When I actively taught Somatic Experiencing, one of the themes that I passed along from my first SE teacher and good friend, Diane Poole Heller, was the distinction between expressions of “power over” and those of “mutual empowerment.” Diane embodies and expresses mutual empowerment in her relationships with the people around her and her influence and modeling have had a powerful impact on me. The distinction between power over (where there are only two options—you’re on the top or you’re on the bottom) and mutual empowerment (where no one has to lose power in order for things to work out) has stayed with me as an active intention to support mutual empowerment in every way I can. I have lived that not only as a teacher but also as a mentor. When people talk about the “new Earth” that needs to arise from the breakdown of the old institutions that are now being challenged around the world, what comes to mind for me is a fundamental shift from power-over styles of leadership and dominance, including our relationship with the planet and all our human and other-than-human earth-kin, to styles that embody and express mutual empowerment within every aspect of our lives.
A key thing about mutual empowerment is that it has, as its foundation, the belief and experience that your having power doesn’t automatically take away from anyone else and their having power doesn’t automatically take away from you. A stance of mutual empowerment tends to naturally engender respect, as well as wishes for others to have as much success, happiness, satisfaction—whatever—as is possible for them.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to pay attention to those times when you encounter people or situations that express “power-over” dynamics and those where you see, or experience, styles of “mutual empowerment”. Also notice these dynamics in yourself so that if you have slipped into a power-over style of interaction you’ll be able to choose whether you want to continue in that mode or if you want to experiment with shifting into a mutual-empowerment style.Read More “872nd Week: Noticing Mutual-Empowerment and Power-Over Dynamics “
Walking across Central Park on the morning I go to my office to water plants and pick up mail, I was struck—as I always am—by the return of the green. All over the park, many trees are putting out leaves, others are laden with beautiful flowers, bushes are filling out with their green garb. The main feeling of it all is an expression of the abundant presence of life, of the intelligence and vibrant expression of Nature’s intelligence and creativity.
As I took in the beauty all around me, I was reminded, powerfully, that this beautiful planet doesn’t need us, but we cannot survive without its gifts. We and all our earth kin are part of a complex ecology that many of us have studied for years and yet, collectively, many of our human kin somehow haven’t taken in or taken seriously this fact of our planetary life. With Covid-19 now a painful and challenging reality, and with the worldwide halt in our usual activities, we vividly see the impact we have had on our environment. Skies have cleared. Mountains hidden from view for decades now stand out clearly in the landscape. Waterways are clearing and wildlife is returning to areas previously avoided because of human activity. Even as we see how resilient and stunningly responsive the planet is when we stop polluting as we have been doing for so long now, I find myself wondering how many of us will remember this and commit to finding new ways to go forward.Read More “785th Week: Cultivating A Sense of “Earth Kin””
A friend of mine has been pretty consistently putting posts on Facebook that ask people to focus on what they are forrather than what they are against. These posts have been very helpful in reminding all of us that what we feed grows and that, when we spend our internal time fighting against something, we actually feed the very thing to which we object. From an energy perspective, it’s as though we’re actually turning up the volume on things we’d rather not hear at all.
One example that comes to mind at this time is the pervasive presence of expressions of lack of empathy for each other. Decisions by some lawmakers, treatment of neighbors by other neighbors, seeming lack of concern for one another’s well-being if we aren’t “part of the tribe” are found on every side these days. Rather than spending time expressing helpless rage at these conditions, I want to invite us to explore some alternatives.
First, there are approaches that convey the message, “What you fight, you feed.” This doesn’t mean not to take action when action is needed to change things or to intervene. Instead, it speaks to the habits of mind and self-talk we carry around with us internally every day, all day. From a Solution-Focused perspective (solution-focused therapy is a more modern branch of psychology), we are invited to look at, and to look for, what’s going right. For our practice here, I would add that we can ask ourselves to pay attention to the qualities we would like to see expressed more generously in ourselves and in the world around us.Read More “787th Week: Orienting to Solution-Focused Awareness and Helpful Archetypes”
An area of interest I’ve had for more than 40 years is the creative possibility inherent in what quantum physics has to say about the world. Thirty-eight years ago, I began to work actively with what I called the optimal future self, for want of a more precise term. This work had to do with inviting people to access the part of themselves that had already resolved whatever they sought to achieve, heal, or develop and depended, as it does to this day, on accessing the body state, the lived-in felt-sense, of the optimal future self.
At that time, I used the word “future” to imply something that wasn’t yet on board, even though in quantum terms past, present, and future come together in an ever-present now. It’s as though we can reach into a timeless realm of possibility and extract something that has an impact on our present-day lives. Over all these years, I have been personally affected by this practice in powerful ways and have watched countless others have beneficial outcomes as a result of reaching into “as-yet-to-be-realized” possibilities.
Because of these experiences, I find myself orienting to optimal futures during this time of deep and necessary demands for change in how we humans live with each other and with our planet. The results of the current pandemic, the devastating impact of the history of white supremacy in the United States, and the crisis we humans have created with our planetary environment all speak to me about an urgent need to orient to optimal possibilities for our future on the planet.Read More “789th Week: Accessing Optimal Futures”
It goes without saying that these are stressful times and we all are having to dig into the strategies that we have for finding and accessing our internal steadiness and sense of centeredness. One of the practices I’ve written about many times over the years has to do with recognizing, and then playing with, the constant process of choosing what is in the foreground of awareness and what is in the background. Our culture tends to favor putting activation, emotional intensity, and drama into the foreground, while experiences of being centered, steady, and internally quiet slide into the background, often not to even be acknowledged as present.
Another dynamic I’ve written about many times is the metaphor of the kaleidoscope—that we are all complex beings comprised of many aspects or parts of ourselves. Sometimes we’re fully focused in our present-day adult self, thinking, responding, and behaving in centered and rational ways. Other times, we are triggered into different kinds of activation and find ourselves acting from impulses that arise deep within unhealed and uncentered parts of us. Read More “729th Week: Foreground/Background Revisited”