CURRENT TOPIC: Power
Last updated: 10th August 2018
Love & goodness are planted within you more deeply than all that is wrong.
This topic, how we use or abuse power, was inspired by an NPR episode of Hidden Brain
It highlights how important compassion and self awareness are in how we treat others
“Once a young woman said to me, “Hafiz, what is the sign? of someone who knows God?” I became very quiet, and looked deep into her eyes, then replied, “My dear, they have dropped the knife. Someone who knows God has dropped the cruel knife that most so often use upon their tender self and others”
What energy and quality of being are you sharing with others?
James Finlay, the teacher featured in the above videos is a wonderful teaching on the Christian contemplative tradition - his words resonate very deeply with me. If you'd like to become better aquainted wit his work here is a link to a fascinating 90 minute lecture he lead on the teaching of Thomas Merton.
“When we get even the slightest glimpse of the unity of life, we realize that in tearing others down we are tearing ourselves down too. When you sit in judgment on other people . . . you’re training your mind to sit in judgment on yourself. As we forgive others, we are teaching the mind to respond with forgiveness everywhere, even to the misdeeds and mistakes of our own past.”
— Ecknath Easwaran in 'Words to Live By'
I have a hunch that misuse of power is part of the shadow side of our co-creative potential. Way back in the day when I was at University and studied psychology I remember learning about Eric Fromm: he said that humans have a creative drive build into us and and if we don't use it to create then it gets distorted and comes out as a destructive urge.
I got what he was talking about on a deep level. If we aren't opening ourselves to love & aligning ourselves with the entirety of our collective being then shadow will creep in and take control. This was the first time I really understood something about the urgency of shadow work - except at the time I still thought I was ok and that it was other people who needed to dealing with their shadows!!
Use and abuse of power isn't just about avoiding the pitfalls of power - it's also about becoming a channel of something amazing and becoming an incredible power of healing, nurture and peace. This principle is really the core of my spiritual counselling work and the reason I get up in the morning. It a belief but it's a heart belief and not a head one; I know it from being on the receiving side of kindness and compassion.
I'd like to share with you an extract I wrote about spiritual counselling during my training:
"I believe that an incredible transformation happens when we catch a glimpse of our own worth reflected back to them from my eyes.
The beauty and vision of what we can see somehow births and makes itself available to others. In a very real way we create space for growth and healing in others just by witnessing who they are becoming."
EXTRACT taken from Rabbi Steven Kushner article 'Sacred Leadership'.
"This past winter saw the release of a movie version of the Exodus story, directed by Ridley Scott. I will leave it to film critics and biblical scholars to debate the merits and deficiencies of the production. For me, the single most symbolic point of departure from the biblical original comes at the Red Sea, but is not the parting of the water (which, admittedly, was graphically most impressive). Everything you need to know about the filmmaker's orientation, and where it differs from Torah, is made clear when Moses (played by Christian Bale)—despairing that the sea poses a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in the Israelites flight from Pharaoh's chariots—lifts up his sword and casts it into the waters.
Watching this, I was taken aback. What has happened to Moses' staff? What's Christian Bale doing with a sword? Could this have been the model Torah wanted us to embrace of the leader of Israel? Moses as warrior?
As most should recognize, Moses' authority is symbolized in his staff. A shepherd's staff. The same staff he threw down in the face of Pharaoh. The same staff he used to turn the Nile's water into blood. The one he used to part the Red Sea, to bring forth water from the rock, to heal the people and, with it elevated above his head, to deliver them in battle. It is not the tool of a soldier, but rather an instrument of the pasture. Simply put, the role of the leader as presented to us in Torah is not a warrior but a shepherd. For the Torah, leadership is not a feature of g'vurah, of machismo, of "might." It goes much deeper than that.
The "leader" of the Torah is qualified by a unique set of credentials... Clearly Moses is special. As with the choosing of the younger siblings in Genesis, so Moses is the youngest of his family. He is also of the set-aside tribe of Levi. But what distinguishes Moses as leader is something else. He hardly has what we would seek in a contemporary leader. He's not good at public speaking. He gets overwhelmed easily. He is insecure. He has anger management issues. He's not your typical Hollywood hero. And that's where the filmmakers miss the boat. They should read Torah more carefully."
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