Calm seas have never schooled a successful sailor.
In order to grow your personal power, we need to re-position our difficulties in our minds and see them as challenges instead. Then they become, in Don Juan’s words, ‘gifts of power’. As warriors, everything is an opportunity to test ourselves. Each challenge overcome is more personal power gained.
One of our challenges is dealing with the ‘petty tyrants’ in our lives as Shamanic literature calls them. These are people who annoy unspeakably and even threaten us. Don Juan speaks of the value of his apprentice, Carlos, as petty tyrant. ‘You force me to fight for impeccability like never before. The very sight of you makes me want to hurl.’ he says.
If we run away from our challenges, we submit to them and become victims as a result. Then, in retaliation, we will victimize those around us. Hopelessly hooked on others, we feel continually wronged and then again guilty for having retaliated. We are forever at odds with the world around us and it is all self-inflicted.
Our power surrounds us and is always available to us, provided we are available to it. We can’t do anything to make it appear. Power arises naturally when we simply stay aware and mentally get out of the way. Remember the space of no-mind from ‘The Last Samurai’? That’s what you’re looking for.
Don Juan gives Carlos the following task to grow personal power: ‘The secret to a strong body is not in what you do, but in what you don’t do. Now it’s time for you to not do what you always do. Sit here until we leave and not do.’ Then he throws Carlos’ prized notebook into the dark chaparral. ‘Fix your attention on the tree – not on the leaves, but on the shadows of the leaves, the space in between the leaves; do it branch by branch. The key to power is to allow the body to not do.’ After a few hours of this, Don Juan says:’Now let your stored power guide you through the bushes to your notebook’. Carlos finds it almost immediately.
Once our power is built up, we need to guard against power leaks. Indulging in ego, for instance, is disempowering. Our focus weakens. Our whole being is squeezed into its tiny box and sees the world from its limited point of view.
When we lose energy to negative emotions like fear or distrust, it manifests as discomfort in our bodies. For example, anxiety may cause indigestion. In this way, every physical dysfunction is a manifestation of loss of power.
When a leak becomes so big that we can’t plug it anymore, we may develop addictions. These are extreme experiences of powerlessness. We are out of control and at the mercy of external circumstances, draining our power completely.
Our relationships with others can become power leaks too. If we become too dependent on another for our own well-being, we continually live in fear that they will not deliver. When we fish for freebies, exploit our ‘contacts’ or sneak behind backs to get what we want, for example, we are also disempowering ourselves. What we gain by this behaviour is far less than the cost to our personal power. With time, we become less and less capable to create what we need on our own steam.
My own journey has been about finding safety and security within myself based on my own power. Every time I choose Self over ego in my actions, even at personal cost, I feel instantly empowered. I feel purer, clearer and stronger.
Cultivating a proper tonal
This is another concept out of Don Juan’s teachings on personal power. He asks Carlos to watch people as tonals. Two old ladies walk down some stairs. They are not that old, and their bodies are not that weak and yet they are decrepid. Everything about them is dreary: their clothes, their smell and their attitude. Their tonal is weak because they made themselves that way. Don Juan positions himself in his perfectly tailored suit as counterpoint. Commiserating with them about old age, he helps them down the stairs, although he is even older than they are.
When Carlos asks Don Juan about the purpose of the suit so different to his usual clothing, Don Juan replies: ‘A warrior treats his tonal in a very special manner. My suit is made to order, and everything fits to perfection. It is not my vanity that I want to show, but my warrior’s spirit, my spirit’s tonal. If you’re careless with your tonal, life can be as merciless with you as it is with those old women. We make our tonals weak through indulging in timidity, boredom and submissiveness. Our environment destroys the tonal unless we are warriors, then challenge strengthens it.’
We speak of integrity in materials when they are sound within themselves, strong and pure. Human integrity is the same: we have integrity when we are not afraid to be who we are – all that we are, not diminishing ourselves, nor watering ourselves down. When we keep mind, heart and spirit moving into the same direction, we feel congruency – the power of pure, undiluted intent. Integrity is living in harmony with our beliefs, walking our talk, at one with ourselves. Then, externals tend to fall into place. When we are struggling with externals, we are probably not clear about our path internally.
Integrity is also about saying ‘No’. The list of things we could commit to, is endless. Once we know who we are and what is important to us, saying ‘no’ keeps our integrity and rightful commitments intact.
I have noticed, that when I don’t take my life, my path and purpose seriously enough to say ‘No’, I feel like a fake: restless, lost, emotional and negative. I also used to have a way of taking on too many things because to me, normal was juggling ten balls in emotional push-pull and drama. I never seemed to finish anything. Now, I tackle one thing at a time. I slow down my pace and become more present to my life. As a bonus, the electro-magnetic and emotional fireworks have largely stopped.
I actually get more achieved by doing less with more focus and have space for Being Well to boot.