Catching the Moment: Overcoming Indecision and Acting

             My teacher Colette confided to my wife Rachel that her greatest gift was her ability to catch the moment – to take a decisive action, make a choice, or speak out in that moment. What stops us from catching that fleeting moment? Overwhelmingly, I find that doubt is the number one impediment.

             From early on, we are taught that we should think things over by figuring and weighing our options. In many therapeutic modalities, we are encouraged to analyze the impasse, our relationships, or the projected outcome of our actions before acting. This reinforces the doubt. Slowly, this over-cogitating deadens our responsiveness to our gut feeling, inner voice, or intuition.  Action leads to understanding, not vice versa!  Not impulsive action, fueled by anxiety or fear, but decisive action in the moment. 

            Understanding or figuring things out rarely leads to action on its own.  In the 20th century, Paul Watzlawick, quoting Heinz von Foerster, stated it succinctly as, “If you wish to see, learn how to act.” [1]  Another frequent impediment to action is feeling overwhelmed with the importance of the choice, or with the variety of choices presented to us. At other times,  we feel victimized and powerless, feeling sorry for ourselves, choosing to take no action.  So how can we impel ourselves to choose an action and take it?  Mental imagery is one powerful tool to overcome doubt, choose between options, and act in the moment. By tapping into our inner source of wisdom, we know what to do in the instant.

            Here are three exercises for overcoing indecision, changing the victim attitude, and finding ourselves at a crossroads in life. The first two exercises come from my book Healing Into Immortality: A New Spiritual Medicine of Healing Stories and Imagery.

 Name:  The Double-Edged Sword (by Colette)

Intention:  To overcome indecision

Frequency: Three times per day, for 21 days; up to 30 seconds each time.

     Close your eyes and breathe out and in three times, i.e., long slow exhalations, each one followed by a normal inhalation. (After that you may breathe anyway you like).

     See yourself holding a double-edged sword.  Swing this sword from your chest to an obstacle in front of you. Then draw the sword back again and swing the sword through the obstacle, knowing that if you refuse to swing through it the sword hits the obstacle and rebounds back to you, the blade edge cutting you in half.  Know that when you cut through the obstacle that you are becoming decisive.  After finishing, breathe out and open your eyes.

 Name:  From Servant to Sovereign

Intention:  To change the victim attitude

Frequency:  Once a day, in the early morning, for 21 days; up to 1 minute each time. 

     Close your eyes.  Breathe out and in two times, i.e., long slow exhalations, each one followed by a normal inhalation. (After these quieting breaths you may breathe anyway you like).

      See and know what it means to be a “victim of circumstances.”  Breathe out one time.  Sense and know that the victim is you without will.  See, sense, and know that without will we cannot create.  Breathe out one time.  Sense and know that without creating, we are always the “child of fate,” everything seeming to happen by chance.  Breathe out one time.  Know that with will, we can turn chance to choice.  Breathe out three times.  See, sense, feel, and know that choice is the child of will and the father of freedom.

     Breathe out one time.  Sense and feel that to be without will is to be bewitched.  Breathe out one time.  Know this bewitchment.

     Breathe out two times.  As the victim without will, you are now under the spell of the wizard who is preparing you for the sacrifice.

     Breathe out one time.  Now evict those bewitching beings that are sapping your creativity.  Be sure to conquer them.  Breathe out one time.  See and feel what it is to vanquish.  Afterward, be convinced of this victory.

     Breathe out one time.  See yourself becoming famous, your name being spoken in a loud voice.  Breathe out, and open your eyes.

 Name:  Crossroads

Intention:  For Existential Decisions

Frequency:  When needed

      Close your eyes.  Breathe out and in three times, i.e., long slow exhalations, each one followed by a normal inhalation. (After these quieting breaths, breathe anyway you like). 

     Find yourself at the intersection of a crossroads.  Ask your higher source of wisdom to guide you to take the path that gives you the answer to the choice in front of you.  Breathe out one time slowly, and quickly choose a road and walk it discovering what is there for you, providing the answer you are seeking.  As this is imagination, the discovery comes from the limitless realm of knowledge where anything can happen and anyone and anything can be found. Then, breathe out and open your eyes, knowing that  you have found the way for self growth.

  Gerald Epstein, M.D., is the Director of the American Institute For Mental Imagery.  You can find additional imagery and books and CDs for purchase at

[1] Girogio Nardone, Paul Watzlawick, Brief Strategic Therapy: Philosophy, Techniques and Research (Lanham, Jason Aronson, 2005), 3.