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Stop! And Name Your Intention

By Martha Ruske

I usually write two newsletters a month for my website, but recently I missed an issue. I had gone away on a "rustic retreat weekend, and although I had intended to write it before I left, it just didn't happen.

When I got back I felt pressured to get down to work, but felt unfocused and distracted. When I was younger I would simply force myself to do things I really didn't feel like doing. My method for writing term papers in college was to keep a bottle of wine next to the typewriter. The wine kept the anxiety at bay so that the words could come out on paper. Well, that's just not an option anymore!

It's not even a question of not wanting to do the work. I CHOOSE to write my newsletter. No one says I have to, or sets a due date, but me. Some people mistakenly conclude, by the way, that because they are anxious about something, or put something off, that they aren't good at it or aren't meant to do it. That's not necessarily true.

How often are you confronted with something you want to do, or need to accomplish, but find it hard to stop, focus, and sit down to actually do it? If you work for yourself, and set your own schedule, this may come up quite often. Maybe you make these excuses to yourself:

  • "I can't create unless I have peace and quiet." (You may live in a household where there is never peace and quiet, and so you find you never create anything.)

  • "I have to get my work space organized before I can create." (Does anyone remember the "anal-retentive series of skits from Saturday Night Live years ago? I can picture the "Anal-Retentive Gardener taking so much time to prepare and get his tools ready that he was never able to get to the actual gardening demonstrations he wanted to show.)

  • "I'll do these chores first, and then I'll feel more like doing X." (If you know this is your MO, you may label yourself a procrastinator which makes it even more difficult to proceed.)

We may keep ourselves in mental and physical motion because we don't want to stop and be present with ourselves. (Those of us in recovery know how familiar it can be to "not be present.") In my case, I could also have thoughts generated from the "inner critic like: probably nobody wants to read my newsletter anyway. Who am I to think I have anything to say?

I'm not going to buy into that. And you don't have to, either, for whatever you're working on. Here's a method, borrowed from creativity coach Eric Maisel, which will center you, clear your mind, and focus your intention, if you let it. It is a six-breath, six-thought, one-minute technique. Read these guidelines before starting:

  • First, ground yourself, with both feet planted on the floor. Once you are familiar with the instructions you can shut your eyes.

  • Take long, deep breaths. Breathe easily - not forcing - but deeply, letting your abdomen expand on the in-breath and contract on the out-breath. Try counting to five on the inhale, and five on the exhale to make sure the breath is full and unrushed.

  • If you notice that you're rushing, or letting stray thoughts in as you do the exercise, consciously center yourself and quiet your mind.

  • The parentheses in the instructions below indicate how you will divide up each thought for the in-breath /out-breath. On the inhale think "half a thought and on the exhale think "the second half of the thought." For example, for the first thought in the sequence, you will breathe in for ("I am completely") and breathe out for ('stopping").

  • Name the work you want to accomplish the moment you finish centering. There is power in naming your intention. Ask yourself, "What would I like to designate as my work this time? It might be a concrete work you want to tackle, or a state you want to be in. This is the phrase you will insert in the blank parentheses of #3 below. For example:

    • (I am writing) (my newsletter)

    • (I am making) (that phone call)

    • (I am ready) (for the conversation)


  1. (I am completely) (stopping)

  2. (I expect) (nothing)

  3. () ()

  4. (I trust) (my resources)

  5. (I embrace) (this moment)

  6. (I return) (with strength)

Practice the sequence several times right now. (If you feel like putting it off, even though it will only take one minute, ask yourself why you've read this far but are unwilling to do the exercise.) Take your time, paying attention to the quality and length of your breaths. Notice how you feel when you're done.

Whether you employ the Centering Sequence above, or use some other technique like mindfulness meditation or the Remembrance, the task of bringing yourself into the moment still remains.

In his book Coaching the Artist Within, Maisel reminds us that the process of creating requires a centered presence. If we are scattered, anxious, rushed, or uncentered, we squander our chance to create.

I think this applies as much to creating our full lives in recovery as it does to creating a book or a work of art, or a newsletter. Intention and being present, showing up for our lives, counts for a lot.

About The Author
Martha Ruske is a marriage and family therapist in California. She currently works with people in long-term recovery from alcoholism, helping them step out into the fuller life they deserve. Find out about the benefits of recovery life coaching and get a free workbook at


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