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5 Steps to Get Your Life Back on Track

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"I don't know why this is happening," complained Monica, former C.F.O. of a Fortune 500 company. "I've always prided myself in being organized. I don't think I can get through a day without finding something a.w.o.l. What's wrong with me?"

Like Monica, you may have noticed someone pretty much on a 24/7 reconnaissance mission for either lost eyeglasses, or keys. The missing sock in the dryer is no longer alone. Monica suffers from what's going around these days, and it's not a virus. "Attentional blindness" is affecting millions who are looking at but not seeing. You either know the experience yourself, or know people who do. It goes like this: you are looking for the lost remote, cell phone, wallet, (dare I say, a relationship?), etc and cannot see it. Time passes, and you get more agitated, or, like Monica, self-accusing, or like me, panicked if I've got a plane to catch. Later, you see the missing article within plain view. Seems mercurial, doesn't it? The thing is that you don't have to be part of the crows feet set to come down with it, either. You just have to be human.

The bad news is that there is no flu shot for this malady. The good news is that there are some little steps you can take to improve the situation and get back on track with your life.

Step One: Take a break. Rest this exhausted, overstimulated mind of yours in what the Tibetan poet has called "the natural great peace." When you feel your harried self amping-up like the kid next door's sound system, just take a break. Give yourself permission to be human, to rest, to turn away from self-recrimination. Sometimes this will challenge you more than others. My worst, and, might I add, most embarrassing example, happened two years ago as I got ready to leave for work. Seems my keys were missing. I overheard my long-gone mother's mantra: "where did you last have them?" (Frankly, the question's never made a lot of sense to me because if I knew the answer, the said item in question wouldn't be lost, would it?) Clock ticking and blood pressure rising, I asked it anyway. No dice. Retracing my steps, it was not before I grabbed for the phone, that I noticed the missing keys were in my hand the entire time. No joke. Worrisome to say the least, if you start connecting the dots about what might be going on upstairs in the old noggin neurologically. It is at this precise moment that it's time to take that break. Breathe in, breathe out.

Step Two: Pause, restoring perspective. Consider what you might have lost that could be worse. Two weeks ago, one of the finest couples you could ever meet lost their little girl after a failed heart transplant, and another friend lost his wife of 53 years. Last week, a colleague found out he's got the dreaded Big C. Sure, this doesn't change the fact that you might need your keys or whatever, but at least you buy the space you'll need to pause and take the next step which can really help. Problems defy solution with too narrow vision.

Step Three: Consider reframing your predicament. (Often this works best after the situation has been resolved, although it can be used beforehand to expedite the search and rescue effort.) Pretend that whatever you've lost needs to be out of range, for now, in order that you can see more clearly. For instance, I'm writing this while straddling my farmhouse kitchen table, my right foot in a walking cast. Today, I know that episode of lost keys just happened to coincide with the fact that I was growing weary of leasing space that was too limited. That particular morning, when a new lease was to be signed, my deepest self was begging "don't make me go." At the time I was working way too many hours, seeing far too many people, in part because I did not want to make the necessary life changes required for growth.

Sometimes, we just get benched in order to do a little life scrutiny, face the music and revise our direction to match what the Underground Twin needs (more to come on this over the next few weeks). Sometimes we fail to see what's needed in front of our face.

Step Four: Turn down the noise. Listen to what's arising from your Deepest Self in the stillness. Stop looking, start seeing by extricating yourself from the machinery. Love yourself enough to side-step the collective programming that blinds us to meaningful connection. Physician Frederick Franck puts it this way, pointing out that what's at stake in our blindness is bigger than lost socks:

"... Everything in our society seems to conspire against our inborn human gift of seeing. We have become addicted to merely looking at things and beings. The more we regress from seeing to looking at the world -- through the ever more perfected machinery ... the less we see. The less we see, the more numbed we become to the joy and the pain of being alive, and the further estranged we become from ourselves and all others ... If we could really see what day after day is shown on the six o'clock news, we would burst into tears. We would pray or kneel ... over that screen in an impotent gesture of exorcising such evil, such insanity. But there we sit, programmed as we are to look at, to stare passively at those burning tanks, those animals choking in oil spills. We perfunctorily shake our heads, take another sip of our drink and stare at the manic commercials until the thing switches back to smiling bigwigs reviewing honor guards, rows of corpses and beauty queens preening. No wonder that ... meaning is lost..."

Pretty current, don't you think? Franck wrote these words nearly 20 years ago. He began to stop looking and start seeing when he realized that he became a doctor to please his family, and this contamination was not fulfilling. He decided to do something about it and built a bridge over the rest of his life between Zen and drawing, that's been celebrated around the world. What's the saying: "Physician, heal thyself." Monica can relate. By applying these four steps, the process prepared the ground for her own breakthrough in Step 5. How about you? Ready?

Step Five: Register and trust whatever arises that holds meaning, even if no one but you understands, even if it takes longer than you think it should. Receive the blessing from what you discover through a refreshed way of seeing, even if it comes from pain. Of course, when you're reluctant to surrender what's lost, (glasses, mobility, health, a loved one, a friendship, your job, your dream for the world) none of these steps sound appealing. Initially skeptical, Monica's discovering that attentional blindness has become a teacher. "I'm realizing that mostly what I lose forces me to slow down and listen. I'm reclaiming the instincts I need to help me better handle how my life's shifting. The truth is that I will do anything to avoid slowing down, unless I'm flat out of options." Me, too. As I'll be off my right foot until Thanksgiving, I've got the same assignment, to shift from looking at to a more expansive seeing.

I invite you to join me. What helps you shift from looking at your world to seeing deeply? In what areas would you like to become a master seer by the holidays?

For updates, contact me at carabarker.net, or dr.carabarker@gmail To save time, click on Become A Fan. Stay tuned for upcoming developments with The Love Project, including "Practicing Love." Follow Dr. Cara Barker on www.twitter.com/DrCaraBarker.

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