Transforming Well-Being & Relationships Through Intentional Living
After my autoimmune diagnosis, I embarked on a personal pilgrimage—a journey back to my core, my essence to explore the footprints I've left in this world so far. Well, truth be told, my seeker nature was striving for the light even longer. This spiritual pilgrimage has been a quest to craft a fresh life narrative, one firmly anchored in my well-being and guided by principles that foster alignment in heart, mind, body, and spirit. It seemed simple at the start: Live in the present, rewire negative thoughts, or at the very least, redirect them, carving new pathways of intention in the process. But, six years into this transformative journey, I’m continuously surprised by the effort required to let go, to relinquish control.
Have you ever felt like you're just going through the motions, living day by day without a clear sense of purpose? This is exactly where I found myself. Everything I created seemed tethered to an expectation or someone else’s vision. As I sank deeper into this evisceration of my spirit, I became more and more disconnected from my inner being and the creative and innovative creator I had always been. It was as if I was bound by the expectations of others and my value became intrinsically linked to their perspective of me and my contributions. Here’s the thing I’ve come to, this isn’t just my story. Its resonances live in the stories of other creatives, of little girls never held by their Daddies, of those desperate to belong.
At some point, I abandoned myself to this other life, an existence that seemed much easier and less risky than devoting myself to a life of creativity and intentionality. The truth is: that in our fast-paced, stimulus-saturated world, it has become easier to lose sight of the horizon and to become completely disconnected from life, people, and ourselves. I can’t be sure if this is a spiral all artists find themselves in or if this is what becomes of those who ignore their nature for too long, or maybe it’s the result of what becomes of little girls not validated by their fathers. Greg Iles, the novelist, said “nothing frightens me more than the faith in my daughter’s eyes. How many men deserve that kind of trust?” To my mind, very few. Abandoning oneself is easy when you’ve felt others turn their back on you. Perhaps, acknowledging the abandonment makes it easier to understand how life experience and perception of scarcity or lack can shape our interactions and relationships with others. If this self-transformation pilgrimage has taught me nothing, it has taught me that and I’m only as loving and understanding as I am vulnerable and empathetic.
So here I am, still growing and learning to be more me or at least the me I intend to be. Forgiving myself for being less than I meant to be, less than I desired, or less than I know I could have been, is the start of holding that little girl and myself accountable for who I want to be, who I’m meant to be. This type of nurturing, both the past and present me, has made it simpler to let go, to come more fully into presence and my own knowing, and to trust myself more fully to be vulnerable and real with those around me. For me, leading a fulfilling and meaningful existence begins with nurturing ourselves which translates beyond us to foster positive relationships with those around us. One powerful approach to achieving this is through intentional living, which focuses on making conscious choices and aligning our actions with our values and aspirations. By embracing intentional living, we can not only enhance our personal growth and well-being but also transform our relationships and create deeper connections with others.
For me, my own upbringing led me to focus on psychological, cognitive, and spiritual development which eventually led me to wellness and intentional living practices. Getting sick felt like the result of my upbringing and the “rat race” atmosphere of a nine-to-five grind. All compounded to direct me toward another way of being. Again, my story isn’t necessarily unique. After all, the atmosphere we find ourselves in quite possibly birthed the personal growth and wellness industries that some have become increasingly fixated on. The draw? An opportunity to seek opportunities for reconnection, and self-expression -- an opportunity to perceive ourselves clearly and in resonance with the earth’s heartbeat. I’m no different. Writing about the journey now, sharing it feels like breath that others need to survive, but I’m also selfish in that sharing gives me an opportunity to examine the footprints on the journey and what I’m learning along the way.
I imagine my understanding of intentional living is grounded in the same principle shared across the wellness industry. Rather than delving into all the qualities that make for a creative and intentional life, I’d like to share some principles that helped me start my journey toward well-being. For our purposes and to preface the practices I plan to share, I’d describe intentional living as a mindset and lifestyle choice centered around living with purpose and mindfulness. It involves setting clear intentions, making conscious decisions, and deliberately aligning our lives with what truly matters to us. By being intentional in our thoughts, words, and actions, we cultivate a sense of self-awareness, empowerment, and authenticity.
