If I did not know what to be ‘empowered’ meant and I looked at images of what it appeared to mean, I could assume it was all about having strong muscles. There actually seems to be a lot of confusion about this word and I wonder how we might begin to unpick it slightly and begin to understand it better. We could begin by looking at what it means to be ‘dis-empowered.’ In my dictionary it says - make (a person or group) less powerful or confident.
It doesn't say a huge amount and I might then ask myself, ‘what does to be powerful mean anyway?’ To be powerful or less powerful? If I take power away from some one what have I done? If I remove power from myself, from my life, what have I actually done?
We tend to make all sorts of life choices that don't make us happy, is this because we are trying to do things the way that others would have us do them, rather than how we instinctively would if we followed our own innate wisdom and autonomy? I'm doing it because it's compulsory! ‘I’m doing it because it is what is expected of me.’ ‘It makes others/someone happy.’ Ultimately - I give myself away.
If I become less powerful or confident, something needs to have happened to me to create that. Babies seem to be very confident to begin with, they know how to gain attention, get their needs met and as time goes on they are more than likely going to continue to use those methods and we would expect, grow from them in order to be more coherent and understandable. If their parents are not so keen on those methods from very early on, or they tend to ware a little thin, chances are the child will be told in one way or another and not always a nice way that their confidence in their own approach is not welcome. In other words ‘shut up!’ They may be encouraged to do things slightly differently or have suggestions made that could work better, but rarely are they encouraged to find their own way.
Children can too easily lose confidence in their own ability to fulfill their needs, the use of their own resource and understanding of oneself to fulfill those needs.
The child might then look to others and their methods of gaining attention and this will become the habit learned through a life time, until it changes. More than likely however, these patterns are set up for life. “If I do things the way others do them, I will get what I need.”
For many of us, trying to please others becomes a daily task and fitting ourselves into the framework and structures created by others loosens our ability to meet with our own true needs. Of course imitation is how we learn to do most things, we cannot forget this as well, but if we are never given our own autonomy to think, feel and be with what feels right for us, we cannot grow beyond it without rebelling or developing dysfunctional habits like staying in relationships that don't serve us, or hurting ourselves as well as others!
The ability and autonomy to fulfill oneself in ones own way is lost and the mark of a societies manipulation begins. We can turn our attention to t.v. to shopping malls to advertising, to pop stars and actors and we see what others want and what others are getting and again we join in, we give others the authority that we really need for ourselves. ‘This must be the way I should act and I learn to give myself away.’ Lost is the ability to now even think for ourselves.
If we asked ourselves how we felt when we were dis-empowered, we might find things like - being excluded from things, places, people, we might feel helpless and with low self-worth. We might feel silenced and unheard, or the feeling of not being allowed to speak out. There could be many, many feelings related to this.
There is no space left inside us for our own autonomy. Literally no space for our own power source. Think of the engine in a car, that engine is more powerful depending on how big internally its cylinders are. The more space they have the more fuel can be burnt, thus creating more speed and more power. The more air and fuel that we can get into a cylinder the more power we can gain from it.
We talk about horsepower. We know that horses are very powerful. The term horsepower was invented by the engineer James Watt, when discovering how many horses it took to haul and load certain amounts of coal from a coalmine. So these words have come from an ability to move fast, to use strength and be able.
All these thoughts about power - but when we translate it into human form, how does that relate, to us? We can think of being powerful as being strong and having rippling muscles, good body tone and fast legs, stamina and ability to lift heavy weights, all equals powerful bodies. We often make our bodies our primary value, being shown that this is the only route to being powerful, as in strong! Being sexually attractive is also misdirected as a route to power, thought by some, having a so-called ’perfect’ body gives us power and status within the way media views us. We are taught this from a very young age, well before we are conscious of being, thinking and acting for ourselves with our own points of view. Financial wealth also equates power, how much money we have, prestige and wealth play a huge part in this. Very rarely do we equate power with anyone living on or below the poverty line, yet for sure there are powerful people who live without money.
