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The Trance of Scarcity: Stop Holding Your Breath and Start Living Your Life

The Trance of Scarcity: Stop Holding Your Breath and Start Living Your Life

by Victoria Castle


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Do you ever tell yourself that you’re not enough? Not smart enough, not rich enough, not good enough, not fill-in-the-blanks enough? Or do you worry that there is not enough: not enough time, not enough money, not enough opportunity, not enough…whatever? Consciously and unconsciously, dozens of times a day, we tell ourselves that we are lacking, that our lives are lacking, that the universe is lacking. We lull ourselves into what Victoria Castle calls the “Trance of Scarcity”—a numbed state in which we’re crippled by the pervasive assumption that lack, struggle, and separation are our unavoidable fate. But what if it is the very story we tell ourselves—both as individuals and as a society—that keeps us trapped in this limited state? Here Castle shows you how to embody a new story—one that is about abundance, inspiration, and your own innate ability to create your reality. Once you break free from the Trance of Scarcity, you’ll be able to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781576754399
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 01/14/2007
Series: BK Life Series
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 603,167
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.57(d)

About the Author

Victoria Castle coaches Fortune 500 executives, business owners and social entrepreneurs. For over twenty years, leaders and organizations have sought her guidance for how to be purposeful and effective in the midst of chaos and pressure. As a Master Somatic Coach, Victoria teaches at several post-graduate and professional programs and speaks at national conferences for business, women, and social activism. For more information on Victoria’s speaking schedule and newsletter, visit

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Victoria Castle
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-57675-439-9

Chapter One

Belonging: Are You In or Out?

Chances are you're a master at reading situations to see where and how you can belong. It's hardwired into us as human beings. Of all the mammals on earth, we spend the greatest length of time dependent on others. Our survival depends on our being included, cared for, and accepted so that we belong in our tribe. We get very good at noticing how we must behave in order to be included. Even when we've moved past the risk of biological need, we remain watchful: "Am I in or out?" Teenagers experience this questioning particularly intensely; that's probably why very few of us would want to repeat our teen years.

Most of us have been bombarded with religious and cultural messages about what it takes to belong, who decides whether or not we belong, and what might threaten our belonging. In all our choices, the issue of belonging stands in the background, whether or not we're aware of it. For most of us, wanting to belong runs the whole show. The trouble is, most of us are convinced that we didn't make the cut, that we don't belong, so we spend all our time either auditioning for others' approval, hoping we'll be included, or pretending not to care whether we're in or out. At the bottom of all this suffering lies the Trance of Scarcity.

A reporter once asked Albert Einstein, "Dr. Einstein, if you could ask the universe a single question and receive a direct reply, what would you ask?"

His response was immediate, as though he had been pondering it for quite some time. "Is the universe friendly?"

What is your answer to this essential question? It's worth noting. How we answer this question forms the basis of our response to all that we encounter in our lives. Whether or not we allow ourselves in or out of any given situation depends on it.

If we answer that the universe is not friendly, we hold ourselves at the mercy of imagined hostile external forces; we feel we're strictly on our own. This belief impoverishes every area of our lives. And we're not the only ones feeling this way. For centuries, humanity has been marinating in such messages, sometimes provided by religion, sometimes by society at large—insisting that we're unworthy outsiders, that we must earn our way to belonging.

Bound by this message, we feel alone, ashamed, permanently insufficient. We move through the world like dejected spectators: strained, isolated, telling ourselves story after story of our unworthiness and life's unfairness. Feeding on a continual diet of despair and rejection, courtesy of the Trance of Scarcity, we desperately seek ways to go numb. Our life force is gradually diminished to a whisper.

If we answer that the universe is friendly, however, we show up at the party ready to greet old friends and meet new ones. We add our signature dish to the potluck and prepare to feast. We understand that partaking of the flow takes nothing away from anyone else. We freely partake of and freely contribute to the constant stream of resources and possibilities. Our belonging is undisputed. No longer auditioning, we're confirmed in our right to exist. We live with a sense of freedom and possibility. We create a life of meaning and fulfillment, absorbed in making the unique contribution to the human community that is ours to make.

Step Into the Circle

Imagine you're walking in open country. You come upon a vast Circle in an expansive, fertile field. Streams and springs are flowing into this sunny area, providing the optimal environment for life to flourish. This is not a Circle made by human hands; rather, it's a zone where the energy of the universe flows without restriction. The Circle is not made or run by people, though everyone and everything is included in it. You have your own permanent place here. Just looking around, smell the fresh scent of the natural world, feel the sun on your skin; it feels good to be here.

The Circle is home to a flow of satisfying relationships, meaningful work, inspired learning, endless resources and opportunities, laughter and creativity, and a prevailing sense of ease. Remember a time when you felt carefree, safe, energized, and happy—maybe building a fort with some friends as a kid, or dancing with your sweetheart. That's the feeling: a pervasive sense of glad assurance. In the Circle, life is not a series of obstacles to overcome; it's a steady flow of possibilities.

