Unit X. Empowerment


1. Rajas guna
2. Kinds of power
3. Misuses of power
4. Anger
5. Will
6. Free will, responsibility and choice-making
7. Taking back power gracefully

Materials needed: Journal

Books and articles needed:

Tao Te Ching*
Power and Innocence
The Ramayana
The Act of Will
Return to Shiva*
A Path with Heart*
Myth of Freedom*

Practices and exercises:

Uses of life force
Power and innocence
Spiritual Will
Reclaiming power

*You will already have these books.

Fire is a symbol for power. The ruling planet of the third chakra is the sun and the element is fire. So we have a double reason to see this as a very masculine or yang chakra. Furthermore, its location is in the solar plexus which is the center of the nerve endings of the sympathetic nervous system. That is the fight or flight part of an individual's makeup. The ram which we discussed in the unit on ego is the vehicle of Agni, the fire god. A person focused on the third chakra is, therefore, dominated by intellect and solar fire according to Johari (1987, p. 61).

The male deity is Rudra who represents the power of destruction, and we see that persons of this orientation may be predisposed to try to control others through anger. Also there is a strong tendency to self-will as we have already seen. The Devi (female deity) is armed with independence and fire as well as a thunderbolt and an arrow all of which testify to the power of natural, sexual and kundalini energy and the potential to use it destructively. It seems clear that we have a warning here to make good use of this power and to be careful that it does not injure others.

How we use our power depends upon how we direct our will. So we will look at self-will versus Spiritual Will, mastery or self-empowerment, free will and choice-making. We shall also contrast the misuses of power with its legitimate uses, and discover how we can take back the power we have lost during a lifetime of social conditioning. In the following unit, we will look at karma and work; that is, how power becomes manifested in the world.

The Rajas Guna

You may remember from earlier units that the qualities of things fall into three general categories, and most things are some mix of two or more of the characteristics. These qualities are sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva is the clearest, purest form of anything, rajas is the radiating energy component, and tamas is the dead or inert aspect. We can think of these three as different levels of vibration with sattva having the highest frequency and tamas the lowest. Rajas is often thought of as radiant energy, and we just have to think of fire to get a feel for that. Fire is a blessing for it does so many things for us, but it is also dangerous if it gets out of control. It can burn our bodies and destroy huge forests and/or buildings when it is let loose. Volcanos are probably the most destructive, natural form of fire capable of leveling entire cities and eliminating large numbers of people at one fell swoop.

So, given the volatility of fire, what are the implications for our journeys of the qualities of rajas in our personalities? Is our power radiant? Is it volatile? Is it destructive? Or can it be a blessing to others and ourselves? How much of it do we have? Have we lost our power? Or do we use it wisely to promote our own evolution and that of others toward higher consciousness?

We have looked at emotions in general in Unit VI. In this unit, we will zero in on anger in particular since it has all the characteristics of fire as well as such potentially destructive power.

Kinds of Power

Power is the ability to act or to do. In human beings, it requires both physical and psychological energy. Sometimes it requires mental energy and/or spiritual energy. So we have a link between the neutral energy available to us as elemental force, strength or vigor and the psychological system that decides what to do with the energy. All of us have potential energy in our bodies. However, we are not all equal with respect to power. Power is assigned by the social structures around us that designate how our energies should be used. We see this in the authority figures and hierarchies that make up our social structures and systems. So we can conceive of human power also as a psycho-social force. Rollo May (1972, p. 99) says the meaning of power is the ability to cause or prevent change. And he sees it as having two dimensions: latent and actual depending upon whether it is manifested or not.

Power as Control

From the standpoint of ego, power has to do with control issues. These can take at least three important forms, all of them legitimate. The first is the power to control oneself and includes such things as feeding oneself, toilet training, standing and walking, and impulses especially those that are considered to be negative ones by the society. All of these self-controls are necessary in order to belong to the group. The second class of control is that over the environment. This includes being able to manipulate the things around oneself, developing competence and autonomy, learning and coping in all its forms. A relative amount of success during the preschool period tends to carry over into later life in the form of self-esteem. The third type is control of others, and this is meant as a form of self-defense against the manipulation of others, against invasion of one's boundaries and against abuse or violence by others. To use control against others in a destructive manner is not legitimate of course. All three of these forms originate in early learning and play important roles in later self-image and self-confidence.

