By Mary Boutieller
I’ve been contemplating the idea of “power” lately and how the word itself and its manifestations feel to me. Oddly, the word “power” has often had a negative connotation in my life and has never really resonated with me. By definition, power usually means authority, supremacy, control or influence. As seen so often in the news, it seems endemic that one country, one company, or one person tries to control or maintain power over another. So for me, for a long time, power meant control over someone or something—as opposed to the possibility of power within.
In my yoga space, encircling a large round window, are the words: Beauty, Joy, Wisdom, Life, Love, Peace, and Power. Even there, the power word has often felt as if it didn’t belong with the other words. Recently, I sat and looked at the words again. I questioned my aversion to the idea of power and wondered what it was that was creating discord for me. As a child, I grew up in a chaotic and uncertain household. Often I felt powerless to control the circumstances of my life. Whether it was a parent, the school, authority figures or others, I remember feeling unable to affect what was happening around me. As a teenager and young adult, bosses, family, even friends informed and sometimes dictated my choices because I wanted to get along, be liked, fit in. In those years, I started to “test” my personal power, but even then it didn’t feel like power per se. It felt more like survival. These days, especially if I watch too much of the news, I struggle with the abuses of power I hear about, with those who have the most trying to control those who have the least.
Yet, power isn’t the enemy, is it?
And that’s when I realized I had been looking at the essence of the word incorrectly. Power, like so many things, can be used for good or can be self-serving and negative. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” Then I looked at Mahatma Gandhi who used his power to move a nation from subservience to freedom. And Mother Teresa, who used her power to care for sick and the dying around her.
Herein lies the secret to accepting and embracing our power. It resonates with me when I use the power within me not to control but to forgive, not to berate but to build up, not to hate but to love. We all have the power to be the angels of our better selves, to look up to people instead of down at them, to be love-finders instead of faultfinders. Take a moment to breathe that in!
Leo Buscaglia, one of my favorite authors, said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” He tells a story in one of his books about walking into a hospital to visit someone, suffering a massive heart attack and literally falling into the arms of a cardiac surgeon, who saved his life. Now that is power! Stories of heroism, compassion and true strength are everywhere if we are willing to look. Here is just one link to stories I found about ordinary people doing amazing things: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-stories-amazing-people-amazing-things. These are the stories of power—or indeed empowerment—that speak to the soul of our humanity. So, how can we both empower ourselves and empower others who we meet along the way? Here is one way, and it happened to me.
I was out to breakfast with my stepfather, Tom. We go to breakfast almost every Friday morning and have been doing so ever since my mom passed away. I can’t say that we are always on the same page, as he leans one way politically and I lean the other way and, sometimes, our discussions can get a bit boisterous. Well, one morning we were talking about all manner of hot-button topics. We are always respectful, and often it is more banter than anything else, but to an outsider’s ear, it might sound otherwise. Well, mid-conversation, an elderly man walked up to our table. He had been sitting in the booth right across from us. He said hello and commented on the day. He asked our relationship, and I told him I was Tom’s daughter. He smiled the biggest, most genuine smile and I swear he had a twinkle in his eye as he said, “How wonderful it is to see the two of you spending time together. Do you know how lucky you are to have such a close relationship?” He went on to say how rare it is in the world and he wished us a nice day. The entire encounter took about 2 minutes, and it shifted the energy of our entire breakfast. We went from having a heated debate to appreciating the time we were spending together. We talked about how nice it was of that man to stop by and say hello, and I found myself being that much nicer the entire rest of the day.
Now that, my friends, is real power. And we all have it within us. The power to shift perspective, to be seen, to be vulnerable, to be real, to say hello, to be present, to be kind. We have the power to step in and lend a hand, to smile and hold open a door, to be heart-centered human beings in the world. I’ve often thought of that one timeless and straightforward lesson, and I am grateful to have been in that place at that time, to receive this stranger’s wisdom.
What power do you hold in your own hands right now? And can you use that power to make this crazy, messy, mixed-up world a better place? It doesn’t take much effort. What it takes, maybe, is just simple awareness and the willingness to act. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
And Steve Maraboli said this: “We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”
Finally, in case you think you are too insignificant to affect change, here is a quote from the Dalai Lama: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
Find your inspiration and be not afraid of the power within your own beautiful heart to make a difference out there. We have the capacity to empower ourselves and each other, to start the ball rolling, to fuel the cause of love, one small kind act at a time. It doesn’t have to be big or “significant” in a newsworthy way; it just has to be genuine.
I leave you with this quote by Joel Osteen: “Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose not to let little things upset you.” Indeed, the choice is ours. The moment is now, we have the power, so let’s begin today.
Wishing you a truly powerful day!
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.