”Iron is full of impurities that weaken it; through forging, it becomes steel and is transformed into a razor-sharp sword. Human beings develop in the same fashion.”  (Morehei Ueshiba)

In other words, none of us proceeds directly to the silver lining without first encountering a bit of cloud…

There is a collection of self-help material in the market place these days – some of it pretty lightweight, some genuinely useful. We often miss the obvious, so it’s re-packaging, if done well, is welcome. For those with a spiritual perspective, it can be refreshing to come across resources that acknowledge the dark night of the soul. ‘Positive Thinking’ isn’t always going to work when what’s needed is a descent into the underworld, which can, in time, reveal the true treasure of life.

It’s how we cope with setbacks that turns life into a triumph. Our perception of our circumstances is nearly always inaccurate anyway, obscured as it is by our very partial way of experiencing reality. Even the miracle that is the human eye or ear, perceives only a very limited amount of information. What do we do when faced with stagnation or upheaval?  The prolific writer Iyanla Vanzant has a good concept entitled the ‘Value in the Valley’ – that is to say, the low times have intrinsic lessons for us that are to be welcomed and integrated. Life is both light and shade, a complete experience. The often misunderstood (in my opinion) Esther and Jerry Hicks have a rich lesson in their Abraham Teachings. It’s about enduring and clarifying what you don’t want, in order to therefore to offer up a more finely honed vibrational match of what is actually wanted. Sort of obvious, but subtle enough that many miss the value of the first feeling – and try to leap to the second, without a clear preference. Currently popular new business models speak of  the necessity of slowing down in order to then speed up, downsize in order to upsize – or even lose a million in-between making a million. All of us know the feeling of lightness after a good clear out, or the bitter-sweet sense of relief, that can come from loss.

The famed Don Juan Matus of the  Carlos Castaneda books used to tell Carlos that there were three enemies that the sorcerer in training must conquer. The first is Fear – a seemingly endless obstacle for many people. The second is the ability to reach and maintain Clarity – which almost nobody has. The third is old age and death – which absolutely no-one will escape. Don Juan said that he’d mastered the first 2 , but had run out of time and energy to make much use of them, since the 3rd one was almost upon him. It’s hard being in bodies, when really we are spirit, eternal, with no limits or limitations. But whilst in this dimension, there is no progress except through the imperfect navigational tools of the physical body and mind, social systems and conventions. Which are at best clunky and clumsy and at worst, agonizingly dysfunctional.

I like this, from one who had his fair share of hardships, yet somehow became exactly what he was supposed to be:

”In daily living, one must follow the course of the barrier. To try to assail it will only destroy the instrument. And no matter what some people may say, barriers are not the experience of any one person, or any one group. They are the universal experience…to refuse to be cast down, that is the lesson. Walk on and see a new view. Walk on and see the birds fly. Walk on and leave behind all things that would dam up the inlet – or clog the outlet – of experience.” (Bruce Lee)

Yes…and every now and again headbutt the barrier, feel the sparks…but keep moving. I share with you my thoughts for dealing with the reality of obstacles and their harsh but necessary medicine. Useful for athletes, artists, musicians, anyone with a goal or a plan.

By the way, be careful with powerful manifestation techniques – lots of those in the New Age market place too. They do work. You will get what you wish for and since the Universal forces exist outside chronology, you may not want or even remember what you wanted by the time it’s delivered. Which can really suck. So keep a sense of humour whilst your diary, health, finances and relationships are groaning under the strain of the abundant bounty you may have summoned and which may look like some of the things on the list!

Obstacles as Hidden Wisdom – Top Ten Tips:

(All of the below I have experienced or am currently experiencing.)

1. Inertia. This can turn into panic, but just keep moving. Motion is the key. All is movement and change comes eventually. So get up.

2. Bereavement/grief.  Remember that bereavement is exhausting – and confusing. It brings up emotions that are not even to do with the death at hand, but previous complications and upsets that are to do with families jarring together and all their coping mechanisms being out of synch and irritating and upsetting to each other. If you are not negotiating (whilst exhausted and confused) a legal and bureaucratic obstacle course, you may be supporting someone else who is. Best thing is to just tell people what you are going through even though you may not feel upset on the surface. Before someone steps on your tripwire and you have a major meltdown. Be true to the changes that the bereavement process puts you through. Honour the new rhythms, sudden tears, thoughtful interludes. (Enjoy telling the surly ticket attendant who says ‘smile it may never happen’ or something foolish.)