Exercise: Control

1. Read verse 75 in Tao Te Ching. What does death have to do with control? What is the deeper meaning of this verse that goes beyond death and starvation in the physical sense?

2. Think back over the last 24 hours in your life, or alternatively keep a list for the next 24 hours, about the three forms of power we have discussed. Make a note for each time you have exercised each kind of power. Which kind predominates? Is that because you are more aware of that domain, or is it a true leader? Keep this list for reference after you read the next few sections on other forms of power and think about how you manifest those as well. Then make some notes on the relative strength of each kind of power in your life. Do you consider yourself a powerful person?

Power as Presence

A much more coveted form of power is the power of presence. I call this Personal Power. This is exemplified by a person who can stand alone without the need for approval from others, who can make authentic choices and who carries a natural authority emanating from a sound sense of personal identity, meaning and purpose in life. We call such people self-actualizers. But it goes beyond self-actualization. Presence is a genuine spiritual beingness. It is grounded in the Higher Self and the knowledge that one is identified with that Self. Such a person gives off radiant light and a sense of self-containment, equanimity and balance. This is the kind of power we all seek and that spiritual practice is aimed at attaining.

Power of Love

When a person is tuned into the source of Light and Love, there is no limit to the objectives that can be achieved. However, it is important to remember that the results are not due to ego but to love itself. This kind of power is usually directed toward others because love seeks an object, in an I-Thou sense of course. For it is demeaning to use another person as an object per se, even as an object of love. Two people share love at the level we are discussing, or they dwell within it would perhaps be more accurate to say

This kind of love seeks to draw us Home. It pulls us. And it gives us the strength to respond if we are willing. What this means is that ego must be resigned to giving up its power in order to pull in the same direction as the Higher Self. When a complete surrender of this nature happens, a whole life changes on all levels of being. The person becomes sattvic. All of the veils fall away and consciousness is purified and elevated.

Power of Intention

The power of intention is a form of concentration coupled with will. We can use our minds to focus attention, and then, if we put our will behind the intention, we draw on our life energies to make something happen. When I was getting ready to leave the Ashram to start a Yoga Center but did not know where it would be located, Spirit said, "Put out a thread of your intention, and when the time comes, follow it." That action brought me to Cedaredge, Colorado and the House of Spirit Yoga Center there. When this kind of intention is coupled with Divine intention, you can imagine the results. Mother Teresa is one example that comes to mind. Her work in India made an impact on the entire world. The Dalai Lama is another case in point. His efforts to save Tibet are having a major effect on international collaboration and worldwide community-building.

Exercise: Uses of Life Force:

Add to your list of types of power, the other ways you use your life force that are different from what you have already written down. If you can, group these into categories according to how they are similar. For instance, you might have "sex," "relationships," "work," etc. Keep this list for future reference.

Misuses of Power

We could say that anything that violates the main Yogic precept of ahimsa (non-violence) is a misuse of power. If we use our power to harm others, to control others or to interfere in their lives, that constitutes a misuse of personal power.

Power Over

Those in positions of authority or those who are paying others to work for them have the power to make others do what they want them to do. This is power over. It may be administered with grace or with malice. We are all familiar with people who use this kind of power in the service of their egos or inferiority complexes to make themselves feel bigger and more important. However, even when it may seem that such power moves come from a position of superiority, that cannot be the case since true personal power is exercised only for the enhancement of the other person in a spirit of selflessness.

Personal Gain

"Our whole construction of self, of identity, has gotten so bound up in materialism, we don't feel the human ties. Violence comes out of that" (Carol Flinders in Johnsen, 1998, p. 136)

The use of one's energy to achieve unnecessary money, fame, status, success, possessions, prestige or any other material gain is also a misuse of power although it may appear to be very effective depending upon one's standards of value. Beyond a balanced diet, shelter and a few other essentials, most of us have acquired excessive amounts of material goods, and greed is rampant in our land. Compared to most people in the world, our wants (not needs) are excessive; and they are certainly not conducive to happiness and spiritual well-being though they may serve to allay our insecurities. This is a huge problem in American society since such goals are often achieved at the expense of others who are less "fortunate."

