Getting Unstuck, Finding Some Fun

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Dr. Cara Barker Author, Analyst, Keynotes, Founder of The Love Project, Love Fests and Retreats

"...I am on my own journey/battle with forgiveness...and I find it very difficult. I feel as if I have reached a standstill. ...perhaps there is a dead end in terms of how much forgiveness you can offer a person sometimes, while still remaining true to how you feel....I am confused, and at a stand still now on this journey to forgiveness. I don't know how to move forward and I do not know what moving forward would entail. Do you have any advice or guidance for me?" B.

Not only is this reader at a standstill, but so is the world. Negotiations all around seem at a standstill. It doesn't much matter where we look. Ironically, the failing attempts to reach consensus on Health Care Reform leave nearly everyone feeling distressed, and, ironically, sickened, particularly the underserved, and those at risk of joining their ranks. In early winter, we are told that there will be a winding down of this eight year war, and today, there is deliberation over sending 40,000 more of our young to Afghanistan to fight a thankless battle. Overseas, Iranian missile launches remind us of North Korea. One day we hear promises of peace, and the next, we learn of new sites for weapons of mass destruction. Last week, we hear 'the economy's better.' Tuesday, China threatens devaluation of our dollar. Where we believe we've been heading comes to a standstill, and we react with a host of feelings. Who's telling the truth? Who's not? Who do you forgive? How do you move forward?

Step One: Getting Unstuck.
Politicians, as well as each of us, struggle with the paradoxical dictates: "To thine own Self be true," and "No man is an island." William Shakespeare penned a fundamental truth when he enjoined us to be honest, authentic with ourselves, without which, we would ring false to others. What he didn't tell us is how to deal with the fact that others' truths might be fundamentally so different from our own, that the disparity puts us into perpetual log-jam with one another.

One of the most basic needs of our ego is to 'be right.' As readers point out, the very act of forgiveness is hard. We want the other to 'go first.' But even more difficult, is to forgive ourselves for our periods of confusion, discouragement, and resistance. Buddhists describe this as " monkey mind" taking over. This ego aspect hops around like Rumpelstilskin, manipulating us with prospects of catastrophe, fear, poverty, powerlessness should we surrender our need 'to be right.'

Examples. A 62 year old client we'll call 'Walter,' was in such a pickle. Known in the public eye as a tremendously successful business leader, Walter hides the effects of his private war. As C.E.O., W.'s accustomed to the helm, knocking aside anything in his way. So far, so good, until he arrives home. His family has recently revolted. Two months ago, his wife of 41 years left him. Both his wife, and his three grown kids have given him the same feedback: "You have to be right about everything. You make no space for anyone else's way. This is not workable." Walter's habitual need to be right has landed him in mighty hot water.

Vive la difference. The basic step in getting unstuck is to recognize that there is a huge distinction between being true to you, and doing it 'Walter's way.' So, the very first thing you've got to do to move forward is recognize, and forgive yourself, for wherever you've gotten stuck, and feel indignant or defeated. Whenever we are in reactivity, we are coming from rigid thinking, needing to be right. When you're coming from inner Wisdom, it is a completely different story. You are open to new solutions, even if they weren't your idea. The need for 'sides,' vanishes. It is as if you shift to a position of welcoming growth, and whoever with whom you've been at odds.

Your body knows the difference between these two states. When we need to be right, to 'Walter our way through conflict,' there's an inner state of adverse tension, rigidity, pushing. Blood pressure rises. We wear out our vessels, and relationships. Operating from alignment with who you are at the most awakened level, registers in the body as being in a state of flow, surrendering, progressing.

When you are stuck with anger: "Well, what that feels like is a big wave that comes along and knocks you down. You find yourself lying on the bottom of the ocean with your face in the sand, and even though all the sand is going up your nose and into your mouth and your eyes and ears, you stand up and you begin walking again. Then the next wave comes and knocks you down. The waves just keep coming, cut each time you get knocked down, you stand up and keep walking. After a while, you'll find that the waves appear to be getting smaller."
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, as reported by Pema Chodron

9 Action Steps. When we are playing from Love, our life conveys a completely different message. Remember that growth is central to our nature. Growth won't happen without growing pains.
1. Trust that whatever 'sets you off' is your current edge of growth.
2. Name the 'painful thing that 'gets you going. But before you do, take out a notepad and invite the 'painful thing' to pose for a doodle portrait. No joke. Our 'painful things' go deeper than words. So let its image 'be your guide.

For example, today, 'Anna,' a 61 year old elementary school principal, came for a consultation. Anna's suffering from migraines that are unresponsive to medications. Last night, she dreamt that she was in a prison cell, and was being kicked in the head by the warden, who bears a striking resemblance to her deceased father. She describes her pain as a "9.999 on a scale of 0-10." I asked her to 'enter' the pain through her creative imagination, and 'doodle' the portrait of whatever she discovered, which was a 'box with bars.' "This is my job. I'm in too small a box. I'm trapped and can't get out of it. What am I going to do about retirement? I want to quit, but I'm just locked in."
3. Ask yourself: what's the doodle's helpful suggestion? Anna's the answer comes swiftly: "I need to spend time doing what makes me happy today. I need to make a jail break!" I ask her: "What would be an unimaginable jail break for you, something no one would predict?" "Pole dancing!" she grins.
4. Don't be surprised if your Spirit speaks in surprising ways. We get bogged down sometimes in too much 'seriousity.'
5. Keep your eye on the prize. Refuse to play the blame game or prophet.
6. Return your focus to what brings you alive. Stop wasting your juice trying to revive the dead, or before you've gotten back your own oxygen supply. Celebrate the unexpected.
7. Shake your coat. That's what my dog Rosie Bell does whenever she needs a state change. Shake off where you've been. This is a new moment. Come back to you, even if its pole dancing and you're 92!

What helps you get unstuck? I'd love to hear from you, and your contacts!