Path of Power
The path to power, the hero's journey is a road not often traveled. It is the journey from the quest for force, an aspect of mind, to the a ttainment of power, which is an expression of the spirit. In this very personal quest for one's true purpose and identity, one must give up one's life story. Our life story is built out of the fabric of childhood successes and failures, parental and societal programming, all of which gets reinforced over and over again throughout our lives. We come to believe in these unconscious stories, which become self-fulfilling prophecies, which “magically” pull people, experiences, and outcomes into our lives that keep our life story alive and in place, protecting the story. We may think we are living in the moment, but our story tricks us, and we are really often slaves to our particular story.
This article could be titled “8 Weeks to Optimal Health,” “7 Habits to Attain Success,” or “10 Steps to Become Your Personal Best.“ Those titles may teach truth and love, but mainly these “numbered” titles make for good marketing. The path to power, your journey out of the confines of your life story, is not so neatly categorized and packaged. It is a messy journey, without clear guidelines to demarcate our progress.
Some yogis actually forget that they have any history whatsoever. They live so fully in the present that they experience no past and no future. I am no yogi, but during one trip to an ashram in India , I spent 5 days in a state of consciousness in which I was so fully immersed in the moment that it was very hard for me to remember where I lived, what I did for a living, or anything at all outside the ongoing moment. There is only the moment. The hero is the spiritual warrior who follows his passion, bliss, or purpose. He knows that life becomes unpredictable when living without a storyline, but he does not fear his path, and realizes that fear is the doorway to his power. Most of us find ways to forget what our fears are. Many of us go to great efforts to avoid our fears, once we have identified them. Few are those who truly want to know and discover their fears, so that they can approach their fear, rather than run in the other direction. Fear is like a small window that, when you look through it, everything appears quite overwhelming. However, when you walk through the fear, walk into the fear, open that window and crawl through it, your life becomes transformed. You become more and more fearless and quite powerful. This is a quiet power. Those who run from fear are often quite uncomfortable in the presence of those who actively confront their fears. Yet, we all hold an admiration for the one who does not shrink from fear, but stands up to it.
Recently I met a woman who shared her hero's journey, including the quest to uncover fears, and then attempt to enter into the realm of those fears. Of particular interest to me was her fear of sharks, and how she chose to deal with that. Most of us, including myself, have no particular desire to confront our fear of sharks. No thank you. But, Terry wanted to confront her fear face to face. Terry had taken scuba lessons for some time and was in Beliz getting ready for her certification as a scuba diver. It was her 40 th birthday, and she wanted to make it a special dive. Then it occurred to her that she could kill two birds with one stone. She could go diving with sharks AND get her scuba certification at the same time. She searched out an instructor who led divers into shark-infested waters. These were not great white sharks, but “merely” 8 to 12-foot-long nurse sharks, which can be quite deadly.
Terry fainted twice on the boat before she got the courage to throw herself overboard and join the rest of the divers. In order to attract sharks, the group leader tosses a “munch bag,” filled with food, overboard. Terry got caught in a current that was pulling her directly toward the munch bag, right at the same time that a 12-foot shark was zeroing in on it. With no more than 3 feet separating her from the munch bag, Terry saw the shark open its mouth, got a good view of a very large set of shark teeth, and watched the shark tear the bag to pieces.
An important instruction was that everyone stay together. But somehow, Terry got separated from the group. Her first instinct was to immediately swim to the surface. Fear was taking over. Then she remembered her training, and she slowly swam toward the group from which she had become separated.
Did Terry lose her fear of sharks? No. But she lost her fear of swimming in shark-infested waters. More importantly, she knew that her path to power required her to root out all fear, and her fear of sharks was one she could clearly identify and with which she could take some kind of action. Some of us think Terry is crazy. Some of us stand in awe and admiration at what she did, for we know that to walk into the jaws of death, to stare down fear, is a rare and treasured quality. By walking through the fire, by staring down death, one becomes more and more powerful, more courageous, and less fearful of doing the right thing in life with the small decisions that we face every day. Once you have faced the big fears, doing the right thing becomes easier and easier to do. Many of us are paralyzed by making decisions even about the small stuff. Making right decisions is like flexing a muscle. That muscle grows stronger, and taking right action becomes easier.
