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 Michael On The Overleaves
Chief Obstacles



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Michael channeled by Shepherd Hoodwin
July 7, 2010, BlogTalkRadio chat
Transcribed by Ashvin Sawhney


When you think about it, this is a remarkable time to be incarnate as a human. Just the fact that we can be channeled by one person and heard by all of you is remarkable. We are grateful for being able to join together with you.

We have been focusing on one of the overleaves during each of these sessions, not going in any particular order, but choosing one that seems to fit best what our listeners are working on at the moment.

Tonight we would like to explore the chief obstacles, also known as chief features. For those of you who are new to the Michael teachings, we will give a brief introduction:

"Michael" is an arbitrary name for an entity of souls, a group consciousness, that consists of many individuals who each had a series of lifetimes as humans on earth, completed them, and now teach as a team or unit, you might say. We continue our evolution by playing the role of teacher. We are a little further along in our process, but we teach not so much because of that per se, but because we are at a vantage point that allows us to see the whole more clearly. You might imagine all us as groups who are climbing a mountain. We are like those who are a thousand feet higher calling back to those who are going to be using the same trail to let them know some of what they may encounter. Obviously, this is not a substitute for actually hiking the trail, but it could make their way a little easier. We teach about how souls set up their educational experiences on the physical plane.

Before incarnating, souls have the opportunity to plan their upcoming lives. Some do it in more detail than others. Once the soul decides, perhaps with the help of other souls, what the life is to be about, various personality traits are selected that give the soul a set of tools. To make an analogy, when an artist decides what she wants to paint, she selects a palette of colors. Some paintings have a broad range of colors, while others use a narrower set. These personality traits are called overleaves because they overlay the soul. The soul (essence) has access to all colors. The overleaves give a human personality in a particular lifetime a subset to work with. As a rule, this is not a limitation--it is simply a focus. One can, if one wishes, be more of a generalist, doing a little of this and a little of that, but it is simply not possible to do everything in one lifetime. It is possible to do just about everything you, as a soul, want to do on the planet across the span of many lifetimes, and one of the ways you do that is to change your overleaves.

We have already discussed centers, modes, and attitudes. Modes and attitudes are set by the soul before birth. Centers are tentatively set then, too, but they are not solidified in the personality until about the age of two. If experience reveals that the tentative choice is not going to be appropriate for that person, essence can change it; that does not happen very often. About ninety percent of the time, the center proceeds as planned. When it is changed, it is often because of some damage to the body. Let's say the soul was planning to be moving centered, but it turns out that movement is going to be difficult for this body, perhaps due to an unforeseen injury; then, there might be a change to the emotional center. If the brain is not working as expected, maybe intellectual centering will be changed to moving centering.

The solidifying of the center happens at what we call the "second internal monad." The first internal monad is birth, and the second is the beginning of mobility and the establishment in the personality of being separate from the mother, the so-called "terrible twos."


The chief obstacle is set at the time of the third internal monad, which is when a young person separates from family to some degree, often by leaving home, such as going to college. It can happen earlier than that if the personality is already experiencing the feeling of being independent from the family.

In about eighty percent of cases, people end up with the chief obstacle that they anticipated, on a soul level, before birth. However, those first sixteen to eighteen years or so of life can bring in new factors that cause them to settle on something different. Often, however, the likely chief obstacle is evident in childhood.

Your chief obstacle is the primary stumbling block you are overcoming, the focus of your fears and illusions. Being human involves confronting all sorts of fears. Some relate to your immediate physical survival, but most are predominantly psychological, and dealing with them constructively can bring much growth. The seven obstacles are seven general categories into which most personality-level fears could be included. To be human is to have, at one time or another, all these fears in some form. If something sets you off emotionally, there's probably activity in one of the obstacles. At the time the personality ventures into adulthood, the soul decides to tackle one category more directly, which is why it is called "chief"--it is the one that starts to come up most frequently. Other fears may be operating, but usually at a more unconscious level. The soul cannot work on everything at once; it cannot have every experience at the same time. The physical plane is a convenience that strings things out in a linear fashion so that souls can focus on particular types of experiences in bite-size pieces.

As one gets older, especially if there is some progress made on overcoming the chief obstacle, the personality may become more conscious of some of the others. If a person is consciously working on two of the seven with a lot of attention, the second might be referred to as the "secondary obstacle." One could validly rank them all in priority order from one to seven, although that could change over time for a person. However, in practical application, the one that is first is by far the most relevant, because again, on the physical plane, you need to focus. For that reason, through this channel we don't usually dictate the secondary obstacle unless it is playing a significant role in the person's life at that time.

