Personal power: How to use it

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 24, 2013 – 12:00am

Illustration by REY RIVERA

Each and every person on earth has personal power. It is a power that is ours to own, to spend, to invest, to waste, or to give away freely or with conditions. It is up to us what we want to do with it. It goes with being alive.

Every day, we use this power for many things as we go through life and its different activities and aspects. Whether we work or not, study or stay at home, or whatever it is we do, or do not do, we have this power at our disposal.

I want to talk about the power to choose. To me, it is a truly vital power. And we use this all the time even if, mostly, we do so almost unconsciously. We choose what to wear, eat, like, hate, think, dream and do. We choose who and what to listen to. We also choose whom to talk with, what to buy, reject, what to spend time on or engage in, what to support or stand for. The power to choose is probably the aspect of personal power that is most used daily.

Even when we do not have money, or food, or material resources, or lack mobility or access to many things perhaps due to sickness, poverty, or detention for example, we always still have the power to choose. And we always will. Even when we are down to almost nothing in terms of material resources, we can still choose our attitude towards what we are experiencing. And the use of the power of choice can spell all the difference in what we experience in our own lives

Think of Anne Frank. She was a Jewish girl who chose to believe in the beauty of the world even when there seemed to be only ugliness and hate under the Nazis. Think of many other people who have survived the worst of human conditions — survivors of concentration camps, tsunamis and other natural disasters, and horrible crimes, etc. In such situations in the past, there were many who gave up, and understandably so. But the people who survived chose to believe that they would overcome somehow even when everything seemed to indicate otherwise. They all lived to tell their story and inspire others. In these we see the triumphant use of the power of choice.

Every minute of the day, we may not be aware of it but we do use up some of our personal power, and often wastefully. And we unknowingly do so when we worry, fret, feel anxious, or get angry. Each time we invest in an emotion, a thought or entertain a feeling, we do use up power.

Think of personal power as some sort of currency that we invest. Writer and intuitive healer Carolyn Myss likes to talk about “energy investments.” She points out that we often unknowingly invest our present personal energies uselessly, especially when we are stuck in the past and can’t move on. When we are still living out childhood traumas, or when we have issues about forgiveness, we are using up precious energies on investments that do not pay back. They are energy traps, or black holes that suck out our personal power.

Each time we worry over things we have no control over, or fret about problems we can solve but do not do anything about, we are throwing away personal energy and power. When we constantly put ourselves down, or feed our own insecurities, we are not increasing our power at all but basically throwing it away.

There are many things people worry about: traffic, health, money, job security, romance, forgiveness issues, the state of the people they love, etc. There is no end to what we can worry about when you think about it. And yet the only obvious end to it all is to stop worrying about it.

You may complain that I make it sound so easy. I am not being flippant here. And no, it is not easy. It will take practice, and it is a practice of the spiritual kind we will need to do.

If you are not aware of it, most everything we worry about is either coming from a past that we have judged as bad, or a future that we are projecting to be dire. In doing so, we drain all of our power and we begin to run our lives on empty instead of living in the ever-renewed present.

Think about it. The present is perfect. There is nothing wrong with it. It is always fresh and new. It’s as simple as that. To live in the present — that is spiritual practice by itself.

So how can we use personal power without wasting it, and in the process even gain more of it? Is it possible?

Yes, it is.

Each time we choose thoughts, actions, attitudes, and feelings that lead us to greater creativity, openness to life, and acceptance of what shows up, we gain more power. When we do things that truly sustain our spirit, we are increasing our personal power. Every time you use your power to further evolve into something bigger than your present self, you are increasing the power within you. To put it as simply as Joseph Campbell wrote, you gain more personal power when you “follow your bliss.”

These days, the elections and the new Pope are getting everyone excited. These two spheres in life — government and religion — are big concerns in a country like ours. Not so strangely, a lot of people have discovered that these two topics are often best left undiscussed in many situations because they can be polarizing, and understandably so. And they can be power drainers.

Lately, I have been asking myself how much of my personal power I should invest in these two. The answer is, I will most probably still invest a lot in them. They are contentious spheres but they can lead to positive social and personal changes if understood and used properly. Politics is about making peoples’ lives better, while religion is about understanding the deep and true meaning and purpose of why we are here.

But while I invest my powers in these, I also try to develop the spiritual habit of treating them with some lightness. This means I should be open to their truth but not get completely attached to them. My reason for this is less about being skeptical and more about being open, and humble enough to accept I could be wrong.

While they may both present truths and causes to believe in, I must be ready to let them go once I sense they have reached their expiry dates. Things may ring true at one time but may become untrue later. We have seen how people used to think the world was flat only to discover later on that it is round. To hold on to such beliefs as eternal truths in light of new revelations may be toxic.

For something as important as the fate of my spirit, I do not think I should trust any single religion, book, person or belief system completely. Above all, I must trust my own experience of a God that has increasingly become evident to me as I have gotten older. I also know that my understanding of God may not fit anyone else’s experience since this Great Being is unfathomable at best to the human mind. As a guest on Larry King’s show wryly put it, “I belong to the one, true church of which I am the only member.”

As for politics, I may be a liberal democrat but will not go with every cause that presents itself. Choices have to be done with ever-increasing consciousness. I will choose what I will invest my personal power in with great discernment. The world evolves. So must our thoughts, opinions and our commitments.

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