James O’Dea: When it comes to power, the bombast, the flame-thrower, the grand manipulator, the self-righteous holy-roller and other such archetypes are having a field day in American politics. Braggadocio meets castigation meets contempt. It’s quite a scene.
Finding exemplars of power that are authentic, transparent and not owned by shadowy special interests is rare. Finding politicians who have the guts to stand for dialogue over denigration has become practically futile. Leadership has become equated with posturing and power with boisterous media display.
What does all this generate for you in relation to your own personal relationship to power and power paradigms that can serve evolving templates of the common good?
Politics aside, there is a whole bevy of New Age and leadership gurus who can sell you empowerment programs where, in your true power, you can meet career goals, attain income needs and find the perfect partner etc. Hey, if it works for you, why not? But let’s be clear, power here is equated with having the self-confidence to set goals and the skill and acumen to attain them.
Some recognize that underlying these personal power technologies there is more involved than amping up ambition hormones or your personal push power. Increasing a sense of self-love, worthiness and gratitude clearly helps us. There is a well thought-out psychology for releasing many of the toxins that cloud our will to live optimally; toxins that can truly stymie our growth and deplete happiness. Who can object to getting help to lift the fog of self-doubt, low self-esteem or timidity about satisfying needs?
There are also some who recognize their power unfolds as they expand consciousness. Here the inner quest requires surrender to the Great Mystery, wrestling with demons and seeing clearly our own ego and shadow projections. It entails exploration of the subtle planes, spiritual practice and bringing back the gifts of transcendent journeying and esoteric knowledge into creative expression in your life and in the world.
But is that it? We all go home with spiritual fulfillment and our personal needs met? That would not even begin to describe the paradigm of power so necessary to invoke at this time in humanity’s evolution. So what is the interface of personal and collective power that can be the evolutionary driver we need at this pivotal hour for humanity?
Let’s start with the activist’s power and passion. The activist summons the power of moral conviction in service to human evolution. The fearless and courageous expression of conscience has been a torch for social inclusion and universal human rights as well as for paradigm changes in religion, science and society.
The power of the consciously evolving activist is in holding both the fire of truth and justice and the sacred balm of healing and reconciliation. The conscious activist is required to integrate inner psychological and spiritual insight with action that embodies visionary compassion. This form of skillful means represents the wider emergence of power with rather than power over.
Martin Luther King reminded us that social change agents lose their power when they succumb to the cacophony of the Sirens— recalling the terrible fate that befell sailors aboard Ulysses’ ship. They only proceeded on their mythic adventure when they allowed themselves to be drawn to the deep harmonies of the poet rather than being swallowed up in the noise. The cacophony—as we know from American politics—is full of polarization. The greater quest is for a vast and encompassing harmony. Great leaders, artists, poets and mystics know all about the power of harmony. This kind of harmony must be fathomed in the depths for its unifying chords. It cannot be conjured out of slogans.
Having immersed myself in deep dialogic process for many years I can testify to the harmony and healing that comes from genuine dialogue. In the Greek dia means through; in dialogue we go through the logos or higher mind to find common ground. To access this higher place we have to suspend noisy opinions and embody a transparent heart-centered listening combined with learning to speak our truth without accusation. The goal is communing together to experience something greater and more whole than the individual parts.
In this equation of power you as an individual have to show up in your fullness and be prepared to meet others in their fullness. This calls for centered presence, vulnerability and full permission to be yourself. When these elements are present in dialogue something very powerful arises. We sense we have moved out of the world of manipulation and guarded responses. We look into the eyes of trust and recognize its vast power to shape collaboration.
Dialogue creates a field that is tapped into an experience of communal being which creates a spaciousness that does not contract in the face of differences. In fact it sees how divergence is necessary to allow for the birth of a wider vision.
If we do not stand in our own power and if we do not convene our collective power to collaborate we will be handing over our power to ego-bandits to rule over us and the ensuing cacophony will require more than noise abatement. But a deep cultural renaissance is possible if we turn our attention away from the Sirens and tune into the sweeping dialogue of living mystics, activists, artists, musicians, shamans, scientists and poets. Above the din the new story is alive and calling you—if you have ears to hear and are ready to step into your power.
Image by Bronson ABbott, courtesy of Creative Commons license.