Saturday, May 24, 2014

Living With Intent: Five Ways to Grow Your Spiritual Self

by John Maney, Jr.

cloudsHave you ever been unfulfilled after obtaining something you thought would make you happy?
Did this make you wonder if there’s more to life than accumulating things?
Have you ever thought about why you’re here?

Many of us may have asked ourselves one or all these questions at some point. We’re more than the flesh and bones of our bodies, so these questions come naturally. In our essence we’re spirits, and it’s through spiritual development that we begin to understand.

Of course, great mystics and the religions that grew from their teachings have sought to guide us in this area. Each time a Christian takes Communion. . .or a Muslim turns toward Mecca to pray. . .or a Buddhist closes their eyes in meditation. . .or a Jew recites from the Torah, it is this understanding that they seek.

But which one is right? Which path should we choose? While a spiritual (or intentional) life may involve religious practice or affiliation, it is not limited by that.

The great mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi once said “what you seek is seeking you”. The thing about increasing your spirituality/intentionality is that as you grow, it becomes clear you’re part of something bigger than you. Your essence exists as part of a greater essence, which has been waiting for you to plug your awareness in. This greater essence can’t really be confined in the practice of any one religion, but is found in many. The key is in how any practice connects you to it, and the thing that connects is love. Religions, practices, and faiths that teach you to love are leading you in the right direction, because love dissolves illusionary barriers. The Apostle Paul from the Bible wrote “but now faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love”.

You may be asking yourself what does that mean? Love who? Love what? The real question however is, what is there you shouldn’t love? If we’re part of a greater essence, as is everything, then shouldn’t we love everything? The answer is yes, except things that bring separation.

So, whether you practice a specific religion or not, here are five things you can do to help develop your spiritual as well as intentional self:

1. Engage in Daily Acts of Kindness

It can be volunteering for organizations that help those in need; or giving money without judgment to someone begging on the street; or maybe giving your seat to an elderly person on a crowded bus or train. Try to find something unselfish to do.

2. Give thanks

Say thank you sincerely, with a smile, even when someone may not be expecting it

3. Be appreciative

Take delight in the natural things that contribute to beauty and delight in the world. Before bed take time to reflect upon the stars, and when morning comes, the glow of sunrise. And again, say thank you, not to these things, but the force that connects you.

4. To err is human…

If you’ve done anyone wrong apologize, and seek to make amends. Similarly, if anyone has wronged you be willing to forgive. Don’t be imprisoned behind bars of resentment.

5. Humour

Keep a sense of humor, even when what you’re laughing at is you. Humility helps us take that first step on the road to a more spiritual self.


By developing your spirituality, you move closer to a life of intent. Your sense of consideration or appreciation for that which is outside of yourself or immediate interests grows.  This will allow you to expand your regard to include other living and non-living things, and an appreciation for the ways they enrich the world.

Changing Your Intent

Growing Your Spiritual Self: What You Can Do Now!
  1. Try practicing these five things each day for a month.
  2. What changes do you notice?  Are you happier? More at peace? Have greater appreciation for your family and friends?
  3. Whatever it is, let us know! Share your experiences here or start a discussion on the With Intent Facebook or Google+ page.
John Maney, Jr is a poet and creative writing workshop leader.
He has been published in several anthologies and magazines. You 
can connect with him at or his website maneywords.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Connections: An Interview With Kalena Slaton - Girl Scout Cadette

Terrarium, tn.jpg
Terrarium: a Mother/Daughter Project
That everyone can contribute something useful or valuable to the well-being of his or her family or community, no matter their age, background or specific talents, is a fundamental theme here at  With Intent.

For this Connections interview, I reached out to Kalena Slaton, the daughter of a good friend of mine. I wanted to learn more about her involvement with the Girl Scouts and her recent “bridging” ceremony. The Girl Scouts, founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, is an organization affording young ladies in grades K-12, opportunities to make new friends, build confidence and character, learn new skills and help make the world a better place through community service and other activities.

Read on to find out more about Kalena’s “bridging” ceremony, what involvement in the Girl Scouts has meant to her, and how all of that relates to living with intent:

So Kalena, how long have you been a Girl Scout?
Kalena Slaton: I have been a Girl Scout for approximately seven years.

Wow, that's a long time!  How did you come to be involved with them?
Slaton: I was five years old in kindergarten at Colson Elementary School, and they had a table with information about Girl Scouts. I was interested and wanted to join so I asked my mother to sign me up and I joined the “Daisies”. Daisies are the first level of Girl Scouts. My Mom was a Girl Scout.

Ahh…so your Mom was a Girl Scout too! Did that play a part in your wanting to be one or did you only find that out later on?
Slaton: Yeah, I think I might have known, but yet don’t remember if I did. I’m not sure if it influenced me, but I think my mom’s knowledge about past Girl Scouts helps me today.

I know that you recently "bridged". What does that mean and what did you have to do to achieve that?
Slaton: "Bridging" is the term used in the moving up from one level to the next in Girl Scouts, for example, Daises to Brownies to Juniors to Cadettes.

In the bridging ceremony, me and my scouting sisters cross over a small bridge as a symbol of moving on from Junior scouts to Cadettes. Each girl must show up to Girl Scout meetings and participate in all group activities including community services in order to bridge and earn badges.

So you kind of come to rely and support each other as well as your community through your participation in the activities. . .
Slaton: Yes, we work together to help ourselves and the community (especially the community). Helping it, we get badges to earn cool awards.

Tell me a little more about the kinds of skills you have learned through your involvement with the Girl Scouts.
Slaton: I learned about setting up community projects and events through planning a party we had for Juliette Gordon Lows' birthday. She founded the Girl Scouts. I’ve also learned about event planning— our troop planned a Breast Cancer Awareness event fundraising and public speaking, and  participated in planning a sleepover during my “Finding Common Ground” badge teaching.

That sounds interesting. What is the “Finding Common Ground” badge? And what are some other badges you have earned?
Slaton: It is basically about how to make decisions so everyone can be happy with the decision you made. Before I taught my badge, we learned the Trees badge, which is about trees and more of what they do for us.

Those two badges sound fantastic! The ability to help people feel comfortable with decisions when working in a group is a really good skill to have.  It helps us to be resilient. I also like trees! I don't think people really appreciate all the great work they do for us.

So, would you recommend other kids participate in the Girl Scouts or an organization like them? If so, why?
Slaton: Yes! I would recommend others to join Girl Scouts or other organizations like it, because:
  • it helps you to learn more about your community and make new friends
  • it teaches respect for yourself and others
  • it teaches teamwork, leadership and making lots of fun crafts
Getting to know others in your community, the teamwork and leadership involved in working together, and most importantly, respect for yourself and others as well as the environment is exactly what living with intent is all about. You’ve also shown that it’s never too early for kids to learn these skills so they can start giving back to their community!

Kalena, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us here at With Intent about your participation with the Girl Scouts!
Kalena Slaton, tn.jpg Kalena Slaton is twelve years old and lives with her parents in Brandon, Florida.  She is in the sixth grade and attends  Orange Grove Middle Magnet School for the Arts in Tampa, Florida.