The following is an extract from my upcoming book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponized World. One of the reasons I am writing this book is my sense is that much of today’s social and political activism is missing a key ingredient: self-awareness, including psychological and spiritual development. Unless we first develop the “power” within ourselves, I suspect that all the power we wield society and its institutions will ultimately bare little fruit. Indeed, we are likely to cause a great deal of damage to ourselves and others if our actions in the world are not grounded in wisdom and self-awareness. And without a strong sense of personal agency, we are likely to be recruited as agents for someone else’s less-than-conscious agenda.
Much of your potential “power” is derived at the precise mental moment when you become aware of ideas, feelings and perceptions as they arise within you. At the instant such cognition unfolds, you have the potential to witness the thought and decide whether to act upon it or not. This is what I call “the moment of agency.” In spiritually mature human beings there is a strong sense of personal agency, and their locus of control is predominantly internal.
Within the moment of agency there may also arise intuitions; knowings which are typically (but not always) subtle. The more present we are, the more we are free of the past and its pain, the more aware we will tend to become aware of such intuitions. Intuitive information usually expresses itself as a feeling, although it may arise in other modalities: such as inner images, voices, songs or physical sensations.
The moment of agency and its emotional and intuitive expression is key to the development of your Authentic Self. In order to express your authenticity, you must honour the strong and subtle feelings and information that arise from within.
This all sounds simple enough, and in a sense it is. But the prime difficulty is that most of us are not sufficiently grounded in the moment to be able to simply observe thoughts and feelings, and to then shift our relationship with them. That lack of groundedness, in turn, typically stems from several undergirding factors.
Like virtually all people, you have the power to develop the right relationship with mental events and intuitions, even as they arise, and then act according to the genuine needs of your Authentic Self. Yet without the ability to manage your cognitions well, even as they unfold a thousand times a day, you cannot be said to be a truly empowered being. Instead, you will be like a leaky ship tossed wildly upon a stormy ocean. You will have a greatly reduced sense of personal agency.
In order to actualise the potential inherent within moments of agency, we have to be sufficiently healed of past trauma. Our unresolved biographical pain can easily be triggered by current life events, pulling us back into disempowering and delusional dramas. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history may indeed be doomed to repeat it.
In turn, in order to heal our pasts, we have to learn how to be present with the sometimes strong and difficult emotions that arise within any given moment. And being present with such feelings means being able to allow them healthy expression. Such inner work is rarely easy. If you have suffered greatly in the past, or even if your relatives and ancestors have suffered, you are likely carrying vestiges of trauma and self-limiting belief structures within your psyche. We all suffer the sins of the fathers (and mothers) to some degree. The consciousness structures of the ancestors linger, even when their bodies have long turned to dust. A significant portion of this book (Power and Presence) is about how to heal those personal and ancestral pasts.
Therefore, accessing the “power” inherent within the moment of agency is not simply a matter of being silently present. There is almost certainly background work to be done in order for that moment to be clear of distortion by the past and its pain. Past experiences may imprint self-limiting narratives and beliefs within your psyche that can distort the moment of agency. And to know what those stories and beliefs are, we have to do the inner work. We have to come to know ourselves deeply.
This grounding is the foundation of the Authentic Self, where we get to sing our true song, a song that is not distorted by the past, by the stories and beliefs about ourselves and the world with which we have become identified. Yet we must be aware enough to notice when we are living someone else’s story.
Let’s be clear. We all have these stories, even when we live from the Authentic Self. It’s hard to imagine any life that does not have some kind of narrative attached to it. Yet when we embody the Authentic Self, we develop the capacity to see clearly our story-tellers, and to master our stories – even as they try to master us. We must learn to become the agents within a new story of our own choosing, one more aligned with our Authentic Self.
If we do not develop this capacity for being present, for accessing the moment of agency, then we are all too easily manipulated by others and their agendas for power and control.
This self-mastery follows only after the agendas within our mind, our psyche, have been aired and witnessed.
Finally, there is a third source of distortion which threatens our access to the moment of agency. That is, the consciousness fields within which all our minds are embedded. This is a realm little understood in our modern societies. We have tended to equate the notion of the extended mind with the superstition of bygone eras. Yet the truth remains that our minds are not self-contained, that the boundaries of mind are more permeable than commonly recognised by today’s mainstream science.
These consciousness fields are replete with their own messages and agendas, and they can potentially impact and distort our intuitions. Yet for my purposes here, this realm of knowledge is not so important. Such fields of intention lose their power over us once we have healed our own pain, and owned the agendas within our mind.
Mastering the moment of agency is key to self-empowerment. Without such mastery no amount of assertiveness training or social activism is going to heal “the people” and restore our true power. You cannot fire a cannon out of a canoe.
First, heal thyself.