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13/02/12: "The nature of empowerment..."

What makes you confident?
In all the one-on-one work I do, people present many and varied situations in their lives which they'd truly like to master. It strikes me that in all of the situations I encounter with people, what we're really looking for is a sense of true empowerment: to be empowered to see and make the right choices in life, to be confident in what we're doing. So exactly what is empowerment and where does it come from? Is it something we are born with, or can we develop it? Here's a brief point of view that came to me today...

The mockery of confidence
People have always regarded me as a confident person (even when I wasn't!). I guess there's always been an underlying yearning to be the centred rock in the storm. So even when I was beset with self-doubt, I still worked to overcome that and find a solidity that both I and others could rely on. I guess I must have achieved this with varying degrees of success.

But it wasn't until I became transfigured that true empowerment arose naturally of its own accord. It was no longer something I had to search for or to manifest. To me, Transfiguration is where we cease to be an identity - instead we've dissolved completely into pure, empty presence (well almost bar a few shadows). It's then that for me, the previous nature of confidence became a mockery - I could simply laugh at myself for all the times I'd tried to be confident.

When I look back I see that confidence had become a mantel that I'd put on like some comfortable jacket. It protected me from the outside world. It meant I could 'sell a position' or point of view, I could impress or influence. But ultimately such confidence is inherently weak. By its very nature, it sets itself up to implode, just like "pride comes before a fall".

The absolute vulnerability of the moment
What came to me instead was absolute vulnerability to the moment. It seems my soul kept taking me into all the situations where ego would arise in some guise, one that needed a particular outcome from the situation or was resisting another: one that wanted to create, shape or manipulate in some way. Finally I figured it out, whenever we want or desire something, we form a limiting relationship to that which we are craving - we become 'owned' by it. Therefore when such desire or resistance does arise, we're being presented with a gift - an opportunity to soften into it, let go and expand.

But this realisation didn't stop me going for things. It didn't stop the authentic arising of yearning. I realised that if I tried to dissolve such yearnings, then yet again, I had become an identity doing so - one that could easily pop at any stage. It is the identity I call the 'dissolver' - it hides its head frequently today within the 'non-dualist' movement: "everything is one" becomes an excuse to avoid everything and think we're non attached...

    Student: master, I have reached the state of oneness, all is perfect
    Zen Master: tell me more...
    Student: I am at one with the divine, there is no duality
    Zen Master: what else?
    Student: I am....
    Zen Master: what else?
    Student: I........
    Zen Master: what else?
    Student: (no reply...dissolving into state of oneness)
    Zen Master (strikes the student hard across the face)
    Student: OOOUUUCCCHHHH!!!!!!!
    Zen Master: well who felt that then!

The difference between yearning and desire
So what's the difference between authentic yearning and desire? Why can such a subtle difference have such a huge effect? What I've discovered is that if we work to come from pure non-attached presence - and we're continually observing that - then a pull will arise to engage with the world in a particular way. If we honour the pull, it has a feeling like we're being a landscape with a stream flowing through it. The stream seems to align itself with the synchronistic bob and weave of the landscape. You simply get the sense you're aligned, there's a 'rightness' to it. The more I observe this, the more empowered I feel.

It's not like I need an outcome from the stream, but I sense the stream has an inevitability to it. And no matter what granite-like boulders it may encounter as it makes its way across the landscape, I just have this growing feeling the stream will always find a way - somehow. The more I observe and feel this situation, the more I notice the inevitability. I don't need the stream to find a path, I just know it always does and always will.

So when I'm being so empty, so vulnerable to the moment, something else happens: I seem to fill up with the stream. It's like my whole being becomes full of what I know to be me. Don't ask me how I know. It's like asking "how do you know when you're in love?" The answer is the same: "you just do!" In such a place there is a curious paradox: I have all the power in the universe, but with no need to use or direct it. It just sits there within me and fulfills purpose.

Power with, but not over
So it doesn't matter if the universe now calls on me to do something small and simple - help that old lady across the road - or if it's something 'bigger'. By observation, I know I always have the power to do what I'm given to do. Even if that means complete surrender. But neither do I deny the role I'm being given. Increasingly I find myself filled with this energy and with the sense of inevitability that whatever I turn my hand to, right action will be supported.

