned with service and contribution than with ego, whereas with great efforting… Intention can also be used for egoic purposes and intention can also be aligned for service and contribution to make a better world. So that [is] something different that happens when intention is aligned with a service intention for the greater good, as opposed to an egoic intention which is self-serving.
IONS: Yeah, you had mentioned that earlier, too: aligning your gifts with the greater good. How do you think we can best do that by setting intentions, because you’re right – it’s very easy to set intentions and have them be egoically-based and maybe not even realize it?
AA: Yeah. Totally, and I think that the caveat is the greater good – what’s going to serve the greater good, what’s going to serve we, rather than just you and me
IONS: So when you set your affirmations – you said prayer and affirmation was the form of intention that you utilized – do you add that in (‘for the greatest good’) is that part of your affirmation?
AA: Yes, for the greatest good and ‘for thy will rather than my will.’
IONS: Those are definitely good things to keep in mind. If you could focus our collective intention on one thing what would that be?
AA: Well it actually would be two things…
IONS: Ok, that’s good.
AA: One great intention that I think would serve the greater good is, collectively, if we could focus through meditation or through prayer that every human being has shelter and food and medical care. I think that would be a great intention and the byproduct of that would probably serve the second intention where there could be more peace in the world.
IONS: And do you think by setting those intentions that we can actually attain them?
AA: Well recent research shows basically that a collective of a thousand people or more can definitely impact people in prayer with the intention for less crime or for more safety in a certain area has results. So I think that’s one of the things that we’ve worked more individually or maybe as teams in setting collective intentions for projects or for more organizational effectiveness or community intentions. I think we’re just beginning to harness and to recognize this great collective wisdom. If we can mobilize an entire organization or an entire community to set a collective intention for the greater good, there is positive impact in that, as has been shown by the power of local and non-local prayer that does have a healing impact, as well. So, [I’m] very excited about that when it’s really being used to harness something that’s positive for the collective good, but that same energy can also be harnessed for greedy purposes as well or purposes of ill will. So there’s a lot of power in intention both personally and collectively and how we use that, and I think the caveat is really: is it for the greater good and will there be positive impacts such as lowering crime or such as providing shelter or food or medical resources or an intention that there’s more health or well being or less suffering in the world?
IONS: Those would certainly be good intentions for us to set now. Do you think we would need to do that in group situations or doing it on an individual basis is valuable?
AA: Well I think that any way that we do it is going to help, whether individually or collectively. I love what indigenous peoples say. If you want the blessing-way to come into your family life or into organizations or communities or into the earth, there are three things that you must do every day: one is to set a sacred intention, two is to give gratitude, and three is to take a life affirming action every day. So those are all positive doorways of how to work, especially setting sacred intention or life-affirming action – is taking action on the intention. And then gratitude, just the practice of gratitude, keeps the heart open and wherever the heart is open in the human species there is more generosity and more capacity for giving and receiving love and expressing love.
IONS: There definitely is. You’ve written a number of books. In your book, The Second Half of Life or in The Fourfold Way – do you address intention at all in either of those?
AA: I do, in both. Through meditation practices and prayer and affirmation, I definitely do. And not only the right use of intention but also the power of the inherent need or desire for the human species is to really contribute in a way that truly helps others.
IONS: That’s certainly how we want to live our lives, contributing to others. I’m sure a lot of our listeners want to do that too, so are there any words of wisdom you can give to those who are listening to our call?
AA: I just think it’s such an exciting time in history and that we have such an opportunity to create a world for our children and our grandchildren that can be better if we just harness our [personal] and our intention in a good way. And there’s always that opportunity. It’s just a choice away… it’s just a choice away.
IONS: Exactly. And a lot of our members have asked for those choices or those opportunities. With your international experience, are you aware or can you share any specific places where people might help and make the world a better place?
AA: Well I think we need to start at home with our homeless people. We’re the only country in the world that has the horrific honor of having the highest suicide rate between our teens and our elders because we have not sustained the bridges between the generations and the power of calling on the creativity and the experience of our youth and the experience and wisdom of our elders. So I think we need to start at home and then we can certainly deal with poverty issues and illness in other countries, as well. The world needs us all of us at home and in the world and I think there’s a lot of work to be done and I think there’s more consciousness awareness around that at this time, and so I’m very excited about that.
IONS: And it sounds like – that’s a very disturbing fact that you mentioned: the highest suicide rate between teens and elders in this country – that sounds like a place where we may want to set our intentions.
AA: Yeah, and start really building those inter-generational bridges.
IONS: Do you know of any actions we could take to do that?
AA: Well there are a couple of – there’s this Experience Corps, which is working with people who are 60 years and older and having them be active in their communities and mentoring, which Civic Ventures in san Francisco has started and it’s a national movement which is really great. And we have another movement which started in Philadelphia which is called “Let Them Lead” which is really harnessing the leadership of our youth and making that possible. So it’s really starting also in the families and the communities – is that we need to begin to have more – make sure that our problem-solving councils in community are intergenerational, and that not only intergenerational but multi disciplinary and multicultural, as well. The greater the diversity that we have, the greater our creativity and our problem-solving solutions the elegant solutions can come out of that.
IONS: That’s wonderful and very true. There’s another intention we can all set: to have greater diversity in our government and in local communities.
AA: Well thank you so much for this incredible opportunity and also with this project from many different perspectives and how we can really create some essential shifts.
IONS: Yes, absolutely, and setting some intentions! Well thank you so much, we greatly appreciate your words of wisdom and your insights and your intentions
AA: Thanks, Angela.