One of the inquiries that most frequently comes up when I am talking to others is how to feel more powerful: in relationships, our work, and any other aspect of life.
We are often challenged by only seeing examples of how to be powerful that we may be less than encouraged by. These supposedly empowered people might appear in some ways that don’t feel right and authentic to us. The confusion can be helped with a little semantics—the difference between someone who is powerful and someone who is empowered. Empowerment comes from deep within whereas power develops as a result of relationship dynamics. Power can come from an empowered or a disempowered place.
To learn to be more empowered, we can ask ourselves how we can come from a deeper place of power inside of ourselves—that is what I would like to examine here.
When we explore our personal power, we might be challenged by the examples of power I eluded to earlier. These examples of overuse or misuse of power are the result of identification with the false (or egoic) self. This false self leads us to believe that we are in power when others are not. It leads us to believe that maintaining this relationship is what it means to be in our full selves. This dynamic shows up in ways that are both subtle and obtuse.
The ego needs to continually be fed or pumped up. It needs proof that it is in fact secure. It will approach situations so that it can receive this bolstering—but underneath, there is a constant nagging sense that the security of the position can be lost at any moment. When we are coming from this place of ego, we may have experiences that help us feel powerful for a bit; for example, we might get praise or be put in a position of power.
We can at times confuse these experiences with having arrived at a place of empowerment. However, when we do not get these bolstering experiences or when something goes wrong, we can easily see how unstable our position is. What you might notice is a lack of consistency; that we’re sort of up and down and that we might need more and more, and then more again in order to maintain this sense of security or power or whatever it is.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the ego. It’s not a matter of getting rid of it. It is a very important part of who we are. But we do want to see it for its role in our lives rather than sourcing our power from this place. An alternative is to source our power from a much deeper place—the core of who we are. There are many different terms for this; regardless of what we call it, this deeper place inside of us creates a more sustainable source of power. The first step is to begin to discern between the two.
Another way to come from a stronger place inside of ourselves is to use the tool of connecting with resources. Simply put, resources are energies in our consciousness that provide us with real depth of connection, energy, feelings of security, etc. A resource can be a spirit, a concept, a totem, or anything else that holds significant energetic power for us.
There are many different ways to approach the concept of resources. Here, I am going to write about it in the most general way. As an example, lets look at something like compassion. You can connect to this feeling—this energy, this way of being—in any way that’s right for you and then find ways to bring this through your own being and out into your life.
As we do this, we actually become stronger. One way to do this is simply by being more intentional. In other words, by stating that “I would like to be more…” (in this case, “compassionate”). When you do this, you are drawing on supportive and infinite energies to help strengthen you in any given moment. You can also ask for help. For example, “Please help me be more compassionate in this situation.” Whether or not you know who you are asking, you are going to benefit. You can also call on these resources through a practice. A practice helps you understand the resource you are working with more deeply and also how to more effectively work with it. In our example, you would increase your compassion through a practice by saying, “okay, in these certain circumstances or in a situation like this, I’m going to look at how I can be more compassionate.” Or, you can look for examples of compassion and draw from those.
As we begin to work with resources, we connect with the core aspects of who we are and develop a deeper understanding of them while also fortifying and learning how to act from them. This both confirms our power and helps us draw from a deeper, more sustainable place. This strengthening process in and of itself helps us detach from our identification with the egoic level and provides ways for us to be powerful that are also aligned with the kind of person we want to be.
Our work with resources and how we source our power are deep topics that require a bit of time to understand. If you have not already, take a moment to sign up for my mailing list so that you can continue to receive information that will help you to step fully into your power and let your light shine.
For more about self empowerment take a look at my article >>> “On Trusting Ourselves.”
Better self-love equals better decisions. Creating an ongoing experience of self-love for yourself keeps you operating at a higher level. Like all things that you do to take care of yourself, loving yourself makes it easier to make better choices simply because you are feeling better when you make them.
Helps determine your real needs. If you do not give yourself the love that you need, you may end up getting confused about what your real needs are. If you do not even fulfill this most primary need how can your really know what your other needs are.
You know how to do it best. While it is wonderful to receive love from others, we actually know what we want and need better than anyone else. Sometimes, if we are feeling a lack of love or care from an outside relationship, we can focus on giving/showing this love to our self in exactly the way that we know we need.
Sets the tone for the people in your life. We teach others how to treat us. When we love ourselves, we show others how to love us, thus setting a standard for the other people in our life.
