What does it mean to have an intentional lifestyle?

March 21, 2014 in Life,Philosophy

One of my tag lines for C’est Christine is creating an intentional lifestyle, yet I’ve realized that I’ve never taken the time to define what that means to me.

Gratitude practice: Jar of all the good things that happen

Living with intention is being purposeful and joyful, in being present and aware. Yoga plays a bit part of it, simply because the physical practice of yoga is often helpful in teaching us how to pay attention to our breath and focus on the moment. But it’s also about leading a simple, healthy lifestyle that creates more space for happiness–like eating real foods and cultivating gratitude (like my good things jar of 2014!). Here are the key tenets of my intentional lifestyle:

To Love chalk on the sidewalk

Be purposeful with your relationships.

This is something that has been honed over many years: I switched schools a bunch as a kid, I lived out in the boondocks during high school, I spent the years after college traveling and living abroad. I’ve rarely had those enduring, easy, casual friendships where you live next door to each other and can build up a friendship purely on proximity: I’ve had to be intentional with my friendships.

That means mailing birthday cards and just-because cards, scheduling Skype catch-ups or coffee dates, sending an article or a recipe. I’m incredibly grateful for my boyfriend, my super supportive parents, my hilarious group of girlfriends in NYC and scattered over the globe; I try to make sure that they know it, whether it’s through consistently carving out quality time, writing a hello! note or simply telling them.

Emily McDowell print and tea at home with Christine Amorose

Be joyful.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. It’s one of my favorite quotes, a reminder that getting excited about something can make all the difference in a roaring success or a crushing failure. But on a more quotidien level, I think that it’s about fostering an attitude of contentment and gratitude and trying to find life’s silver linings. I find it so depressing when I deal with people who only concentrate on the negative, who nit-pick and complain or are just never quite pleased. I’m certainly guilty of slipping into bad moods, but more than anything, I want to be the sort of person who gives energy instead of drains it. Living an intentional life means not only paying attention to the little things but celebrating them.

Fresh tulips and a shamrock plant on a sunny window

Make time for the things that make you happy.

I’ve realized that there are few things that consistently make me feel good in a deep, real sort of way: getting eight hours of sleep, eating a mostly vegetarian diet made up of unprocessed foods, practicing yoga and meditating regularly, burning a fancy candle while reading or journaling before bed, treating myself to fresh flowers and weekend getaways, allowing myself the space to indulge occasionally without feeling guilty.

I try to make those things a priority, to not let myself be tempted by short-term pleasure (i.e. a big night out or a greasy hamburger) when I know it won’t really make me feel good in the long-run. Even when I do choose the sugar rush, I don’t let myself beat myself up over it: part of it is accepting what’s done is done, without rehashing negative happenings or feelings. It’s about recognizing the things that are good for you and the things that aren’t–whether it’s a toxic relationship, a soul-crushing job, an addiction to fast food–and trying to trade in the bad for more of the good. Making those choices takes courage and intention.

Slice of homemade cherry pie

Meditate in everything that you do.

I set aside a few minutes every morning to meditate. But I also try to bring that sense of stillness and the power of breath into (almost) everything I do throughout the day. It’s mostly about being mindful and being present, about focusing on how you feel and what you’re doing in the moment. One of my biggest challenges is to stop multi-tasking and to stop running a constant to-do list in my mind; taking long, deep inhales and counting my exhales helps me do that.

My favorite “meditation” is baking; I prefer to measure, to stir, to scoop alone and in silence. I like to focus on nothing but the task at hand, to establish a sequence and develop a rhythm. There’s a certain beauty in being able to apply the principles of meditation to all the places and all the things, in listening without label and noticing without judging. Bonus: I can give those sweet (healthy-ish) treats to the people I love to show them my appreciation!

Mr Pina fresh fruit and veggie juice in Williamsburg

Be aware of how you’re treating your body.

Full confession: I ate Nutella straight out of the jar as I wrote this post. Like I said before, I don’t mind the occasional indulgence and I refuse to let guilt simmer. I mostly eat real, whole foods that I cook myself; unlike the rest of the New York City population, I rarely order delivery and I only eat out a couple of times a week (usually on a date with my boyfriend or as a way to catch up with girlfriends). I’m not a big fan of diets or forbidding foods, but I do think it’s important to be aware of what you’re putting in your body. For me, that means trying to stick to fruits and veggies and foods where I can recognize and pronounce all of the ingredients and sticking to no more than one cup of coffee a day. It also means implementing some Ayurvedic morning routines, getting regular acupuncture and massage therapy, avoiding quick-fix pills and Western medicine as much as possible. One of my goals for 2014 is to wean off my chemical-laden skincare and makeup products and start looking for quality all-natural alternatives.

What’s your favorite way to lead an intentional lifestyle?

