(It Doesn’t Take Much for a Team Member to Turn “Powerlessness” Into Leading From Below)
If you’ve been reading along with these posts, you know that according to my reckoning, all members of The Team are basically entrepreneurs—literally, people who bring (prendre) something into (entre) being. This means that none of us has the luxury of fitting into some time-tested social or economic structure, then letting that structure carry us along like fallen leaves in a stream. Because each person on the Team has a new and unique function to fulfill in the effort to save the world, we have to lead our lives, rather than following any existing pattern. The only stream that carries Teammates is what Eckhardt Tolle calls “the Unmanifested,” or the non-physical energy that is always creating new patterns.
I’ve also said that the energy of leadership can be exercised in three different ways: up, across, and down. In other words, we must not only lead people who fall below us in the social power structure, but also people who have similar power, wealth, and status, and finally, people who have social or economic power over us. (Of course, from the Team’s point of view—the perspective of the mystic—all these power differentials are just illusions. Moreover, since the only way for a Teammate to lead is to serve others, we’re really talking about offering a particularly pure form of service to anyone we meet, no matter how powerless or powerful they may appear.)
In this post, I’ll be talking about what sounds like the most paradoxical form of leadership: the kind where—at least from a material perspective—you’re at the bottom of an authority structure, “leading up.” It’s the one sort of leadership everyone can master, because we all start life as almost completely powerless larva pets. Some of us—such as abused children who go on to abusive marriages, jobs, or prisons—have never seen ourselves as rising above the bottom rung of any power structure. That can feel like an awful curse. Time to turn it into a stroke of fabulous luck.
If you’re on the Team, you see, places of apparent disempowerment are wonderful training grounds. They’re the very places where you can best learn to lead. Historically, over and over, Team members have shown this ability to become leaders in precisely the sorts of situations where anyone else would have claimed leadership was “impossible.” Saints, social activists, artists, and other mystics use difficult situations to create new ways of being for themselves, their associates, and sometimes the whole human race. They became embodiments of infinite possibility. “Impossible” became “I’m possible.”
Okay, I went a long way for that sappy pun. Please forgive me; I don’t get out much.
Now, back to our Team leadership lesson.
How to Lead Up: A Practical Guide to a Mystical Phenomenon
Step One: Access the Power of the Love Zone
In a previous post, I described aikido exercises you can use to test the fact—and it is a demonstrable fact—that you have more physical power over an opponent when you’re in a place of love and relaxation than when you’re in a state of resistance. To me, the best thing about the exercises is that you don’t have to love your opponent. Sustaining a feeling of deep love for anything or anyone makes you stronger than an opponent who’s in the energy of violent struggle.
Many legendary leaders—Buddha, Mother Teresa, several characters played by the young Shirley Temple—have shown an amazing ability to hold the energy of love, and hence became leaders even when they had none of the social trappings of power. I call this “staying in the Love Zone.” It’s an essential factor in all Team leadership, the only way any of us can fulfill our personal destinies, and help save the world. When you’re “leading up,” staying in the Love Zone is especially crucial. The less power you get from the material world, the more you need to draw on the power of the Zone.
This power doesn’t even exist in the “non-magical” world, yet it can beat overwhelming odds when it’s exercised with skill. I love Gandhi’s observation, “There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail. Think of it: always.” Of course, after saying this, Gandhi was murdered by a tyrant, so there are still a few bugs in the system. But you gotta admit, that one small skinhead for peace did a lot of leading from the Love Zone. He managed to stay there for years, like a pilot riding a blanket of still air with storms raging above, below and all around.
And you must learn to do the same thing.
Step Two: Practice Staying Zoned In No Matter What
As a Team member, you have more than the average bear’s familiarity with the “magical” force of relaxed compassion. If you did the homework I assigned in my last post, you practiced getting into this Love Zone (for example, by doing the aikido exercises) and then going into different public spaces while consciously holding your compassionate energy in a steady state. If you haven’t tried this, do it sometime soon.
Then, amp up the volume.
Once you can feel the Zone alone and in public places with fairly neutral energy, stay Zoned in while inviting situations that are more difficult and stressful. Stay in the Zone while you rock your collicky baby, or a sit out a really bad traffic jam, or attend a gathering of people whose biases you loathe. Think of the most unpleasant person you ever have to deal with, and actively seek to interact with this person, just to practice staying in the Zone no matter what.