Self-love is the best form of self-protection. When you act lovingly toward yourself, you are unlikely to tolerate unloving behavior from others. As a result, many problems can resolve themselves without effort, and certain predatory types will find the presence of your self-love less appetizing.
You are the root of positive change. Whether you are a professional caregiver or trying to have your impact be a positive one, giving yourself a steady dose of self-love keeps you healthier, happier, and in the game longer. If you shirk your responsibility to love yourself, you will lessen your overall ability to make a difference.
You are a role model. You are teaching your friends, partner, children, and others how to love themselves each time you show up for yourself in this way. We can all use some extra support in the direction of loving ourselves even more completely. You doing this for yourself helps those around you to do the same.
Do you ever feel compassion fatigue? Read more about caring for yourself here >>> “4 Ways You Can Stop Burnout When You Care a Lot.”
As we move through the bumps, jolts, and obstacles of life, we can use them to justify our own “rightness” or choose to see through the eyes of compassion. When seen most clearly, any person who hurts us is merely a person who is suffering himself or herself.
When we choose to see others in this way, it opens up a door to a more expanded way of being. This does not mean that we should put ourselves in harm’s way or simply accept harmful behavior. That would be a cop-out—a way to bypass our own responsibility. It is a way that we can get trapped in a kind of pseudo-compassion. This false compassion is a trick of our ego and a way to feel important through our own victimhood.
Instead, we can make choices that both offer others compassion and takes care of ourselves. Compassion requires that we be able to stand in another’s place and understand where they are coming from. It asks that we feel another’s motives and empathize with their plight. Respect and love for ourselves and others helps us put boundaries in place, say no, or simply remove ourselves from harmful situations.
Both compassionate understanding and self-care are essential.
Goddesses, such as Quan Yin, Yemanja, and Mary, show us the way to unconditional compassion for others. They overflow with deep acceptance of the natural evolution of the soul—marked at times by oversights, limitations, and ignorance. They know that no one escapes these challenges and that each one is doing the best they can at any given moment. In their strength and with compassionate grace, they show us how to emanate light in the face of all of life’s challenges. They do not exalt or negate suffering—they simply offer it compassion.
Compassion toward another is, in the end, a gift to us. It releases us from the shackles of judgment. It creates the space for us to learn and grow. It sets us free to live and love more deeply.
We may look around our lives or the world and see many things that are wrong—politicians who are power-hungry, friends who are self-absorbed, or family members who are stuck in limiting belief systems. These clear problems may invoke in us frustration, judgment, or even deep sadness. To protect ourselves, we may feel the need to make these people bad in some way.
We might believe that they are harmful, lost, or just wrong. We might feel that, if they continue to act in this way, it will be infringing upon our ability to be ourselves or have the kind of life that we desire. But what if, instead of blocking our path, they are signs pointing the way? Do not go that way—that is not your way. What if, instead of negating our way of being, they are helping us see how to be with all aspects of ourselves and of life? What if they are deepening our ability to trust in the divine unfolding of things and more completely challenging our ego’s limited grasp of how things should be? Our compassion can be our teacher, showing us the way to deeper truth and happiness.
As with many things, the first person who needs compassion from us is usually ourselves. Many of us, especially those on a spiritual path, can forget to develop ourselves in our striving, forget that we are in a perfectly timed process of unfolding and that our mistakes and limitations are part of the process not keeping us from it. Cultivating compassion as a ground for our spiritual development ensures that we are approaching it from the healthiest and most beneficial direction—with honor and integrity rather than an egoic need to be something other than who we are at any given moment.
My prayer is that compassion lives in your heart, that you remember to be compassionate when you have forgotten, and that you have the strength to feel compassion when it is most challenging. I ask that you feel compassion’s gifts and be open to its teachings. I ask that your life be inspired by divine compassionate grace.
Are you on a journey of compassion? Read more on this topic here >>> “Be More Compassionate: Love Yourself and Change the World.”
As life pushes us in the direction of truly knowing who we are, both the moments of challenge and the moments of grace provide us with insight into our deeper nature. The question is not about where to look for these opportunities, but how to listen to life so that we can make the most out of them.
At one point or another in our lives, many of us feel the call to realize who we are at a deep level. This is sometimes a pull from within that starts when we are relatively young, or it may be a challenging life event that pushes us to seek out more, or a certain age that we reach that reminds us of how little time we actually have. No matter how it comes, the desire to know our soul’s true voice breaks through.