Anyone socialized in this society is likely to disagree with the statements above because the consumerism hypnosis is so widespread. However, if we look at the mystical disciplines, we find renunciation to be a key practice in every one of them. This rests on the certain knowledge based on thousands of years of practical experience by mystics that setting of such goals and the accumulation of possessions block spiritual progress toward higher states of consciousness and evolution. We cannot serve god and mammon, says the Bible (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13).

Exercise: Humility

Read verse 67 in Tao Te Ching. Please reflect on how our society might change if the business and governmental leaders took this attitude. Then take the message within to see how it applies to your own life. Make notes in your journal about your findings.

Commit Evil Deeds

Without repeating the litany in Unit VII, it goes without saying that the use of power in the service of evil and destruction is a gross misuse of it. Parents who abuse their children, husbands who abuse their wives, bosses who abuse their help, rapists, drug dealers, criminals, terrorists, street gangs who murder each other, military forces and all others who use their superior strength or intelligence to cause harm are abusing their power. You may say that sometimes we must use power to harm others in defense of ourselves or our country. But it is clear, to me at least, that we must find other ways to work through our differences. We have examples of how to do this in Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King.

Exercise: Power

Using the notes on different aspects of power that you have been accumulating, write a paper on power. In it reflect upon your own private sense of personal power. In what does it have its roots? Do you feel like a powerful person? If not, to what do you attribute your loss of power? If you do, what are the sources you draw on to keep it nourished? Is there a type of power you feel is lacking in your life? If so, what might you do to remedy that? Do you have a sense of personal presence? How do you think others perceive you?

When you have finished writing the paper, share it with a close friend or family member you trust. Ask them to give you corrective feedback if they think you underrate yourself. Have some discussion with this person about your weak areas and how you might bring them up to speed.


Anger (and its relative, hatred) is a special case of emotion because it has the power to do so much damage. The energy behind it is extremely powerful and is also negative. So when it is released the vibrations continue in the space for quite a long time thereafter. And they invade the bodymind of the person targeted in such a way as to be very painful and long-lasting. Anger also harms the one who is angry by generating adrenaline in the body which, if not released, can lead to long-term stress reactions and physical illnesses such as ulcers and heart trouble. Since this is so and since we violate ahimsa by releasing anger, what should we do?

The work in Yoga and Buddhism is to study ourselves and our minds to discover the true source of emotionality, so it can be cut off before it has a chance to grow. If we can use the sword of discrimination to cut off unwarranted assumptions and expectations and to cull our negative preconceptions, concepts, ideas and opinions, we can reduce the probability of anger even arising. It usually is a response to frustration when we do not get what we want or are blocked in some pursuit, or a response to fear that we are unable to acknowledge for what it really is. Even an attack on our person is more effectively countered if we do not become angry. Anger, because of the nature of its arousal, clouds rational thought and decision making. We are then suddenly catapulted into instinctual behavior that is divorced from wisdom. It would be preferable to use the energy to solve whatever the problem is.

Hatred is like congealed anger, cold and implacable. Carried around for a long period of time it has the potential to destroy one's own integrity and peace of mind. Revenge and other forms of negative action taken against another are also potentially self-destructive for the same reasons. Ego can be trained to work with these issues and to transform the energies into more peaceful forms of conflict resolution. There is a balance to be found between protecting oneself from harm which is necessary sometimes, and taking a stance against others that springs from a desire to injure them. Seek the aikido way.

Exercise: Power and Innocence

1. Read Power and Innocence by Rollo May. This book was written during the height of the hippie movement, so you will see the impact of that social upheaval on the author. However, his observations about power and the relationship between violence and powerlessness are still relevant today, perhaps more so since his warnings went unnoticed. Make some notes for yourself about the factors he discusses that apply to you.

2. Tong len practice breaks up anger by dissolving the dualism between self and the other. It also requires you to stop whatever you are doing in order to breathe. So you might try this the next time you get angry.


Will is a form of determination that exercises power in order to control a situation, event, outcome, other person or process. Consider the following vignette.

When my eighteenth birthday arrived, my father took me aside for a "talk." Among the things he said was, "I have a certain amount of money set aside for your education." And he told me how much it was. Then he continued, " You may use it to go to college or to travel." As I was just brightening with my fantasy about going to Europe, he added, "I am sure you will make the right decision." So I went to college.