The mark of the hero is not the lack of fear. It is the ability to recognize the nature of fear, whether it is life-threatening or not (or relationship-threatening), and then stand up to fear. As football great Vince Lombardi said, “It doesn't matter how many times you fall down. It only matters how many times you pick yourself up.” The same holds true for fear. The hero picks himself up every time, never allowing defeat to define or confine him. He may succeed on the second attempt or on the hundredth. On the path to power, one recognizes and believes that everything happens for a reason, and everything happens in Divine Time, so one develops incredible patience. One knows that, “It's just not my time. I have to keep trying.” This holds true as long as one is following his passion or bliss. If you are beating your head against a door behind which lies no passion, then the Universe will let you beat your head forever and the door may never open.
Honoring Life and Death
“Death is on your left.” This is a quote from “Tales of Power,” the first book by Carlos Castaneda, in which his shaman advises him not to take life for granted, but to realize that life can be snatched from us at any moment. Death is on our left. The hero knows and is quite aware that life can be taken any day, any hour, and any moment. Therefore, he throws himself into life with full abandon, not putting off until tomorrow what must be said or done today. A constant awareness of death allows one to live more completely in the present and to be more fully alive.
You might think that a constant awareness of death would make life miserable, but it has the opposite effect if you use that awareness to inspire you to be more fully alive in each moment. Because the hero has become less and less fearful of dying (or totally fearless), he also becomes less and less fearful of living. Many of us are as scared of living as we are of dying. I overheard a conversation in which a woman, feeling traumatized by the breakup with her boyfriend, commented to a friend, “I'm scared to death of living.”
Love is what we all are really on this great quest for. We search for love. We ultimately discover that our very nature IS love. The quest for love takes us through romantic love, which takes us through pain and loss. Many ask if it's worth the pain. Some have reached the point where love's heartbreaks have made them scared to death of living. Like everything else on the hero's journey, one acknowledges that deep, profound, honest love involves the greatest risks, the risks of revealing our deepest secrets, of being vulnerable, of opening up and being betrayed. We fear loss and so we hold onto the memories of how great “last week was” or “the vacation last year.”
Many of us find it very hard to remain fully present with our romantic partners. There is a lot of potential fear lurking beneath the surface. Those who continue facing the fear of love, fear of loss, will eventually discover that love brings up their own fears about everything. Love brings up our shadow side. Ultimately our romantic partner is a mirror, who shows us our worst side . . .without trying to. It's just the nature of love, romance, and intimacy. The sacred relationship is one in which both man and woman can be vulnerable, which can be quite scary, but all thoughts, words, and emotions can be openly shared in a safe “container.” One must approach the deep waters of love in the same way that Terry approached the deep shark waters. There is a lot beneath the surface. However, by staying with love and truth, with words spoken without blame and in an atmosphere of true safety, the fear of love can be overcome, and then all that remains is love.
Keeping Our Stories Safe
In order to avoid the ordeal of the path to power, we must maintain our life stories, and many things must be kept in their place. Our beliefs about others and ourselves must be kept in place. Therefore, when we are upset by others actions, we make assumptions about their motivation, but our assumptions are largely based on our story…victim, martyr, hero, pioneer, etc. The fact is that we have no clue what truly motivates another person to do anything unless we ask them.
What are some of our stories? They go something like this:
“Nothing ever works out for me.”
“Men ultimately betray me.”
“Women always make me wrong about everything.”
“I have bad luck. Everyone else seems to have things easier.”
“I have the most difficult, painful life of anyone I have ever met.”
“People are not to be trusted. Sooner or later, people turn on you. Life is filled with danger.”
The list of negative life stories is quite long, but this gives you an idea. These stories evolve over a long period of time, and may become solidified due to one or more serious traumas. We don't like to admit it, but unconsciously our life story keeps repeating itself, because we create it. How we create the same story ending is a complex issue. It is not about, “Why are you choosing to create your illness?“— the guilt trip of the New Age.” We are creatures of habit. We don't like change and uncertainty, and our life story is at the heart of what deludes us into thinking that we live forever, and that life is certain and predictable.
