On my two-week vacation up north in a cabin, I often turn
within. “What’s happening with me right now?” I try
to listen to myself in a deeper way.
To hear my journey from a deeper level then my ordinary, repeating
stories and I often turn to writing.
I pull out my Spriritual Journey- Journal Book and start writing. The book I turn to a lot is “Life’s
Companion, Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest” by Christina Baldwin. It’s
an old book, published in 1990. I
often use it during transitions in my life. I worked yesterday with chapter 20, “Becoming Persons
Baldwin begins her chapter by saying:
relationship: we are empowered and
empowering all the time.
Empowerment means to give others what they need, and to allow others to
give us what we need. ….
Empowerment is mutual.” P. 287
I think I began this time with this chapter because I just
completed in early July a Zen Transmission Ceremony for one of my senior
students who, through this ceremony, is now acknowledged as a Zen Teacher. It is an empowerment ceremony made 800
or more years ago (in Dogen’s time and parts of it before Dogen from China) and
surprised me by its power and depth.
What surprised me the most - I felt it as mutually
empowering. I had to let go of all
my personal stories of weakness and self-doubt, and become Vairochana Buddha
sitting on the lotus seat and find the place in myself that can do this without
doubt. This ceremony empowered me! It was mutual empowerment. As often is said, the student brings
forth the teacher. Now, on my time
alone, I am trying to digest what happened to me during this empowerment
ceremony and integrate it into my historic self. So, during this self-reflective time, I am investigating and
praying to let go of all the ways I disempowered myself, which has been a
refrain of feedback over the years of my teaching life.
“When we take up the
spiritual quest, we invite creative forces to interact with us and to impact
our lives in ways we cannot predict and will not control. We find ourselves in a relationship
with power, needing to become a person of power, not ego power, but spiritual
is evidenced in our lives by our willingness to tell ourselves the truth, to
listen to truth when it’s told to us, and to dispense truth as lovingly as
possible when we feel compelled to talk from the heart.” P. 293
This is what I’ve found to be true. To become empowered, you have to let
go. Ah, the paradox! We have to
work with ourselves and with the outer forces as mutual partners and therefore
things often go in ways we don’t imagine.
I have learned to lead by going with the flow but also to listen to the
small voice within. This is the voice I hear while journaling, and sometimes I
have to stand up for this small voice’s point of view and its needs. Then the
small voice becomes the big voice. We have to both be connected to the particulars of our life
and our decisions and also merged with the large mind which is the dynamic
system that is occurring all around us.
This is Zen practice.
willingness to confront and be confronted
and be supported
encourage and be encouraged
sourced from love and concern P. 291
It is very hard to speak your truth from the heart or in
reverse to listen when someone else is giving feedback. The cost of empowerment is social
discomfort. That has been
hard for me to live through and yet, it is a true gate to learning equanimity,
patience and egolessness.
It is difficult to live through what we might call our
obstacles. Especially in a sangha,
or as the teacher, where our problems are often seen publicly. We sometimes let this humiliation or
“failure”, disempower us. But
Baldwin has wonderful words of encouragement or empowerment in those times:
comes from the little voice of our own heart, and from our willingness
interpret events positively
realigning ourself to our visions
trust in the relationship to the sacred
Empowerment within is
like a gyroscope, righting our course and righting it again.
It is how we deal with
our challenges that make us empowered.
We look at our role
models and ask:
be as courageous?
take such a clear stand?
make this or that sacrifice?
we handle such success? Such failure? Such tragedy?”
The next thing that Baldwin emphasizes is getting to know
the boundaries of power and the boundaries of “helping.” Otherwise, we disrespect others and
become exhausted from our attempts to manage others.
empowerment give us what we need – but
The empowerer doesn’t
overstep the bounds and try to do for the other person what that person needs
to do for him/herself. Empowerment
does not rip off someone else’s challenges and do them ourselves because it
makes us feel noble or powerful to “help”; empowerment isn’t a means of busily
avoiding the harder challenges of our own lives; empowerment is saying and
doing what we know in our hearts is right – and not letting the mind’s
rationalizations goof up the fair exchange of power.” P. 289-291
In closing, I’d like to repeat myself- empowering myself
often means letting go.
Baldwin concurs when she writes;
“There is a necessity of “volunteering
to lose control” over many aspects of my life that I had previously assumed
required my attempts to maintain control…. Over and over, I have to replace
control with faith. To become a
person of power is to become a person of faith.” P. 297
Labels: Christina Baldwin, Judith Ragir, power, spiritual empowerment