SPIRITUAL POWER

Guest Blog by Maxwell Consulting Group Intern Hilary Nyte

Learn more about Hilary here.

As mentioned in our previous post on types of power, an important aspect of honing our personal power is tapping into spirituality. As defined by Brené Brown:

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.

Brené Brown, 2018

What do we mean by the term spiritual?

Brown is clear that this kind of spiritual practice does not come from any specific religion, but rather in as many different forms as there are people.

  • In her book, “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone,” she identifies that the landscape of our current society is more deeply divided than it has ever been.
  • She says, “we are neither recognizing nor celebrating our inextricable connection [to each other]. We are divided from others in almost every area of our lives… And rather than continuing to move toward a vision of shared power among people, we’re witnessing a backslide to a vision of power that is key to the autocrat’s power over people”
  • Even though that quote was published in 2017, it seems truer than ever today. Brown points to fear as the main driver of the division we currently experience. Cyndi Suarez takes us one step further in her description of “supremacist power” (domination) in her book,“The Power Manual: How to Master Complex Power Dynamics”.

“Supremacist power is the ability to dominate, or control, people and things. It is a crude form of power, related to scarcity consciousness, or the belief that the world holds limited supplies of the things we want—such as love, power, and recognition”

CYndI Suarez

Creating the power we want- there’s more than enough for each of us

Thankfully, Suarez also gives us the remedy in her description of “liberatory power”:

Liberatory power is the ability to create what we want. It is real power, related to abundance consciousness, the creative force of life. Liberatory power is about expanding our set of choices and fine-tuning our consciousness so that we can recognize decision points and choose intentionally.

Cyndi Suarez

Julie Diamond’s research on high status and positional power shows that as we gain more power and status, “…our self-esteem rises while our self-awareness decreases. Our capacity to feel empathy for others decreases just as the influence we have over them increases…” and highlights that “…using power well depends on becoming aware of our behavior, and those often-unconscious feelings that drive it: beliefs, fears, and attitudes…using power well starts with self-awareness”(Diamond, 2016).

When we pair Brown and Suarez’s research with Julie Diamond’s cautions of the corrupting force of high levels of positional power, we are left with a stark warning that if we want to use our power without causing or perpetuating harm and division, we must develop our own ways of interrupting fear, honoring our inextricable connection with each other, and weaving compassion into our everyday lives. So now our question is: how?


Making it practical

A tangible example of how some in Indigenous communities accomplish this can be found in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.

Wall Kimmerer describes the power of the Onondaga Nation’s traditional “Thanksgiving Address”:

  • This address is recited by school children in place of the American “Pledge of Allegiance,”and at the beginning of important gatherings. Part of what makes it so powerful is the repeated refrain, “now our minds are one.” It reminds all who are present for its recitation that they are inextricably connected with each other, and with all the beings recognized in the Address.

  • Wall Kimmerer shares that this “ancient order of protocol sets gratitude as the highest priority”and notes the power it holds to remind those who speak it of abundance and our interconnectedness not only with each other, but with every living thing. She remarks, “you can’t listen to the Thanksgiving Address without feeling wealthy… Recognizing abundance rather than scarcity undermines an economy that thrives by creating unmet desires. Gratitude cultivates an ethic of fullness… [and] reminds you that you already have everything you need” (Wall Kimmerer, 2013).

  • While the Thanksgiving Address is regarded as“as old as the [Onondaga] people themselves,” it holds revolutionary power in our current society. Wall Kimmerer goes on to say, “hearing the Thanksgiving Address every day lifts up models of leadership for the young people… ‘it says this is what it means to be a good leader, to have vision, and to be generous, to sacrifice on behalf of the people. Like the maple, leaders are the first to offer their gifts.’ It reminds the whole community that leadership is not rooted in power and authority but in service and wisdom” (Wall Kimmerer, 2013).

We encourage you to reflect- what practices do you have that interrupt your fears, honor inextricable connection with others, and weave compassion into your everyday life? How can service, gratitude, and self-awareness build your liberatory power interactions with yourself and others?

Share with us in the comments below, and stay tuned for our final blog post in this series.


Hilary Nyte is a Maxwell Consulting Group Intern who has spent the last 8 months diving into power, power stewardship, and how we can increase power literacy with our Clients resulting in responsible business practice.

Sources:

1. Brown, B. (2018, March 27). Defining spirituality. Retrieved from; https://brenebrown.com/articles/2018/03/27/defining-spirituality/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CSpirituality%20is%20recognizing%20and%20celebrating

2. Brown, B. (2017). Braving the wilderness: the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. Random House.

3. Suarez, C. (2018).The power manual: How to master complex power dynamics.NewSociety Publishers.

4. Diamond, J. (2016). Power: A user’s guide. Belly Song Press.

5. Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. Milkweed Editions.

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