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Dr. Cara Barker

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Redefining the New Normal: 3 Tips for Mitch McConnell

Posted: 11/10/10 09:14 AM ET

If there ever was a time for healing, this is it. Resolving what's in our way, as country, world and individuals requires breaking through our old -- business as usual -- way of operating.

The good news about the bad news is akin to the appearance of a pimple before prom night: Toxic material that's undercover is erupting in front of our face. If we want to get to the Ball, we need to redefine normal. With attention, and awakened action, we can move forward collaboratively as a human race. Reminders abound that the time is now.

Enter the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Driven by his primary goal to ''take down Obama,'' we are given a marvelous mirror of what doesn't work to create peace, healing, and resolution. Without an intention of improving the way we relate to one another, we stay stuck. Not unlike the teenager who's locked herself in the bathroom to plaster on the Clearasil before the dance, for fear of appearances, we need to let go of previous expectations, embrace what is, and let our best self shine.

So, bless Mr. McConnell. He's giving us a real opportunity to ask ourselves some mighty important questions. Let's start with: is this how I want us to live? How can the way you and I relate serve a higher good for our brothers and sisters everywhere? How can we best shift our focus today from what's wrong to what's working? How can we, as Meister Eckhart puts it: "Follow the direction of the heart without a 'why."

My Godfather, Dwight David Eishenhower, taught me lessons pertinent to these times. One of them is that each of us has choice. We can either stand for what unites and inspires us to 'do better,' or we can become one of the 'weak good' and stay silent. His boldness to speak up came, in part, from his rich relationship with the earth. He was a farm boy, after all, and would return to his Abilene and Gettysburg often to reconnect with that Wisdom that only comes when we are still, reverent, and listening to something deeper than the party line. His way of resolving conflict came from going privately within, making things right, there, embracing what came, drawing from this well, and acting in accord with this eternal truth.

Today we see that his way of trusting the process connected him with profound counsel about the direction we needed to take. We didn't, and we are paying the price. It's easier to do nothing, get caught up in who's right/who's wrong debate. We all do it. When we focus on faulting someone else, it becomes an excuse for apathy. Carl Jung said it long ago: "Our greatest passion is our lethargy."

The fact is that we can identify with limitation, symptomatic of poor consciousness. Or, we can choose a more abundant, well-related path that resolves the trouble. Who's willing to go deeper than politics? Those who are can discover we are part of something pretty remarkable. Only fear keeps us apart from our Good. Whenever we react from the old definition of normal, expect to find calcification, reduction of flow, political quagmire, and bullying.

What does this say?

Could it be that it is time we admit the obvious? We are limping. As a people we are transiting through uncharted territory, where the old markers are no longer working. It is a subject to which I've grown familiar of late. Regardless of whether you are struggling in the employment, career, health and/or relationship department, or are finding yourself in a rehab program on the edge of redefining who you are, you are not alone. We need to take a leap of faith together if we are serious about moving more freely.

As a recovering limper, the following resolution for healing is prescribed:

Step 1: Create a healthy relationship with your ''New Normal." Identify your intention for good, let go of whatever does not promote it. Seek mutual resolution. Release old ideas. How do you want to live? What conditions would you like for family, work, job search, your community, country or world? One HP reader wrote me privately with the following:

I've been out of work for some time since my company folded. I'm broke. I'm so ashamed to be on unemployment. I feel like a complete zero. I ... wasn't raised to be on the 'take,' ... went to school, got a couple of degrees, got married, had kids, and kept my nose clean ... Now, recruiters say I'm overly qualified. I feel like I'm letting myself down and my family down. ... There's an unemployment ministry I've heard of, but I can't make myself go there. It's too humiliating ... I went to Harvard, for 'C's' sake ...

Pete's disappointed, discouraged, scared. Outside his comfort zone, he's forced to confront his beliefs about himself, and how life's 'supposed to work.' But, can you see the opportunity?

Always, always, whenever we are required to advance further, there's a humbling, a regression. (Think the clinging behavior of children before developmental leaps.) There's also denial, anger, bargaining, despair before acceptance. We want what we want when we want it. Like Pete, we has this way of wanting instant gratification, including protection of the image we've worked so hard to project to the world that we've got it together. (Of course, we all know there are folks who've worked just as hard to wear the mask that says 'No one understands me.')

Step 2: Expand your Circle with supportive relationships. Here's Pete's most recent correspondence:


O.K., so I finally got off my duff and went to that unemployment meeting. I was shocked. People were so welcoming. There was one guy there who's a doctor ... His hospital down-sized him because they lost a contract .... There were teachers, mortgage bankers, an attorney, and a number of business owners, without jobs. We actually laughed. I haven't laughed for a long time. My arrogance was in the way. I'm going back ... I don't know when I'll get a job, but at least I'm not alone. The thing I didn't expect is that I'm not so mad at the guy who let me go at work. The truth is that I wasn't so happy there, for quite a while. Just didn't want to start over. Now I've got to do what I was resisting. Who knows? Maybe I'll even end up happier. Maybe change starts with a chuckle. It's a start, a baby step, I know.

Healing begins with kindness. You cannot heal anything without redefining yourself. That's what recovery is all about, for the addict, the acceptance that what they are is bigger than their disease; for a nation, awakening to the imperative that we must care for one another. The whole darn thing requires that we take a breath, and learn how to be in better relationship with compassion and non-violence, including towards the parts of ourselves we secretly find unacceptable.

If our goal is 'to take down' anyone, it boomerangs. Growth takes redefining healthier behavior and attitudes, a willingness to tolerate discomfort for a bit. So does getting into a new pair of shoes when your foot's still swollen. Step by step, day by day, progress comes, even if microscopic, at first.

Step 3: Cultivate patience. Pass it around. Rome was not built in a day. The economy won't be fixed overnight. None of us can advance in the direction of our dreams without developing a better relationship with patience. As one who has been relearning to walk again, (literally) one of the lessons is that you can't budge nature's calendar. Improvement takes time. The body takes time to heal. The nation takes time to heal. The body of the world will take time to heal.

Meanwhile, it helps to surrender to what you cannot change, to cut yourself some slack, to focus on what you do have that is priceless. Just the other day I overheard some people on the ferry say: "What am I going to do about Christmas this year? No money for presents. We're lucky enough to have cash for rent." So, I wrote Pete. I asked him, 'what would you say to these people who fear not having enough?" His answer was swift: "I'd tell them maybe this year, they are the gift. Maybe the gift is sharing where you really are. The gift to them might be discovering they are not alone."

Pete's right. We need to expand our definition of our ''new normal.'' Let's turn in a new direction together. None of us advances toward our dreams without (1) redefining ourselves with a bigger vision, beginning with forgiveness; (2) expanding our Circle of Good, with those who seek mutual empowerment, and (3) embracing daily practice.

To be continued.

How do you wish to live? What would you love to hold as your 'redefined normal?' Our country's? Our world's? Where would you like to develop more patience? What do you believe is possible?

I'm listening.

For a fuller discussion, from this abbreviated article, check out carabarker.net. Thanks for passing this along to your circle.

 

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