The reason I’m so obsessed with the idea of personal power is because I clearly remember the feeling of being personally powerless—no confidence in my voice, no strength in my convictions, little authority over my own life.
Understanding this, it no longer surprises me that when I first learned about the concept of my own power, I not only wanted to awaken it, I wanted to awaken it now. I learned the hard way that power truly can be dangerous in the wrong hands—even our own.
But since then, I’ve grown an entirely new relationship with my own power. I’ve learned how potent it is, and I’ve come to respect it. I’m careful and discerning with it. And I’ve also come to see how crucial it is for us all to awaken to power in this time on the planet. This is what this movement to awaken to power is all about.
My daughters were two years old and three months old. Both of them had been colicky babies. I believed I had a life purpose, but I didn’t know how to find it. Returning to the workforce where my skillset—computer programming—was outdating itself every single week wasn’t a viable or even appealing option. At 32 years old I felt beaten down, ridiculously sleep-deprived, and was sinking fast in the quicksand of depression.
Like the idea that we function on only a tiny percentage of our brain capacity, most of us operate at only a tiny fraction of our potential consciousness. This means that most of the decisions we think we are making consciously are likely habitual. It means that many of our ardent beliefs are probably hand-me-downs (from family of origin or the culture). For way too many of us, this means we live our lives as if we are sleepwalking, rather than abiding in a moment-to-moment relationship with people, situations, and reality itself.
This was what my life had become: a rote repetition of activities that I didn’t enjoy or found no value in. More than that—the approaching depression assured that I didn’t even know how to truly enjoy and value things anymore.
I was at a time in my life when I needed to either wake up to my own power, or find ways (and our society provides plenty of options) to numb myself in order to not feel the pain.
A Frightening First Introduction to my Power
In yoga and spiritual circles, the coiled, potent power within us is known as “kundalini.” The metaphorical representation of the kundalini is a coiled up snake sleeping at the base of our spines. Kundalini is an electric current of increased awareness and consciousness, and once awakened, it promised to give us a clearer life path, and a greater understanding of the two greatest questions ever asked: Who am I? and Why am I Here?
My powerless combination of lack of purpose, fatigue, overwhelm, and general disillusionment set me up to be a receptive student of any offered remedy. “Awaken my kundalini” seemed about the best remedy I’d ever heard of. So I didn’t just sign up for a yoga class here and there. I submerged myself in the world of yoga and self-help.
The way I interpreted the teachings on kundalini (which may or may not have been any teacher’s intention) was that once my kundalini rose up my spine my life would finally settle in to its happy place. I would completely understand my purpose in the world, and would be able to begin a more meaningful life. My mental health would stabilize, and then soar. Parenting would come naturally to me (like it was supposed to!). My marriage would right itself into bliss and harmony. Lasting contentment in the face of life’s difficulties would be mine. My work would be done.
I pursued an awakening posthaste. I did the meditations they told me would awaken my kundalini, and practiced the breathing techniques that would clear the channels for its rise. In other words, I forced myself to wake up. And my body was not even close to being prepared for that kind of power to start coursing through it.
You know the sensation when someone suddenly opens the blinds in a darkened bedroom? The pain and discomfort? Begging for someone to please, please, turn the lights off again?
That was me.
The power of kundalini
I felt the power of kundalini energy ringing in my ears, buzzing in my brain, jolting through my limbs. I felt the kundalini in the weakness of my body and the instability of my mind. If I was confused before, if I felt uncertainty about my life before, I felt it even more so now.
I had indeed awakened my power, but I had no idea what to do with it, or how to channel it, or even how to keep myself safe from it. Like an auto-immune disease, my own power turned itself on me.
(For a great book about the power and the dangers of kundalini from someone who experienced it at an even greater depth than I did, read Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy of Man, by Gopi Krishna.)
I detail this part of my life in my upcoming book, Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness—A Memoir of New Beginnings. I did get better. Though, never entirely. To this day, I can still feel the lingering side-effects of my forced awakening in my nervous system. It increases my sensitivity to, well, almost everything—noise, light, food, music, temperature.
This was one of the most dangerous and simultaneously critical times of my life. I learned many lessons about patience, and power, and the importance of using caution when we awaken to our power. Because this coiled, potent potential inside us—inside you—is the real fuckin’ deal.
In other words: respect the snake, lest it bites you.
The Purpose of Power
For a while after my kundalini experience, I remained at a safe distance from practices that promised to awaken any kind of latent energy within me. I asked the snake to go back to sleep for a while so I could heal, which it gratefully did. The result of my introduction to power wasn’t what I had hoped it would be—eternal contentment, a realization of purpose, a happy demeanor—but I grew (reluctantly at first) much wiser about the power of our power.
Like the snake that represents it, our power is no joke. It should never be shaken awake, as I had done. We must coax it awake, while simultaneously putting our newfound power and understanding to work in the world. Anyone who practices techniques to awaken their power better be ready to be asked to use it for good in the world.
Not despite, but exactly because of my scary brush with power, it still feels worth it to me to rekindle and learn how to manage this energy. More than worth it—it feels necessary.
Because it is our power that gives us the strength to claim our own authority and personal sovereignty. Once we have that, we can help others find theirs.
Our power feeds our courage to continue to face and challenge our own belief sets, habits, and ways of life. Once we do that for ourselves, these beliefs lose power collectively.
Power gives us confidence in who we are, whether or not we find our purpose. And anyone who values themselves simply for their own existence is someone who can remind others that they, too, are inherently valuable in their humanness alone.
This power transforms a single individual from a human being who is sleepwalking through the days to one who is awake and making a notable difference in the world. One who is boldly addressing the inequities in the world as an agent of change. And one who is kindling this same kind of awakening in everyone they meet.
How to awaken to life/for Life
Awakening our power is not something that can be done in the confines of a yoga studio. Awakening is a process we engage in every day, and every moment. And staying awake is an even more difficult process than coming awake.
Staying awake means watching for times when we’re going through our days and interactions by habit, rote, or conditioning. We all do it. Can you catch it?
It means questioning our beliefs and ideas, and watching our behavior and thoughts as if from outside them. Can you let them go?
It means making eye-contact with people we interact with and listening carefully in conversations to not just what is said but what is unsaid. Can you feel empathy and compassion for the told and untold parts of their journey?
Waking up is a result of our brazen and unabashed willingness to continue to look at our life and our society with our eyes wide open. It does not give us permission or the tools to walk away from our lives, or wishful-thinking them into a forced emotional state—any forced emotional state. Quite the opposite—power gives us the fortitude and resilience to accept things as they truly are.
Awakening our power means we have to do the work all the time and every day. And it means taking responsibility for the insights and clarity we gain along the way. Because once you awaken your power, you will see things you haven’t before. You will understand things you didn’t before. So you must do things you never thought of before.
This is what it means to become powerful. It means to become as aware, real, and alive as we can be in every moment. It isn’t the safe path. But if you read to the end of this post, you aren’t looking for safe, anyway.