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Author, therapist tells students how to get ‘unstuck’

Lynn Sikora and Lisa Gallagher | Friday, March 4, 2005

Saint Mary’s welcomed award-winning author and nationally-recognized therapist Charlotte Kasl to Carroll Auditorium Thursday evening for a lecture on her latest book – “If the Buddha Got Stuck: A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path.”

Kasl has written other works involving Buddhism, including “If the Buddha Married: Creating Enduring Relationships on a Spiritual Path” and “If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path.”

“The Buddha can apply to anyone regardless of religion or culture – it is an attempt to reach truths to prevent suffering, ” she said.

Kasl’s visit was sponsored by the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL), which became familiar with Kasl through her extensive work with the YWCA. She is responsible for redesigning the YWCA’s Chemical Dependency Program, a 12-step model for overcoming addiction.

Kasl’s model, with 16 steps, focuses on empowerment for women.

Kasl said her book centers on getting “unstuck” by making better connections with other people through understanding. She implemented Zen and Buddhist ideas in her lecture and read several excerpts from her new book.

The book suggests seven steps for getting “unstuck” – notice where you are stuck, show up, pay attention, live in reality, connect with others, move from thought to action and let go.

“The real purpose of life is to be alive and accept every part of life – the scuzzy and the sweet,” Kasl said.

Kasl encouraged the audience to move past stereotypes and images of the self, and to find out who they really are by returning to a stage before thoughts.

“It is better to do something and fall on your face than not to do it,” she said. “Call a neighbor. Pick up the guitar in the back of your closet. New learning makes you uncomfortable, but it gets better with practice.”

According to Kasl, the unwillingness to be miserable for too long is what separates the “unstuck” from the “stuck.” Finding a positive outlook and looking at everything from a wider perspective takes a confidence the “unstuck” possess, she said.

Kasl stressed the importance of taking action and showing up. Trying new things sparks bodily energy which should be paid attention to, she said.

“Show up – now. It’s the only time to do it,” she said. “It doesn’t get easier tomorrow.”

Kasl also advised the audience to “get out of the box” and to “listen to your truth.”

“Without sounding like a Nike ad – just do it. Just go for it, fear and all,” she said.

According to CWIL director of community connections Bonnie Bazata, Kasl is an important local connection.

“It is through the underlying values of social justice and the healing of the whole person that you can see the link between her work as a therapist and her life as a spiritual seeker,” Bazata said.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will go toward the YWCA of St. Joseph County, which has recently redesigned their chemical dependency program using Kasl’s model and other holistic approaches. Kasl said she is passionate about raising funds for women’s help.

“The only way to appreciate your privileges is to pass it on,” she said. “…it is important to get unstuck in communities because they provide a safety net. If we let go of the separateness we can find unity.”