Take back your power
We are caught in a network of needs and limitations that ekes away our power, and our job as spiritual aspirants is to take it all back, says Suma Varughese
One of the ways to grade your spiritual journey is to see how much of your power you have still invested outside yourself. It is not just people in authority who have power over us such as parents, older siblings, teachers, bosses, and for most women, in-laws. It can also include society at large as we tailor our lives to suit public opinion. A friend’s uncle refused to have his son treated for a mental ailment out of his fear of what people would say. Widows submit to a life of deprivation simply because they are afraid of being stigmatised if they do not conform. People scrape together money they don’t have in order to get their children married ostentatiously, simply because they fear that anything less will dent their status. We also give away our power when we depend on others to fulfil our emotional, psychological, financial, or physical needs. If you need other people’s approval for everything, if you can’t go to the mall without company, if you need someone else to take your decisions for you, you will be left with limited power.
The stark truth is that each time we allow another to make us less than we are, we give them power over us. Avenging ourselves for a wrong is one example. Another is putting someone down because they have put us down. A third is withholding from helping someone because they did not help us. Allowing what others have done or said to ruin our mood and day is yet another. Of course, this is easier said than done, and I, who advocate this, am not yet capable of following my own advice. But this does not make it less true.
Our job on Planet Earth is to free ourselves of the influence of others and to live in freedom. The analogy of the lotus growing in the deepest muck without being besmirched by it is an excellent example of this concept. We must be in this world but not of it. The story of the sadhu who kept fishing out a scorpion even though it kept biting him so hard that he was forced to drop it back in the water is an example of this state. When asked why he continued to rescue the scorpion, he said that just as the scorpion was true to its nature, he had to be true to his.
So while this is a lofty state to attain and we may not be able to do so today or tomorrow, seekers must strive constantly to reduce the impact of others upon them. This can only be done by growing in confidence, self-esteem, and strength. To build up our confidence, we need to expand our capacity to cope with the challenges of life and to master as many skills as we can. We must strive for self-reliance in as many areas as possible to reduce dependency. To develop self-esteem, we must learn to value ourselves, identify our unique strengths, and expand on them. Establishing boundaries, learning to be assertive, and practising positive self-talk will also build our ability to love and respect ourselves. The more we grow in our esteem, the less the other looms over us. Strength is the capacity to bear our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensation with equanimity. Even when the other is being extremely aggressive or provocative, we will be able to root ourselves in our centre and refuse to react. When strength enters our system, we will be largely free of the other. And as we continue to move along the path, the time will come when we will take back our power almost completely. This alone is freedom.
Suma Varughese is a thinker, writer, and former Editor-in-Chief of Life Positive. She also holds writer’s workshops. Write to her at email@example.com.
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