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I Can't

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I believe our thoughts and feelings draw to us matching circumstances in external reality -- in other words, we get what we focus on. Our positive thoughts and feelings create positive results in the physical world. Our negative thoughts create the opposite.

Most of the time my belief serves me well, only failing me when something happens I'm positive I didn't create, or when something comes up I know I absolutely can't do.

Sometimes the "can't" is small. I can't decide what to wear, what to eat, where to go. Some days it takes hours to make these wearying decisions. They may be larger: I can't face the idea of shoveling snow. I don't know how to answer an email. I'm stuck in the middle of writing a newsletter.

Then there are the enormous challenges: I can't stop worrying about something (or many somethings); I can't forgive someone who doesn't deserve to be forgiven; I can't stop regretting things I did in the past.

These are the Mount Everests of the soul's journey. That mountain is steep, sheer, full of crevasses and avalanches waiting to happen, and there's no path to follow.

All can'ts, from the smallest to the greatest, limit our creative powers, our ability to take responsibility and to give direction to our lives. Why, then, do they happen? Why can't a therapist, acclaimed for his communication skill, come home to tell his partner he'd like to go somewhere else for their vacation? Why can't a clever bookkeeper balance her own checkbook? Such stories make one suspect that "can't" conceals some deeper truths.

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Beyond Can't

This semi-fictional story tells us more.

Eileen's husband, Martin, comes home one night to tell her he's been offered a big promotion if he transfers from New York to California. Eileen says she can't move?

Why can't she? Because it's unimaginable, that's why. Yes, she knows it's a wonderful opportunity for Martin, and if she could, she'd do anything to make it possible for him, but she can't.

She's lived in New York all her life, and her family lives there. The idea of tearing up her roots and attempting to sink them in foreign soil gives her such a severe anxiety attack she doesn't even know if she'll be able to go to work the next day. That -- or so it seems -- is that, because how can Martin argue with a wife who wishes she could cooperate, but is clearly unable to do this?

Eileen consciously believes every word she's said. She believes she is an absolutely cooperative person who is always willing to look for a way to compromise. When she searches her heart, she feels as frustrated as Martin does. She is unaware of the following ways in which her "cant's are serving her.

  1. She gets to avoid an argument.
  2. She gets to avoid looking selfish.
  3. She gets to avoid change.
  4. She gets her way.

There are also some items on the minus side of the sheet.

  1. She doesn't discover the beliefs and desire which hide safely behind "I can't."
  2. She doesn't get to take responsibility for her feelings.
  3. Helplessness has a spreading effect. Once one succumbs to it in one area of life, the temptation to do so again is great.

She may also earn Martin's undying -- if unspoken -- resentment.

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Can't and Won't

Suppose we replace "can't" with "won't" or "don't want to." If Eileen says, "I don't want to move to California," she must come up with reasons which may lead her to some inconvenient truths. She might not want to move because she likes her job, where she is advancing to ever-greater responsibility. That thought might lead her to the idea that her career is just as important as Martin's. It might not make Martin happy to hear that. It might leads to a fight. It might lead to a divorce.

It's easy to see why "can't" is the refuge of choice, and why we convince ourselves that it isn't even a choice. This refuge, however, robs us of power.

Imagine you're flying along in a hot-air balloon. You've learned how to use the controls and how to land safely. There's no possibility of an accident, but you're nervous. You say to yourself, "I don't think I can do this." Every time you say this, the balloon deflates a little. If you say it enough times, you will create the unsafe conditions that so alarm you.

When we say we can't, we create this as a reality. Once we begin to understand this dynamic, though, we have the power to change it. We may still say the word, but we begin to hear it, and in that hearing our power of choice is restored. We can experiment with saying, instead (if only to ourselves), "I won't" or "I don't want to." Then we can ask ourselves why not.

Then the avalanche season on Everest ends, and the path opens up. While the journey may not be quite as serene as that hot-air balloon ride, it's far more rewarding when we reach our destination, which is nothing less than full empowerment and "I can."

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Crumbling "Can't"

When we hear ourselves saying "I can't," it may be useful to ask "Is there more?" Answers to this question don't always immediately emerge.

People who work extensively with dreams have recommended that one asks oneself a question right before going to bed and, in the morning, write down whatever comes to mind. Often this may be a dream.

If Eileen were to ask herself, "Why don't I want to move?" she might dream of being in a desert, completely alone, without food or water. When she wakes up and records the dream, she might realize the idea of moving jeopardizes her sense of security and that staying in New York is a survival issue for her.

Herkimer diamonds make dreams more vivid. Many people have reported lucid dream experiences when they've placed one of these crystals near their heads. A few have added that their dreams are almost too vivid. I recommend amethyst to soften the effect of Herkimers.

If you like to discover your deeper truths while meditating, you may want to place one of the dark-blue stones on the third eye (between the other two). Sodalite, because it clears up mental confusion, gently clears the path to inner wisdom. Azurite is another peaceful messenger.

Clear quartz, commonly known as the mirror of the soul, will also illuminate the dark corners of the heart and mind. You may also program a clear quartz to have your questions answered.

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Flower Essences

Those who really do know what they want to do, but don't trust their own judgment and ask everyone they know for answers, can benefit from Cerato (Bach). This essence helps us to trust our own intuition.

Scleranthus (Bach) is for people who are torn between two choices and constantly vacillate between the two. It both gives us confidence in our decision-making abilities and helps us to integrate opposites within ourselves.

Mugwort (FES) is the floral counterpart to Herkimer diamonds. It intensifies dream activity, and thus opens the door to the answers we seek.

Star Tulip (FES) deepens the ability to access intuition through meditation.

Beyond the Rainbow
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