We have spoken of a mechanism called "sliding," in which a person can easily move to the opposite overleaf when they share the same axis, or if your overleaf is on the assimilation axis, you can move to any of the others (although you will typically have favorites, depending on what you are trying to achieve in that lifetime). With chief obstacles, some people slide a great deal, and some do a form of sliding in which they combine both energies at the same time, which can be particularly challenging. So there are people, for example, with a chief obstacle of arrogance who, particularly if it goes too far, will then do the opposite, self-deprecation. There are others who combine arrogance and self-deprecation at the same time, which can be confusing to the personality.

It is not possible for a sentient soul (a soul who is incarnate in any kind of physical body) to be utterly without fear, because physical plane incarnation is, to some extent, a learning exercise based on the contrast of eternal qualities with the illusion of their absence. This is a way to learn consciously more about these eternal qualities: love, truth, and beauty. For physical organisms, these eternal qualities are sometimes partially removed from experience, so there is hate instead of love, lies instead of truth, and ugliness instead of beauty. The incarnate soul then navigates this terrain to find its way back to the eternal qualities, now knowing them more consciously. In the meantime, upon confronting the apparent loss of these qualities, there is fear.

Also, even though your true nature is eternal, when you are in a body that will die and are confronted with the possibility of losing life in that body, there must be some fear. If there was not, what would be the incentive to play the game and learn?

What you do with the fear depends on your experience and understanding. More advanced souls may stay more in control, although they don't always. Those with fewer resources are likely to snap. There is nothing inherently wrong with the fact that fear exists, and you will not likely achieve a state of total fearlessness. You can, however, develop a greater awareness of the eternal while in the body, and therefore, greater inner peace, so that when fears arise, they do not cause you to snap.

There are some human beings who do not have a chief obstacle, but it is not because all fear has left them; it is because they are not choosing to put one area of fear front and center to be confronted continually. This is usually because they worked hard on the previously chosen chief obstacle, erased it, and are now working on other things. There may not be much utility for them in taking on another one, so while there are still fears, they are more evenly distributed, and not intensely predominant in day-to-day life.

There are two reasons fears may arise. One is situational. That means that you may have the potential for a particular fear, but your life situations don't tend to provoke it. For example, if you generally have not had to worry too much about having enough food, the fear of the lack of food may not be on your radar, but if suddenly that became your situation, you may have some new fears arising for you. How skillfully you deal with that depends on your experience in past lives, and how well your current life has prepared you to deal with new problems arising.

The other reason is your basic nature, what your issues already are, where you have strengths and weaknesses. The areas you have done much work on in past lives, that feel like you have them solidly under your belt, will not tend to ignite as much obstacle activity. However, it is a matter of degree. As a human being, it is possible for any obstacle to be triggered, but if it comes up on your Michael chart as your chief obstacle, it is not because it comes up occasionally but because it is a big deal for you.

Q. Once the chief obstacle has been mastered for that individual life, is it done and no longer an issue?

A. Yes, in the rare instance that a person has erased that chief obstacle, it is done, for the most part. Typically, the soul then decides to elevate another obstacle that had been under the surface to the position of the chief obstacle, usually (but not always) the one that had been the secondary obstacle. However, as mentioned, some may decide to conduct their growth in areas not directly related to a chief obstacle.

Incidentally, most of the Michael teachings literature has referred to this as the "chief feature," which was a holdover from the original group's studies of the teacher Gurdjieff. There is nothing wrong with that term. We do not care that much what terms people use, but perhaps referring to them as obstacles illuminates their nature more.

The path of evolution is to transcend your obstacles. Obstacles offer opportunities for growth. It is helpful to make peace with the fact obstacles exist, but if you become resigned or too comfortable with them, you will not meet their challenges.

As with the other overleaves, the obstacles come in three pairs and one single. The pair that is on the inspiration axis is self-deprecation and arrogance. When we speak of the inspiration axis, we refer to the inner world. It is the axis that is most about the self. The ordinal side of an axis contracts, and the cardinal side expands. In self-deprecation, which is ordinal, a person has a contracted sense of self, which translates as a fear of being inadequate, when objectively speaking, she is just fine. So it is the tendency to think that one's self, one's capabilities, are not up to snuff. As with the other overleaves, positive and negative poles have been ascribed to each obstacle. Self-deprecation has a positive pole of "humility"; the negative pole is "abasement."

