Saturday, May 7, 2011

Two Strong Men

I encountered them in my dream. Two men from the Israeli commando forces. Handsome, and filled with youthful energy. I wondered aloud what they were doing in my world, and got a quick answer. "We have come to take care of business." Not an ounce of aggression in their voice, only steadfast determination. 

Starting with my authoritarian father, I grew up to become afraid of power, my own and that of others. Power usually meant anger, and fear of the other person's anger. It has taking me years to start owning what is rightfully mine: power decoupled from old situations, power infused with the positive qualities of strength, resolve, patience, and yes, love also. Not letting the past dictate what ought to be done in this moment. Letting go of the identity of the scared little girl. 

Being on the Buddhist path has been a mixed blessing in that regard. I have struggled to understand the true meaning of some of the teachings about loving kindness, and acceptance for instance. Between non harming and non action, not defending one self, lies an invisible line that I have crossed too many times. Being a woman, in a patriarchal universe, there is of course the added layer of gender, and what that does to one's relationship to power. Misconstrued dharma and disempowered feminine make for a toxic brew. The good news is mindfulness practice has enabled me to see more and more the devastating impact of unfounded fear on my ability to be happy. Fear stemming from an illusory sense of self, and slowly being brought to light for what it really is.

From a practice standpoint, I find it useful to reflect on the Buddha's Five Powers of:
Intention, Mind, Thoughtfulness 

"Go ahead, do what you have to do." I am now living out my response to the two young men, and realizing the positive qualities of power, embedded in wisdom. Both internally, during the course of practice, and out into the world, at home, at work . . . 


  1. beautiful post! Many women in this society deny themselves power... so... well, empowering to find it :)

  2. Thank you, Mihaela! And may you drink from the power cup . . .

  3. Thank you for bringing up such an important topic of discussion.

    Does being mindful mean that we have to somehow stifle and suppress our power? Of course not. But it's difficult not to think that that's what the teachings are telling us to do. On the other hand it's easy to associate our power, which is often rooted in very primal and volatile emotional energy, with something "bad", something that we need to be rid of or ashamed of.

    I'm working on this too. As a gay man I've been programed with my share of personally disempowering messages. But as my practice deepens, I'm gradually seeing that through mindfulness my power can be imbued with loving-kindness, compassion and wisdom.

  4. What an amazing and touching post! So much here. I have a woman friend who just did a big thing in her life because she "thought that being a Buddhist was about being a Boddhisattva".

    I learned a long time ago through my own suffering (which I managed to spread into the world) that being a Buddhist is not about always being "nice" in our conventional western woman way!

    So much to learn here. There is fierce kindness. And for me the key is to experience my dark emotions, not act from them and when I am able to let my actions arise from my awareness. We want to be kind but that doesn't mean supporting delusion, being a Buddhist door mat or trying to be a Buddha when we're not.

    Thanks for the commando dream! Such a wonderful reminder. I learn so much from people's personal journeys.

  5. Chris, thank you. Your comment speaks to me about feminine (not woman or man) power, anchored in relatedness, and compassion for self and others. What does the present situation call for?

    I wish you well on your path.

  6. Not being a Buddhist doormat . . . Fierce kindness, I like it!

    It is so helpful for me to hear everyone else's story around this issue. Beauty of sangha :)

    Thank you so much for sharing, and happy Buddha art-making . . .


  7. Wonderful post. It touched a chord in me. And I agree with Michaela V about women and me thinking!


  8. Good thoughts, wholesome thoughts . . .

    May you live out the power within :)