Intent versus Intention; Is There A Difference?
by: Dr. Sheri Rosenthal

Intent, rather than intention, is an important aspect of the Toltec philosophy and certainly a challenging subject to talk about. We must use our concepts to discuss something utterly abstract, something that is not conceivable within the rational mind. For Toltec’s, Intent is the force that life uses to create our entire universe. Most of us think of Intent as intention, but this is not true from a Toltec viewpoint. An intention is something that we are aiming to do or accomplish. It is an uprising from the rational mind and involves rational thought.

Intent, on the other hand, is a force similar to what we might imagine as volition, a conscious act involving will. So where intention involves thinking and not necessarily doing, Intent is the force that life uses to move and propel everything forward in the manifest reality and to change or reorder it.

Intent is also the force that glues the Tonal (matter) and the Nagual (spirit) together in all of their perfection. Toltec’s know that Intent is constantly pushing life to express itself around us (for example, the passing of the seasons and children growing); life could not express in manifestation without the medium of Intent. We can also say that life creates the edifice of Intent, or the conceptual structure that orders the knowledge of our rational mind. When we become impersonal (and totally detached from the constructs of the rational mind) that edifice no longer rules our life and we are free from its boundaries and limitations.

Intent can also be imagined as the executor of the commands of the Infinite (spirit/God/higher power) directing all creation. This command tells everything in the manifest universe how to be and also how to perceive. We perceive the way we do as humans because we have been commanded to do so by the Infinite; that command is encoded within our physical bodies (as DNA, for example).

Toltec-style Vessel
Toltec-style Vessel (Photo credit: Madman2001)

Although we can’t tell Intent what to do, Toltec’s do invoke it and use it. I know that this seems to be a contradiction in terms. But since we are all part of the one universal life, if our purpose is the same as the purpose of the Infinite, then our command becomes the command of the Infinite. When this happens, we can align with Intent and utilize it in creating our life.

By expressing an exceptionally well-defined desire from the heart with total confidence, and without any conflicting thoughts from the rational mind, unbending Intent can make anything happen. It’s like experiencing single-mindedness that does not take place in (or have anything to do with) the mind. Channeling Intent is not about thinking or wishing; it is a feeling that comes from deep inside us and is so overwhelming imbued with purpose and focus that we know there is no other possibility that could conceivably manifest in our reality.

Before we can align and utilize Intent, a few qualifications must be met. First, we must have cleaned up our mind and ensured that the tyranny of our domesticated programming has ended. At this point, a different tone enters our lives. We feel at peace, like everything is perfect and we are aligned with life both within us and outside of us. It is from this place that we are able to utilize Intent. We no longer feel like we are fighting anything anymore; the battle is over. That doesn’t mean our life challenges are over, no way! It simply means that we don’t feel like we have anything to fight (inside or outside of us), nor do we feel that life is out to get us. We face and enjoy life’s challenges; this is simply the acceptance of what is.

NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Maya-Toltec...
NYC – Metropolitan Museum of Art – Maya-Toltec Figure (Photo credit: wallyg)

Once we are no longer ruled by the mind, we have total faith in ourselves and our capabilities. We know that we can do anything. The question becomes, what do we do? Well, anything our heart desires to do! When we have transcended our mind, all our personal power comes back to us (we are no longer using it to maintain our belief system or fear-based emotions) and our faith and will are strong. Our internal will becomes a personalized force that we can employ in our lives.

For example, let’s say we want to stop smoking but we can’t. The reason we are having trouble is because our will is not strong. That is because our personal power is invested in too many other draining things (like getting aggravated during the day or arguing, emotions that are the result of us defending our fear-based beliefs). As we begin to free up our power, our will becomes stronger. Then, if our Intent aligns with the Intent of the universe, we command it and our will is done. At that point, a Toltec’s will is at her service and so is Intent, as her will becomes her Intent.

I think we should take a moment to acknowledge that a Toltec never uses Intent to hurt others. In our tradition we teach mastery of Intent as the final mastery, knowing that the apprentice will have transcended his egotistic desires and have no more need to control people or harm them by this point. By the time we make it this far, we have absolute gratitude for our lives, no more resentments, and nothing to gain or lose from our interactions with others.

I encourage you to experience this for yourself. (Toltec’s like to say that in the world of the Tonal we talk, and in the world of the Nagual we act.) Intent is one of those things you can’t analyze through talk; you just have to live it! By living impeccably, you will reach this point and your silent knowledge will lead the way. So wherever your heart directs you to go, you can feel confident that you will create a beautiful life dream, simply because it is your command.

About The Author

Dr. Sheri Rosenthal is a master Toltec teacher and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Toltec Wisdom. Having trained with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, she currently takes students on spiritual journeys, works with personal apprentices and enjoys being extremely happy. You can reach her at or at

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