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Intention Setting

Posted by Betsy McCall from Art Monastery Project


Group size

1 – 500

Is participant experience relevant?

It's okay if participants haven't seen the inside of a classroom in years.

Physical trust needed

Mental trust needed


Material Description

Journals, paper, writing utensils.
Altar-makings: tray or plate or fabric, candles, container that can hold burning paper, incense, local greenery, fruit, nuts, chocolate or other treats.

Create materials quick and dirty

5 min

Create materials with love and care

30 min



10 minutes – 2 hours

Experience level of the facilitator

taken part AND professional facilitator

Number of facilitators



Level of activation


Woo-Woo Level – How touchy-feely is this method?

From 1.Rationalist-Materialist “No feelings here, folks.” to 5.Esoteric-Shamanic Bleeding Heart:

Innovation Phases:

2 Creating an Innovation-Friendly Culture
3 Fostering New Perspectives & Ways of Thinking
5 Grounding the Idea
9 Evaluation

Method Category:

Appreciative / Community building
Awareness raising
Business / Entrepreneurial Thinking
Ceremony / Ritual
Collective Intelligence
Group communication
Integration of input into daily life
Problem Solving
Strategy / Planning
Team Building / Trust Building


When people set intentions at the beginning of a session, day, workshop, or project, powerful potential is unleashed. Participants simply identify what their aim is and the facilitator reminds them periodically to return to their intention.



The purpose of setting intentions is to clarify, both within oneself and within the group, what each person's aim is.



A possible pre-exercise is to introduce the concept of intentions and then lead a guided meditation exercise. First bring your attention to your heart, feeling your physical heart in your chest, and breathing into it. Then allow to arise in your heart what your deepest wish for this project/workshop/retreat/meeting may be. Each participant can then free write for 5-10 minutes on this topic, always returning to what your intention will be, your heart's true wish for this time together.
If you do this exercise the day before the intention setting ceremony, it gives participants some time to let their ideas evolve. In this case, ask them to bring their journals to the intention setting ceremony. You may want to give them an additional piece of paper and write the final intention on that, which is then the one that gets burned and released into the universe.

Another excellent pre-exercise could be the Guided Journaling method in this database. You may want to adjust the questions or only do the most appropriate ones.

PREPARATION (excluding materials)

Whether you think of this in a woo-woo way or a scientifically-based way, intention setting is powerful. You can think of it as calling your highest ideals into being by speaking them to the universe, or you can think of it as bringing your highest ideals to your conscious mind, planting seeds in your own psyche.
It is useful to set intentions even just for a short period -- like a meeting. Intentions can really be anything that you want to align yourself with or aim yourself toward.
Some examples:
- My intention is to be present, bringing my full mind and heart to the important work we are doing.
- My intention for this workshop is to keep my heart open when I get triggered and to be brave about being vulnerable.
- My intention is to do what it takes to break my last personal record of ____________.

1 Setting the Space

You can adjust how much ritual you do around the intention setting according to your purposes and your participants. At the Art Monastery we do an intention-setting ceremony at the beginning of our 2-month summer laboratory. We do the pre-exercise of helping participants get in touch with what their intention may be (see above). Then at the Intention Setting ceremony, we create an altar in the center of the circle (a beautiful plate or tray with local greenery, fruit, nuts, chocolate, candles and other relevant beautiful objects) and a pot or container that can safely hold burning paper.

2 Arrive in the Space

Everyone sits in a circle and takes some breaths together, bringing their attention down into their hearts.

3 Speaking the Intentions

The first person who is called to speak reads their intention aloud. Then that person makes eye contact with each of the other people in the circle, the idea being that we are each holding the intention on behalf of that person, supporting them, bearing witness to them, anchoring their aspiration. (If there are more than 15 people in the group, or if you are pressed for time, you can skip the eye contact part.) Then that person can step into the circle and burn the piece of paper their intention was written on. (You can also skip the paper burning part and simply speak the intentions.) The paper burning can be very powerful though, particularly if the group remains silent, watching the paper burn until it's gone before the next person speaks.
Go around the circle, each person sharing their intention as they feel called and leaving a moment or two of silence between each person.

4 Celebrate!

Once everyone has spoken, celebrate!


Throughout whatever period of time you are together for, periodically bring the intentions to mind. Ask each other how it is going with your intention or if anyone wants to further clarify or amend their intention.


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