There is no fence around this Circle, no admission gate, no entrance fee. Regardless of your age, your weight, the color of your skin, your gender, your education, your nationality, your financial status, or other people's opinions of you—you already belong here. No person or condition has the power to keep you out. You alone can take yourself out of the Circle, but your place will always be reserved for you. Your place in the Circle never expires. If you leave, it's simply vacant until you return.

So come on in. Or you may find that you don't have to move at all, the Circle expands to include you. The Circle can be as spacious or cozy as you like. Set down all the baggage you've been carrying. Isn't it nice to be rid of that burden? Your shoulders relax, you take a deep breath, and your back uncoils. The tension begins to subside in your stomach and neck. It's like getting into a hot tub after a long rainy trudge on a winter's day. When you're ready, take time to wander all over the Circle until you find the spot you like best. You can stand, sit, lie down, walk, turn cartwheels, whatever you choose to do. The nature of the Circle is flow, and you are part of that flow wherever you are and whatever you do within the Circle. There is nothing here that you must force or control.

Here are some reports of how it feels to reside inside the Circle.

"I'm smarter, funnier, and I'm sure better-looking."

"Colors are brighter and I feel alive, like when I hiked Mount Rainier."

"Now I know why our puppy is happy all the time!"

"I realize I've been on a deprivation diet my whole life. And it turns out there's a banquet being served 24 hours a day. I'm having seconds!"

"An oasis in the desert ... Now I get what that means."

"Problems really do become opportunities here."

"I hesitate to give up my pessimism, but it seems like nothing's out of reach here."

"I had no idea how clenched I was. The more I open up, the better it gets!"

"The only restriction on what's possible is how much good I can stand!"

For a moment now, purposefully yank yourself out of the Circle. Stand at a distance, looking at the Circle but no longer inside it. Notice how you feel when you take yourself out and separate yourself. You may feel lonely, separate, left out, invisible, or disconnected. Being outside the Circle may also feel familiar, while being inside may feel like a wild, unlikely fantasy. If you're used to struggle, ease can feel foreign and you may distrust it at first.

Now come back into the Circle and once again make yourself at home in the way that feels best for you. For some, being in the Circle may feel like "too much," and you may actually feel more comfortable outside. Honor your own pace. You might begin by moving closer to the Circle and just checking it out. Then you might move toward the edge, and later step just barely inside. This practice entails finding where you have greatest access to your aliveness, to your endless resources. There's no wrong way to consent to becoming part of the Circle. Simply discover what works for you. Just know that you already belong and that your space is always reserved for you, no matter what.

The nature of the Circle is flow, so whenever you step into the Circle, you step into the flow. When you're out of the Circle, separate, you're resisting the flow. Remember: There's no way to earn your way into the Circle because you already belong.

Stepping into the Circle isn't determined by your worthiness. It depends on your consent.

Can you hear a loud chorus right now saying, "Yeah, right, nice fantasy! Now let's get back to the real world, shall we?" Could this be your Do Not Disturb the Comfort Zone alarm going off? Hang on for a moment, now, and just check this out. What would it be like if you lived—all the time—as if you already belonged?

Notice that last bit. We're not just consumers in this Circle. We are generators, far more ingenious, inspired, and outrageously collaborative than we could have imagined. The Circle is enriched because we're in it.

Let's be clear: the Circle is not a place. It doesn't have a time zone or a compass point. The Circle is a way of being—and we're either being in the Circle or being out of the Circle. Most of us have thoroughly embodied a way of being outside of the Circle. I did. It was from this vantage point that I discovered the Circle. I kept seeing this other reality in the distance, and I kept wondering what you had to do to be eligible to get in. It couldn't possibly be open to everyone. It couldn't possibly be open to me. I was raised on a common assortment of mantras: There's Not Enough; Settle for Less; Wait Your Turn; Fight Like Hell for What You Want.

No matter which of these phrases I chose, there was an implied atmosphere of competition and combat, of domination and intimidation. To dominate or intimidate, it's necessary to create a sense of scarcity. (We'll explore this further in the next chapter.) Of course, my parents' objective was not to dominate or intimidate me (though there were surely times they would have welcomed help subduing their unruly offspring). They were doing their best to prepare me for what they believed were the harsh realities of life, to toughen me up so I could survive in a world of scarcity and struggle.

Not enough thinking keeps us in survival mode, our reptilian brain on constant alert, scanning for threats, preparing to attack or defend. Not enough thinking preempts our higher brain functions, the ones that inspire us to innovate and cooperate.

Now here's where the Trance gets tricky. If we believe that being separate is the way to be safe, then we'll create distance between ourselves and others; we'll refuse to count on anyone; we'll isolate ourselves. There are two corners into which we can wedge ourselves so that we remain separate. Both of them are inauthentic due to the fact that we're hardwired to relate to and connect with life. In one corner we can decide to be a victim. Our theme song becomes "You done me wrong just like I always knew you would." In the other corner we can decide to be a hero or a martyr. Whichever corner we stand in—victim or hero/martyr—we're operating out of separation.

