So I ask, how do you find the courage to face a foe twice your size who intends to destroy you? How do you stand in the face of extreme injustice and suffering, ready yourself, and choose the next, right thing? The master, Michelangelo, seems to suggest that we pause for a moment and look upon “the other”, be it outside or inside ourselves, with our heart
*Pictures from: Ciuccetti, Laura, Michelangelo David, Prato, Italy: Giunti Editore S.p.A., 2004.
( Also see: www.graphics.stanford.edu/projects/mich/head-of-david/head-of-david.html)
Reflections by Cedar:
Lois is a Social Worker and a Right Use of Power Facilitator. Reading her letter, I, too, was amazed to see these hearts carved into David’s eyes! It seems a perfect image for the idea of “power with heart” that is central to the Right Use of Power message. I began reflecting on several questions. The first one is Lois’ question: “How do you find the courage to face someone bigger than you who intends to harm you?” And the second is, “What happens to your vision when you clothe your eyes with compassion?” (I would appreciate getting your response and will print it in the January Newsletter.)
What happens to your vision and your experience?
For me, looking with compassion broadens my perspective, slows me down, increases my ability to feel connected, and softens my judgments. I am particularly aware when, as a psychotherapist, I sit down with a client and focus my attention on their concerns. I sometimes am aware that I don’t think I would like this person if I met them on the street, but I genuinely care about and appreciate them in my therapeutic relationship, where I meet them in mindfulness and kindness. Another time I notice: while waiting– in line, in an airport, for something to begin–I try looking at one person after another and saying the Buddhist-inspired phrase, “May you be happy. May you find peace.” My whole body softens, the tension or anxiety of waiting drops away, I breathe deeply, and I feel warm and lightly connected. It certainly works on ME! I experience, in these instances, that my vision literally has softer edges and my field of vision literally expands.
What gives you the courage?
As for me, I have a long history of freezing when up against situations very much less dire than what faced David. I feel scared, overwhelmed, and even skillful responses that are in my repertoire disappear like water down a drain. This shutting down experience is one of the motivators for delving into the issues and dynamics of power. Over time I’ve learned things. I’ve learned that power, as the ability to have an effect or to have influence, is not bad or to be avoided. It is, instead, essential for bringing forth what you have to offer.
Power can be used wisely and well or it can be used to cause egregious harm. The news is full of the later and a poor representative and advocate of the former. Of course, to be used wisely and well, one must actually acknowledge or “own” whatever personal power you have and positional power you have when you have it. Not owning the power that is yours is in itself a misuse of power and causes harm, often particularly dangerous because it can be subtle and unintended. I’ve learned that power, once owned, has understandable dynamics that can be skillfully used and/or avoided in difficult situations. I’ve learned that using power for good brings emotional pleasure and satisfaction for the power-user and support and dignity to those who are affected. And lastly, I’ve learned that you don’t have to choose between power as strength and power as heart. You can use them together. This is what I call “power with heart.” David, with his heart in his eyes was doing what had to be done in the moment. As we develop more wisdom about how to own and use power, we will learn more and more ways to be effective with less and less harm and more possibilities for using power for the good of all.
What gives me courage? Some combination of owning my power, hard-earned skills, simply growing older and having more experience, my passion for and belief in goodness, and my ability to be compassionate, clear and strong.