This was a very sneaky manipulation designed to support my father's image of himself as very fair and open-minded, but it did not, in fact, give me a choice because I knew what he wanted me to do. Since his will was stronger than mine at that point, I went to college. At the end of my first year in college, we had another talk, my father and I, because it was not working out. Although my grades were all right, I was miserable. I did not know what I wanted to do with my life and felt that I had to make a decision, so I could be prepared by college to go into the work world. My father suggested I stay out of school and work for a year. Perhaps I could find out. What I discovered was that I needed more education in order to get a decent job. Perhaps this is what he wanted me to learn, but each of these so-called choices relieved me of some of my power since the outcomes felt like failures to me. Then, on top of that, rather than accept the responsibility for a bad choice myself, I blamed my father which reinforced the victim role I was beginning to play.

I am sure you can think of countless similar events in your own life where those supposedly older and wiser than yourself have imposed their will upon your life to suit their own agendas. Up to a point, this is a perogative of parents who are supposed to guide their children and prepare them for life outside the family. The trouble is that over time giving up power to authority figures becomes a habit.


We all want to have our own way. If you look over your life, I think you will see that most of the arguments you have with others involve wanting something to happen the way you want it to. This can be as simple as trying to give directions to a male driver, to deciding who is going to do the dishes. Any time we get emotional because we do not get something we want, this is self-will. The desires that are generated by imagination in the second chakra return in the third cloaked in ego's power. When self-will is frustrated, the most likely occurrence is anger or rage. Looking within to see if one's assumptions were untenable or expectations unwarranted is unlikely. So the rage arises directly behind the block to self-gratification. This kind of self-will is very destructive to spiritual development.

Spiritual Will

On the other hand, spiritual Will is the use of one's strength and power to stay on the path and discipline oneself. It is absolutely essential for the journey. This kind of Will requires commitment first, followed by strength and endurance to get beyond all the challenges ego will provide plus the additional temptations from the outside world. Will needs the power of discrimination to determine what is important and what is dispensable when making choices about direction and what deserves attention. Clarity is essential to make these choices. It takes time to achieve this kind of mastery.

The route to take is through self-discipline. Though we cannot always control what others do or what stimuli come from the environment, we can control how we respond to them. And we can arrange for solitude for the self-study and reflection that help us stay on course. Discipline is necessary to continue spiritual practices that may seem to lag as time goes by and enlightenment is not immediately forthcoming. It takes discipline to keep our practices fresh and challenging. Exceptional discipline is required to do the self-examination that is necessary to clear away the veils of maya because this can take a lifetime and may go on for long periods of time without observable progress. You have to want growth very, very much.

Exercise: Spiritual Will

1. Read The Ramayana. The edition by R.K. Narayan is the easiest to read. This is a Hindu myth about a great warrior on the spiritual journey and his lover. What do you think is the main point of this myth? What characteristics of Rama and Sita would you like to incorporate into yourself?

2. Because of his courage and great purity, spiritual aspirants often chant to Rama. Secure a tape with a chant to Rama and work with it daily for several weeks. Notice how the vibrations differ from those of other mantras you have practiced.

Timeless Books (800-251-9273) has an audio tape called Sri Rama for $9.95, CD is $15.95. Or they can send you the music in a collection of mantras and bhajans (songs) called Mantras, Bhajans and Songs. You may prefer to buy the music book if you can play an instrument as this one has most of the mantras I will be referring you to. [A full-color chakra poster can also be ordered from this same source.] Alternatively, you may find a suitable audio tape for the Rama mantra at your local metaphysical bookstore or order one from a catalog.


Self-empowerment comes directly from Spiritual Will. As we gradually tease away all the obstacles to the Light, we can feel our power coming back. As Almaas points out, ". . when one experiences oneself as Being, one is no longer the self-image. One's sense of being a human individual is now based not on the internalized self-image, but on pure beingness, beyond all images of mind" (1990, p. 218). What this means is that we are now being governed by the Higher Self and not by the ego. We are in our Essence instead of in our personality. The false self or personality is what stands in the way of Self-realization.

Exercise: Will

1. Read The Act of Will by Roberto Assagioli. Assagioli is the founder of Psychosynthesis, a form of psychotherapy that is transpersonal in nature. He offers us some good information from his experience with clients on the distinctions between will and Will. He looks at the relationship between love and will, the stages of willing, the role of will in transcendence and how to work with will. Chapter 5 on "The Skillful Will: Psychological Laws" outlines the laws behind the way the mind, emotions, attitudes and desires obscure reality. There are some exercises and meditations as well. It is a small book and well worth your time.