3. Blockage. As above, so below. The principle that something happening ‘here’ can affect something happening ‘over there’ by a process of sympathetic magic. Go for a run. Movement in one sphere can help to unblock energy across the board. Take a random journey somewhere. Whatever the project is – begin it. Just show up and put in some time. Doesn’t have to be perfect or complete. There is only one cure for procrastination. Begin. Begin. Begin again.

4.  Frustration. As shamanic dream teacher Robert Moss counsels – look for the ‘hidden hand’. See if you can sense some organising intelligence that is actually doing you a favour by blocking your route along a particular path. Is it holding one door shut whilst trying to show you another, better way? Are you fighting the good fight? Or are you trying to grasp the wrong thing at the wrong time, in the wrong setting with the wrong people? Most of us know the difference. Try to sense the flow and listen to your heart.

5. Financial Woe. What can I say? leap and the net will appear – it really will. Even when you are cornered, struggling and poor and living on potatoes – think big, live generously, act wealthy, take a risk. All that ‘law of attraction’ stuff really works. Think multiple income stream from multiple sources. Only do work that you love. Expect to receive recompense for your work, time and skills and set your standards high in terms of what you can give (your best) and what you intend to receive. (your ultimate good). If you are in debt – climb out even if it’s one penny at a time. prioritize your spending. Even if you have to clean toilets. Just don’t be in debt. Money, like water, needs vacant structures and vessels, veins and pockets to flow into, so pay whatever you know you owe to who ever you owe it to. Do it gladly and promptly and keep your  systems clean and ready.

6. Self-pity. All of us get this at times when everything just feels too difficult, or when we compare our progress to another’s. Or when we feel we haven’t got what we are entitled to, we feel short-changed or hard done by. We weigh up our current lot against some perfect ideal and it all just feels like a mess. Our achievements may feel too little, too late, trivial and foolish or guilty and clumsy. The key here is…relativity. Do you have clean drinking water? Do you have the luxury of walking to your house with no bombs falling? Did you eat today? Do you have relative freedom from chronic pain?  Do you have the relative luxury of being able to read and write? Use your imagination and expand your perspective. Get a bit brutal with yourself just for the exercise of it – you may feel refreshed and galvanised. Pity doesn’t make anyone stronger. Believing you are strong and brave, will. Demand it of yourself.

7. Self-Sabotage. Try to get better at spotting when someone else has put an obstacle in your way, or if you did it yourself. You are the ultimate boss of your schedule, your habits, your reactions and responses to life. No-one can hurt you in the way that you hurt yourself and no-one can cause you ongoing damage without your consent. So try to make friends with yourself. All of us has an inner self that fears change – and success will mean change, movement. Failure can feel safe in comparison because…at least the pressure is off and the responsibility is less. Try to treat yourself like you would a treasured friend – and demand the same from others.

8. Slander/Psychic attack.  This is bound to happen at some point. It’s always horrible. Immediate and best measure is to retreat under the duvet and lick your wounds. Think of it like this: If you want to achieve anything of any note, in life, you’re going to tread on some toes. If you’ve never made an enemy, have you really lived? Any bid for power carries some risk. Probably means you are doing something right, so try to measure it with that in mind and stick to your plans. Other people’s’ jealousy is useful barometer. It can keep you on track. Remember a time when you were envious of someone’s talent, success, money or social standing and how it motivated you.

9. Seeming Indifference of the World at Large. This is sort of like self-pity. Plying your wares to a callous industry that doesn’t recognise your genius? Been at it for years and just not getting anywhere? At times like this, pull the view finder back. The lesson here is really about the illusory nature of time. It may take your whole life to get somewhere, but what else are you here to do? You may not be around to reap the real fruits – but plenty of others will. So decide each day that it’s all really worth it and get to grips with the big picture – not just the global picture, but the galactic picture. Honour all the great artists that went before you and those in the future that need you. Have faith.

10. Burnout/Exhaustion. This is the universe telling you something. You need a rest, so take time out whilst you still have a choice about it. The underlying message is that you’re actually too attached to your work, or a self-image/self-concept that you associate with work. This is a good lesson for the pianist who injures her hands or the singer who loses their voice. Feel what it feels like to lose your identity. Would the world end? What are you trying to prove or hide by functioning at such a high level, all the time? Maybe there is more to life. Let yourself lose your way. Finding yourself again at a different level of the spiral, is part of the pleasure of life.

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