Neo Nazis, violence, right wing extremism, despair. Behind these lies a deeper issue. The West has always been starving for, maybe obsessed with, power. By now, it has gained a little material, technological, utilitarian power — but that has come at the price of moral, spiritual, psychological power. The price of the former is the latter: for example, young people are dying faster because of a raging opioid crisis — like the protagonist in a Greek tragedy, the West is powerless to do much but eat its young. The reason is that it doesn’t quite know what power really is. And so, blinded by hunger for power, it is like a starving person eating poison.
So I want to talk about power in its purest form. I’ll do a long pointless explanation, which you can skip, and then talk a little about the experience of true power, which is what really matters.
When you wake up from a good sleep, you feel “energized”. Why is that? Not just because you “rested”. You can rest and feel exhausted by bad dreams afterwards, too. The reason is that mind, thought, self, mental action was gone. What was free to happen in its place? For some kind of energy to flow through you, “recharging” you. How could that be?
That power is always flowing through you. What is it? It is what being is in itself. If you learn to meditate, if you have a sudden experience of death like me, and so on, you will reach that place of pure being, the same as in deep sleep, only now you are conscious of it, and there you will immediately experience awareness in its raw form, like an ocean without an end. And just “beneath” the surface of that ocean, there is energy. Just pure energy.
You’ve already felt that pure energy — at least an inkling of it — on countless occasions. The instant you fell in love. A moment of epiphany. The birth of a child. Just standing below the stars on a summer night and feeling like you were never there at all. In all those moments, something unimaginably vast, oceanic, tidal, ripped through you.
That is pure power.
And then it was gone. Because the truth is that unless you can “channel” it, which is a terrible word with all the wrong implications, it will indeed rip you apart. So your little ego comes back into life, and then the experience of unity, oneness — and the impossibly vast power that you feel in that moment — vanishes, because your ego in a sense is there to protect you from it.
“Channel”. What do we really mean? We can’t control pure power, raw being. We can only let it guide us. So learning to be powerful in a genuine sense isn’t about Western notions of power at all — will, freedom, liberty, self-reliance, and all that it inevitably leads to: ubermen, competition, conquest, violence, envy, anger, which explains now. Being genuinely powerful is to let that vast ocean of pure energy flow through you just the way it should. What does “the way it should” mean? And how are we to do that?
By opening ourselves to it. Really standing naked in front of this great, vast, roaring ocean. It sounds scary, doesn’t it? It is. Saying: “Here is who I really am. I am wounded, hurt, small in this way, imperfect in this way, incomplete in that way”. And yet. Only then can pure energy flow through us just the way that it should. It can fill us up where up are empty, heal us where we are wounded, mend us where we are broken. It can flow, like water, from wholeness back into wholeness, because pure energy is always seeking itself, which is another way to say that the truth of life is love.
Now it probably won’t as simple as that. You will have to let yourself go. Pure energy, raw awareness, will whisper to you “go this way”, “this person is right”, “that way is wrong”. It will speak without words — and for that very reason, you will resist it, even though you will feel it. It’s movements, the movements of that great ocean, are what we call “emotions”, movements — and the reason that Western thought can’t even define emotions is that it doesn’t have a theory of being like the above yet, that is true to the human experience.
The ocean will speak to you without words. It always is, isn’t it? The challenge is letting your little ego hear its silent voice, without resistance, only acceptance, gratitude, silence. The ego says: “I am not guilty!”, “I am never afraid!”, and so on. What can the universe, pure being, raw awareness, tell you this way? It is talking, but you are not listening. The result is powerlessness. To be powerful is to hear the message that every instant of life is sending you, countless times, over and over again.
I say “message”. Why would this cold, harsh, impersonal universe care about you, me, our suffering, our pain? See? Your ego is already speaking. You are not hearing the universe now, are you? Never mind. It’s OK. Let us answer the question. Even if the universe is aware, why would it care? The answer is very simple, and you already know it. There is no separation between you and the universe, pure being, raw awareness. None whatsoever. All division is illusion. I am nothing you are not, and you are nothing I am not. That vast of ocean of energy beneath the surface of awareness, what is it really? It is you. Not just some of it. All of it. Just as the drop contains the ocean, so you contain pure being. Just as the drop is always seeking the ocean, so you are always seeking unity with pure being.
In its quiescent state, pure being radiates stillness, peace, calm. Now what happens the moment that it “sees”? Then you are created. Then you are born, you live, you die. You suffer, you live, you laugh. You are the act. You are the moment. You are the instant. You are the experience of the seer seeing itself and rejoicing. You feel evanescent and temporary because you are: you are just a glance. And just like a glance is fleeting, so you gain just a glimpse of the truth inside you.
Let me give you another analogy. The fish are just the ocean seeing itself. From the ocean’s perspective, there are no fish. There are just temporary moments and modes of awareness, each seeing in a different way. They are all absorbed back into the very same ocean. Who is, and who is not, and who has ever been? In the same way, you are just a glance, a look, the opening and closing of an eye.
So you must stand naked before this great and endless ocean. You must be able to say: “this is who I really am, frail, broken, small, humble”. You fear, deep in your bones, that the ocean will drown you. But all the ocean has ever done is flow through you. The moment you are naked, then the pure energy of being can flow through every last wound and scar in you. And that is all the experience of power really is. To let it.