I recently acknowledged all the ways in which I walked up to the full experience of my life, opened the door but would not walk through. I wondered what was keeping me. What keeps all of us from our living into the power of who we are?
How often do we fall into feeling victim to our lives? Each of us have gifts to offer this world, some of us know what they are, some of us are still in the process of discovering our gift. And many of us wish to use our gift but feel blocked somehow; blaming our situation for all ways we keep ourselves small. Meanwhile, our dreams and our desire to meet these dreams are big. I have noticed the ways in which we live in the discrepancy between what we believe we deserve and who we believe we are. The need is to decipher between these two ends of the spectrum in order to live into our life.
How is it that we have become more fearful of our own success than we are fearful of living a life as a victim? How is that we have come to prefer the comforts of our suffering over the stretching into our talents?
There is so much fear around stepping into who we are. Perhaps, we feel we will offend someone in doing so; we stop ourselves from being big in order to maintain peace or not make waves. Perhaps, we sense that the repercussions of such actions are too unknown: the power in knowing is safer than the realizing of our power to face the unknown which may reveal failure or courage. Maybe, if we act from our place of power we may have to give up the comforts of life we have grown so accustom to (money, a relationship, being liked etc.). Or, we have so long made ourselves small that accessing our power seems a nearly impossible task, we may not even know where our power lives inside of us or how to meet it and let it show up in valuable ways.
Many years ago, I read a book called The Art of Power by Buddhist monk, author, peace activist, spiritual leader and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Thich Nhat Hanh. He wrote:
"Our society is founded on a very limited definition of power, namely wealth, professional success, fame, physical strength, military might, and political control. My dear friends, I suggest that there is another kind of power, a greater power: the power to be happy right in the present moment, free from addiction, fear, despair, discrimination, anger, and ignorance. This power is the birthright of every human being, whether celebrated or unknown, rich or poor, strong or weak."
I am guilty of having a skewed idea of power most of my life. As a Jewish woman who grew up in middle-class America to immigrant parents with the desire to be a therapist to support others in their life; I have long lived in this idea that I will never be powerful because of my race, my socioeconomic status, my physically small stature, my quiet voice, my career choices and even my emotional and empathic way of connecting. I have wondered how to step into power, finding myself challenged by this societal definition. Did I have to wear heals or suits? Speak more loudly? Conceal parts of myself and act a certain way? To feel like a powerful being was I required to step out of my comfort zone and be something I am not? What about the power of gentleness? The power of quiet? The power of emotion? Is there a power inside of me that doesn’t require an effort of doing but rather a process of being? Can we shift our understanding of power to one that is more accepting of who we are as we are?
The invitation is to embrace the archetype of the Lioness, which is one of listening to our conscience and obeying its advice, questioning and creating change, acquiring self-knowledge, and developing an authentic way of being with humility and love. The associated image is one of the rising sun; a powerful time of day when everything comes awake. This totem offers lessons in dealing with community and groups, bringing issues to the surface to be examined. The Lioness announces her presence yet avoids confrontation. They are courageous nurturers, organizers and natural leaders. The Lioness asks us to stretch our talents and broaden our horizons, bringing out our latent passions to be explored and unbridled. This archetype asks us to live life fully!
There is much to learn from the Lioness. Most of all, power can look different ways. It does not have to roar, it can be gentle and affectionate. It need not be fearful and aggressive and self-serving, but rather oriented toward community, service, trust. There is more power in deep knowing rather than merely acting, in presence rather than in pushing boundaries.
What I have learned in the process of stepping into my power is: test it out. Test out what it’s like to say what you really truly think, test out declaring what it is you want. When you and your friend are deciding where to go to dinner or what movie to go see, state an opinion even though you may not really care. Try out just picking a place and see how it goes and how it feels. See what it’s like to speak truthfully about something you personally know deep within your soul, though you may fear judgment or shame. What if we practiced being less passive, what if we stop saying, “I don’t care,” or “I don’t know”? How incredibly powerful this could be!? Because in fact, we always know, we always care, we just have to remember to access our knowing and caring! Show up for your knowing, and may that be all you hope to gain.
The most powerful thing we can do is to know ourselves and be true to ourselves. In doing this, we can simultaneously invite others to do the same. And we can do this in a way that empowers rather than frightens each other. Then we not only connect to a personal experience of our gifts but we create a powerful community that accesses and shares their gifts of knowing. A community that doesn’t fall victim but rises up as heroes/heroines in the personal and collective journey of being human; a community that is less afraid and more courageous; a community that walks up to the door of life and not only opens it and walks through, but blasts it wide open, making an unforgettable entrance.