I have found that many people get confused on this journey. They wonder if they are really hearing their inner truth or whether they are caught in yet another layer of delusion. The transition to this deeper connection with the self requires new skills and new levels of discernment; without these things, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost.
The following are tools that help uncover and strengthen the true voice of your soul.
Acceptance. What we resist persists. This means that if we want to open deeper parts of ourselves, we need to start by accepting who we are right at this moment—all of it. When we can provide ourselves with that unconditional acceptance, we set the ground for our soul to unfold.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness creates space for new parts of ourselves to come forward and for old parts of ourselves to leave with grace. The negativity that we hold distorts the face of our true self. When we forgive ourselves and others, we let go and let truth appear.
Compassion. A partner if not a parent of acceptance, compassion allows us to meet all aspects of ourselves and hold them lovingly. When we have compassion, we are less likely to judge and condemn. This helps us release all that does not serve us rather than trading one limitation for the next.
Respect. Fostering an environment of respect for both ourselves and others allows us to see the beauty in them and in us. Respecting another says, “I see you and I honor and acknowledge who you are.” Respect for ourselves does the same.
Generosity. Generosity is the natural byproduct of a fully expressed soul. The more expressed we are, the more able we are to be generous in all the ways listed above and more. The generosity we express is not about getting something in return, but about the overflow of the soul’s true voice.
Learn more about empowering your true voice in my post here >>> “A Secret Key to Your Personal Empowerment.”
I hear it all the time from people who work with others in any helping or healing capacity: “I am exhausted. I am not sure I can do this anymore. I need a vacation. Maybe I should go into another line of work.” This same fatigue also affects those who are caring for other people in their lives. It is the result of actively attending to other people’s pain at the expense of your own self-care. It even has its own label: compassion fatigue.
One of the first things that I talk to practitioners about when they start to work with me is their own self-care. The more that you care for yourself, the more you are able to assist other people. The problem is that many helpers and healers get into the work because of their own wounds. This is fine overall; however, you will continue to deplete yourself to the extent that you have not healed.
If you find yourself stressed, with little energy to put into your work, or have noticed your behavior deteriorating in other areas of your life because you are caring a lot for others and little for yourself, try some of the following tips.
Boundaries. You may need to rewrite the way that you do the work you do, or work in a different way. You may need to learn to say no to those you love so that you can do some things for yourself. If you are feeling fatigued and possibly ready to quit, your boundaries are not in the right place. You are giving more than you have to give. Ask yourself: what do you need to make this a healthy arrangement?
Time out. One of the best ways to figure all of this out is to take a break. This can seem like a really big request when you feel like you are barely keeping up as it is. BUT—and it is a big “but”—it can be the smartest and easiest solution to your dilemma. Take as much time as you believe is possible and then take just a little more. The space will give you the perspective to help you see new ways of doing things.
Therapy. As I said, very often we get to this point because of our unresolved issues. Get some help from someone outside of your situation who can help you examine and shift the underlying patterns that are creating your over-giving.
Vision. First, connecting to your vision can be reinvigorating. However, it can do more than that. Take a look at how you are represented in your vision. Is it possible to have a vision where not only are you helping others but you are also well cared for? Write or rewrite a vision statement with this in mind, and read it regularly to keep yourself on track.
Perhaps most importantly, know that this can just be a passing phase. You can offer your amazing gifts to others in whatever way you do and you can be healthy while you do it. Look for new solutions, and don’t settle!
Take a look at my article here for more ideas on why loving yourself is so key >>> “7 Reasons to Love Yourself First.”
Ethics in spiritual work have not changed. The teachings have remained the same for as long as we have been writing them down, and most likely for longer than that. There are not new ethics to discover—we know to be kind and offer understanding as much as possible; we know not to lie, cheat, and steal and instead to be honorable; and we know not to harm others, especially for our own gain. This and so many more ethical stances have been taught to many of us.
“Ethics has nothing to do with external considerations. It is independent of time and space, beyond fashions and civilizations. It is derived from the foundations of the Ancient Wisdom and the essential nature of man. ” — Danielle Audoin
But there is sometimes a great chasm between knowing and doing. We all struggle with this to some degree, but we do have a sense of what is right and wrong, and it is up to us to take appropriate action.
We can, however, easily fall into the trap of contextualizing our ethics: Our lie is OK because that other person would have reacted badly to the truth. Our actions were justifiable because we are only human, after all. That person deserved retaliation because of the way they acted.
