There’s an amazing experience that I’ve been having since my time in the Brazilian Amazon with the Huni Kuin people last November. And last week it came up for a client of mine. And then another one.
The experience is about feeling helpless. About feeling powerless. You get caught up in circumstances that you have no control over. But you want to somehow control them so you can get a result. And so you try this, then that, and still it doesn’t work. The problem is still there.
You still feel powerless.
This was my experience in the Amazon for many nights in ceremony with the Huni Kuin. This was the problem of my clients.
They were in an experience that made them feel powerless.
However, when you get into approval of that feeling of being powerless, something really interesting happens.
You suddenly feel free.
This is what surrendering is about. Being in approval of your powerlessness.
It’s amazing because it frees you from any desired material outcome. You can act in any way that you want to. You don’t even have to take action because you are powerless to realize any outcome – which is great because a lot of what we try to do is a waste of time.
It removes us from control. Our own control and from control by others.
And that’s the delusion we are caught up in. We think we have power. But what we really have is control. Only it’s very limited.
And we think others have power over us, but it is actually ‘control’. And it’s ‘control’ we hand over.
We agree to it.
So I want to make a distinction here, which flies in the face of our usual dictionary definitions.
What we normally think of and define as power is actually control. And only control.
So what is real power then?
Power is freedom. People who are powerful are free to act as they see fit without fear of the consequences. And a sign that they are powerful is that they empower other people to act and feel free in doing so. They don’t need to apply the “48 Laws of Power” as described by Robert Greene – which is all about control anyway – except perhaps Law 22.
There are many great examples of these powerful people in history, but my favourite is the story of Gandhi because it’s a very clear way to talk about the difference.
Gandhi had power. The British Empire had control.
When Gandhi spoke, millions of Indians followed what he said. He didn’t have to coerce anyone to do it. They acted because they resonated with his message and his actions. Same as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Perhaps you could also say that about spiritual and religious icons, like Buddha or Jesus. If you follow “Game of Thrones” then you could say that Daenerys is a great example of a ruler with power and Cersei is a great example of a ruler who has control.
You could say that Hitler had power too, actually. However, it’s interesting to note that once the control mechanism started to influence how German public behaved, like the Gestapo, then the power went out of Hitler, and the Nazi machine. They also started making mistakes and to lose the war.
But back to Gandhi.
The British Empire was all about control. Massive control. And to keep control and bend nations to their will they had a big army, navy, and a huge bureaucracy to get what they wanted.
And all their armies and bureaucracy couldn’t stop Gandhi from empowering the people of India to rise up and start a revolution.
Which he did by telling the people to produce salt.
In 1930 the British law forbade Indians from producing salt – so that they had to buy it from the British. The British made millions.
This is control.
Gandhi asked Indians to start producing salt in defiance of this law. He walked from his home near Ahmedabad to spread the message and by the time he reached the sea in Dandi, 80,000 people were following him. And the whole country was galvanized.
And he was able to achieve this by surrendering to any outcome. For him, this meant the possibility of going to prison. Which he did. He was powerless to stop them. And when he surrendered to that he could act how he wanted.
He was even surrendered to the possibility of death.
That removed any control that the British had over him. And he empowered a nation. Which is the mark of someone who has power – they empower you. They don’t coerce you with laws and law enforcement or fear of violence. Instead, they give you choice. Anyone who is a good leader does this.
And eventually, Gandhi got what he wanted. Indian independence – which created a whole new set of problems. But that’s life. And in the end, it cost him his life.
So. How does this relate to us in our life? Well, we all cling to outcomes and goals. We all want results. We try to control things to get what we want. And it doesn’t really work. Even if it does, we are usually disappointed by what we actually get. And if we are satisfied, it’s fleeting. As soon as we get it, we want something else.
Eventually, we end up feeling powerless. Usually, soon after, we burn out or have a breakdown.
But if we can learn to live in approval of our powerlessness it frees us up. We act not to get a result but simply because it gives us an experience we want.
Gandhi wanted to experience freedom. He lived freedom. He refused to co-operate with British control. The consequence of living his life in this way was that eventually, so did India.
It’s a continuous choice. And in the face of more and more adversity, one that might become harder and harder.
That’s will. Not the act, but the choice.
And this is another point to make. And a clear distinction that goes against our normal definition.
We tend to define will as our ability to get what we want against the odds. But actually what drives us is our authentic desire. What we actually want to feel if we dig down far enough, because most of the time, most of us, are driven by fear and the need to get approval and acceptance from others – which is to live under control.
What allows us to follow through on our authentic desire is will. It’s like this: Will is like a container of our authentic desire. The more integrity the container has the more we can follow our authentic desire in life in the face of adversity.
How do we create integrity in the container?
By being in approval of our powerlessness.
You surrender. Moment by moment. Letting go of any desired outcome or attachment. Forever falling into the great sea of unlimited experience.
Now the last part.
When you are falling, surrendered, free, in approval of your powerlessness, and hence in real power.
What do you want to feel? What do you want to experience? What do you really want to do in your life?
You can now do anything you want.
If you want to start learning about the three key things I teach, awareness, self-approval and authentic desire, and how to start applying it to your life start by signing up to my five-day meditation and mindfulness crash course in the box below.