2. Review chapter 18 in Return to Shiva.

3. Read chapter 6 in A Path with Heart and do the meditation at the end. Where do you think the balance is between letting go and the use of Will? How would you make the discrimination? What would be your criteria? Think of a problem situation or use the difficulty from the meditation. How would you know whether the solution you envision comes from self-will or Spiritual Will? To assist you in making this discrimination, imagine how you would feel if your solution were blocked, in some way you were not allowed to try it?

Free Will, Responsibility and Choice-making

When my son asked me what I was getting out of being a victim, it was a major wake-up call. Though it felt terribly unsympathetic at the time, it put me in touch with the fact that I was doing a great deal of blaming. Not wanting to take responsibility for my own life, I was trying to put the burden on everyone else. It felt like no one loved me and that I was being rejected when he didn't call me on Christmas day. My expectations, not his. I was visiting my father and my brother and sister were both there with all of their family. I did not have mine there, so felt abandoned even though I was in the bosom of my birth family.

There is a direct relationship between freedom and responsibility. Unless we can take responsibility for our lives, we have no freedom. To the extent to which we blame others for our problems, those people are controlling our lives be they parents, lovers or friends. Taking responsibility means recognizing that I have, in some manner, chosen what is occurring. Sometimes it may be necessary to first go back into the space before birth to see where the choices were made. Why do I find myself with this set of parents, how did I happen to marry this person, where did my critical tendencies come from - all such questions have legitimate answers in the world of soul and spirit.

If you believe in immortality, that you will survive death in some subtle form, then you must acknowledge the possibility of having been in existence before your birth. It is only a step from there to assuming that you have made some plan for this lifetime which can be discovered and with which you can collaborate. Not doing so gives up a piece of your freedom and independence. Even if you have not thought of it before nor taken responsibility for your prebirth choices, you can do so now. Reclaim the initiative simply by figuring out what you intended to learn from the situations and relationships you have created. It is possible that you made arrangements with key people in your life to be together in this life to resolve some longstanding or unfinished issue between you.

J. F. T. Bugental (1989) says one of the existential dilemmas confronting human beings is that we have the ability to make choices, and we often have to make them without all the information we need or would like to have at that moment. So some choices can be painful and some may result in tragic outcomes. However, if we take responsibility for all of them, then we can ask ourselves each time: what did I intend to learn in this situation? If we can do that with an open mind, in spite of pain, we find that there is, indeed, an opening into a fuller life. On the other hand, if we refuse our choices and the responsibility for them, there is a tendency to contract to avoid the pain, and the lesson is lost. At the same time, we have reduced our scope and options for growth in the defensiveness we have chosen. You may wish to read Bugental's book, The Search for Authenticity for more information about existential dilemmas.

Choices are important because they mark changes in the direction of our lives. We choose to go to college instead of working. We choose to marry this person instead of that one. We go to Yellowstone Park on vacation instead of the Everglades. We choose to have children or not. Every decision we make takes us down one path and we must give up all the others that were available to us at the same time. So we want to make our choices with as much awareness as we can generate to make sure that the outcomes are compatible with our spiritual orientation.

Taking the route to liberation, the spiritual journey, is a major choice in itself that we can make. Buddhists say that a human life is very hard to attain and, because it offers the opportunity to progress toward liberation, we should make the most of it by devoting all our time and energies to using this life in order to get rid of all the obstacles to enlightenment. If you can see that possibility, then you are ready to engage the challenge. Keep in mind that being born again into a human body is a choice we have already made to reincarnate whether it is remembered consciously or not, and that choice brings karma with it. Karma is not necessarily good or bad. It is beyond opposites or dualities. What karma means is that actions and choices have consequences or outcomes. It is simple cause and effect. What we do has results. We will look at karma in more detail in the next unit.

Exercise: Choices

1. Read verse 38 in Tao Te Ching. This is another of the oriental chains of cause and effect. How do you think it reflects karma? And what does it suggest about choice making? Do you think it means we should not make choices? Or is there a more subtle choice involved?