I find I never have 'power over something', but I always seem to have power with. I'm not able to control, but then neither can I be controlled. I can't win, but neither can I loose. In all my pre-transfigured successes, I have never encountered anything quite so successful. It feels like true empowerment.


PS - what makes you feel empowered? I'd love to hear...


David's picture

What I have noticed with me is that I have a natural yearning to align with the flow, but within the natural aspect there also lies a part of me that "tries" to align, and in that trying I experience tightness and an actual closing down. Having experienced this so many times now as soon as I am aware of the tightness I realise a part of me is trying to control, and I am then able to let go, and allow what is wishing to express through me in that moment, the space to be.
It may sound like a complicated process, but in a way there is nothing else I am interested in. I feel empowered when I am in that place of seamlessness that flows from one moment to the next, I feel like an open vessel with unlimited potential. There are still many things that trip me up though, attachments and desired outcomes and vulnerability is a big one for me, but every time I fall off the log, I just want to get back on!


David, I experience exactly the same thing... only for me the difference is the shadow identity aspect. Where after my meditative states, I feel so complete that I begin to talk to myself about. Intellectualize it, then begin to slip into a feeling of owning it, I catch myself as it happens, I know natural) then sit with that, to allow more expansion into it.... other than work I do little else, for 3 solid years I have done nothing but sit with the false life feelings and own them... and more and more I discover every second another aspect about myself....

Trinity's picture

What a welcomed article here Chris. I love the theme, especially in a world where control and disempowerment, even in the smallest or largest of ways seem rampant.

Disempowerment has been a running theme in my life. I guess, it is the same for everyone, if we can all be honest. The most challenging of moments have always been the surreptitious moments that have sneaked in under my radar by stealth! They are the ones that can go unnoticed and eat away at us without us even realising why our energy is so out of sorts.

Over a life time of observation the one thing I noticed was, that I gave my 'power' away. By power I learnt that it was not 'my' power I was giving away BUT my connectedness to the divine flow. It's not even like I was giving it away, but rather 'GIVING IT UP' or disconnecting myself from it. So whatever the situation has been, the detemining factor of empowerment for me has been whether or not I have still been connected to the divine flow.


Chris Bourne's picture

All interesting comments - thanks for sharing guys.

Yes indeed, there is only truly one place to be - that's in the flow. It feels like nothing else - a sense of rightness.

As you point out David, there has to be something aligning with the flow. And herein is a paradox. To be in the flow is to be purely present - everything/nothing. Yet to be choosing the flow there has to be some kind of identity.

This is a dynamic that perplexed me for a while. But then I found a solution which works well for me. I call it 'heart'. Heart is like an expanded observer. It originally began as an intention to watch, feel and align.

You could call it a subtle identity. Yet this subtle identity is all about dissolving itself into the flow. In the finer densities it is less and less necessary, but in this one, I find it of value the gain alignment and traction.

Heart also feels the multi-dimensional consciousness landscape that the soul is now flowing through. I find this essential. It gives direction, meaning and purpose to life. Without this, I observe that people become either overtly spontaneous (flitting off in all directions), or else wishy washy and not able to find a direction at all.

When heart is employed, and alignment is happening, it can feel a touch like being controlled or disempowered (at least in the beginning). I guess it tends to happen when the false self aspect realises that choice is ultimately an illusion - in truth, there is no choice which may feel like being controlled.

That is until the false self dissolves leaving just the heart, eternally aligning with the flow. No longer any question but "how would you have me be now?" and "what would you have me do now?". Until even these dissolve into flowing.


PS - for those who've not done the level 2 course with us (Walking the Path), this is what our 'soul compass' openway is all about. It helps people align with the flow.