The chief obstacle is already negative by nature. Fear is negative. We are not implying that fear shouldn't exist or it's "a bad thing." It is simply, by definition, negative, in that it negates (and distorts). So when we are talking about the positive and negative poles of something that is already negative, the positive is the lesser of evils, and the negative is the more destructive extreme; the positive pole of a chief obstacle is not constructive or helpful (except that one grows from surmounting obstacles).

With self-deprecation, humility is not the constructive kind. There is a love-based humility, which is simplicity of soul without false ego added, and that is a beautiful thing. However, the humility of self-deprecation comes from a lack of appreciation of one's true capabilities, so it is not beautiful or based in truth. The negative pole, abasement, is even more destructive; to abase yourself is to have no respect at all for your merits.

In self-deprecation, one deflates one's sense of self; in arrogance, one pumps it up: one has an exaggerated picture of one's own abilities. "Pride," the positive pole, is a positive trait when it is not based on the obstacle, when you are simply able to feel good about what you have accomplished. However, pride in this sense is puffed up. The negative pole, "vanity," is more extreme. It might bring to mind the vain characters in some comedies who are oblivious to their shortcomings. The ideal is to have a balanced assessment of both one's strengths and faults, and simply accept oneself as a good but fallible human being. From that vantage, one can see others as equals. In self-deprecation, one thinks of others as being inherently more capable, and in arrogance, one thinks of them as being less capable--both are false views.

Some people, as mentioned, go back and forth, and it is possible to temporarily use the opposite of your obstacle to get yourself out of both of them entirely: if you see both sides of the coin, it may dawn on you that both are arbitrary and untrue. If, for example, you have been used to puffing yourself up, and then you live for a while with kicking yourself down, you might get it that they are both false states. All the obstacles are profiles in ego (false personality). The goal of the spiritual path is to reduce false personality and increase true personality, which is an awareness of your eternal nature, as much as possible. However, no human being is totally free of false personality.

All the obstacles are defenses. They are, you might say, shortcuts to feeling safe in a fearful world. Arrogance is defined as a fear of vulnerability. Although it pumps itself up, it knows underneath that it is not so great. It protects itself from that bubble being pricked. On the other hand, in self-deprecation, defined as a fear of inadequacy, one doesn't really believe that one is that inadequate, but it is, likewise, self-protective--if you have already proclaimed your inadequacy, then end up doing better, it is a plus for your ego.

Moving on to the expression axis, the ordinal obstacle is self-destruction, which is fear of the loss of self-control. On the cardinal side is greed, a fear of want or loss. Whereas the two obstacles on the inspiration axis are opinions about your inner self, the two on the expression axis are opinions about your ability to express yourself in the world.

Self-destruction is the fear that you are unable to conduct yourself in a disciplined manner or have a basic control of your environment. There is a feeling that you cannot cope and are careening out of control, so there may be an attempt to set up arbitrary controls of your environment or yourself, perhaps obsessive-compulsive kinds of rules.

The positive pole, "sacrifice," is following these rules. For example, a person who is addicted to alcohol may view it as a sacrifice to be on the wagon. The negative pole, "immolation," is destroying oneself by simply letting the roller coaster go off the tracks into oblivion. The self-discipline of the positive pole, though, feels like little deaths that avoid the larger one. Someone who has erased this obstacle and found balance in this regard is simply satisfied with an amount of, say, alcohol, that is not destructive. Therefore, controlling or losing control is no longer an issue.

The opposite, greed, feels very capable of controlling self and the environment, to the point where it oversteps boundaries and becomes rampant. In greed, one has no problem with excess, and, in fact, values it. Its positive pole is "egotism." The negative pole, "voracity," devours what is in its path, like Pac-man; it can be ruthless. All obstacles are insecure, although the cardinal ones may appear self-confident. Someone in greed always feels empty no matter how much more is stuffed in. There is a fear of not having enough or losing what one has. Even if the obstacle does not manifest in obvious, stereotypical ways (in this case, the person does not act greedy), the feeling is there.