If you take a minute, you can meditate on your life story and it will become clear to you what it is. Once you have identified it, realize that the story is an illusion. It is a fiction that appears to be non-fiction because it keeps happening. But it only keeps happening because we need to keep our life story locked in place. What might happen if you gave up the story line? Life becomes unpredictable. You might fall in or out of love. You might discover that you hate your job…or your entire life. You might discover that, if you don't make major changes, you will die or become quite ill. Until you have experimented with change, have become comfortable with the fact that life circumstances are uncertain, and have grown to accept change as the way things really are, you will not embrace your power or your peace.
So how do you dismantle your life story? What is required is radical and constant self-inquiry. You must develop your inner compass, your conscience, which means that in spite of all prior training and all outside influences, you discover your spiritual path, your spiritual teacher, your beliefs, even if that religion is what you were raised with. If you are radically honest, you may leave your religion of origin, or you may come full circle and embrace it in an entirely new way. The hero's path means making that path your own, uninfluenced by pressure from others or the fear of what people will think of you if you think for yourself. This kind of radical honesty will help dissolve your life story. And that dissolution will begin to set you free.
The hero's journey involves becoming unattached to fame, money, and the belief in certainty. As you detach, your presence threatens others. If your passion is gardening, you are not likely to come to public attention. If following your bliss takes you to a position of leadership, you may well come into public attention. You are not a pack animal as the hero. You blaze your own trail. This is why the more one follows one's own bliss, the more extreme reactions to you may become. Growing numbers of people will love you and many may hate you. Examples include Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, and Mahatma Gandhi.
The benefit of non-attachment is freedom, where you are truly free to do what you want, as long as what you want does not include harming others or yourself. As long as non-violence is the foundation of your path, you are spiritually safe and will be supported by the Universe. Many doors will open to the hero who is not attached to his story, doors that will not open to those who are attached to their life story.
New doors can open at any moment. Opportunities will arise that only the hero will recognize as opportunities, for he is not afraid of failure, nor is he overly attached to success. He is no longer a victim of past programming, so his vision and his hearing are different from the “ordinary” person. He sees without filters. He hears without filters. So he sees and hears much more. Likewise, he sees doors that others don't see, and doors open that don't even exist for others.
By walking through that door, he knows, through exercise of conscience, will, inner guidance, experience and wisdom, that walking through a particular door is the right thing to do. He does not know outcomes. He simply knows what is the right thing to do. By doing the right thing, he will have a sense of peace, mission, love, and joy. He will have successes and failures, but he will have a sense of reward at all times. And having cast off his life story, he will live a fearless life, fully aware that life can be snatched at any moment. In that knowing, he will live joyously in the moment, and each moment will be full and rich, and ultimately, even the notion of time will cease to exist, for by living in the moment, one lives in the Omni-Present, that eternal moment that has no past or future. We know these moments. They are unique and beautiful. The hero insists that his life will be like that at all times . . . and at all non-times.
Guidelines on the Path
How can you tell how far you have progressed on your path to power, or how advanced someone else is? The answer may be disquieting. It is impossible to know someone else's spiritual evolution, and it is also impossible to know your own. Someone may appear quite advanced spiritually, but it is important to remember that spirituality is the last hiding place for the ego, so there are many false teachers. There are a few helpful hints I can offer.
1. Those who are the wisest offer the least advice. Those who know the least tend to offer a great deal of unsolicited advice.
2. Advanced souls go about their life rather quietly, whether they are musicians, doctors, businessmen, or housewives. They do not announce their greatness to you, so you must be quite open to “feel” who these people are.
3. If you generally feel a sense of love and tranquility whenever you are in a certain person's presence, it's a good sign that they have come far in their path to power.
4. Those who are the closest to attaining spiritual enlightenment are the first to deny that they are advanced at all.
If you're looking for teachers or authors to guide you, consider the above guidelines, and realize that you will only be able to recognize these souls if you are walking your path in a committed way, rigorously adhering to truth and right action, fearlessly doing the right thing, pursuing your passion no matter what. With these guidelines, we all can develop the eyes to see and the ears to hear truth, and the wisdom not to be misled by false prophets.
