Overcome Obstacles: Turning Your Obstacles into Power
You’ve had enough! You’re not going to put up with it any longer. The situation has been going on for far too long. You’ve made up your mind. You’re going to take action/follow a new path/get out of that rut once and forever!
And you do! And for a while, it feels so good. You get started. You set sail with great enthusiasm. You can feel the “winds of change” filling your sails. You are carried along on a wave of newness. Things, at last, are shifting.
Hitting An Obstacle
And then….. (unfortunately there is an “and then”). You hit an obstacle. The wind suddenly changes, and you hit rocks. Or a storm whips up, and you have to seek refuge in safe waters.
And there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re stuck, and now there’s damage you have to repair.
You wonder what happened? The journey started out so well. What did you do wrong? Maybe you weren’t meant to go off on this journey? You find yourself assailed by doubts and uncertainties.
If you were indeed on a sea voyage, you would know that this is just part of sea travel. You would accept it and just get on with the business of repairing your vessel or find a good use for the fallow time.
But you’re not. You are on an inner voyage which involves unravelling intractable areas of your inner landscape, challenging well-established modes of being and behaving, and maybe too opening up one or two old wounds.
And this of course is a lot more challenging than going on any sea voyage.
It Shouldn’t Be Like This!
And yet so many people fall into the trap of assuming the journey should be all “plain sailing”. They should move effortlessly from A to B to C without a hint of struggle, success follows on success until with a great fanfare they reach their much-desired goal.
There’s even a popular New Age belief that often gets misinterpreted when obstacles are encountered: “That if everything is not flowing the universe is sending you a message that you weren’t meant to follow this path.
It may seem ridiculous when you look at it like this, but this is how the human mind works. You probably wouldn’t even set off on the journey if you knew what really was entailed. A seafarer is a lot more prepared.
While I was in Portugal I came across a striking fado song which illustrates this point very powerfully.
(FYI fado is a passionate, very idiosyncratic style of Portuguese singing. It is music from the heart, and it utterly celebrates misery and suffering as you will see!!)
This is a very rough translation of the song, thanks to Satya Kaur, one of my Portuguese clients. It starts off like this:
Now Yes, let’s turn this thing around
Now Yes, we have the legs for walking
Now Yes, I feel the optimism
Let’s go forward none can stop us.
Not now because it’s lunchtime
Not now because it’s dinner time
Not now because I’m not available
And anyway tomorrow I’ve got to go to work
You may recognise yourself or other people in this. All the fabulous intentions and excuses that humans come up with when they commit to a new path. In the song, it is funny, and also horribly true. I’ve said these things or similar things myself at different times in my life.
Not now I don’t have enough money!
Not now I’m not ready!
Not now I’ve got too much on at the moment!
Not now I don’t see how I’m going to do it!
Not now I’ve failed too many times!
Obstacles, A Vital Part of the Journey
Because in truth, obstacles are an important and vital part of the journey. They are what makes the journey. They are necessary for growth, and they are a pathway of transformation.
You probably know this. But many people are not aware that they are in fact encountering an obstacle. Because obstacles show up in all sorts of subtle forms.
And this is what makes it all so tricky. All the excuses you tell yourself so you don’t have to stick your head above the parapet – as in the fado song. So it’s no wonder that you mistake the obstacle for some messenger redirecting you on your path. It means you don’t have to challenge yourself. You don’t have to face your monsters! You don’t have to face your own resistance to change and the reason why it’s been so hard to bring about change in the past. You don’t have to face the reason why you slipped back.
Although in the Hero’s Journey, (a model created by Joseph Campbell to guide us on how we meet challenges in life), it is said that you will encounter helpers when you set off on the journey.
But in my experience often obstacles are the first thing you will meet on the journey. They will come before you’re ready to meet them, long before you really know what the journey’s about. They come to test your resolve. Do you seriously want to change that pattern? Because if you’re not, these obstacles are going to do everything in their power to stop you.
And they will. They will keep you landlocked. They will send you back to the drawing board and to your comfort zone.
And for a while you will feel relieved, but then you start noticing all those old feelings, all those reasons why you wanted to change in the first change. Deep down you know you’ve short-changed yourself.