Being an ethical person does not mean that we make the same decision in any given ethical dilemma that another person would also make in that situation, but rather that we adhere to our ethical code regardless of the situation. If we do this, we can consider ourselves ethical.
One large problem that we have at this point in time is the number of people who perhaps have attained a certain spiritual knowledge yet have not made an ethical commitment or developed this understanding.
And, then of course, there are people who have neither understanding nor ethical practice. In a world desperate for spiritual connection, the superficial trappings of a wise tradition can be enough to find followers.
If you are a spiritual person, the most important place to focus is on your ethical development. This is not magical power, extensive knowledge, or a large following. Your ability to know and live by your ethical code is what will make the difference in your own life and the impact that you have on others.
“We practice ethical behavior by creating the intention to follow a particular ethical guideline. We do this for the purpose of spiritual awakening, not for the purpose of being “good” or escaping criticism–either internal or external.” –Robert Brumet
Once we have committed ourselves to an ethical code, our job is to live and learn by it.
We will have many chances to grow in our understanding of how to be a good person; as we do this, we will grow in our spiritual depth and move in the direction of enlightenment. Inevitably, many of us will face difficult circumstances that pose an ethical dilemma.
These challenges hold the potential for great spiritual wisdom and are the moments we have trained for in our ethical practice. In each of these moments, large and small, we become a light for others, ultimately fulfilling our mission to be a spiritual being.
It is ethics — not yoga pants, indigenous jewelry or obscure spiritual artifacts — that make a spiritual practitioner and ultimately a spiritual leader.
Many people are taught, starting in their childhood, that someone else knows better than they do. While learning to recognize external authority and to honor alternate perspectives is important to our social development, flat-out believing what you are told because it comes from an “expert” or someone who appears more advanced than you is something that most of us do at least every once in a while—and many of us do it a lot. This does not mean you need to summarily reject it, either—by developing your own inner wisdom, you can strike a balance. Seek out resources that help you honor your innate wisdom.
Dis-empowering to the core, this belief leaves the person thinking “why bother?” There are many ways to slice it, but we each have power. First, one dedicated person is often what gets a movement started. Second, in each moment, we are having an impact on many people. This impact can be instrumental in lifting a person up so that they may then choose to do the same for someone else. One of the reasons why people feel discouraged is that they look at the impact they do not have rather than at the positive impact that they do have. Try noticing what good things come from your noble efforts.
While not everyone can have a Maserati, abundance in general and wealth specifically is within your reach. The fact of the matter is that we don’t all want the same thing, especially once we get in touch with what we really want instead of what we think we want. When you do the work to get clear on who you are and what is important to you, you will see the abundance you already have and develop ways to bring in more of what you want—whether that means billions to fight the system or a quiet place to read a book.
“If I am suffering, then I have done something wrong.” Karma is based on the idea that for every action, there is a response. This is not a punishment—it is a teaching. It is a way to fully understand our own actions, heal, and ultimately grow. When we experience adversity in life, it does not necessarily mean that we have inflicted suffering on someone else. Sometimes we have; however, sometimes we have just chosen a difficult experience for our own growth and insight. Looking at our lives though the lens of being punished does not help us become more mature and responsible: it makes us more fearful. Focusing on what you have learned from the challenges in your life yields much better results.
Putting the deeper philosophical debate aside, this is meant to address skirting our responsibility by making the argument that “it is all in your head,” or minimizing our own view because it is, well, “just our own view.” If we all had wildly different conceptions of reality, we would likely find it difficult to interact. We believe that most of the time, if our friend shows up to dinner, our friend also believes that they are at dinner. We share so many of these little truths in our life that to proclaim they are not there when it would be convenient for them not to be seems a bit contrived. However, this trick is used more often than you might guess to get you to doubt your perspective or question the facts. We can honor each person’s unique perception by using each person’s subjective truth to gain a deeper understanding of the total picture and to build connections rather than as a covert tactic to undermine our responsibilities.
My mother used to say, “There is no rest for the wicked.” Religious views and centuries of shame aside, when we step out of integrity, we are cast out on the turbulent seas of our own making. The level of that turbulence will be in relationship to what we know is right.
Having integrity is not about following someone else’s view of what is right or wrong, even if that person is a spiritual teacher, a parent, or a good friend. It is not about following a doctrine or a diet. It is listening to the truth of our heart and the wisdom of our soul in the process of choosing what is right and good.