If you’re wondering how to begin living more intentionally and creatively focus on your inner well-being, on getting to know the inner being that, perhaps, has been ignored. Remember, intentional living is a powerful tool for nurturing personal growth. It encourages self-reflection and introspection by allowing us to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, our values, and our aspirations. If at a loss on where to start, start with yourself. Employ intentional living practices such as journaling, meditation, and goal setting to create space for self-discovery and personal development. Through this, you will become more attuned to your needs, strengths, and areas for growth. These are just a few ways that we can actively work towards becoming the best versions of ourselves.
Over time, intentional living not only benefits our personal growth but also has a transformative impact on our relationships. By living intentionally, we become more present and mindful in our interactions with others. We cultivate empathy, compassion, and genuine connections. Intentional living promotes open and honest communication, helping us to express our feelings and needs clearly while also actively listening to others. This fosters trust, understanding, and deeper connections in our relationships.
6 Intentional Living Practices that Transform Relationships:
- Setting Boundaries: Setting boundaries in relationships promotes healthier communication, mutual respect, and a deeper understanding of each other. It helps resolve conflicts, maintains individuality, and supports emotional well-being. In some cases, relationships may shift, alter, or even fall away when we place interaction expectations on our friend or partner that conflict with their own.
- Mindfulness: Cultivate a mindful approach in your everyday life. Pay attention to the present moment, embracing each experience with curiosity and non-judgment. This allows you to fully engage in your relationships and appreciate the beauty of each interaction.
- Authenticity: Embrace your authentic self and encourage others to do the same. Be vulnerable and share your thoughts, feelings, and dreams openly. By being authentic, you create a safe space for deeper connections to form.
- Set Clear Intentions: Determine what you want to cultivate in your relationships and set clear intentions for how you want to show up. Whether it's practicing active listening, offering support, or fostering mutual growth, setting intentions guides your actions and helps shape positive relationship dynamics.
- Practice Empathy and Understanding: Put yourself in the shoes of others and strive to understand their perspectives. Approach discussions with empathy and compassion, seeking to find common ground and build bridges rather than creating division.
- Cultivate thankfulness: Cultivating thankfulness in your life and relationships can have a profound impact. Take time each day to reflect on what you appreciate about your loved ones and express gratitude for their presence in your life. This fosters a positive and nurturing environment for personal and relationship growth.
These practices really helped me start the long road back to myself and they continue to help me stay in tune with my inner being. If I need to redirect my energy or thoughts, these practices help me stay on track toward being in alignment with my values, beliefs, and the way I want to show up for myself and others. In my case, intentional living has helped me cultivate a growth mindset, encouraging continuous learning and development. This mindset has benefited my professional and personal relationships by fostering openness to feedback, a willingness to learn from others, and adaptability. It has allowed me to embrace challenges and view them as opportunities for growth.
While intentional living may not guarantee the same self-transformation for everyone, it paves the way for honoring our inner selves, bringing us closer to a more authentic life. I’m personally starting to come to terms with the fact that nurturing personal growth and wellness is an everlong journey (I feel the Foo Fighters constituted this as a word). Using these principles as a guide makes it easier to stay anchored in what brings joy and presence. By embracing intentional living, it becomes easier to align my actions with my values, to stand up for and to advocate for myself when needed, and it has transformed how I interact and show up in the world.
Through the practices of mindfulness, clear intentions, empathy, and thankfulness, I’ve been able to nurture personal well-being and foster growth and deeper connections in my relationships as well. As we welcome the colder, darker days of winter, I invite you to discover the comforting warmth within your inner self. I encourage you to turn inward – to call yourself forward and show up in a way that honors who you are and who you’re becoming. Use this season as an opportunity to delve deeper into intentional living, allowing it to illuminate your path as you embark on a transformative journey back to the heart of your inner being.
If you want to learn more about my autoimmune journey, here's a video from two years ago where I discuss my path to wellness. Though my perspective and spiritual practices have certainly expanded, some of these fundamental principles of intentional living ring true today.