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Standing Still To Claim Your Power

An old tree that is dying from the outside in
Standing still like an ancient tree

In my last post, I provided detailed instructions on a walking meditation that I’ve been using for the past couple of decades to support my meditation practice and goals of developing a strong, multifaceted set of internal resources for not only dealing with life, but to actually thrive within a reciprocal and dynamic relationship between myself and the world.

Today I’d like to share about standing meditation and how it can help support our intention to show up and choose to be present – or as Angeles Arrien calls it, to manifest our power. She considers this archetypal personality facet to be an aspect of leadership.

Arrien proposes that there are three universal powers, that is ways of being with others that demonstrate qualities of leadership. The first is the power of presence. This is essentially what has become well known as being mindful in attending to those around us and to our environment. Yet, I think that most Americans would associate mindfulness with a very peaceful, pastoral presence, one in which others might not even notice that you are around. The power of presence on the other hand is akin to “showing up”, “choosing to be visible”, so it is attending to the present moment, not distracted or checked out, and, optimally ready to engage in the most effective manner called on by circumstances with all of our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual faculties simultaneously. Perhaps like what it must have felt like to be in a room when Bruce Lee walked in, quiet and calm, and unmistakably present.

The second power is that of communication. Effective leadership requires effective communication. When we are in our power, we communicate clearly; we are congruent in tone, body language, and affect; and we speak so our audience wants to listen.

Finally, the third power is that of position. This is the act of taking stand and being clear about your loyalty. You might need to protect or support justice, honesty, integrity, or solidarity to name a few. What you do not do, is hang out in the back of the crowd waiting to see what will happen next.

Of course, there are more aspects to this warrior archetype, but they are all elaborations on the universal powers.

If you are wondering how you are doing with respect to showing up and being present, there are some stereotypical ways in which we misuse or fail to use our power. All three of these are, interestingly, iconic American stereotypes, two are reactionary – the rebel and the one with authority issues, and they are often in reaction to the conformist, who practices being invisible. We idealize rebels in our culture, and there is no doubt that rebels have been extremely important in all sorts of social change, it’s that rebel without a causethat is problematic (not only for us, but primarily for themselves). When we are having authority issues, we are acting within the norms of society (so not as a rebel), yet we are acting from the position of being a victim and responding with defensiveness, blaming others for our situation, guilt tripping and gas lighting. Then there are those times when we seek to avoid conflict so we find ways to remain invisible. This pattern can seem very adaptive, the trustworthy servant, right-hand man, etc. can all get some needs met, yet we are not acting with agency and truly giving what we have to offer.

You may have noticed that I was not entirely consistent in presenting these stereotypes as fixed patterns of behaviors compared to temporary patterns we might exhibit under specific circumstances. That is intentional. Some folks find themselves acting from these disempowered places chronically and that’s the worst case scenario, yet I think all of us can relate to times and places where we fall into these patterns even if that is not our typical way of being in the world.

The good news is, you can engage in many different types of practices and methods for increasing your leadership aspect. This is where we come back to standing meditation. The practice described below is aimed at helping you access the quality of present and inner authority.

As with walking meditation, there are many ways to do this and it appears in many different meditation traditions. If you’ve practiced Tai-Chi or Chi-Gong, you’ve had a lot of experience with standing meditation already. In this practice we’ll focus specifically on nurturing our leadership facet.

Find a place, preferably outdoors, but in front of a window with a view into nature will also work, and if that isn’t possible then anyplace where you can have both feet firmly on the ground about shoulder width apart will work. Ideally you will have a distant horizon in front of you and you can place your gaze on the horizon, with a soft focus, not intending to see anything in particular, otherwise, place your gaze softly in front of you as far in front of you as possible.

Your overarching purpose with this meditation is to honor sacred time. You have set aside time for introspection, contemplation, discovery, and all aspects of what sacred means to you. Take a few moments to align your mental state with this purpose.

Breathing naturally, begin to attend to the present moment, letting go of memories from the past and fantasies about the future.

Bring your awareness to the weight of your body supported by the earth. Feel into your position, standing on your own two feet, embodying self-respect and self-esteem. Reflect on what is going on in your life, where you are showing up and being present. Reflect on what is going on in your life where you are rebelling for no benefit, stuck in a pattern of blame, judgment, withdrawal, or where your presence could really make a difference, yet you are sitting in the back row observing. Just allow these situations to arise into your awareness and hold them in the stillness of your stance. This is not the time to take action, imbue your entire being with patience, strength, and clarity.

If you like, you can play this audio recording of me guiding you through the meditation.

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