If we use the analogy of our selves like an engine we would also need that space inside us, as in a cylinder, to breath deeply, to be able to nourish ourselves so that our bodies function as they need to, to have enough space to think, feel and react from. So then with this clarity, to begin to think of being ‘em-powered,’ for me speaks of something more internal. The likely hood is that the route to empowerment is to be more aware of our inner world. How much space do our cylinders have to breath, to move and to function? How much space for clarity, for deep listening, for prayer and meditation? This would also relate to the space we have for our feelings, our emotions and how we use our senses. We might be clogged up with years and years of feelings and emotions that have become stagnant and have blocked the senses, too many thoughts that dull the mind and a lack of understanding nature means a lost connection to spirit. We might need to do some work to release that stagnant energy and bring it from the murky depths, clean out our cylinders and use this as fuel to help us get back on track.
Once we start to experience our autonomy more freely, we might be able to lean towards feeling loved, to feel included by others and to feel encouraged enough to be part of something greater than ourselves. Our voices might be included and we have confidence in our feelings, in sharing, even when there is uncertainty. We might feel worthy of who we are, not just what we do, but the person we actually are, that we are good enough and stand in our own authenticity and integrity towards ourselves and others. We might recognize our own power, not by the fatness of our wallets or the 0’s in our bank statement, or the muscles and sexiness of our bodies. We might begin to understand that we are powerful enough just by being aligned through our bodies, our hearts and our minds, with a connection to spirit and this is enough.
All of these feelings might fluctuate as we try to find the right balance of empowerment, knowing that if imbalanced it can take us to another extreme, to self aggrandisement. Yet when our cylinders are still not really spacious enough, because they are filled with unhealthy energy that does not allow for genuine good feelings, we can be trying to deal with self-doubt, uncertainty, low self-esteem and worry, but the engine rides over this, pushing the body, heart and mind to be and do more than it is really ready to do. Over-riding the pain, the conflict, the fears and the humiliation it might take to really face this part of our self. The negative murky energy gets pushed even further down!
To create that space inside us, we might need to do much more emotional work on ourselves, we might need to address our morals and dysfunctions, our principles and values and clear out some of what needs to be left behind. We may need to look at some of our habits and patterns of behavior, what is working and what is clearly not working.
It might take being in a safe enough place, with fellow travels who know just where we have been, to be able to unleash some of our pain or to speak out about our dysfunctions and shadows, to allow the emotions to rise, even when there is shame and guilt and to be able to trust we will be held and listened to for that moment. But we will not be smothered and restricted and treated like a victim, but will be encouraged to stand up for ourselves, taking a look into the shadow parts, which means that we bring our dysfunctions to the light. We literally stand in our own light. Which means our shadow self is no longer in the dark, and the more we release our stories and habits from that place, sharing this with others, writing it, dancing it, owning it, clearing out, the more we make space for the light to shine in. We give ourselves the authority to be who we need to be. Our cylinders work on full throttle, with nothing getting in the way!
We can be empowered by others and we can empower ourselves. I know for myself I can feel much more genuinely empowered when I create alone the space for power inside myself. When I know that I am in-my-power and it is of my own doing. It helps to be encouraged in this, to be given a voice and to be recognised as having ones own power, but to work on it myself, with my own feelings and thoughts and actions is very key to the process. This is much more fulfilling. It increases my confidence, my self-esteem and my love for myself. My body is more satisfied, or I am more satisfied with my body, my heart is strong and I do not shy away from emotions but let them flow naturally. My mind is clear and I am not giving myself or any one else a hard time, thus no bad judgements or criticisms, no blame and certainly not being a victim or victimizing. From this place I am much more able to be in service to others, which is the route to ongoing spiritual work.
And then we might come to our spiritual empowerment.
