THE BLOG
12/21/2011 11:46 am ET | Updated Feb 20, 2012

Birthing New Life in the Midst of Despair

Some years are better than others. During 2011, we have trudged, like good little soldiers, through protracted periods of winter nights and icy blasts. The heart has grown chilled, anew, every time we have been reminded by politicians that we are not our brother's keeper. As we approach Christmas in a few days, and shortly the end of another year, the evidence is here. Dreams we've held as a people are gone. Politicians are no longer the domain of statesmen. Wall Street has failed an opportunity for reconciliation. The 1 percent has forgotten that we're not a caste system, and what befalls one, affects all. Forgive the mixed metaphor, but there are moments when another "Fall of Rome" feels footsteps away, its monstrous fist pounding at the back door, with fetid breath.

You can't much blame the many who are feeling down, discouraged, distraught. In over 40 years of working with people in public and private venues, the level of frustration, anger and grief is beyond anything I have ever witnessed, including Vietnam. Such a collective despair can never be healed by a pill, regardless how large the pharmaceutical, and how many lobbyists it boasts.

Our redemption comes from another direction. The first step is to look within, to recognize our own interior "Grinch thoughts" that act as a thief in the night. These self-critical, self-doubting beliefs end up robbing us of our birthright to live freely as we are. They oppress our spirit with worries that improve nothing. Pretty soon, like George in "It's a Wonderful Life," we forget who we are, we become even more discouraged and short-sighted. We lose track of the fact that our acts of kindness have touched lives. We forget that our infinite value has nothing to do with your circumstances or conditions. We forget we are part of the human caravan, doing the best we can, wherever we are.

Now, it must be said that there are those only too willing to help us forget. These are the sorry souls that are so deeply wounded from disappointments in love, that they will hop on any available bandwagon to point our your flaws, vulnerabilities. So much easier to try to critique you than take responsibility for themselves. Some of you will find them, I'm afraid, sitting at your holiday table. If so, it can be a daunting task to approach the next few weeks and keep Tiny Tim's "God bless us everyone," a sincere sentiment.

God bless their little pea-picking hearts. Through tyrants in our lives, we are given an opportunity to stay victims or push back. I prefer the later. One more chance to change our thinking and change our life. Like it or not, we share the journey. Best to learn to get along better with our own little self.

One of my favorite poets put it this way:

"Come, whoever you are!
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving
Come, come.
This is not a caravan of despair.
Come.
It doesn't matter if you've broken
Your vow a thousand times, still
And yet again. Come!"
-- Rumi

Sharing the caravan. We forget that this does not have to be a caravan of despair unless we make it so, by our own word. This does not mean we don't have challenges. One woman I know has a son with a chronic disease, that will be with him for the rest of his life as a major disability, a daughter who is a felon, a husband with a terrible illness and financial woes that would make you weep. This is real for her, and those who know her. But she realizes she has choice. She can dwell in the past, and what she has lost, she can flee to the future, and an apparent lack of resources to meet it, or she can practice being present to the moment. This is her choice. Sometimes we have bad things happen and ask the question: "What does this mean?" Or, "How did I attract these circumstances?" Maybe what we forget is how we respond affects not only us, but is a teaching to others. We are in the caravan together.

It has always been so. Take 2,000 years ago. Hoards of children, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, the infirmed, and the suffering found themselves traveling with their livestock, back to their place of origin. This forced return came from an emperor who could care less what it cost his people. Augustus was far more interested in his own financial gain from the census. Amongst them was a woman, nine months pregnant, traveling with her partner. She rode a donkey, for the road was too rough for her in such a state. Personally, I cannot imagine that was any picnic.

Whether you believe the story historically or not, certainly the metaphor should not be lost on us. Symbolically speaking, we are shown our plight, "pregnant" with new life possibility, amongst world conditions of hardship and greedy leadership. We must move forward into the cold night darkness, lacking latitude and longitude. Without any sign of outer comfort, we press on, do our best.

Our "inner Mary" is ready to birth at any moment, cold, hungry, exhausted, bumping along the dirt road atop a donkey. There is no five star hotel in sight. Finally, unable to travel farther, your partner attempts to obtain a room where you can deliver the "child." Symbolically, the child is nothing less than the dawn of "soul consciousness," the bringer of light, that which stirs in your heart that is nothing short of perfect wisdom, love and beauty. This is that aspect of our deepest nature that brings forward our own transformation, that redeems us from overly critical thinking and releases us from the slings and arrows which come our way from ignorant acts of unkindness, mean-heartedness and cruelty.

Taking it this way: We are the emperor whose poverty consciousness demands more in the counting house, which exacts a toll on our well-being. We are the caravan, traversing rough ground and hard conditions. We are the inn-keeper who denies new life into our life. We are the papa who simply does his best in a situation from which most men would flee. We are the pregnant mama who is faced with an unplanned "pregnancy" to which we must respond with love and faith. We are the animals, that is the instincts that gather round the unexpected in our midst. We are the shepherds in the field who notice the star. We are the wise men in other lands compelled to come, to kneel to that which is the mightiest ruler the world could ever know, not greed, but love made manifest through human form.

The Christmas story is an inside job. When we kneel to new life, we remember who we really are, here to love one another, beginning with our precious self, including on bad hair days. Each of us, and this means you, sister and brother, are pregnant with new possibilities. Yes, we have been challenged of late. Yes, we are no stranger to discouragement. Yes, we get caught in the web of our own little dramas and victimization. Let us remember, "when we change our thinking we change our life."

Buddha said it all: "Our greatest enemy is our thinking." He also said: "Our greatest friend is our thinking." Ours is to decide what kind of steward we wish to be to the gift of life through our free will. When bad stuff is happening, I say:

1. "Push back." This is your moment.
2. Stay in the moment.
3. Reconnect with what warms your heart.
4. Turn away from the rest.
5. Refuse to participate in any conversation, exchange or situation that does not honor life.
6. Relish what honors life.
7. Speak your truth about what you appreciate.
8. Let the rest go.

So, what can you do when you know your path may cross another's that pushes all your buttons? Create your own ritual and call to action. One might be: Write down their names. Each night, before you go to sleep, recall something you have learned from your interaction with "x" that is useful to your own well-being. Light a candle. Send your list a blessing for the lesson. Send them a wish for their own well-being. Release them and you. Your job is not to fix or save anybody. Your job is to find the way back to your heart, and heal your "owies" through love. Period. The rest will take care of itself.

Your turn: Is there "room at the inn" of your heart for you? For those you have not forgiven? What reconciliation would help?

I'm listening!

I will be back Jan.11, 2012 to launch our New Year's Love Project. May the "reason for the season" be lived out each day for you and yours, this 2011.

For more, see carabarker.net. For updates, contact me at carabarker.com or dr.carabarker@gmail.com. To save time, click on Become a Fan. Stay tuned for upcoming developments with the upcoming book, available in 2012 entitled -- The Love Project: Coming Home