Mary Oliver was with us a few nights ago when we gathered to set our intentions for the year. Not sure how her "Blue Horses" book of poems hidden amidst all the books on my shelf landed in my hands, which gave me the closure I needed to feel absolutely ready facilitating the workshop, but it did. I call it alignment. Earlier that day I had also intended on serving blueberries. Alignment and here is why.
The repeating theme that continued to come up that evening from participants was that "resolutions don't work" and "it is challenging to follow through." And, I couldn't agree with all that more. Throughout the years I have moved away from goal-oriented practices which feed the ego-identity to more heart-based practices which help me turn more inward toward the person who I am (becoming). Don't get me wrong, goals are helpful for many people including myself, but creating systems that will shape who you want to become is beyond essential.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, suggests the following:
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. This year, spend less time focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results.
So, first question to ask oneself is this. Is my intention fear and ego-based or is there an intention of waking up and find my way to the aspiration that expresses my most awake and loving heart. What are fear-based intentions? Tara Brach states that
ego-based intentions are ones that perpetuate thoughts, feelings and actions that keep us imprisoned in feeling separate and limited.
The most common example that comes to mind is going to the gym in order to become fit in order to impress or attract. Aesthetic goals are great and there is nothing wrong with wanting a body you feel comfortable living in, which will In turn help with self-esteem and confidence. However, is that the deeper hearts desire? Love-based intention is to become a healthier version of self in order to find and serve one's deeper purpose in a body mind that is functioning optimally. This purpose doesn't need to be some higher good of serving or purity. No, none of that. It could simply be to tap into a state of body that permits you to bring your art to form, cook, be in relation to others in a way that is safe and nurturing, secure, loving, etc.
These are the reflection questions I asked participants that evening:
1. Who do you want to become?
2. What are you doing to become that?
3. What needs to be dissolved in order to be that?
The final one is perhaps that of surrender and letting go that takes effort, strength and lots of support to reach. Ultimately, friends, it's maybe what Oliver said all along that "it's myself that I miss" and I am trying to return back home. We end up putting so much pressure on ourselves to become better and enough, when really, we are all trying to get back to the true nature and essence of who we are. And, that requires a continuous practice of loving-kindness and a heightened awareness of self. There is nothing wrong with ego-based intentions, however, I am of the belief that it delays the process of coming back home. So let go of those resolutions and lofty goals, and bring in systems necessary with small actionable changes that will help you get to where you want to be. And, patience and perseverance, of course.
Last but not least there was a formula I shared with the group that I will leave you with along with the poem:
Manifestation = Intention + Attention
Ask yourself if you are fully bringing the attention you deserve to the habits and behaviors that you do on the daily to be the person who you are becoming? Is it just intention that you are setting with no action. The work of the yogi is both action and inaction. Stillness and movement. Destruction and creation. All of it! May you feel carried and protected in this journey. May you feel belonging and peace. And, may it all be.
Blueberries by Mary Oliver