  • HippieInHeels

    I remember as a bad teenager not wanting to go to church being like “I’ll get good and religious when I am older and have kids” … reading this reminds me of that. Those are things I want to WANT to do- but I just don’t … yet. It’s like I keep telling myself, once I settle somewhere, stop traveling, get a house, then I’ll grow garden, eat healthy, buy candles… I like yoga/meditation but don’t have the dedication to wake up for yoga class, I love fast food. Maybe I’ll never get there, but I have made some small changed, like for one whole year I have’t watched General Hospital (hahah , but really that was hard, I’ve been watching since I was BORN!) I really liked reading this. I’m going to bookmark it for when I grow up :)

  • This is a wonderful post. I don’t know why but it seems that everywhere I look at the moment I keep finding books and blogs focused on this theme of living a life intentionally and with purpose. This coincides with a time in my life where I really am looking to change…perhaps now I am opening up this is why I am being drawn to/noticing posts such as these. It’s an invigorating feeling but it is also tough and an ongoing process – and it is seeing posts like these that encourage to keep going. So thanks Christine! And I love the idea of the Good Things jar – I’m definitely going to have to start my own xx

  • Wee Wanders

    I loved this and found it really inspiring! It serves as a helpful reminder of all the things that I am trying to incorporate into my lifestyle. I have only recently adopted an “intentional lifestyle” …I set up my travel blog in preparation to travel the world, started practising yoga and meditation, changed my diet and started to seek out seeking deliberate happiness. Thank you for sharing :)

  • camorose

    Oh yay! I do think it’s a bit of a buzzword currently, but I do love the movement behind it. Our society right now is so go-go-go that we do so many things on auto-pilot–it’s nice to remember to reflect and be purposeful in our actions. And I love the good things jar! I also have a gratitude journal that is nice to jot things down in and be able to reread when I’m feeling down :)

  • camorose

    So glad you liked it! One of my favorite quotes is from Elizabeth Gilbert: “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”

  • camorose

    Ha! I think sometimes that the biggest thing of having this sort of life is living in the moment: recognizing that I have the power within me to start making changes right now, today. One of the things in YTT has been creating a home practice, and we went over ALL the excuses over why we don’t do it: time, discipline, space. And then we realized they’re all just excuses! You just have to set your mind to doing it :)

  • sincerelykateb

    hilarious? ALRIGHT! you blog posts always make me so happy and want to be a better human/friend/girlfriend/stranger on the subway/penpal/dog-owner/eater.

    xoxo

  • Cooking and baking are probably my favorite ways to meditate also – I’m up and moving, not in front of a screen, aware of what I’m doing that very moment and not thinking about everything else. Also, I love how you always buy yourself flowers – it’s so important to know what simple things can bring you peace and joy!

  • andreaallennyc

    I think you meant nothing great was ever achieved WITHOUT enthusiasm.

  • Laura

    I have f finitely been trying to live more intentionally since returning from my last trip a few months ago. As I get older I find I am happiest when I shut off all the electronics and take the time to enjoy the people around me, the food I’m eating and the city or surroundings I am in. These are a few other great things to aspire to, I definitely need to be more purposeful with my relationships, it’s something I’m constantly working on!

  • I love your posts like this! One of my goals this year was to be better about sending mail. Especially now that two of my best friends live out of state.

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  • camorose

    You’re the best! Can’t wait to catch up this week xoxo

  • camorose

    Yes! One of my favorite poems ever is “After a While” by Veronica Shoffstall and she says to plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. I always like to apply that both literally and metaphorically in my own life :)

  • camorose

    You’re right! Updated :)

  • camorose

    Oh same–I constantly work on all of this! Much harder than it sounds :)

  • camorose

    Yes! My best advice is to buy lots of stamps in advance :)

  • Thank you for this post. I have pretty much the same goals that I had to evernote it and will probably re-read it everyday to remind me of them. It’s so hard not to get caught up in the muck of life but a gentle reminder like this is so inspiring.

    ps. I hope that made sense.

  • camorose

    Oh I’m so glad that you enjoyed it and that you’ve been able to apply some of it. Can definitely relate on having to remind myself of these things CONSTANTLY!

  • Jyndia

    Thanks for writing this post. I am in the middle of chemotherapy and sometimes I get so frustrated that my life was seemingly stopped to deal with all this sickness while my friends are out there living their lives, doing all the things I want to be doing. But then I see posts like this one and I am reminded of how it really comes back to the simple truths in life. Live your life the best you know how. Right now, the best I know how is to heal and rest. Very contrary to my normal, suck every last moment out of life and then do it again the next day montra. I am learning, but that’s life. Anyways, thank you so much for your post!

  • camorose

    I’m so incredibly flattered that you’re able to find some inspiration in my words. Such a powerful reminder that comparison is the thief of joy, that joy is truly found in the little things, and that we have so much power over our own happiness. Wishing you health and happiness xo

  • eva

    this post is fantastic. i’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be living intentionally, especially as it relates to career choices and how we spend our time. these are such live-altering decisions; your post helps put things in perspective and focus on what is most important. thanks!

  • I can totally relate to this post, I’m currently living abroad and it’s so difficult to keep up with my friends at home. I feel like I’m constantly scheduling and rescheduling my skype dates while trying to tell my parents at home what I’m doing too. You make a great point about making time for the things that make you happy. I think this is the most important aspect in living abroad, as you can get frustrated with the culture and lifestyle of another country. When you relax and appreciate the little things, everything gets better :)

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • camorose

    Totally agree. It’s a process!

  • Suzhie

    That’s a really well said statement Andrea, and I love your post camorose. :) From http://www.happyhobo.com.au Thanks!

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