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The Four Pillars of True Power
November 2008

Many of us spend a lot of our time developing our physical strength. We are inspired to work out, to build a strong, athletic body—but is being strong the only sign of our true personal power? And in other areas of our lives, many of us take on a tough or bitchy demeanor as a way to fit in, to succeed, to survive. What if physical force was only one aspect of power? What if we could find a way to truly feel we are powerful in a way that includes all aspects of who we are—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual?

Look at our top athletes. Can a gymnast win Olympic gold with pure strength alone? No, he/she needs focus and grounding as well as a strong body. Can a wrestler succeed only with brute force? No, he/she needs flexibility, both physical and mental, to really achieve. So, let's reframe power. Let's say that in order to be truly powerful, you will need to have not only physical strength and courage, but will also need to develop focus, grounding, and flexibility with the same amount of effort and diligence.

Focus ensures that all your power and efforts have the impact you would like, as well as overcoming all the distractions. It requires concentration, diligence, and precision. What is the benefit of developing strength, intelligence, or talents if you can't find a way to channel it into something productive? How effective are you if you can’t zero in on your target or goal? How many times have you been misunderstood by others even though you thought you were perfectly clear? When you explore focus in this way, you discover that it has an energy of its own which can enhance all your efforts.

Let's look at flexibility. There is a saying that comes from Taoism that asks: "Which is stronger, a mighty Oak tree or a blade of grass?" And the answer is: "In a monsoon, the tree will break like a twig but the blade of grass will yield and remain standing." Here you see that while, in some instances, strength is called upon, in other situations the use of strength will only result in you snapping like a twig. Sometimes the one thing that will get you through a tough time is a bit of give and take. You can probably think of examples of this from your own life; and I can think of some episodes in past relationships where I really learned that lesson!

Grounding offers a different kind of power than either physical strength or flexibility. Grounding is a connection to the Earth, to others, and to a part of you that transcends your everyday view of yourself. By developing the power in grounding, you develop a sensitivity and sharper awareness of your surroundings, as well as a self-confidence that makes you less likely to be persuaded by others. You may be thinking: How is sensitivity a sign of strength? Well, think about the times when you "felt" something that couldn't be explained, acted on it, and then in hindsight realized you made the right choice. That is the strength of sensitivity that comes from grounding.

True Strength
And let’s not forget strength, also essential for establishing authentic power. This does not only include physical strength, but also courage. Courage to face fear, to persevere even when it gets tough, to dare to reach out to others for help and real connection, to speak your truth, and – more courageously – to hear other’s truths.

So here's the formula: True power means having proficiency in focus, grounding, strength, and flexibility. And the sign of a truly powerful person is someone who has developed all four equally. Think of the legs of a table. It doesn't matter how long the legs of the table are. What is important is that the four legs are the same size or the table will tip and teeter. The same is true for us. We are truly powerful in body, mind, and spirit when we have developed an equal level of skill in focus, grounding, strength, and flexibility. Actually, you might say that someone with a moderate yet equal development of all four qualities is ultimately more powerful than someone who is only physically strong.

Self-Assessment: Does Your Table Tilt?
Start with this question: What does your table look like? Is it stable? Wobbly? How much time have you devoted to developing each of the qualities? How focused are you? How grounded? How strong and how flexible? To find out, take a piece of paper and draw a table top. Then, draw each leg of your table, on each leg summarizing how you have developed one of the four qualities. Be honest. Have fun with it. Take a good look. When I do this with clients, they sometimes gasp in shock when they see what they have drawn.

If you are like me, you will see that your legs are different, resulting in a wobbly table. One leg may even be very short. The point is not to discourage you, but to offer you guidelines for what you would need to do to develop your own stable, personal power. For instance, if you feel that you excel in physical strength and lack focus, you may want to consider adding meditation and other concentration exercises to your routine. Or, if you feel you lack flexibility, you may want to take a look at how you are stretching your muscles and at how important it is for you to be "right." And how about those of you who find it hard to stick to your own point of view? You may want to take some time to bury your feet in the sand or in the earth to ground yourself. If we spend time on all four qualities and get them closer to an equal level of skill, we will become physically healthy, live our lives with confidence, have the relationships we desire, and feel a sense of purpose and satisfaction in all that we do.

Respectful Confrontation
These are some of the principles explored in Respectful Confrontation: the practice of Compassionate Engagement – a weekend workshop which explores these skills for self-discovery and empowerment. Finding ways to engage with openness and respect leads to intimacy and vulnerability and releases and reveals true power.

Respectful Confrontation provides a safe, loving platform to integrate “sensitivity” with courage and strength. In this workshop, we explore ways to be in your power and also be in your heart, to assert yourself and speak your truth without it leading to conflict, and to pursue your own happiness by engaging more fully with others.

As we open to new ways of developing strength, we actually see how much power we already have. As we add mental focus, emotional flexibility, and spiritual grounding to our physical strength, we notice that things seem to flow, and we walk through our lives with more energy and ease. Now, who wouldn't want more of that?




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