Photo credit: Kahuna from Hui Ho’olana Retreat Centre, Molokai
When starting a full time business, time flies by – the daily work in the business and on the business keeps my dance card pretty full – always hopping.
So this blog takes a self-indulgent and necessary pause to reflect on what Kind Power means to me after working on this vision for 2 years. What I most want is for kind people to be more powerful. It feels needed.
Kind Power is so much more than being nice. Or being loudly nice. In my work with clients, Kind Power begins most often as cultivating a grounded sensitivity – a grounding to provide support, safety, security within so we can open to our own pain, and the sufferings of others. I support developing kindness, not to reinforce a self-image of woundness but to open up the possibility of healing and the capacity to connect to the injustices in the world without shutting down through a sense of overwhelm. I support developing a sense of power, not to add more scar tissue to an already established defensive callousness, sometimes paired with a rationalized impotence that says, “What can I do?” “What can I do?” asks from a place of helplessness, from a settled despair that the world is just that way. From a place of kind power, “What can I do?” can be asked from an intent of contribution, from a sense of connection to my world, not distanced from the world. “What can I do?” Here, now.
We tend to want to make a hero or heroine out of people we see as powerful – powerful survivors, powerful leaders who exercise control over others, powerful skills – a larger than life characterization of a potent person. Inspiring yes. But useful – maybe?
Heros, Super-heroines keep power our there – a symbol of what we want and what we don’t have.
And we miss, maybe even criticize the kind of power from a person that stays in relationship even after receiving hurts and harms from another for love’s sake. Who holds off his exercise of power to see if there is another way to create a positive outcome. We can leap to talking about setting up strong boundaries and miss the subtler lesson of the kind of power it takes to love someone whose acts bring us harm. Ask anyone who has loved an addict to death. A parent how loves a young person who harms others while discovering their own power. This kind of power comes from integrity, a structural, character strength that is often dismissed as weakness. From this kind of power, there are battles more important than winning, more important than looking good in the eyes of others.
Before my own skillful means were developed (still in that life classroom), I was often called Pollyanna – a naïve optimist who believed in the good, true and beautiful I could see in people. My first husband was a card-carrying black sheep so received this feedback a lot. What I know from a more grounded, more sensitive and discerning awareness now is the courage to risk cultivating kindness in the middle of a control drama, in response to manipulation, to meet defensiveness with my own spacious sense of what is happening.
What I know now is the discipline of cultivating power without a drive to use it for power’s sake. The yin and yang of cultivating power so I can receive softly, without needing to be right or better or to win in some imagined way when interacting with someone else who consciously or often unconsciously is working hard to have this moment conform to the reality they need to feel secure.
In this election time, I talked with someone who I respect and their desire for the kind of strength that is needed in political leadership. And I wondered about and debated the strength of leadership that uses fear and simplistic ideas to justify exercising power over others – that the need to feel secure in a strong leader who is taking care of things is more important than their ethics, their moral courage to do the right, difficult thing, is more important than their insensitivity to everyone who they decide is not like them. It is just not enough for me – this kind of power. Literally not good enough – the willingness to exercise power over others without any sense of care for the other. Or a highly conditional kindness that insists that you conform to what I expect you to be before I can extend even basic kindness. I always feel that below the surface is a twisted meritocracy of belonging that says, “You have to earn the right to receive my benevolence, my approval, my protection. Because I hold the power, you have to contort yourself until I feel comfortable.” Power exercised as privilege.
This is not a rant at one side of the political spectrum – it applies across the spectrum when people come from a defended, brittle worldview. I know it feels like power but it is the kind of power that relies on finding security among the “us” that I can identify with, it relies on winning through the volume of the message without much listening, except to refute, except to argue with, except to look for ways to win an opinion battle. Power that rests upon a de-humanizing of the other, whether the other holds a conservative worldview or a liberal one or, more likely some kind of cluster of ideas that span a spectrum of perspectives.
I wanted to share some examples of kind power in the world – and I would love to hear about others (please share by contacting me at Cheryl@kindpower.ca).
Martyn and Justine Joseph: Let Yourself Trust Foundation
Reaching out with grassroots projects and small scale funding, Martyn uses his hard-working role as a musician for the people to bring light to people doing good work that makes a differences. He has connected with people and projects around the world and uses his power to create heart-breaking and heart-filling connections to kind people who care about supporting people around the world.
Greg Kemp and Heather Knox, Project Somos https://projectsomos.org
Greg and Heather every day are creating a wholistic response to support children to escape the cycle of poverty in Guatemala. Through an eco-sustainable community and innovative programs, they educate and empower children and provide capacity building to the children’s mamas.
Rana Abdelhamid offers a kind power story – starting a self-defense movement that starts with what you know, starts with who you know and works from joy. She started reacting to her experience of hate-based harassment and found joy in building community so women could find and define their sense of safety and security.
Each day, as I work away on this Kind Power vision and the business activity that supports it, I ask myself, “What can I do?” A daily challenge, a path and a passion. If you choose to take up a personal Kind Power challenge, what can you do to show up in kinder, more powerful ways?
What can you do to connect with someone you meet from the power of joy? The power of care and compassion? Can you find a way to share your own vulnerability (does anyone even read these blogs?) to create a more powerful connection? Do you do any practice that supports you to feel aware and awake in yourself, to feel the power you have within your body? What can you do? Dare to discover what you can do.
Peace out with Martyn Joseph’s Let Yourself – “I want you brave, I need you brave, I want you strong, sing along….you are so beautiful and I’m not wrong.”