You Have the Power

Posted: February 26, 2011 in Articles

By John Abbe

I met Ali Palh a couple of years ago, when he was in the Nonviolent Peaceforce in Sri Lanka and participated in a workshop I was offering there on Nonviolent Communication. We saw each other again just recently when I was visiting family in my home town of Boston, Massachusetts in the USA.

John Abbe

 

I had some awareness of the situation in Pakistan, but Ali shared more including the serious  malnutrition of children in Sindh province. He told me about this website, and asked if I would write something for you. I firmly believe in the power each of us has to make a difference, even in the most difficult circumstances,  as Pakistan and Sindh are facing and so in mind I wrote this.

You can forget this, but you cannot prevent it from being true. Other people (and animals, plants, the planets and stars, etc.) all have power as well, but in regard to the way you experience the world, and your ability to do things in it, you have ultimate power.We know this is true because there are people who model this for us, despite being in the most horrible circumstances. When Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner in South Africa for organizing against apartheid he did not despair. Until he realized he might never again have the chance to express his love to the people who mattered to him, and he lost awareness of his power. When he regained it, he found a way forward: he loved his guards, through the tiny windows of interactions he had with them around them bringing him food, and occasionally letting him out of his cell.

Flood Victims in Sindh- You Have Powe

This had the effect that some of them eventually refused to continue to take part in imprisoning him. So, reclaiming your power can lead to unexpectedly powerful outcomes. But just as important was the “income” Mandela received, not when he learned the effect he had on others, but the immediate effect upon himself, because being able to express his love again nurtured him tremendously.

Floods victim in Punjab- This cot is their home

Are you imprisoned in some way? Are there things that you tell yourself you “have to” do, or should/must/can’t, etc.? Mandela could not see his loved ones because he was physically prevented from doing so. Most of us live in prisons that are mostly our own making – I don’t really have to do paid work I don’t love, it’s just that if I don’t I may eventually have to move out of the co-operative house I live in, and be reduced to begging for food. That “prison” isn’t only of my own making, it also has to do with the rest of the world – the economic and social/political world I live in (which can be cruel in its lack of caring for people’s basic needs), and the natural world (there are some basic physical needs which if I do not satisfy, I will die). Whatever the apparent source of my imprisonment, Mandela’s experience makes it obvious that it is always possible for me to reclaim my power in response to my “prison” and maintain a positive attitude, and that often it is even possible to come up with strategies that will really make a difference.

 

Too Many Affected-Too Less Available-People Jostling for food

The thing that has most helped me to develop and nurture my personal power* is Nonviolent Communication, and more generally (from long before I had heard of that) all of the deeply honest and compassionate conversations I have had with friends, lovers, and family. I’ve also been supported by meditation and mindfulness, journalling, and long walks. My life would be simple if I thought that spreading personal processes was enough for us to make a world that works for all, but the challenges we face are systemic in nature, and call for a systemic response. Personal development is an important part of that, but there is so much more that is called for. In a later post I may explore the larger scales and what we can do about them.

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