Expressed in the ancient Chinese language is an awareness of something very important; something that most people today fail to understand and use to their advantage; something essential to steering through the difficulties that are inevitable and navigating life successfully. In the midst of chaos or crisis, most people become paralyzed and clear thinking disappears. From this place of paralyzed confusion very little good can occur. All too often someone else; someone who is not embroiled in the crisis, must intervene and do something to help the paralyzed one move past it. When no such person is available, the crisis results in anxiety, panic attacks and, for many, deep depression from which they see no escape. In an effort to cope, most people try to distract themselves in some way. Some lose themselves in mindless television and meaningless movies. Some over-indulge in alcohol or drugs or sex or food. Some try to regain the passion they once had through risky, thrill-seeking behaviors. Few go where the ancients knew to go. To help you understand what the ancients understood, let’s take a look at three Chinese symbols. The first is a pair of symbols that represent crisis. Crisis is written as:


The second is a pair of symbols that represent opportunity. Opportunity is written as:

Notice that the symbol that makes up the last half of crisis is identical to the symbol that makes up the first half of opportunity. Here is what the ancient Chinese people were conveying:

Crisis - Opportunity

When, in the midst of a crisis we remain focused on the problem, as is typically the case, no solution can be seen. But there is always a solution and an opportunity to gain something of value as we search for answers provided we are looking in the right direction and are open to discovery. I have known about the Chinese symbols which announce that crisis is opportunity for some time, but was not able to use this wisdom to its fullest advantage until this philosophy moved from pure intellect to deep awareness in the midst of a morning meditation about two years ago. In trying to meditate, I kept being distracted by a series of difficult events that had shown up in my life. I found myself feeling irritated that they just kept hanging around no matter what I tried to do to eliminate them. My meditation kept being short circuited by questions about why I was unable to eliminate these “problems”.

One benefit of meditation is that it places us in a receptive state and opens the mind so we are better able to listen to our deeper wisdom. So, although the thoughts of my difficulties were distracting me, the meditation was still conferring the benefit of deeper thought. As I pondered the challenges I had not managed to eliminate and questioned why they kept getting worse rather than getting better or going away, there came a response to my inquiry that I in no way expected. The response: “These are all opportunities. Why do you refuse them?” “Opportunities!” I mentally shouted, “How are these opportunities?” Then I remembered the old Chinese wisdom, “In every crisis lies the seed of opportunity.” And suddenly, that phrase was more than just words. It had meaning and I understood–really understood that we always have choices. We can choose to look at the problem or to search for the solution. We can choose to remain mired in the crisis or we can look for the opportunity every crisis brings with it; opportunity for growth; opportunity to expand our horizons, learn a new skill, gain new understanding, develop a new insight, meet new people, find a new and better way. Then the four words that make up the FOAM acronym formed in my mind, not just as a series of words, but as a set of directives to the subconscious mind. As a psychologist who is interested in brief therapy–and the briefer the better–I have spent twenty-five years studying the workings of the subconscious mind because that’s where all rapid, permanent change occurs. I have witnessed some seemingly miraculous transformations take place in people literally in minutes as a result of giving the subconscious mind the right information and the right instruction to work with. So I understood the power of these four words as directives.

The four words are: Focus, Opportunity, Abundance, Mine! (FOAM) The subconscious mind attends only to input from the senses; images, sounds, smells, tastes and touch. Touch includes everything that touches us, including emotions. The subconscious mind is not affected by words that have no sensory components or which are not charged by an emotion. Which is why statements such as “I need to lose weight” usually gets us just the opposite effect as that which we intended. The only words in that sentence with a sensory component or an emotional charge is NEED and WEIGHT. And since the subconscious mind is now focused on those two words, that’s what we get–automatically and effortlessly-need (generally for more food) and weight! To affect any change at the subconscious level, where it becomes automatic and effortless, all we need do is provide our subconscious mind with sensory charged input. And it doesn’t care whether the input is good or bad; positive or negative, it just takes it in and produces results. So sensory charged words must be carefully selected to ensure we get the results we want. With that understanding, lets look at the FOAM acronym. First, it is easy to visualize a picture of FOAM and see how a large quantity of it could cushion us from a fall or a blow. It is also easy to visualize FOCUS. We can imagine a laser beam or a magnifying glass that gathers the sun’s rays and focuses them onto one small spot so effectively and so intensely that the heat of that focus can start a fire; in this case, the fire of opportunity. If that laser-like focus is properly directed toward opportunity (the next word in the series) then OPPORTUNITY is what we find. Opportunity is a word that is emotionally charged. Most people feel it as positive expansiveness–a movement toward all that is desired or ABUNDANCE, which is the next word in the series. At this point, it is becomes necessary to know what abundance looks like for you. You can’t claim something you can’t see. But the first tool in the FOAM equation–focus– compels us to direct our thinking and narrow our choices to what is significant; to what holds the promise of opportunity, which creates a climate ripe for the discovery of exactly what abundance looks. Once we know exactly what our own personal version of abundance looks like, then all that is necessary is to claim that abundance right here and right now and that’s what the final word; that declaration of MINE! does.

Here’s how the subconscious mind translates FOAM: My FOCUS is OPPORTUNITY which leads to ABUNDANCE which is MINE right here and right now! The subconscious mind does not need all the words in between however. Those are just fill words that please the conscious mind, but add no value to the outcome and actually cause the declaration to lose power at the subconscious level. It is far more effective and powerful to simply know what the series is leading to and how, and then focus on installing the only words which the subconscious mind can interpret and work with: Focus. Opportunity. Abundance. Mine! Present these four words to your mind whenever you think about it and especially when you find yourself facing problems, challenges or moments of crisis. Think FOAM. Declare that your focus will be on opportunity, that abundance will be the result of that focus and that the outcome you want is already abundantly yours right now. What you will discover is that fear, dread and panic subsides and in its place comes calmness and clarity. You will find yourself beginning to look at difficult situations with the expectation of finding the treasures they contain–those wonderful seeds of opportunity. We almost always find what we expect to find and if you are expecting opportunity rather than problems, opportunity is what you will find. As more and more opportunities reveal themselves to you and you take advantage of them, you will find that you have more and more of the things you value in life. At some point you will discover that you really do have a nice cushion against life’s challenges and the last part of the FOAM equation will be your reality. You will be able to state with absolute certainty, abundance is mine!