Two Lenses: Control or Empowerment
Being human, we’re always viewing the world from a particular and limited perspective. Depending upon the lens we use, we’ll see things in different ways. (The story of the blind men and the elephant is a magnificent way to teach this point about perspective. According to the researcher at Sloww, the parable dates back to Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain writings with the Buddhist text Udana 6.4 containing one of the earliest versions of the story.)
When we consider all the many possible perspectives that lead to how people make decisions, one way to view them is to see them as falling into two general categories: coming from an angle of control or of empowerment.
And I always choose empowerment.
Let’s consider an example. Take this question: Do you feel there’s a limit to what an “authority” or teacher (of any subject) “should” speak to? Heck, we could change the question to be about what anyone should speak to.
I’ve found that such questions about what’s appropriate fall away in the light of empowering others.
So in this example, I don’t mull over how I could create and enforce controls of who says what. Instead, I think about how we can encourage teachers to empower others, and how we can develop and encourage discernment.
In fact, those two intentions meld together because if teachers maintain the overriding intention of empowering their students, they’ll naturally be guiding students toward listening to their inner voice and, thus, students will naturally be refining their discernment.
Principles of Engagement
After seeing behavior in the wider world that I don’t agree with, I came to realize that often the fundamental difference in perspective is the control vs. empowerment lens.
Since I come from a lens of empowerment, I’ve come to a certain set of beliefs or principles that are the foundation for how I relate to others. I hadn’t ever written them down before, but thought that if I did, it might be beneficial to you. Whether or not you agree with all my points, seeing them in black and white might support you in clarifying or communicating your own beliefs.
I didn’t always have these beliefs, but over time, they came to be a part of my conscious decision-making.
- I see everyone as divinity in disguise. This is fundamental to what I think we’re all doing here on this planet. I remind myself that everyone is a soul playing in embodied form. If I find myself judging someone or something, I remember that judgment isn’t wise, and when I find myself doing so, I remove myself from the irritating stimulus and go inward. Non-judgment is not the same as inaction. On the contrary, neutrality prepares me to be more clear-headed and effective.
- I don’t endeavor to control or manipulate others. As such, I do not engage in telling others what they “should” do as that’s just one of the many ways to try and control another.
- I know that I have control over myself only. I watch my mind for its patterns that want to change others and that cause me to feel triggered by others’ behavior. I define triggering as feeling excessive emotion that seems to be prompted by something happening in the outer world but that is in fact highlighting something inside that is unhealed. I don’t take action while triggered.
- I am passionate about sharing information for the purpose of empowering others. I do not support withholding information for power or using knowledge for demonstrating superiority.
- I believe people who have knowledge and experience can be wonderful resources but that this does not grant them authority over others and there are always unlimited potential sources that can be supportive, including the individual seeker herself.
- I don’t support regulatory bodies and broadscale efforts to “protect” us. While I empathize with the good intentions behind regulatory bodies and all the many ways “stamps of approval” have been implemented to control the “quality” of a service, I have now seen all such efforts create more problems than solutions. I go into this more in the specific context of yoga teaching here.
- I avoid compartmentalization and favor holistic approaches which mimic the nature of Life itself. So if I pull something apart because it helps to increase understanding, I put it back together again to make sure I can apply the knowledge in a practical way and in the context of Reality. I stay open and curious to learning new ways of understanding the relationship of the subject at hand to all it touches.
- I honor each person’s independent will. I endeavor to minimize the energy of pressure, demand, intimidation, or “right and wrong” thinking. In fact, I work extremely long and hard to respectfully convey information for consideration, including potential outcomes. Sometimes, I am clearly encouraging consideration of information that points to a certain perspective, and am comparing it to a perspective I don’t subscribe to. Nevertheless, I don’t deny others the right to hold other points of view. I see my mission as empowering others, and sometimes, I am called to do this by shining a light on that which is disempowering, leaving it to each individual to make their own choices.
Yoga As a Model
Yoga is such an eye-opener when it comes to the subject of empowerment.
Students don’t need to be trained or convinced of anything to benefit from yoga. They simply need to try it. Good teaching, of course, helps them get even more out of the experience, but the point is that yoga practice is intrinsically powerful and empowering.
Since no experience is required, and a single class can make a significant impact, it suggests that yoga is like the holistic, fractal, responsive examples found throughout our natural world.
For example, every one of our 30 trillion cells has a complete set of DNA within them. And stem cells (which are found throughout the body) can become almost any cell that’s needed.
Like our cells, yoga practice (no matter the style or “level”) can offer a complex wholeness, power, and responsiveness to the current need.
Accessible to all, yoga is an excellent model for guiding us in re-discovering how to experience life in ways other than those taught to us by top-down control systems with authoritarian methodologies, hierarchical and compartmentalized systems, and excessively left-brained ways of thinking.
As a student of life, I have come to trust my own discernment which I experience as a combination of intuition and intellect. I take information that resonates and leave that which doesn’t. Since I can’t control others, I must rely on them to do the same, but whenever possible, I support others in becoming more informed and empowered.
What do you think?
But Asana Can Be Used in a Power-Over Context
While yoga itself is empowering, as with anything else, it can be broken into pieces and used within an authoritarian context. For example, I attended a class where the “yoga teacher” employed an authoritarian style, relying exclusively on “power over” techniques to “teach.” I’ve shared more detail here.
That experience prompted me to reflect on the fact that people are acting based on a philosophical perspective which can be seen from these perspectives:
- Teaching health and wellness or teaching poses and prescriptive dogma. (Dogma is “a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down… proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group.”)
- Guiding and mentoring based on one’s personal integration and a compassionate understanding of others or memorizing and parroting what one has been told without a dedication to learning how others experience the teachings.
- Empowering students and honoring their inner authority or presuming authority over them via externalized positional power.