Buddhism speaks about the void or emptiness that a more enlightened person might be comfortable with. The present moment free of excess attachment to the past or future is a sort of void. It is a quiet place. It is empty of the past and future, but it is full of what is present now; it is the midpoint. In the present moment, you are enjoying what you have without being either greedy or self-destructive. You are not trying to add to what you have or subtract from it. You are not trying to overly control yourself, because you have control, and you are not trying to overly control others; you are letting things come to you naturally. Any moment you are fully present, your chief obstacle cannot be in control; its survival depends on keeping you focused on the past and/or future.

The two expression-axis obstacles are concerned a good deal with appetites. The human body has built-in, necessary appetites for food, water, sexual expression, and so forth. There's nothing wrong with appetites. However, with these two obstacles, appetites control one, and one lacks inner peace as a result.

We move on to the two obstacles on the action axis, which is about the outer world and doing things in it. Martyrdom, the ordinal action obstacle, is a fear of worthlessness, and impatience, the cardinal one, is a fear of missing out. The difference between martyrdom and self-deprecation is that self-deprecation, being on the inspiration axis, is your opinion about your own intrinsic capability, who you are. Martyrdom, being on the action axis, is about what you feel you have earned through your actions.

Being outwardly oriented, both action-axis obstacles are about your relationship to authority. In martyrdom, people believe everyone else has more power over them than they have in their own life. Chief obstacles are not objective; they are ego tricks. Martyrs define themselves as victims; things are done *to* them. Furthermore, they see victimization as earning them brownie points, and they get more points, it seems, by proclaiming their victimhood, making it obvious how they are suffering at the hands of others. They may create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which they leave themselves more open to being an actual victim, objectively speaking, because that is their view of themselves.

The positive pole, "selflessness," is not the beautiful spiritual selflessness of those who want to serve humanity, but a phony selflessness that looks like service to others but is really in the service of trying to prove their worth to themselves. The negative pole, "mortification," is an extreme denial of self to try to earn more worth.

While martyrdom feels it has to earn its entitlement, impatience has an inflated sense of entitlement. Its positive pole, "audacity," is the feeling of deserving to cut in front of the line, so to speak, and the negative pole, "intolerance," is particularly obnoxious about pushing others out of the way. It is not about accumulating, like greed, but having experiences now; again, the action axis is about doing. If someone combines impatience and martyrdom, he feels like an impatient martyr. Someone who leans more to the impatient side might view himself as suffering because of he is missing out, whereas one who tilts more toward martyrdom might suffer testily rather than silently; impatience is characterized by testiness.

Stubbornness is defined as a fear of change and new situations, particularly those that originate outside oneself. It is natural for people to like to feel that they are in charge of the changes in their life to some degree. You largely do choose at least the big things in your life, such as the job you take, the person you mate with, and so forth. However, because you are part of a social structure, you also are under the necessity of accepting certain things that may not be your personal choice. In stubbornness, there is excessive sensitivity to this.

Its positive pole is "determination." You might say it is the determination to make their own choices, but obstacles are based in fear, which distort perceptions. In stubbornness, people believe that they have less determination than they actually do, so they try to make up for that perceived lack by overdoing it. In the negative pole, "obstinacy," they are extremely bull-headed; they are simply not going to budge. It often manifests as "No one is going to tell me what to do!" There is a digging in of their heels.

Stubbornness is the most common obstacle. One of the reasons is that, being on the assimilation (neutral) axis, it allows easy sliding to any of the others. There are a lot of examples of people who combine stubbornness with others: stubborn greed and stubborn self-destruction are two popular combinations.

Every group, including families and businesses, benefits from members who are willing to share authority and choice-making, so that it feels fair to all. For example, if you got to choose the restaurant last time, you might want to let someone else decide this time.

Each person is somewhat subject to the political system of which he is part. There will probably be some taxes and a number of other things that have been decided collectively, fairly or not, wisely or not. If you live in a republic in which you have a vote, that is one place you can exercise your choice, but you may not be happy with the collective choices a fair amount of the time. This is a good area to recognize where you have power and where you do not. Exercising your rights and responsibilities as a citizen and then letting it go can free you to concentrate on the areas where you have more control.

Each of the obstacles has something in common with the role it shares its position with on the Michael chart. (You can see a sample chart at http://summerjoy.com/michaelreading.html.)

Impatience is on the cardinal side of the action axis. It is in the same position as the role of king. In the negative pole, "tyranny," kings carry a sense of entitlement similar to impatience. Kings have a commanding presence that might remind you of audacity--it is expansive in an action way. The cardinal (expansive) obstacles not only expand but violate; they trespass boundaries. Since the ordinal ones contract, they harm self rather than others. Neither is better or worse.

