In one way or another, we often feel “trapped” by life. If it weren’t true, we wouldn’t spend as much time as we do trying to “escape” our circumstances. We’re so involved with imagining and swimming to our own Fantasy Island, we never consider this important question: what if the condition we wish to escape were only an illusion that feels real? How would such a realization change our lives?
Let’s look into these questions, starting with the feeling of being trapped. What do we know about it? For one thing, it is neither gender nor economically selective; everyone, regardless of social status, has a share of this unwanted state of self. We also know that none of us would remain feeling trapped if we had the power to change our condition. Which leads us to this finding:
We frequently feel powerless. And when we see no solution to our situation, confusion colors our considerations. Frustration grows. We feel imprisoned behind a wall of fearful expectations.
But we need not, and must not, accept a life of such limitation. We can uncover the root of this powerless feeling — and release ourselves from it — by discovering the nature of the illusion that creates it.
For most of us the show gets started like this: “Why did he have to do that?” or — “Life isn’t fair!” or “They took this away from me.” But these reasons are not the source of our pressing stress!
First we must see that these moments are events, not powers; they are passing conditions, not prisons. Seeing this, the real question isn’t how to regain our lost power, but what is it about these events that causes us to feel powerless because of them?
Here are a few vital facts: the feeling of being powerless has nothing to do with what someone else did or didn’t do – or with what you did or didn’t do at any point in your life – regardless of your present conditions. A little detective work will prove these statements.
What’s the first thing we see when we hear news that runs counter to what we want? We don’t really “see” anything at all; instead our attention is seized, absorbed by a familiar negative reaction whose only wish is that the unwanted moment just go away.
This resistance acts on our consciousness as a “blinding” and binding force, so all we can “see” is our own negativity over what we wish wasn’t happening! We literally “look” at what we don’t want to be there.
For example, when expectations get dashed, we don’t see new possibilities unfolding; all we see is the way things should have gone. We don’t see what is with all of its positive possibilities; instead we see only the negative . . . what is not.
We feel powerless because we’ve become the captive of a mind resisting itself, an involuntary prisoner of a mind struggling to escape its own negative images. There is nothing but powerlessness in this resistance because by law whatever we resist … persists!
The only way to liberate ourselves from the confines of this unconscious relationship is to develop a new awareness of what it costs us to remain in its captivity.
We must ask, what kind of “power” is it to resent any moment for unfolding as it does, to wish it didn’t happen? Does it change the moment in any positive way? No, it does not.
Does our pain prove that our position is right? To the contrary: the more we don’t want the moment, the more we lend credibility to that moment as being overpowering. This false perception then strengthens our negative sense of self as someone being overpowered by it.
But this next insight foretells freedom: whenever we feel like a powerless captive of some condition, it’s because we grabbed onto a false power to lend us strength. Worry, fear, anger, self-loathing, self-pity . . . all negative states are a waste that waste our lives whenever we embrace their empty promise of empowerment.
By contrast, real power is knowing we already possess everything we need to succeed in any moment. Let’s examine this important idea.
What good is any conditional power — social or financial — if, when a challenging moment comes along, we can’t count on that power to be there for us? We’ve all seen what happens when — due to “unscheduled changes” — our power source is suddenly unplugged. We either collapse into powerlessness, or scramble around searching for ways to regain our base of power. Either way, we remain a captive of these reactions.
People become angry when they realize they don’t possess the power they imagined. They justify this imagined loss by blaming others for it, and now their power is in being resentful.
But real power keeps us from becoming the puppet of what is unkind to others and ourselves. Real power lifts us above challenging circumstances; it shelters us from fears that want to drag us down into troubled thoughts about tomorrow. Real power is the quiet but certain understanding that everything that comes to us works for the good of us, no matter what it is.
How do we enter into relationship with such pure power? We begin with a startling insight:
Human beings have mistaken themselves as being powers unto themselves. The truth is, we are the instruments of elemental powers, high and low; and yet, our unique place in reality gives us a far greater role to play than any of these primal forces can ever hope to know. We alone are empowered to choose – from all powers, potential or present – which of them we will embody and serve by expression.
Although we often find ourselves feeling so — there is no such thing as being powerless. Those who resist life — who hate or fear unwanted changes – become the instrument of a power that effectively renders them powerless to do anything but struggle.
But those who realize that the only power negative states have is to create the illusion of self-command, enter into relationship with another kind of power altogether. And this new awareness, like the power it grants, is failsafe.
We can practice this true, new power anytime we want its strength and safety. We start by remembering that in any moment of heartache, worry, or fear, we need not suffer what comes with resisting our sense of being powerless because ours is the power to choose what we will and will not give our power to. The following examples reveal this new and higher possibility:
Rather than live with the pain of a thousand regrets, we can realize that no number of visits to a painful past can change it. The light of this new awareness empowers us to start over now.
Rather than look to anxious thoughts to help us through some fearful situation, we can see that anxiety serves fear — so how can it free us from it? The light of this new awareness empowers us to let go of both these imposters.
Rather than defend our mistakes by excusing them, we can understand that our refusal to learn the lesson at hand ensures we will meet that lesson again, along with its misery. The light of this new awareness empowers us to accept what life would teach us, and the truth sets us free.
Negative states want to convince us we are powerless in the face of what frustrates us. But we have seen that this false perception is actually produced by a dark state that would have us turn to it for the power we need to make things right.
We are learning we can do something radically new: rather than give ourselves over to the habitual reaction of resisting the moment for our fear of it, we remember the truth that sets us free: ours is the power to live from the Power of our choice. Said slightly differently: we are created with the power to surrender our sense of powerlessness and, in exchange for this sacrifice, realize a life without stress and strife.
Whenever we have a pain or a problem that seems greater than we can deal with, it doesn’t mean we really are without power. These moments are actually “wake-up calls”– invitations to remember our relationship with an indwelling Divine order of ourselves that is the same as our True Nature.
This new action on our part, this conscious realignment born of higher self-awareness, is the same as our rescue. Our sense of being powerless is replaced by releasing the misunderstanding over who we really are.
Now the words, “Let go and let God” take on new meaning. We now understand what must be done to let the Divine Light do for us what we can’t: to know true power, we must release all claims upon it.
(Excerpted from The Essential Laws of Fearless Living, Red Wheel/Weiser)
Guy Finley is the best-selling author of more than 38 books and audio albums on self-realization. He is the founder and director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for self-study located in southern Oregon where he gives talks four times each week. For more information visit www.guyfinley.org, and receive your free Guy Finley Starter Kit. You get several free downloadable gifts including a special newsletter filled with helpful insights and encouragement emailed to your desktop once each week.