You ask, "what makes you feel empowered? I'd love to hear...:"
For me its driving... when Im driving on the interstate, for some reason Im easily able to shut off my words,and feel the spiraling shaping energy forming around me. When Im done driving IM IN THE FLOW... We are surrounded by HEAVEN ! When in the flow, things expand, you shoot into these deep knowings/revelations but as they go deeper I sorta have a hard time as the linear mind starts quietly to explain or put things in place the deeping becomes to much to understand/follow...
When you say Chris... "So when I'm being so empty, so vulnerable to the moment, something else happens: I seem to fill up with the stream. It's like my whole being becomes full of what I know to be me."
I personally experience this quite often as I drive to work (40 Minutes.) And some nights Im able to stay fixed within the flow regardless, BUT THEN there are other nights where I still have the rising tensions over other peoples inconsiderateness to others... I wouldnt say I get completely sucked in anymore, but it does throw off my balance to a point I find myself sneaking in blame at myself... When Im alone, things sit pretty well, but I still have not processed enough to be beyond the matrix perfectly.... and one last thing, other than obvious callings, what is most amazing to me is how complete we are. I hardly need anything, somedays I dont hardly even eat. I KNOW that everything as it is, is absolutely perfect, in one way or another.

Réka's picture

I actually read this article several times in the last days waiting for a response inside of me to emerge. My mind was not reacting --still I kept being drawn back to it.

I suppose this in itself also describes this process you are all talking about, all of you from different aspects.

What I have noticed (quite early in my life actually, so hence the somewhat childish metaphor) is this ongoing 'double, or even triple (?) talk' in my life: I somehow described it like a carriage, a coach (my life) being pulled by different horses, such as my mind and intentions, my feelings/instincts, and yes, there is one that I could only describe as my Soul (I suppose Chris this is what you call Heart in this article). A coach's ride is smooth as long as these horses are more or less aligned with each other.

The thing is that the pull of the Soul/Heart is very subtle, plus it seems to defy time! Often its message comes through only as an impression after having experienced a number of actual situations (during any or all of which there is the chance to lose the feeling of empowerment - or not Smile ). Like the Soul talks in a puzzle, the pieces of which are the fragment situations of our lives. But it is rare, but also possible in my experience, that the voice of the Soul would be loud and clear in one concrete situation.

And yes, there comes a point when we start to see the picture, and if we align with what we see, it does get easier. If we insist on a different picture, well...

There is free will in how we put the picture together, but not much as far as the picture itself goes.

As all of us, at several occasions in my life I experienced the conflicting pull of my horses, wanting to go in different directions. It is very possible and for quite an extended time too, I suppose even for a whole lifetime? With me though so far, each time I was reminded to pull my horses together - each time (no more than 2-3 times in my life) were VERY difficult life stages...

So to me the feeling of disempowerment almost always turned out to be my resistance to accepting the picture itself. Or failing to fine tune to the subtle pull of the 'Soul horse'. Or as Trin says, 'giving up the connectedness'...

someone's picture

Yes, I can really relate to everything that was said till now, and I am working on these things for quite a while, and especially recently.

Interesting that I learn a lot now about confidence, stability, responsibility, etc etc. What I mean is that by looking at these qualities in others and seeing how they operate I can then find these aspects in me, even that I feel resistance, because it is so out of my comfort zone. Another interesting thing is that this Sunday I processed several disempowering 'events' that happened to me in my childhood and teenagehood.

What's empowering me? For me "just doing" is very empowering at the moment (even that it is probably opposed to being and then expressing this beingness). I don't aim myself at necessarily aligning, but more to overcome the over-flowing, laziness, bitterness, a sense of pointlessness and just get up and do anything. And the funny thing is that I then feel aligned.

And this is part of non-efforting when aligning. Because before I felt myself imposing and pushing too much. It's like being tight around being authentic. I can't be authentic because I am busy now with trying to be authentic. The same here. So I "just do it". Biggrin

If I am going in the 'wrong' direction, then it becomes clear very soon and also I always learn or notice something about myself on the way. Because there was a reason why I picked THIS and fell out of alignment. So this one also empowers me: not to be afraid to go in the wrong (not aligned) direction and make mistakes.

It IS empowering for me to allow myself to experience, experiment and try, to enjoy the process and not trying to be a "good girl", perfect and do things right.

Sometimes, of course, the mind gets on the way and then I may feel confused, but dropping back into the center solves it within a moment. So being centered is very empowering too. I feel that nothing can touch me, hurt me or disempower me when I am centered. I feel it is only me here being shown things.