A correlation of martyrdom with the warrior role is that you might find warriors willing to give their lives for what they're fighting for--fighting to the death.

The voracity of greed correlates with the sage role; both have a certain fifth-chakra appetite. Sages can be orally fixated in various ways, including with words, tastes, and sensations.

Self-destruction correlates with the role of artisan. Artisans have five inputs (psychic receivers), so they naturally experience more chaos than the other roles; therefore, they often struggle with matters of discipline and self-control that come more easily to, say, warriors and kings, who have just one input.

Arrogance correlates with the role of priest. In zeal, the negative pole, priests may have a sense of spiritual superiority.

Perhaps the easiest correlation is self-deprecation with the role of server, the most ordinal role. Servers in the negative pole may take the attitude that they are nothing special, just a wall flower dissolving into the woodwork.

Stubbornness is in the same position as the neutral role of scholar. All assimilation axis traits are characterized by transparency and have a tendency to become stuck. Therefore, it is especially easy for people in stubbornness not to see it and to fool themselves, to stubbornly insist that they aren't being stubborn.

Everyone has some natural resonance to the obstacle that correlates with his role, even if that is not his chief obstacle.

In most cases, the chief obstacle originates from unresolved issues from past lives. However, when you incarnate with the intention of further dealing with them, you may choose a childhood situation that recreates their circumstances. In any case, one tends to interpret one's childhood experiences to confirm the view of the world formed earlier. For example, if you are working on issues of stubbornness, you may, early on, interpret parents or others around you as taking away your self-determination, which they may or may not actually be doing. Parents and teachers sometimes feel that it is their right to thrust changes on children that they have not been properly prepared for. However, if you are particularly sensitive on this point, you will use that to further your conviction that as soon as you are old enough, no one is going to tell you anything ever again. Ironically, that might turn you into the type of person who does to others what was done to you, because you are so stuck on determining the choices in your life that you don't let others have their own self-determination; it all has to center around your getting to decide.

All the obstacles work this way. If you are in impatience, you might be coming off a series of lifetimes in which you were frustrated by not being able to do the things you wanted to accomplish. Maybe your friends got to go to sea and you had to stay home and help out with the farm, so you started to think of yourself as always missing out. Therefore, in your childhood in this lifetime, what others might interpret as ordinary limitations might, to you, seem like deprivations. You chomped at the bit to do things you were held back from, whereas others might be more accepting of the fact that one cannot do everything.

A person in self-deprecation may interpret her past as being filled with failure, and believe, "I just don't have what it takes." Sometimes, people who fail more are actually learning more, and a lack of success may reflect more on poor teaching than their own abilities. However, someone with that belief might interpret every failure as proof of her inadequacy.

If a obstacle is involved, there is an emotional charge, an ax to grind, something wound up--it is not peaceful. Self-deprecation feels woebegone. Arrogance feels brittlely self-protective and perhaps shy; it avoids scrutiny and is wary of the opinion of others. Self-destruction feels chaotic. Greed feels overblown, like the uncomfortable sensation after a too-large meal. Martyrdom feels a loss of power, like a deflated balloon. Impatience is wound up, out of step with the moment, chasing the next thing rather than enjoying the present. Stubbornness feels isolating, like there is a glass wall around it.

There is not a direct correlation between chief obstacles and soul ages, although there are tendencies to more often have certain obstacles during certain soul ages. A stereotypical example is "the greedy young soul" but, in fact, greed operates equally "well" during all the soul ages. Because of the nature of the young soul cycle, greed may fixate then on material things, but the feeling of greed, which is an empty hole one is trying to fill, is the same at any age. All the obstacles tend to manifest more subtly, in less obvious ways, as the soul gets older.

The most important technique for tempering your chief obstacle is to simply recognize, or "photograph," it. Having names for these forces is very useful. As soon as you can say, "Oh, that's my chief obstacle," you are acknowledging that your reaction is out of balance, and immediately have more power to deal with it because you understand it better. The obstacles get away with their deceptions because of a lack of self-awareness. When you are more aware, you can make better choices about the fears that are arising. You do not have to react to other people's chief obstacles out of your own chief obstacle just because the script has been set in motion. You can reframe your experiences and make choices based on the highest wisdom available to you.


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