In the spiritual world and the shamanic world, to empower ourselves is to be fully connected to the spirit realms. ‘To let go and let God’ is one of my favorite sayings, if not THE favorite saying I have. Yet to follow that in all areas of my life can sometimes feel dis-empowering. It has taken me over 50 years to learn that this is not so, in fact quite the opposite depending on the situation.
The ancient traditions of shamanism teach us to have access to our spirit guides and power animals to be in connection with Great Spirit/God whatever that means to us and how ever we view God/Spirit. I personally do not believe there is any one way.
To visit the lower world on a shamanic journey means to gather power for ourselves, thus it is the place that we journey to, to meet and communicate with our power animals, those that can literally support us to claim our power, not ‘be’ our power but guide us into the feelings of how it is to be in our power. This gives us a direct connection to nature, letting go of any belief that tells us we cannot learn from nature and animals. To be fully and spiritually empowered means to let Spirit/God in, to accept that greater power and to know we are vulnerable and in the hands of something much greater. No matter how powerful we are, without humility and a humbleness towards life, we are returning to the imbalance of self aggrandisement, thus arrogance.
If we take a ‘Journey of Empowerment’ we may find ourselves looking at all of these areas of our life. The physical (body) the emotional (heart) the mind and the spiritual, all needing to be aligned and in balance with each other. Nothing can be left out, for in order to grow we must function as a complete human being. I come back to each of these areas of myself and my life frequently, asking if there is a part that I am neglecting. If there is, I need to take stock of it, honor what is missing and make some amends to improve and to realign myself. And of course this can be done in so many ways, there is not one way only - but mine is through the practice of dance, movement, shamanic journeys, offering myself in service to others and checking how emotionally healthy I am at present. Being humble to life, letting go of what does not serve, praying and reminding myself of my vulnerability as well as my courage. It's a list that could go on and it takes a daily check in to stay on track, not easy and I, like many others make mistakes all the time, so saying ‘sorry’ is a common thread I must follow and be prepared to say many times, not just to myself but to others and to Spirit.
Those two things, vulnerability and courage will always keep me in check. I am a vulnerable human being with just as many insecurities and fears as anyone, but how I choose to live with my vulnerability is totally up to me, and in a safe environment I feel free enough to be able to share that vulnerability. I am as courageous as anyone, facing my challenges and turning them into opportunities for growth, using my courage to help me move forward and make the changes that I can and need - and to leave alone what I have no control of or right to try to make any different. This is the kind of space I require for my own growth, a place of safety, a place where I can be myself where I am not judged for being who I am, no matter how different to any one else I am. And a place where the word empowerment is not banded about like loose change and is grounded in an everyday reality of my/our situation, where I can come to it with gently guided steps, my process being valued at what ever stage I am at in my life and I am respected for having my own autonomy, my own voice and my own particular way of empowering myself, for no one can do it for me.
This is the kind of space I want for myself and the kind of space I want to offer to others. This year with the support of a lovely dancing team, in the beautiful region of the Constantine Lake, in Switzerland, we will offer that safe space for others who are just like us, wanting to embark on the continual ‘Journey Of Empowerment’ to find our way through the dance, through the emotional heart and the alignment of the mind and spirit, coming to terms with where we all may have become dis-empowered through our lives. And even if just planting a seed of possibility for our own power to return, we take a step in that direction and reclaim that part of our soul that has some how become dismembered.
You may feel ready to plant that seed, you may feel ready to plant an orchard, but where ever you are on this path, we totally welcome you on this Movement Medicine journey to bring yourself, your body, your heart, mind and spirit in to one gorgeous cauldron of dancing medicine to be with community, to share your experience and ride this wild territory together!
Please contact us for more information, to sign up, or to simply find out more. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Dates for our gathering are 29th July to 6th August ’17 at Schloss Glarisegg, Switzerland
Website link here….http://www.middleearthmedicine.com/event/journey-of-empowerment/
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