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by Ruth Cherry, PhD

Owning our power is the opposite of how it sounds. It isn’t about increasing anything but about letting go. Letting go of the defenses we have unconsciously assumed to get us through life whether that be working hard or avoiding work. Whatever we chose which reduced our anxiety and told us how to proceed, well, now at mid-life we release that. If our Controller told us to be good, now we step back and look at that Controller. So many of the new meditators I meet in the meditation group talk about being ‘good’ and doing what they ‘should.’ One man said his doctor told him to meditate daily. He came in with lots of questions, clearly wanting to meditate the way he does everything else–gathering information from authorities and reasoning his way through.

I like to use meditation as an example of how we do life. Meditation is just being present to the moment. We don’t know what we will experience. We just show up and say ‘I’m available.’ When a new meditator comes to group talking about the latest Wayne Dyer PBS show, I know we have some adjusting to do. I love Wayne Dyer and I watch the PBS installments eagerly. However, at meditation time I want to focus on being present to what is inside me at that second. As long as we stay in our heads looking outward at another, we cannot be present in meditation.

Meditation is life cut small. Whatever we do in meditation we do in life but probably without awareness. In meditation we turn on the spotlight and notice simply what is. If we power our way through life using our minds, that’s what we will see in meditation and that’s great. As long as we don’t identify with our minds. Or maybe it’s not your mind that provided you with a vehicle to motor through the exigencies of the first half of life. Maybe it was your humor or your athletic ability or your appearance or your charisma. Whatever we chose (long ago when we didn’t know we were choosing it) to ease our way has curtailed our aliveness. Whatever we have done, we look at in meditation. We notice the process which by now seems natural.

Controllers do what they do to be right or good or appropriate. But we don’t meditate for any of those reasons. We meditate to be. We just ‘be’ and notice what it is ‘to be’ this second. Fairly simple but what consternation it arouses! Meditation provides us with a snapshot of how we live. And it’s how we live that’s the backdrop for owning our power. So meditation helps us see what is.

The magic part of mid-life (and meditation) is the power of the unconscious to heal. Suddenly (it seems) something inside us brings us to experiences which release any tension we’ve maintained. And if we’ve lived listening to our Controllers we’ve probably stored a lot of tension over the years. So we meditate which is to say to Life, ‘I’m available to be healed. I don’t need to hold onto the shield my Controller has provided. I’m ready to see Life for what it is. More importantly I’m ready to experience Life without padding to reduce its shock.’ In meditation we say ‘Yes, I’m available this second. And this second. And this second.’ And that is what owning our power is about.

Meditation certainly isn’t the only way to effect this shift. It’s just an easy way to notice it. Owning our power comes down to not using our defenses, not structuring our experience, not closing off parts of ourselves, just being present to receive. Because when we get out of the way, we notice that Life has its own guidance for us and it’s not what our minds have concocted. Owning our power is saying ‘Yes’ to Life. Not ‘Yes, I think that’s a god idea so I’ll try it for a day.’ Owning our power is assuming a totally different relationship to Life.

In mid-life we move an additional step and say, ‘My primary relationship is with my inner world and I will trust its guidance no matter what. I won’t put stipulations on the guidance I receive. I won’t say, Now remember, Life, I don’t want to be homeless and I don’t want to be uncomfortable and please make sure retirement is pleasant.’ No. Owning our power is a complete letting go. It’s saying, ‘Yes, I am available.’ And saying that again every day.

Ruth Cherry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in private practice in San Luis Obispo, CA. Her specialty is midlife when psychological and spiritual dynamics merge. The power of the unconscious at midlife to heal and to transform is tapped in meditation. Besides writing about meditation, Ruth leads guided meditation groups weekly both for the public and for inmates in a state penitentiary. Her web site is www.midlifepsychology.com.

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