Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Power and Grace

When you think about power, what are some of the words or images that come to mind? More often than not, I’ve heard people associate power with domination, coercion, or extreme force. For many, their relationship with power is at best ambivalent. What if you were to think of power as the capacity to mobilize resources to attend to needs? What happens when you imagine increasing your internal resources, bringing more choice, decisiveness, and resilience to your life and work?

Wouldn’t you want a way to work directly on cultivating power?

Despite my clarity and strength, even relatively minor obstacles often interfere with my access to power. Since I hear similar experiences from many people, and since sharing my own experiences sometimes inspires others to live more fully, I decided to share with you in this post how I have been working to access more of my power.

Blocked access to power looks different for different people. My particular version looks like collapsing in the face of obstacles; paralysis and helplessness; giving up and resigning; or becoming abrupt, intense, or unpleasant as a way to scramble out of helplessness. Sometimes powerlessness shows up as waiting, just waiting – for the right person, the right circumstances, the right opportunity, the right project – so life could start, finally.

Practicing Power
Power would look like maintaining connection with what I want, and with a sense of possibility about moving towards it even in the face of obstacles. Power would look like choosing to live life fully now. It means choosing the circumstances in front of me instead of waiting. It means bringing all I have to life, to the world. It means risking disapproval and continuing to live the truth inside. That freedom is the power I want to have.

I have written previously about my gratitude practice at the end of the day. Now I start my day with an equally simple, almost mirror practice to work towards power. I review my day, what I know of what’s coming, not counting the unannounced, unplanned forceful flow of life. The next step is simply asking what I can do to be more powerful in each situation. What would bring more leadership? How can I be more intentional about attending to each moment to everyone’s benefit?

I slip away from the practice. Much of the time I lose my focus and wander. Or I don’t foresee the obstacles. Or I don’t know how to respond to them any differently from how I have in the past. This is the beginning of a practice, not the report on mastery. The whole point of practice is that when we start we are usually not good at what we are practicing. Still, even this early in my practice I can more easily imagine having a life that works for me. I can picture myself strong enough to face opposition on my way to share what I am called to share. I can see the possibility of being more relaxed, less challenging for some people. I am filled with curiosity about how it will be to face what life places on my path.

What about Grace?
This new practice creates an arc that balances power and grace. The morning, the power practice, is about thrusting myself into the world. I prepare myself to meet life. I gather my strength, my inner resources, all I have, to create, to bring my gifts to fruition. The night, my gratitude practice, is about surrender. I let go of any illusion that I by myself can do anything. I entrust myself to life. I focus on receptivity, on the gifts that life brings to me. I sink into other people’s kindness, their power to affect me.

Gratitude, nourishment, relaxation, inspiration, and beauty serve as fuel for life. Challenges, when we can meet them with our inner resources, serve as the fire that strengthens us. We become bigger, stronger, more able to face life, to prevail, to imagine new strategies to address obstacles, and new capacities to accept life. Without fuel, without grace, the challenges become overwhelming. Without the stretching, we run the risk of losing vitality, clarity of path, or our compass. I want both, in ample measure, for me and for everyone.