But it’s not too late. It’s never too late. Refusing to follow the call is all power for the cause. It is a recognised stage in the Hero’s Journey. At some level everyone refuses or doubts the call. But you are still on the journey. All you need to do is to recommit. And when you do that, feel the surge of energy that returns to you.
What To Do When You Hit An Obstacle?
So what do you when you hit an obstacle? And how do you know when it’s an obstacle? This is a crucial question.
Well, sometimes you really won’t know. This is because your defence system is incredibly crafty. When I talk about the defence system, I mean the unconscious part of ourselves that is dead set on protecting us from a change of any kind. To the defence system, change is death, and so it will use every tactic in the book to protect you from so dangerous a situation. I refer to this in my book, From Wallflower to Sunflower, as the Resistor.
And the defence system can be ever so subtle, as we can see in the song. It will manufacture countless excuses and reasons why not. It will throw up a smoke screen so you will lose your sense of perspective, and mistake obstacles for messengers.
The defence system is like an assassin. It will kill anything that it suspects might be a threat. Which means there are an awful lot of dead bodies lying around. It kills indiscriminately and without the slightest hint of remorse.
A Vulnerable Place
So the first thing to remember when you have hit an obstacle is that this is a very vulnerable place. It will bring up FEAR. And fear is the most powerful reason why you won’t achieve breakthrough. Fear will keep you frozen and numb.
Appreciate that this is what is going on and give yourself plenty of space.
But at the same time stay with the obstacle.
Avoid trying to push through the obstacle, or “go for the burn”. While this tactic can be effective in the short term. I don’t recommend it. It only hooks you even deeper into the stuckness that you will have to work extra, extra hard to move forward.
In my experience, pushing through only has a superficial benefit. It might appear that you’ve obliterated the obstacle. You think you’ve made a BIG breakthrough, but you soon afterwards find yourself slipping back into old comfort zones. In truth, the obstacle has just gone underground and so its even harder now to combat it. In fact, you feel powerless to bring about the change you want – because you now have all the reasons why it didn’t work before.
Look at all the times in recent history when go-getting has run rife. Economic boom is inevitably followed by recession, and recession is painful.
Breakthroughs happen at a much deeper level when you work with obstacles gently and progressively without fanfare.
Here’s some simple steps and principles that I hope will help you navigate your way through, with grace and ease.
STEP 1 Instead keep focused on the journey and your intention. In the fado it goes something like this:Now yes we have all the rength
Now yes we feel the will behind the wish
Now Yes I only see good people around me
Let’s go forward and we shall win through
In the song the singer finds the strength and the will to keep moving forward in spite of their doubts. It is important that you seek out resources to help you. The Hero does not overcome obstacles without enormous help. Seek out help, band together with others. This might entail spending money, money that you don’t believe you have. But you do have it. Just look. And if you don’t, commit to the journey and it will come to you.
STEP 2 Keep absolutely alert and awake. There are many ways of working with an obstacle, so stay open to all possibilities. Go quiet and listen within. I suggest you do that now. Close your eyes and breathe. Ask deep within yourself how it is you need to proceed with this obstacle or problem you’ve encountered. You may receive the answer in images or things that don’t make much sense to you.
STEP 3 Pay attention to your doubts and uncertainties.
In the fado they go like this:
Not now because I have a tummy ache
Not now because they say it’s going to rain
Not now because Benfica (the Lisbon football team) is playing
And anyway I have other things to do
There are always going to be excuses and reasons for not going on the journey. Are you going to listen to them or your soul’s calling?
Listen to them as if you are listening to a friend in need, or a comedy show. But in truth, this is your defence system speaking. Just listen to it without reacting, without trying to fix anything, without judgment. Notice when you’re triggered or feel manipulated by it.
STEP 4 Wait for the solution … because a solution will come. This may mean acting on the awareness that came in step 2. It may not come in a form that you will recognise, but watch out for the tiniest flicker of possibility.