Preparing for Struggle Perpetuates Struggle

Let's go back to the Circle now. Remember: No one can keep you out but you. There's no fence, no gate, no ticket taker. No one but you can take yourself out of the Circle, and most of us do so hundreds of times a day. To get out quickly, here are several accelerated routes: I'm not enough. There is not enough. This can never work. It's impossible. It's too late. Nobody cares. It's too hard. I don't deserve it. I don't belong. Accelerated routes out of the Circle can also take these forms: shallow or no breathing, slumped shoulders, furrowed brow, tense neck, clenched jaw, and collapsed chest. Whether you leave the Circle by way of internal messages or by way of physical constriction, the result is the same. Scarcity and struggle take hold.

Whenever we constrict the flow of life force by clenching our bodies or by telling ourselves limiting Stories, we are practicing separation rather than belonging—and that takes us out of the Circle. When we feel stingy, judgmental, defeated, self-righteous, or victimized, we've stepped out of the Circle. When we open up, relax, and join in, we have stepped into the Circle, and we experience the warmth and delight of being in the flow.

So, you may be saying, if there are accelerated routes out of the Circle, there must also be a quick way or two of getting back in. And indeed, this is the case. It's a very short list: Give your consent. This is all that's required to come back into the Circle—only your consent. The Latin root word for consent, consentire, means to join with feeling. Perfect, isn't it? We experience being either in or out of the Circle according to how we feel, how we are, according to what we say is so.

Choosing to belong in the Circle is an act of sovereignty. We belong because we choose to belong. We don't force or demand it because that would mean we were still playing the eligibility game. Consent is simply accepting our place in the flow of life. It's a choice made from moment to moment. So here's the practice: Whenever you notice you've stepped out of the Circle, consent to come back in.

Taking your place in the Circle means belonging to the flow of all life, joining with it, drawing on its juice and vitality, and making your own contribution to it. Stepping into the Circle means hooking up your individual life force with a life force much bigger than yours—the life force that moves and fuels all things.

The Circle is only one image, of course. If it's useful to you, great. If it's distracting, find an image that works better for you. Why did I choose a circle and not a river, you ask? Because, like the Cycle of Abundance, the flow constantly replenishes itself.

The Cycle of Abundance works like the breath; there's inhalation and exhalation. So where is the starting point, the ending point? Exactly! There isn't one. Being part of the Circle gives you access to everything that is flowing through life, and whatever you bring with you becomes part of the flow. You're not just an insignificant gnat flying around in the vast circle of infinity—what you bring into the Circle matters. It's part of the character of the whole. It's a good reason not to vacate your post.

In his powerful book No Future without Forgiveness, Desmond Tutu shares the concept of ubuntu. In African culture, ubuntu is our interconnectedness with all of life, as well as the responsibility inherent in our connection. It might be translated this way: "I am human because I belong." I don't belong because I am human, but the other way around. Belonging is understood as the very essence of humanity.

PRACTICE Choosing to Belong

Since we're exploring embodied abundance (not conceptual abundance), here's our first Somatic practice. Remember: What you practice, you become!

1. Read the description of the Circle at the beginning of this chapter, or close your eyes and visualize your own Circle image. Make it a visceral experience. What does it feel like in your belly, in your feet, in your throat, to belong to the Circle? Really take time to wander around in this inner experience until you find the way of being in the Circle that feels best to you. And—this is important—there is no one right way to be there.

Spend a few moments there, just getting used to being in the flow without needing to make anything happen. It may feel very foreign; most of us have been nosing that grindstone for decades. You might even feel a little bit idle; that's okay. Relax and enjoy. You're in the midst of the flow; everything comes right to where you are. It flows through you, and then out from you. Effortlessly.

2. Now bring your attention to your concerns about the future. Maybe you sense a lack of money or a lack of self-worth. Maybe you remember your problems at work or at home, or how much you have to do, or how unfair life is. Notice how all this feels in your body. In particular, notice your breath, your level of tension, your degree of aliveness.

Chances are good that when you began considering the future, you just propelled yourself out of the Circle. So take a moment to feel what it's like to be distant, to be out of the flow, to be separate from the rest of life. What's your degree of aliveness? It may feel quite familiar. If you've spent 20, 30, 40, or 50 years outside the Circle, then being outside feels like business as usual.


Excerpted from The TRANCE of SCARCITY by VICTORIA CASTLE Copyright © 2007 by Victoria Castle. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Belonging: Are You In or Out?
2. The Trance of Scarcity: Our Sad Story
3. Upgrading Our Stories
4. What We Embody, We Become
5. It’s Not About Stuff, It’s About State

6. The Cycle of Abundance: The Six Phases of the Flow
7. Aligning and Attracting
8. Receiving and Gratitude
9. Generosity and Giving
10. Hello Abundance, Goodbye Trance!

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