2. Now read verse 37. What is meant here by non-action? How does this verse speak to karma?

3. Find a quiet time when you can do some uninterrupted self-reflection. Make a list of all the people you blame for something in your life starting with your family of origin, going through the school years and up to date. Should you think you do not blame anyone, get in touch with some things you are angry about to help you get started. Write down what you blame each person for alongside their names. Put each different thing on a separate line so you can work with it later on. Once you have made the list, consider what it tells you about your willingness to take responsibility for your life. [If this exercise depresses you, know that you have lots of company.]

Now take your list and look at each thing you blamed someone for and ask yourself what choice was involved in the situation. Who actually made the choice? What was the outcome? If you ostensibly made the choice but it was influenced by someone else, how did that impact you? What was the result? If, for whatever reason, you did not have a choice in the situation, consider what choice you would make now if the same events were transpiring? Finally, if you felt yourself abused in the situation, can you bring yourself to forgiveness? If you can, now see if you can reframe the past by choosing to accept the responsibility for the choice that was made just as if you had indeed made it.

For there is a very real sense in which you did make that choice if you think of it on the soul level of reality. The Higher Self is guiding our entire lives on higher levels of consciousness. If you can get your ego to accept its partnership with the Self, then you can also accept the responsibility for what It has accomplished in your life. One way to deal with this kind of issue is to look at what lessons you learned from the unpleasant or painful events on your list. If you can accept that your pain and suffering in life has its benefits in terms of soul growth and development, then perhaps it will not be so difficult to accept the past as your own creation - choice by painful choice.

One of the main gifts from the Divine One to human beings is free will. Even the Divine One cannot invade that domain. That is very important to keep in mind if we want to reclaim our power.

Taking Back Power Gracefully

Throughout these guidebooks, there has been a theme of undoing social conditioning. And we find that it applies to the issues of power as well. If we feel powerless or if we are indeed without functional power, there is a history of that. When we say that all people are created equal, we do not mean equal in the sense of socio-economic background, but equal in the sense of opportunity to learn from our experiences in living. Some of us may have chosen to bite off a bigger chunk of problems in this lifetime than others who may be simply sitting it out and wasting their opportunity to progress on the path. If so, our lives may be more tumultuous and/or painful than those of others. On the soul level, poverty is a choice, race and gender are choices, being abused is a choice and so on. Such outcomes can be choices made in this lifetime or before birth. Those made before birth are the most difficult to acknowledge because we often can see no connection to the pain they cause us. You may prefer not to take responsibility for such situations if you are living them, but, if you do not, there is nothing you can do to change your life, nor will you be able to accept the learning that is inherent in them.

However, if you choose to accept your choice, whatever it may be, then you can cultivate an attitude that will allow you to begin to change the situation. The plane of consciousness involved in this chakra is the celestial realm (svarga or svarloka). What this means is that right use of power and intellect can lead to growth and transcendence. The svarloka is "The world of light; pure thought and feeling and pure psychic state. . "(Tyberg, 1970, p. 114).

But, you may say, what if I have no power? We all have an allotment of neutral energy at our disposal. You may choose to use it to complain about your status in life or to work to change it. Some of the things you might address are ideas you have about roles people should play, your assumptions about what you must do to make a living, what attitude to take toward possessions, status, rank or prestige, who your friends should be, whether or not to continue a punishing relationship, the habitual scripts you repeat endlessly, how you explain your life to yourself, etc.

Taking back your power means achieving true independence. That does not mean you will not have to go to work tomorrow, nor does it mean you can just bliss out and let others take care of you. What it does mean is that you feel secure in yourself that you can cope with your life, that you have a solid sense of identity, you know who you are, and that you know how and where to find the resources you need for optimal learning. It also means you have freed yourself from the entanglements of the past and are ready to go forward in the moment. You may plan for the future, but you resist spending an inordinate amount of time fantasizing about it. You do what you can to take the next step, then allow the universe to do its share of supporting you.

The third chakra is a turning point developmentally speaking. At this point, the personality is mature and can be used as an instrument for dealing with the world and other people. However, you must be independent of your personality to continue your spiritual development. Instead of identifying with the personality or false self, we use it as a servant to the Higher Self whose goals are transcendent and thus more dependable. As human beings, we must live a life that is partly physical since we inhabit a body and live on the earth. But we are also spiritual beings whose existence is eternal and limitless, How to achieve a balance between these two kinds of living or how to bring them together in an integral unity is a test of enormous proportions. To meet it, we must go beyond dualistic thinking and get in the habit of engaging reality as a both... and situation. We are both physical and spiritual beings. We live in both a physical world and a spiritual realm. We must learn how to both engage and use our power and surrender it to the Most High. Often the choice that is required is which of these both...and actions is the one to focus on at any one point in time. Doing both simultaneously is a goal that not many people achieve. However, the fact that some of the great avatars and saints of history have done so, provides us with a model toward which to work.

