There is a fascinating phenomenon that I have observed with both my students and my clients: once someone signs up for a program, their life starts moving and shifting. It’s as if they have given the universe the thumbs-up for the next phase of their life to begin. The universe gives a big Hurrah! and gets to work.
While this can be uncomfortable, most folks who sign on to work with me do so because they are looking for knowledge, growth, change, and a deeper sense of authenticity. To get clients started, I send them a simple questionnaire.
When I returned from Arizona last week, I had a note in my inbox from a woman who was surprised by the power of these mild-mannered questions. She wrote:
The result was like a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders and illumination of new and old spaces in my mind and spirit. I felt like I reconnected with past dreams and hopes and made some amount of peace with my current life transition. I cried as I read and since the reading I feel healed and energized in a very powerful way.
After reading this email (and tearing up a bit), I realized that these questions might be useful for you, that simply working with them could be a journey in and of itself.
Are you ready to begin? Warning: shift happens when you allow yourself to look deeply at your own life!
Why? Because you begin to see the gap between where you are and where you want to be. And, sometimes, you realized that you already have the tools to bridge the gap, scale the wall, or paddle the river.
So… are you ready?
Journal on these questions with an eye toward honesty and creating a rich matrix in which someone, including you, can get to know your true self.
The questions are deceptively simple:
1. Tell me about you! Just a few sentences that sketch out a day in your life: where do you live? who do you live with? what do you do all day?
As you read back through your answer, notice what you chose to say and what you chose to leave out. There are so many facets to our daily lives.
Where is your attention? Is it on the positive or the negative?
What are you avoiding or ignoring?
Do any “supposed tos” come up, for instance I’m supposed to sound successful or I want to sound like I have it together?
2. What are the top three wellness challenges you face?
What in your life feels out of balance or out of sorts? Are they the same things the doctor says is “wrong” with you?
I can’t tell you how often a client has a major condition that does not get mentioned here! They might have originally contacted me because they were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but their wellness challenges are more specific and daily than a disease name.
This is your chance to step away from labels (which can feel inescapable, mysterious, or incurable) and think about how you actually feel.
You might find that when you focus on how you feel, instead of on a disease name or a situation name (like “unemployed” or “getting a divorce”) that you have a number of small, everyday problems that actually have solutions.
3. What “fixes,” solutions, or therapies have you tried in the past? Did they help? How or how not?
Sometimes we have quite a few things in our personal toolbox that have worked in the past, but we forget to use them. This is a reminder of things that have worked… and that can work again!
When I first cut wheat from my diet, I would slide back into old habits and start gradually reintroducing wheaty foods into my life. Eventually I would be eating a daily dose (or three!) of wheat and would start feeling ill.
When I moaned to my mom about my horrible, recurring exhaustion, she would ask “Are you eating wheat again?”
Duh. It would seem so obvious once she pointed it out.
Denial, old habits, forgetfulness, convenience. What’s your excuse for not following through with the things you know make you feel better?
The other thing this question reveals is whether you are jumping from practitioner to practitioner and not really doing the work of wellness. Yes, you read that right– the work of wellness.
Going to yoga class for 2 weeks or seeing an acupuncturist 3 times is not a fair trial, for either you or them. You have to do the daily work of wellness, and that means following through on the advice of your practitioners and sticking with it (and with them) long enough to see change.
4. If you could wave a “practical” magic wand and change one thing in your life, what would it be?
5. What difference would that change make in your life, emotions, and well-being?
Look at how these 2 questions link together. This is almost always fascinating. I have read the not having a backache will allow me to connect more deeply with my kids and that relieving constipation will allow me to love my job again.
Look at the cause and effect scenarios that you have created. Pick them apart and examine the presuppositions.
6. What else would you like me to know?
This is a lot like question number one; it shows you where your focus is, it illuminates where your attention resides.
Your attention is like a spot light– you can move it wherever you want. Where is it now? And, more, importantly, where do you want it to be?