How do you break out of the all-consuming cycle of striving for more and more power? Learn the secret to true, non-transient power and where to find it.
Power is a loaded word in our modern, ego-driven lives. We equate more power with more freedom, more happiness, more prestige, and more wealth. The less power we have, the less freedom we have, the more we are subject to the whim of others, and the deeper we sink into despair and poverty. This is the Western power narrative we are immersed in.
However, some of the happiest people in the world have the least amount of such power, as understood by our Western philosophy. Take the Kingdom for Bhutan, for example; it may be classified as a ‘least developed nation’ from a socio-economic and infrastructure point of view, but the people of this Eastern Himalayan country don’t seem to care less. Their focus is on gross national happiness, an index which measures their collective happiness and well-being.
The people of Bhutan may be poverty-stricken, but for all intents and purposes their demeanour seems to be the reverse of this laden term: they are poverty-rich. In fact, they have far more power than many of the wealthiest people on the planet.
Their power is true power: they have rejected Western power, the ‘power’ of others who would wish to exert control over them and influence them. Instead, they have doubled down on the power within themselves, that innate ability to accept the universe for what it is without wanting to exert control over it.
Power duality: everything changes
Western power is a figment of your mind. It only exists relative to something else: powerlessness. In this respect, power is the same as any mind-induced duality: rich-poor, happy-sad, quick-slow. It is, only in relation to its opposite. Getting through customs at an international airport can either be a snap and you literally fly through, or the line of dishevelled and exhausted travellers ahead of you seems never-ending while the border control officer looks half asleep behind the counter. Quick-slow. And like these other dualities, Western power is fleeting and entirely subjective.
You go to work and issue instructions to others that result in your company succeeding in some business transaction. You feel happy, you feel all powerful, you feel ready to take on the world. But the next day that transaction unravels and you are at risk of losing a lot of money, being made to look like a fool, or you even lose your company or your job. You feel sad, frustrated, and powerless. How could you be such a fool to let that piece of business not succeed? Happy-sad.
But then you hear some good news from your life partner and you become happy again. In your mind, the failed transaction feels inconsequential in the scheme of things and you move on. Sad-happy.
As with all dualities, everything changes. You will experience many moods during the course of a single day: powerful one moment, powerless the very next. This form of power is external and transient. It is caught up in appearances; it is caught up in the house of cards that both we and society build around ourselves.
Finding true power
True power may seem a bit ephemeral, but if you want to live in a state of joy, it is worth making the effort to find it. You needn’t make the journey all the way to Bhutan either. Here are five navigation pointers to finding true power in your life, right now.
1. True power exists at the source
True power is within you and it is infinitely abundant. But despite this, it is easy to totally miss true power completely: if you continue to pursue appearances, if you continue to chase after power in the guise of prestige or wealth, or any other external measure. The impact of not finding your true power is that you totally miss your self. You spend your entire life living a dream; you end up never breaking out of a distorted reality.
Perhaps you achieve some measure of external power: you become the CEO of a large company, you become the leader of a nation, your book becomes an international phenomenon. At the time you think this will give you lasting joy, but it soon proves to be just as ephemeral as every other semblance of power you ever aspired to in your life. That inevitable moment will come when death shines a mirror on your achievements and you will see that its reflection is empty. Your power was powerless in the universal scheme of things. It was but a fleeting moment and, like all other momentary appearances, it was impotent; it was helpless in the face of death. You may have believed in its strength, but death releases it.
2. True power transcends death—true power transcends mere appearance
You find true power by looking within yourself. Consider your age: you may have heard someone say, or you may have said this yourself, “I might be 43, but I feel 23!” Close your eyes and try to determine how old you really feel. Hard, isn’t it? That’s because there is no age to consciousness. Age manifests in your body, your external appearance. Your soul is ageless.
3. True power resides in your soul—finding it takes contemplation
When you centre in on true power you will be amazed by two things. First, you will notice how vastly more powerful it is than any fleeting external power you had been chasing, because true power is absolute power: it is non-changing and eternal.
And secondly, your quality of being will change, markedly. You will become more able to observe, rather than acting on or reacting to the external world around you. And this will become a positive virtuous cycle: action tends to feed your ego, which in turn feeds your striving for external power. When you are not acting, your ego is not being fed and it dissipates; as your ego dissipates you will have more capability to operate from within, from your soul and this will lead you to unlock more true power, more meaningfulness and, ultimately, real and lasting joy.
4. True power reveals itself in awareness
One of the most effective ways to achieve true power is to shift from being in your mind to being aware. Mind is never where you are now. It is always thinking about what was and what may be, which is why elusive Western power is such an addictive trap: you hear of someone you believe has been successful and you start remonstrating yourself for why you have not achieved their level of success yet, and you start scheming how you can be even more successful than them.
If you drop your mind and simply become aware, you realise that awareness is always with you where you are now, in the present. By dropping mind more you become more and more aware and less and less susceptible to the cravings for transient forms of power. The more you break the habit of mind, the more you enjoy being in the now and accessing true power.
5. True power exists between striving and emptiness
True power exists in that serene space between striving for activity while being entangled in the outer, and the emptiness that comes from focusing on inner feelings. Finding true power requires a subtle balance between the outer and the inner; it requires finding your flow point. True power exists in that middle point between being active and being passive. And it is in this middle point that you transcend the world: you are no more alive; you are no more dead. This is where true power resides – this is tranquility, and the joy you will find here is off the charts. This is the joy that powers gross domestic happiness.
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