An excellent practice is to stay in the Love Zone while watching a political TV pundit with whom you disagree: Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly if you’re a liberal, Keith Olberman or Jon Stewart if you’re conservative. Remember, you don’t have to agree with these people—you don’t even have to like them. Your only job is to stay in the Love Zone, by continuously connecting with images that bring you feelings of peace, joy, and affection. Can you watch a pundit with your physical eyes and hear him bray with your physical ears while holding the energy of your first love, your adorable puppy, the joyful moment you managed to produce something halfway drinkable with the still you set up behind the barn?
Oh yes, you can.
In fact, you must.
Hey, do you want to save the world, or what?
Step Three: Use Your Spider-Senses to Assess the Energy of the Power Structure
For this next step, think of a situation in your actual life where you’re at the bottom of a power pyramid. Maybe you feel you’re relatively powerless when dealing with your boss, your parents, the police. Maybe you’re in an unbalanced relationship, financially dependent on a partner or mentor. Whatever your particular circumstance may be, call it Situation X.
Now it’s time for something that you, as a Teammate, can do more capably than most people: use your psychic powers to analyze Situation X. Yeah, I said psychic powers. I’m tired of pretending these don’t exist, when not only personal experience but good science (read Dean Radin’s books for more details) shows that human consciousness can do things that are physically “impossible.”
The most psychic Teammate I know is a nurse I’ll call Sonia, a woman of truly astonishing capabilities. One day I asked her if she can teach other people to develop a “sixth sense” like hers.
“I don’t have teach them,” she said. “Everyone can do it. What’s unnatural is the way we learn not to use those abilities. I call it ‘sandbagging.’ We choke off our access to ways of knowing we see as irrational. But we sometimes take down the sandbags when we’re in frightening situations, because we instinctively know that we need all the information we can get.
“That’s why so many people on the Team had difficult childhoods,” she continued. (Sonia knows all about the Team, I can assure you). “In dangerous situations, life is training us to use all our intuition. For example, growing up with alcoholic parents would make a child less likely to “sandbag” her intuition, because alcoholic behavior is so irrational that predicting it almost necessitates having psychic ability. The same thing is true of violent, neglectful, sexually abusive, or just-plain-nuts parents—miserable environments make for intuitive children, who grow up into intuitive adults. This isn’t the only way to be intuitive, but it’s the most common.”
So, as a Team member—by nature, nurture, or both—you probably have much better-than-average ability to take the “sandbags” off your intuitive ability. Right now, turn your extra senses to Situation X. “Feel” the system to see if there’s something spooky or creepy or icky about it. Notice where you’re willing to trust the power structure, and where you know you’d be foolish to trust it. Take off the sandbags by feeling what you feel and knowing what you know about Situation X. Then, put Situation X into one of the following three categories:
- BASICALLY SANE POWER STRUCTURE: Situation X, and its leaders aren’t perfect, but on the whole they’re just, fair, responsive, and well-intentioned.
- INNOCENTLY DYSFUNCTIONAL POWER STRUCTURE: The people above me in the power structure of Situation X are innately well-intentioned, but they’re also quite unhealthy—there’s a lot of fear-based, dysfunctional behavior in the people and organization.
- TRULY CRAZY OR EVIL POWER STRUCTURE: Situation X is dangerous and destructive. The organization and its leaders embrace beliefs or behaviors that are immoral and corrupt. No one at the top of the power structure has either the intention or the ability to change things for the better.
You’ll find that if you let go of your “sandbags,” you know—clearly and definitely—which category best describes your particular Situation X. DO NOT RATIONALIZE, EXCUSE, OR EDIT YOUR INNATE KNOWLEDGE with thoughts like, “Well, if I can’t say something nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all,” or “I’m sure she’d be a happy, kind person if she didn’t have that third breast.” Just know what you know and feel what you feel. If you’re not being honest with yourself, you’ll feel uncomfortable, confused, and anxious. When you’re totally truthful, you’ll feel the strangely relaxing “click” of the your own authenticity even when you’re acknowledging that a system you love is evil.
I’ll never forget the lady in one of my workshops who wasn’t sure she was in the right marriage. She lived apart from her husband because she was nervous and unsettled in his presence. When he’d visit her at her house she’d brace herself beforehand, then “detox” afterward. She would actually go through each room of her home burning sweetgrass, a Native American practice called “smudging” that’s meant to cleanse an area of evil and negative energy.
“I’m starting to think,” said this lovely woman, “that the marriage may not be right for me.”
Wow. Ya think?
So get our of denial, take those sandbags off your intuition, evaluate System X frankly, and prepare to lead up. You’ll need different strategies depending on whether System X is sane, dysfunctional, or evil. I originally meant to describe all three in this blog post. But I see that I’ve already written many many words, and your “leading up” instructions will require many many more, so I’m going to wrap this up. Check the next post for directions on leading up in a sane system.