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Power and a hero's journey

I don’t know about you but power fascinates me. Brought up amidst overwhelming and overshadowing power stories, I was confused and strangely attracted by what seemed to be its elusive but mesmerising qualities.

It often seemed to be misused around me and so I failed at applying it in a wise, conscious and embodied manner for a very long time. I was scared of my own power.

I was brought up to believe that power is evil, an oppressive tool used by tyrants to abuse and control. Most of the powerful characters in literature, cinema, theatre, television are imbued with either super human, heroic myth-like qualities that are quite unreal and unattainable or mirror this culturally vilified dark, shadow side of power.

So much so that speaking about one’s own power can often be tainted with shame and self denial. We don’t dare mention it as the word itself can trigger overwhelm.

I remember having a conversation in college with a fellow student just after watching a doc on the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland at our media analysis class. He was convinced there was no such thing as positive power, it only could be negative surely, look at the state of the world.

I remember arguing with him to try and demonstrate the opposite: when you make someone laugh it is a powerful positive act isn’t it? It can shift someone’s mood, lighten up a whole situation… Falling in love, saving lives are empowering positive acts, aren’t they?…

It was quite a milestone moment for me because while doing so I was also consciously articulating and sitting in my own power, and not only did he listen to my argumentation but he got it.

The story of my coming to terms with my own and other people’s power is ongoing but I reached another milestone when I studied biodynamic cranio sacral therapy.

I had connected with this amazing inner life force through dancing, yoga and meditation before, but it is through cranio sacral therapy that I really sensed and almost dissected potency at a cellular level, that I witnessed life and vitality playing out in viscera, in a pumping aorta, in joints and in the ‘lit up’ cerebro-spinal fluid of a fourth ventricle…

These experiences both as a client receiving a treatment and as a therapist are so powerful indeed and yet they are neither evil nor good, they just are.

We’re taught to cultivate the art of non-doing in biodynamic cranio sacral therapy. There is no power play, no ‘verdict’ as a client recently asked, no diagnosis with ‘prescriptions’.

Movement Medicine founder Ya’acov Darling Khan says in his great book The Jaguar and the Butterfly, “power itself is neutral and it is entirely our choice what to do with it.”

Nowhere in my life did I feel the neutrality of power better than when I practiced, and received, this amazing therapy.

It taught me first and foremost that expressing one’s power truthfully is simply to be in tune with oneself. To deeply (and kindly) listen in and like in a Star trek episode “to boldly go where no man has ever gone before”: meet the strange, freaky, monstrous, unusual parts of us as well as embrace the magic, the bright sparks of life shining through it all, shining despite it all.

It is a heroic task. It takes discipline, tremendous courage and determination to act according to our heart and soul and surrender to an all powerful compassion for ourselves, for the living and the dying in Nature's eternal cycle.

One of the Gods that inspires me most in the Greek Pantheon is Hermes, the messenger, the bridge between what is mortal and what is divine, eternal. Taking the risk to glow exquisitely in the dark, despite the darkness is about learning to switch on our inner Hermes in my mind. He is also, after all, the guide to the Underworld.

Having a neutral sense of our own mortality, i.e. death does not scare or overwhelm us, also seasons our life journey with a good dose of humility and respect for our vulnerability, the delicate beauty of life and the living and its staggering might.

Ya’acov Darling Khan talks about the difference in the Mesoamerican traditions between the “tonal” and the “nagual”: the former is “all that is material and can be known. If we talk about a tree, the tonal is the leaves, the branches, trunk and cellular structure. The nagual is all that is non-material. It is the essence of that which gives life to that tree.” The Jaguar and the Butterfly.

Hermes is that connection between the tonal and the nagual, a very shamanic life-giving force which is super sentient and can navigate with ease between worlds.

“A nagual is someone who is in touch with this force,” adds Darling Khan.

As a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, I recognise this force as the Breath of Life, that which manifests into form, that which breathes us and all that lives into being, into dreaming our realities.

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