Overcoming Obstacles – An Example
This was played out beautifully by a participant on one of my recent workshops. She was so inspired by what she had heard from a friend that she knew she wanted to do one of my workshops. I was so taken by her commitment that I put on an extra workshop.
And then shortly afterwards she broke her ankle. And she knew perfectly well that this was no coincidence since ankles and legs are connected to moving forward. I was expecting her to cancel because this is what most people do.
But no. She was intent on coming – and of course, there were many problems with how she was going to get there and get around. But she found a solution for all these, and indeed participated fully in the workshop. And the workshop and her broken ankle, of course, had many gifts for her – gifts that could not have come without her broken ankle.
Obstacles show up for many people in getting ill/sick just before a workshop or course. Your defence system is very good at manufacturing illness and knows it can persuade you that you need to take care of yourself, or that you need time for yourself and will cause you to doubt why you wanted to do the workshop or course.
While there may be validity in this, but I have also witnessed participants who didn’t buy into this have a miraculous turn around in their health, if they made decision to come anyway.
I have also seen people arrive feeling they were about to get a cold/flu have it completely disappear. Or so tired they were on their knees discover that their tiredness was blocked emotion and when they released that they had tons of energy.
It can work the other way. There have been people who didn’t want to come, and they did everything they could to avoid coming, getting up late, leaving late … and by some miracle, all their connections happen easily and much to their amazement THEY ARRIVE EARLY.
I have seen this principle working in my own life. Many years ago I received a calling to take my work to California. It was strong in me. I believed that my life in California was going to the opposite of the struggle and stuckness I was experiencing in England. After 10 years or almost getting there, I took the plunge and I wen there.
Inevitably I experienced countless obstacles. There were many reasons to give up on the journey – my mother becoming disabled just as I started going out there, the challenges of the visa application, the economic recession, problems with immigration, getting cancer.
There were so many times when I’ve thought “Why am I doing this? Can I really do it? It’s not working? This is just too hard. Now I’m really stuck!”
But all my so-called obstacles actually turned into enormous gifts. Every one of them revealed a shining, silver lining.
I developed a better relationship with my mother, was able to spend more time with her, and by some fluke, I always seemed to be in England when she most needed me. Yes, I felt guilty from time to time about not always being there, but I knew too if I remained in England I would find it harder to move forward on my path in the way I was doing so.
As it turned out all the struggles with the visa, immigration, money, even my lucky escape from cancer strengthened me hugely. As I engaged with these obstacles, I found a way through, and it actually was relatively easy. The difficult part was my frustration and impatience – emotions produced by the thoughts in my mind.
Overcoming these obstacles enabled me to access powerful inner resources.
In the end I didn’t end up staying in California. It took a while for me to realise that the calling was no longer there. Within a very short time of committing to being back in England I experienced a complete turn around in my work in a way I never dreamed was possible, and I met my partner.
Both of these happened with relative ease. All the stuckness and struggle had simply melted away. All this was possible though all I learned from my experiences in California.
I have taken huge leaps in the last few years. My vision and sense of what I’m here to do has just got bigger and bigger. I’ve written a book, expanding the range of services I offer, and in the next few years I will be expanding Making Moves nationally.
The End of the Song
Now Yes, we sing willingly
Now Yes, I feel our unity
Now Yes, I already feel the freedom
Let’s go forward, and this is the direction.Not now because there’s a form missing
Not now because my Dad doesn’t want to
Not now because there are traffic jams
You go ahead and I’ll join you there.
The last line is the most deadly.
Because of course the person is not going the join their friend who has gone ahead. They never will. But they’ll keep on singing the song. They’ll keep on convincing themselves that they’re going to change their life. They’ll keep on drumming up the energy to make that break. But there’s always going to a “not now” and nothing will ever change. And eventually they just won’t have the energy for the Now Yes! They ‘ll stop singing the song.
In Portugal, this song was so popular that people wanted it to replace the national anthem!
What would be your last verse of the song? If you’ve been struggling with obstacles, what would be your words to inspire yourself to keep moving forward?
This will send a powerful message to your unconscious to help you to move through the obstacles put up by your defence system. Once you’ve overcome these, you can achieve almost anything.
I’m rooting for you.
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