Monday, January 17, 2011

The Empowerment of People

Here's a quote I heard on The Munk Debates on CBC the other day:

We are the first generation of the world who know what the cure for poverty really is. The cure for poverty has a name and it is called: The Empowerment of Women.

If you could give women some control over the rate at which they reproduce...and take them off the animal cycle of reproduction of which nature and some religious doctrines condemn them... the floor of everything in that village- not just poverty, but education, health and optimism- will increase.

It doesn't matter. They tried it in Bangladesh . They tried it in Bolivia. It works. It works all the time.

~ Christopher Hutchens.

I wrote out a lot of what he said so that the quote has context. Clearly he is talking about women in the poorest parts of the world. I was so moved by the first part of the quote though:

We are the first generation of the world who know what the cure for poverty really is. The cure for poverty has a name and it's called the Empowerment of Women.

It's moving because the broader message is the empowerment of *anyone* will cure poverty or bring a greater wealth. Give people the authority for their own being and there will be more, not less.

I think of this on a physical, but also energetic level. When we *own* all of our being and we stand firm in our boundaries knowing truly who we are, then we are wealthy.

And from this place we are- just in our way of being- allowing others to be energetically wealthy as well.

There is a teaching about shapes (1). Basically, think of each of us as carrying our own shape (for example, a square, circle or triangle) and when we engage with another we are looking for a reverse, but complimenting match (picture two puzzle pieces).
In this we are energetically requiring that person to be something we need and they are doing the same. This happens without our conscious awareness most often. It is the foundation of all interactions and it is fundamentally why we like this person and not this one. It's the extent to which "our shapes match." Shapes don't fundamentally change from interaction to interaction. Shapes are stable, but they can be left behind as person engages higher levels of conscious awareness.

This is an abbreviated version of the teaching. Imagine these examples as a way of understanding our enslavement to these shapes and their impact on our interactions.

First example: you're having a bad day and you act in a way to try and get others to feel as bad as you. You are rude or grumpy or try to pick a fight with someone. That's you holding your shape and trying to get another person to take on the reverse but complimenting match. If someone does this: that is, gets as stressed and angry as you are, it will relieve the pressure you are feeling. We have all done this at some point.

Second example: imagine a cashier, who playing her part as a smiling customer-service representative, is engaging you with friendly chitchat. All social norms about the interaction demand that you perform a part. You are expected to engage about the weather or the roads etc. She is trying to fit you into a particular pattern of interaction and if you don't engage, you are rude. She wants you to be happier from the chitchat interaction and then she will have done her job as the smiling customer-service representative.

Third example: think of that couple you know who is like this. She is always so sweet and helpful- very nice. You almost never see her angry. He is the kind of guy that leaves people walking on eggshells. He is abrasive often and sometimes intimidating. He is not a bad guy necessarily, but he has a sternness to his manner. You can imagine that he is someone you would not like to see angry. In terms of shapes, he carries for her all the anger that she won't express and that allows her to be the "nice" one. She carries for him all the vulnerability he can't express and allows him to always be strong or feel in control. This is the epitome of the shapes engaged.

These are simple examples to demonstrate a point. Now back to the quote. So what happens when a person holds their own energy and they are empowered to be their own authority?
They have a control over who they are. They own their Self.
From this place a person isn't a slave to obligation or the nobility of suffering and lack. From this place a person can be all of who he or she is and not confined to a role and a stuck pattern.

Let's revisit the examples.
From here, the angry person stands alone in that anger and feels it. Just feels it for what it is. What is the message of the anger? Is it that someone has taken your power? Are you feeling obligated to behave in a way that you don't want? The anger becomes a source for power and not something that needs to be passed on down the chain of authority as is classically the case.

In the example of the smiling cashier- what happens when the cashier just stands in her own energy in a *real* way? Instead of trying to force the chitchat, she makes a small complaint or expresses her true feelings: "My feet hurt. How are you?" "I'm worried about getting home in the snow." From here the person as the customer has the freedom to be or feel what they want. This can be reveresed too. When the cashier is smiling away artificially, the customer can ask a real question and have a genuine interaction. What energetic richness that is!!

In the case of the couple-- this too often describes most of our closest relationships. There are patterns that we adapt. After learning the shapes teaching (in more depth then presented here), I laughed when I saw how our "soul mate" is really the person with whom we share the most compatible dysfunctions. We match because we carry for each other that which we are unable to carry for ourselves. And it is here that the white board work (a.k.a. Accipo) really reveals all these patterns we carry.

So often we are forced (we believe) into being and behaving in expected patterns. We may feel we have no choice (as the quote said: "forced into the animal cycle... of which nature and some religious doctrines condemn them.") BUT, we are not forced by nature or religion. We are only the victims of our own minds, our own values and our own beliefs. The best thing about this is that *we* can overcome our own minds. This is all within our power.

To me there is no higher principle then self- authority. You are responsible for you. The cure for energetic poverty has a name and it is called the empowerment of people.

With love,


(1)From "A Mind for Mastery"- unpublished manuscript by Ellie Hernon.

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