Another empowering change is that now I began to do more 'empowering' yoga (which somehow always reflects my inner states and processes), working with core a lot and feeling the strength of the body and natural will power rising without pushing myself or the body too much and keeping the softness, fluidity and sensitivity. And I overcame my fear to be upside down! And spent ~5 minutes on my head this week Biggrin It felt like I am a big hero, so joyous!

Also bodywork, especially spontaneous free flow, or wild dancing. I feel so free and... well... empowered! hhh

I also feel it is important to tell about surrender. I notice is that there is a very fine balance between the feeling of 'real' surrender and imposed surrender. Just like with the difference between empowerment and imposed confidence, the same about these two, they can be confused sometimes, especially when some part of me wants to confuse between the two (also something to look at). Actually they are very correlated, surrender and empowerment (just like Chris described).

For me the difference is that when I surrender, I still feel 'contained' within myself. No leaks. Also there is no this slight feeling of 'unhappiness' or pressure in the chest and throat. It feels like the wave coming and taking me, and it feels very empowering. And I can be tired, feel weak, sick, etc. It doesn't matter. The sense of deep connection arises and there is this 'drive', driving force and it feels like there is nothing I can't do.

Imposed surrender, however, feels more like sort of laziness (to me), as if I am now lying on the couch and waiting for the Messayah to come and do the job for me. Smile Also there is a touch of light-mindedness. Like I can do whatever and it is all fine, the universe loves me and again, wll do the job for me. It is different from not being sure, finding it hard to feel out for some reason, because of the blind spot, for example, and trying to find out. OR being aware of the mechanism and deciding to go there anyway because I feel I really want to. Another thing is that the sense of expansion and riding turns into the feeling of being manipulated. As if I am a puppet on the string and I become slightly dumb. And always, always! this feeling of something is just not quite right.

I am still working with the sense of rightness. Because this feeling is a bit tricky for me. There is also an imitation mechanism. Like once you've found some orientations they get imitated. So... I stick to the sense of being centered and connected. These two are pretty hard to imitate. And this does feel disempowering in a way. It feels like losing degrees of freedom. I don't like to stay like this for too long.

But I do feel this gradual process of seeing what happens when I lose connection and making a choice to stay there more and more. It takes some time and it is ok, I feel, to take time and not push myself.

Wink For those who are not confident:

"The Sound of the One Hand: 281 Zen Koans with Answers"


Chris Bourne's picture

Hi Tom, welcome.

Personally, I find empowerment more in two hands rather than one Wink

I'd be very interested to hear your point of view on what you feel 'one-handed-clapping' is all about though.


someone's picture

... again!

Years of exploration and I am still as clumsy as cow on ice with this paradoxicalness.

But it is getting better, paradoxically, without me understanding how exactly.


Chris said: "I'd be very interested to hear your point of view on what you feel 'one-handed-clapping' is all about though."

Let's see if I can explain this....
One-handed clapping: empowerment is not only a goal but also a process. The problem encountered by those seeking empowerment is that very often they seek short-cuts or play "follow the guru" without realizing that the answers they seek are always there within, waiting. From this perspective, it is our conditioning during our formative, traditional education years that crystalizes our modes of thinking and may prevent the very outcomes we seek. Sometimes we need to unlearn what we have learned to become empowered: http://www.doceo.co.uk/original/learnloss_1.htm http://www.doceo.co.uk/original/learnloss_2.htm http://www.doceo.co.uk/original/learnloss_3.htm but this involves abandoning our learned processes of doing things. Formal education, like going to university, is in part about the "one hand". Just as it is explained in the book I linked in my first post, "The Sound of the One Hand: 281 Zen Koans with Answers", the questions (koans) and the traditional answers become trite and stale and ritualized (as it did in Zen Buddhist Traditions in Japan at one point). Confidence through learning by rote is not as empowering as doing, in spite of failures and set-backs, until genuine transformation is realized. "One hand" teaches about formal processes; "two hands" teaches about the application and perhaps abandonment of formal process in favor of knowing. Beyond both, the truly enlightened, confident, and empowered are able to say:

"Look Ma! No hands!" Wink

Chris Bourne's picture

Ah yes! Thanks, I resonate deeply.

For me it's learning a degree of form and then stepping into formlessness.


Chris Wink