Monday, February 13
It didn’t occur to me until well after I’d walked barefoot across the 20-foot bed of glowing coals that maybe a firewalk was not the way to personal power. Maybe it was just an experience, one I would not repeat and one that would have no significant bearing on the rest of my life.
But it is human nature – or at least it was my nature in the fall of 1984 – to think that I was just one transcendent experience away from a shift that would fuse my reality with my potential, and I would be changed for all time.
I’d forgotten about that firewalk until we discussed personal power at a men’s group meeting. Personal power in that context seemed to mean moments of exceptional awareness and unusual strength; even insight and serenity.
Example: one guy was mugged by four men years ago while jogging. In the midst of that attack, he recalls a moment of startling clarity where he knew that no matter what they did, no matter how badly they beat him, they could never truly touch him nor take away his fundamental being. With that realization, he found the strength to break free and out-run his attackers.
Another man, anxious and unable to sleep for months, realized while filling out a questionnaire in a psychiatrist’s office that his problem wasn’t internal. His problem was his wife’s constant complaints and demands for reassurance.
"I went home and told her, ‘I don’t have a problem, you do," he said. "That night I slept like a baby."
What these experiences had in common was that they were all momentary and episodic rather than epic, life-changing epiphanies. Eckhart Tolle, author of "The Power of Now" and other books, claims to have experienced a transcendent awareness so powerful that he spent two years in blissful stupor.
I bring this up because Power is in the subtitle of this website, and it means not just momentary brilliance but a sustainable reality. It means living authentically, living to the fullness of one’s potential rather than being the impersonators we are taught by our culture to be. I don’t know anyone living at that level — myself included — but I am convinced it’s where we’re meant to be.
The other day I listed the attributes that I thought might characterize my own personal power, things like cheerfulness, strength, an enthusiasm for life, love and the certainty that no matter how difficult things might become, I would always be secure, fearless.
I even fancied that there is a rhythm to it, a pace that is as much mental as physical that would move me through my days. But it came to me as an image: a moonlit bay, palm trees silhouetted against a blue-black sky, a gentle breeze blowing and an acoustic guitar playing a languid bossa nova.
But this rhythm never resulted from any of the many workshops I took in the ’80s, including the firewalk. That was part of a weekend with Anthony Robbins that included training in nutrition and NeuroLinguistic Programming. Midway through the NLP training I lost interest when I realized that it was being taught as a form of manipulation. And during the final session on nutrition, Robbins was confronted by one of the men in the audience for making a pass at his girlfriend.
Robbins denied the charge – not very convincingly, I thought – and later the woman I was with said Robbins had propositioned her as well. If true, he had good taste: my friend was a former Clairol girl and Vogue model, and a dead ringer for Linda Evans. The other woman was also very attractive.
In the years since, I have read more books and watched more tapes than I can count. I’ve met and spoken with Ram Dass, Dan Millman and Deepak Chopra, and I’ve seen Wayne Dyer so often on TV I feel like I know him better than my neighbor.
While all offer something of value, I find ultimately that I have little patience for another book or tape or video. I’m no longer beguiled by the experiences of others, nor by affirmations, theories or techniques.
I am interested in my own process, my own access to wisdom and my own journey — halting and mule-headed though it may be — to faith. Having lost a relationship over spiritual differences, I know that even on the path there are setbacks. But my feeling is that the best way to personal power lies in a direct relationship with the Creator and cutting out the middle man.
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