Help is always available and is just a prayer away. Spirit says It cannot invade our privacy and must await a call for help before It can intervene to help us. Its help seems so rarely to come forward because asking for help requires surrender: surrender of control and surrender of the idea that I can do it all myself. And it must be genuine, honest, humble and heartfelt. There was a picture in my Sunday School classroom of Jesus knocking on the door, standing outside a house. This comes to mind when I think of asking for help. All that is necessary is to open the door and let Spirit in. The doors to our minds are usually locked from the inside.

Exercise: Reclaiming Power

1. Read verse 28 in Tao Te Ching. How does this verse speak to the both...and dilemma? What part of it refers to surrender? Why do you think humility and becoming like a little child are instrumental in returning to the infinite?

2. When your next important decision comes up, take some time to go about making the choices a different way. Begin by sitting with the issue for meditation. Let your mind quickly put forth all the pros and cons of both sides of the issue. [You may want to prepare a list of these ahead of time, so you can spend the period of meditation awaiting a resolution.] Then, without giving your mind a chance to obsess over it, surrender the choice to your Higher Self. Quiet your mind and allow some open space around the issue. Then tune in to the Higher Self or whatever deity or form of the Ultimate Reality works for you. The point is to tune in to a higher power and allow It to form the choice for you. You will know when that happens because a decision will emerge and will feel absolutely right for you. Should a decision not come in the first attempt, put the issue on hold in the back of your mind without worrying it, and trust that the answer will come in its time of readiness. Like all creative processes, it may need some incubation time.

Existential Aloneness

One of the most difficult challenges on the spiritual path is becoming alone. I was once asked by a swami at the Ashram what was the most difficult thing to renounce? I knew immediately that it was attachment to other people. And yet, I had also known throughout my entire life that I could not relate all that I was to any one other person. Later in life, I ran across the Yogic teaching: "I am That." In trying to feel into that teaching, it occurred to me that if everything is part of the One, then there has to be only One. And that One in Its most pristine form must be lonely. So I took some comfort from that idea. But this is not the end of the challenge. What it basically entails is giving up the need for the approval of others. If we can do that, then the games people play are silenced for us. And when the games stop, we find ourselves alone. Solitude. This is basic aloneness. Even in a crowd or at a party, we feel alone, detached from others.

If we panic and rush headlong back into the melee of human interactions, we may lose the chance to discover who we really are. This kind of solitude needs to be honored to see what it has to offer us on our journey. It is only in solitude that we can truly know our basic nature as human beings. Trungpa (1976) says that the desolation of fundamental aloneness is freedom, fundamental freedom (p. 151). After all, the original meaning of the word, power, was "able to be."

Exercise: Aloneness

Read Part VIII in The Myth of Freedom. Notice his definition of tantra. It has nothing to do with sexuality, but with transcendence. What is the mandala principle? How does Trungpa suggest we transmute passion, aggression and ignorance? What role does sight, the sense of this chakra, play in the mahamudra?

Read the "Mahamudra Upadesa" that follows the discussion of "Mandala" and study it. Make notes in your journal of the important ideas you find in it. Then take as a spiritual practice the oral repetition of it every day for two weeks, reserving enough time to meditate on it after the repetition.


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Iyer, R. (Ed.) (1983). Return to Shiva: From the Yoga Vasishtha Maharamayana. New York: Concord Grove Press.

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Narayan, R. K. (1977). The Ramayana: A shortened modern prose version of the Indian epic. New York: Penguin Books.

Trungpa, C. (1976). The myth of freedom and the way of meditation. Boulder: Shambhala.

Tyberg, J. M. (1970). The language of the gods: Sanskrit keys to India's wisdom. Los Angeles: East-West Cultural Centre.

We have seen, in Unit X. Empowerment that claiming our power depends upon taking responsibility for our own lives and working through all the social conditioning from past interactions with others. Unit XI. Karma takes us into the realm of work to see how power manifests in the world.

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