4 Powerful Questions and a favorite Mary Oliver poem

Winter is surely here. It was just 19 degrees when I woke up this morning. Now I’m sitting by the fire in our very quiet house. Just me and my cat Bhakti, who is stretched out in a sunbeam, while Carl and Mesa are out adventuring at my parents’ ranch. A rare time of quiet to enjoy my own company. I’m grateful.

We’ve developed a tradition over the last few years of celebrating solstice – just Carl and Mesa and me. We like to turn off  all electronic devices (bye bye Macbook and iPhones) and light our home just by candles and the twinkly lights on our Christmas tree. I’m not sure exactly how we’ll spend this special day tomorrow – but I know it will include time for reflection on the year past and the year to come, lots of gratitudes, and intention setting. As part of that, I’ll be working with 4 questions.

At my Restorative Retreat at Snowbird a few weekends ago, we began each day with consideration of these 4 questions. (In fact Carl and I worked with these as we drove up the canyon that day.) These questions were given to me by one of my mentors a few years ago. Many people at the retreat seemed to find them as helpful as I do – so I thought I’d share them here with you.

Warning: These offer a powerful way to really supercharge your intentions. Ready?

1. Who do you want to be? 
2. How do you want to feel?
3. What is your desired internal outcome?
4. What would the best case scenario be?

These questions can be applied in so many contexts. Here are some occasions I’ve used them recently: Before family gatherings. Before a potentially difficult conversation with someone. Before I see a client. Before I teach a class. At the beginning of a day off. Before I sit down to write. Before I make plans for my schedule over the next several months.

And if I can only take time for one question, right now it seems the most important question I ask myself is this: How do I want to feel? 

Lately, this question has been arising for me in many different contexts. I know I’ve got to listen when synchronicity lines up like that. I’m getting the message!

I’m learning through my studies in the Embodied Life Mentorship Program with Russell Delman that I can use my attention and intention to literally grow neural networks in my brain to support myself to have more and more of the kind of feelings and experiences I desire much more often. Wow. I’m grateful.

I’m learning from Danielle LaPorte in her Desire Map program that there are core desired feelings under all my goals and aspirations, and if I focus on how I want to feel (rather than getting sidetracked by a goal) I can orient my life around feeling how I want to feel every day. Truly powerful. I’m grateful.

And I’m learning from my business mentor, Christine Kane, that these 4 questions, and especially the guidepost of how I want to feel, can act as a guide to how I craft my business and my lifestyle. My life! I’m grateful.

One of my long-time favorite quotes, and a guiding principle in my life has been this one from Gandhi:

“The means you use must embody the end you seek.”

Carl and I used this as an extremely useful guidepost when we planned our wedding years ago. The end we were seeking was a sense of abundant love, connection, community, celebration, fun, and ease. When the planning tipped us over into stress, hurry, resentment or anything of that sort we stopped short – regrouped – remembered the end we were seeking and started again, embodying the end we sought. Love, fun, celebration, ease.
We revisit this frequently in our business. Our plans. Our parenting. Our schedules. Our lifestyle.

I was inspired to share this with you today… and I wonder –
What is the end you seek?
How do you want to feel?

I wonder if, like me, you find it useful to reflect on this…
And not only to reflect on it as some faraway goal – but

How can we embody that today?
In the next 5 minutes?
At dinner this evening?
Over the holidays? 

In closing, and approaching this darkest day of the year, I’m sharing one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. In part, a favorite because one of the ways I want to feel is “light,” in all the many meanings of that word.
I recommend reading it aloud. :)


The Buddha’s Last Instruction

 “Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal – a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire –
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

 ~ Mary Oliver ~

 (House of Light)

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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.