Power is a fickle thing. One day following a period of feeling crappy, a period of emotional turbulence, you feel different, good again, you feel in control of your thoughts and emotions again and you say, “I’ve got my power back!” You are on fire, on your own high, heart soaring, mind buzzing with aliveness. On another day, just as soon as you’ve got your power back, you lose it again and find yourself saying, “I lost my power again! and I want it back!”
Trying to grab hold of our power can feel like trying to catch a fruit fly that is taunting us with its persistent presence. You reach out a steady hand, you focus your eyes and energy on the fly’s movements, and in a quick jerk of your entire arm you close your fingers tight. You’ve caught it, or so you think. You slowly open your fingers and peak in to see if the lifeless fly is in your hand. You’ve caught the fly, but it’s not lifeless. As soon as you open your hand, the fly wriggles back to life and escapes. And so the dance to catch the fly begins again. In your own life you are dancing another dance, the dance to try to capture your power and hold onto it before it escapes. This time, when you get your power back, you’re going to hold onto it long enough to unlock its secrets and figure out what it takes to not let it escape or slip through your fingers again.
This notion of power came to me through a very wise friend who told me, “don’t let _____ or your dream of _____ take all your power.” I was having a couple of especially cruddy weeks. I was experiencing grief, new and old, new grief and old grief all tangled together, new feeding old, old feeding new. My heart was aching and I felt its weight, laden with sadness and pain. More than once I crumpled up on the floor while listening to sobering, soulful music and let my pain pour out of me. My misery was outweighing everything else in my life, weighing me down from the very top on my heart. I couldn’t snap out of it, I couldn’t change the way I was feeling or get perspective. The only way to get to the other side of this pain was to just let my emotions run their course, to feel what I was feeling as long as I needed to feel it.
I made it through the emotional turbulence. The day came when the weight finally lifted from my heart. I had found just enough clarity where I needed it. I felt in charge of my emotions again and thereby myself. I was finally able to reign in my runaway thoughts and give them direction, to focus and channel my energies, to put my mind back on me. I was present again. My mind was fully engaged in listening to and absorbing the wisdoms and insights from my yoga teachers. I was completely focused on the efforts and experience of each yoga pose. I could sit quietly during the seated meditation portion of my yoga practice. The activity of my mind and inner turmoil of my heart had quieted down and with it came a mental clarity and sense of calm, of peace. It felt good to feel good again. I was feeling exhilarated and on fire. I knew I had my power back. I was determined to keep my power, to not jeopardize my power again, but after a time I lost my balance and with it my power. My emotions took over again and I lost control of me.
It’s interesting to consider power in the context of control. What I am learning is that the personal power struggle is indeed a battle for control over one’s emotions, of oneself, the place where two hemispheres of oneself duke it out: one half of oneself feels and succumbs to emotion, is taken hold of by the emotion; the other half of oneself observes the emotion, holds and contains the emotion instead of letting the emotion spin out of control, instead of letting the emotion control and dominate one’s feelings and one’s life. The battle becomes a tug of war between heart and mind. We battle to try to maintain balance, a sense of equilibrium, the balance between powers, when opposing forces are at rest. When the heart and mind are aligned, in harmony with each other (maybe even in unison?!), balance arises.
Have I unlocked the secret to my power? Have I figured out how to hold onto it, to not let it slip through my fingers? The secret, I am discovering, is tied to emotional turbulence and it is more a truth than a secret. When I am not experiencing emotional turbulence, I experience an inner quiet, an inner peace, mental and emotional clarity; I feel more balanced and alas, feel more in control of myself and my life. However, a life free of emotional turbulence does not exist.
Turbulence enters our lives in unwelcoming ways via many avenues: unexpected events, painful events, unpleasant circumstances, unbalanced relationships, unhealthy relationships, moments or periods of vulnerability, unyielding or unsuccessful efforts, difficult or stressful situations, drama, conflict, commotion, crises, our own or the crises of those who are important in our lives, the actions and behavior of those with whom we interact. Most of these things are outside of our control, are outside of ourselves – external – yet the reality is that these things affect our internal landscape, our equilibrium. Turbulence creates a climate that weakens our defenses and as a result, we experience inner turmoil. Turbulence jeopardizes and puts our power at risk.
We must learn to navigate the emotional turbulence, to find our way around it if we can, and when we can’t, we must journey right through it and hold on and breathe deep until we get to the other side. We must learn to navigate the emotional battlefield and decide when to engage in the struggle and when to just let things be. I often come back to these wise words shared by one of my yoga teachers: “we must let go of that which does not serve us.”
Each of us has skills, strategies, and resources acquired and cultivated through life’s hardships and challenges or periods of personal growth that we draw on, with intention or instinctually, to navigate life’s turbulence. A universal strategy for navigating turbulence and the emotional battlefield is to ground ourselves, to find the quiet within, to come back to our center, the place of inner strength, wisdom, truth, and intuition, to be present. Along with our breathe, I like to think of our centers, our cores, as our sustaining resource. The one secret or truth I learned through my recent power struggle: sustained power requires mental clarity and emotional presence and it helps if you’re not in the turbulence.