If there are two certainties about my New Year's resolutions year after year, it's that I invariably fail at keeping them by the time February rolls around, and yet I continue to insist on making them each passing year. So two weeks into 2018, when my declarations for self-improvement had already derailed, I decided to try a different approach: setting intentions. I was introduced to intention-setting one year ago when I began practicing yoga. At the beginning of each class, the instructor would ask us to set an intention for the following hour.
It could be an overarching goal that we had been working toward for some time or something as simple as allowing ourselves these 60 minutes to unplug from the outside world and free our minds from external worries. I loved that for a concrete—and feasible—period of time I could dedicate my energy and focus to one simple thing. Instead of committing to correct a behavior over as one does with resolutions, intention-setting allows us to draw up a roadmap for where we'd like our lives to go.
Sometimes a quick escape from quotidian life can be just the thing to get into the right headspace to revisit the intention-setting drawing board and outline a new direction. For me, that quick escape was a three-day trip to Santa Barbara, just a few hours north of L.A. by train. I took a welcome sojourn at the newly opened Hotel Californian—a sprawling seaside establishment boasting striking Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, tiled paseos, and views of the Pacific coastline and Santa Ynez Mountains.
The paradisal getaway was the perfect environment to carve out some "me" time to set some intentions.
During my stay, I paid a visit to Majorelle, the hotel's luxe Moroccan-inspired spa, for a personalized treatment. At the start of the session, the massage therapist walked me through an aromatherapy design based on numerology. Numerology can be understood as the belief that there is a mystical relationship between numbers and coinciding events. She used my birthdate to determine that 2018 was my "eight year," and from there, she crafted a signature blend of essential oils to be used during my massage.
I was pleased to learn the number eight is often associated with money and power, and yet its meaning for my year ahead was more nuanced than that and involved deepening my personal understanding through study or taking up a new skill.
What the numerology practice revealed was very much in line with the intentions I decided to set. Just as setting intentions at the start of a one-hour yoga class is an effective way to make the most of that short time, intentions that are set for the short term can prove to be more powerful. While much loftier goals and dreams may lie ahead, right now I intend to take small steps in self-betterment day by day. This intention can be broken down into more tangible acts, like making the time to read each day, making meditation a daily practice, and possibly even taking up a new skill as mentioned as part of my "eight year." Another reason intention-setting is a more helpful practice than making New Year's resolutions is that the former are constantly changing and evolving.
Intentions can change from week to week or even from day to day, depending on what it is you need to steer toward your bigger goals.
My intentions during my trip were to invite calm during my alone time and give myself permission to unplug and take in my scenic surroundings. On a typical day, I'm habitually checking my phone and feeling a constant pressure to refresh my email and social media channels. Though I was just a short train ride from L.A., my idyllic surroundings felt like a true escape from busy city life and the demands that come with it. The Hotel Californian was a restorative hideaway that served as a destination in its own right, while the serene energy and relaxed pace of Santa Barbara were conducive to letting go of real-world demands and finding the clarity to set intentions to evolve in the year ahead.