It can be easy to berate ourselves when we notice a step out of integrity. The right step being so obvious, how could we, why would we, choose another way? But these momentary lapses of judgment represent areas where we have not yet blossomed into the fullness of who we might one day be.
In this moment, we do not yet have the strength to realize the highest and most noble aspects of ourselves. These moments also serve to alert us to what work still needs to be done, where there is a need to strengthen our resolve and let go of our baggage.
When we attack ourselves for our mistakes, we are not able to learn as fully from them. We divert our attention from the important task at hand, which is bringing ourselves back into integrity so that we might once again be able to benefit from the well-being it bestows.
It is helpful to remember that if we innocently make a mistake, this has a different effect than when we knowingly act in ways that are out of integrity. It makes no sense to judge ourselves harshly for something we were simply unaware of. However, once we recognize our errors, we are responsible for and to them.
It does not matter how much we try to fool ourselves: we know what is right. We know when we have chosen to act in ways that are wrong. We feel the impact whether we try to hide it or not. If we play cat-and-mouse games with the truth, we are deeply out of integrity. And although we can do so for a lifetime, at some point, there will be a reckoning.
Accountability is a central mechanism of integrity.
The path of integrity requires taking responsibility for our actions with compassion for the parts of ourselves that are still growing. We do not let ourselves off the hook, but we understand that sometimes we will fail. Mistake are inevitable; our job is simply to correct ourselves and get back on track.
This can be hard work in a world where integrity seems scarce. It can be challenging to know what is right, and even more challenging to follow through on that. While we can be aided to act with integrity by those around us, the true answers to what is right can be found in our hearts.
In a world where so many people so often act in contrast to their values, we might also wonder if is it even safe to try to act with integrity ourselves. Are we not putting a lamb before a wolf? What is the price that we might pay to try in this kind of world?
However, integrity offers its own protection.
This does not mean that harm will not come your way or that you will not get confused in situations that are designed to confuse you, because even the best of us fall or get taken down sometimes.
Being in integrity means that your heart is clear and therefore less easily taken advantage of. It means your mind is clear and therefore less easily corrupted. It means you know the truth of who you are and therefore are not a pawn for others.
Integrity is a blazing sword of protection and clarity. To wield it, we need to deeply respect ourselves and others. And, from this place of respect, choose to do what is right—plain and simple—each time we are faced with a choice.
To have this is to have an inner peace regardless of the circumstances.
If we want to accept ourselves more it is helpful to see how we do not accept ourselves. Answer the following prompts to see where you might not be accepting of yourself .
• One thing I have a difficult time accepting about my life, but deep
down know is true, is:
• Some of the things I feel I need to accept about my life that may be
difficult to accept are:
• The reason I know these things are difficult to accept is:
• I will know that I have fully accepted these things about my life when:
• This stops me from accepting these things about my life:
• I would accept these things about my life if only:
• I am afraid that, if I accept these things about my life, then:
Integrity: 1.) The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
2.) The state of being whole and undivided (Dictionary.com).
Integrity is doing what is right each time you have a choice—or otherwise, it’s owning up to your mistakes and making amends. The following is a list of things that you can do to have greater integrity in all areas of your life.
Do what you say you are going to do. When you make a commitment, stand by it. Yes, it is true that things happen and plans change. Sometimes you will need to break a commitment because it is the choice that has more integrity, but this should be the exception, not the rule. If you make lots of false promises or do not follow through on what you say, it might be time to buckle down and make some changes.
Be who you say you are. Similar to the last point, don’t present yourself as something you are not—in big or small ways. Learn to honestly portray yourself; if that is difficult, explore your insecurities or lack of self worth.
Tell the truth. This does not mean you need to crush people under the truth of your personal perspective—just be honest and forthright in all of your dealings.
Clean up your messes. Mistakes happen. Yes, it is better to prevent them—but when they do happen, you should own up, apologize, make amends, and do whatever else needs be done to take responsibility for your part.
Don’t take responsibility for what is not your fault. You are not obligated to take all the responsibility for a situation wherein you are not the sole actor. This would just be lying to yourself in a different way. Own your own mistakes, and let other people own theirs.
Know your shadow. Our shadow is the part of us that we do not see. Mostly, it contains the parts of us that are considered socially unacceptable or too painful to know and integrate into ourselves. When we do not know our shadow, it leaks out in ways that we are not aware of, which can cause harm. When we know what we have put in shadow, we can choose not to use it or we may put it in service of the higher good.