David Gersten, M.D. practices transpersonal psychiatry and nutritional medicine out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,800 on-line pages about amino acids and nutritional therapy at www.aminoacidpower.com, and 800 pages about mental imagery and mental fitness techniques at www.imagerynet.com.
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My boyfriend and I just broke up over the weekend. We've been together for two years, and I feel like I'm losing a friend, too. We know it's the best thing for both of us at this stage in our lives, but I'm afraid that when I meet someone else I'll treat them in the same way. I was jealous and critical and feared being left behind or abandoned (which I feel is dragging on from my childhood).
I'm working toward a brighter future, I think. Could you perhaps suggest some words to say to myself to remind me that I'm worthy of love and able to look ahead in a positive way?
P.E., Sydney, Australia
Your past thoughts created exactly what you feared. You were left behind and abandoned. So you see, it has nothing to do with them. It's all in your own consciousness. There really isn't any blame; everything worked out according to the law. I'm glad you realized that it was the fearful child within you that created the problem and couldn't believe that she deserved to be loved, So let your thinking be about deserving love; then you won't treat your next boyfriend in that pushing manner.
Here are some affirmations to do every day: I forgive my parents for teaching me I was unlovable. I now learn to truly love and adore myself. I treat myself as though I am the most precious being. The love I have for myself radiates out and attracts others, who also love themselves. I learn to live in a loving world, for I know that I am loving and worthy of love, too.
What is the metaphysical reason for dry skin? I feel as if the dry skin on my face is sending me a message, and I don't know what it is. I've never had bad skin before, and I feel as though the stress from the flaking and scaling is making it worse. I want to learn the lesson and move on, but I can't figure it out!
N.J., Los Angeles
On the physical side, dry skin comes from not drinking enough water. Remember, it's necessary to drink two quarts a day minimum to keep your skin hydrated. Also, if you're doing that dreadful fat-free diet that's so popular now, you won't be getting enough oil to lubricate your skin. Two tablespoons of flaxseed oil or olive oil a day will keep you shiny.
On the metaphysical side, dry skin can relate to a feeling of being unsafe. For some reason you may not be trusting Life at the moment. Remember, the power that beats your heart is the same power that has brought you this far and will take you the rest of the way. Relax, breathe deeply several times a day, and affirm: I lubricate my life with joyous, loving thoughts. I allow life to nurture and nourish me. I am open and receptive to all the joys of living. I am juicy and delicious!
I've been in a struggle for the past ten months dealing with a facial tightening that started about June of last year. It was just a slight tightening but has progressed to a point where I have no control over it, and I have pain in my face and jaw all the time. The funny thing is, it seems to start whenever I'm inactive. As long as I'm talking or physically active, I'm okay. Whenever I try to relax, my mind won't let me, and then the tightening and pressure starts.
I've been to numerous doctors and have been told that it's probably stress related and that I should take an antidepressant. When this first began, I wasn't depressed, just a little concerned about what might be the cause. This whole business now has me depressed and anxious all the time—it seems that all I do is cry. My husband has been so good, but I know he's getting frustrated and frightened, and so am I! Any advice?
There is a fear of facing something, so what is it that you fear? Are you afraid of aging? Is that what you don't want to look at? There's also some guilt because of the pain. Guilt always seeks punishment, and punishment means pain. The tightening is only a symptom of the thoughts that are contributing to it. Remember, this condition came from nothing and will go back to nothing when you release the fear and/or the guilt. Let's not dwell on the problem. Let's look to inspiration and healing instead.
Affirm: I am safe, I am loved, and I face my future peacefully and calmly. I am loved by life. I forgive others, and I forgive myself. I now cherish, love, and adore who I am. I am a precious baby, and I treat myself in that way. I bring joy into my heart; and I am healed, whole, joyous, and free.
Louise L. Hay is a metaphysical teacher and the bestselling author of numerous books, including You Can Heal Your Life , Empowering Women, and I Can Do It! . Subscribe to the Louise Hay Newsletter! Call for a Free Issue: (800) 654-5126. Questions for Louise? Write to: Dear Louise Column, c/o Hay House, Inc., P.O. Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100 (letters may be edited for length and clarity). Visit Louise and Hay House at: www.LouiseHay.com or www.hayhouse.com.
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