Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Becoming a Man of Power

I remember reading Carlos Castaneda's "Don Juan" books back in High School and being fascinated by the idea of a Man of Power. As I recall it now, this was a man who was constantly going beyond his limitations, feared by his enemies, with Death walking beside him. At the time, for a wounded teenager who had no idea where he belonged, this seemed like a good way to be. I wouldn't need anyone. I would be completely self-sufficient. I would be afraid of nothing and others would fear me. 

It wasn't until many years later, when I was studying more authentic versions of native Medicine ways that I discovered that the traditional view of the Man of Power is really quite different. To traditional native people, a Man of Power is someone who is living a good life, in balance with spirit, honoring his ancestors, caring for his descendants. Someone who others look to for advice or help when needed; trusted by his friends and family. A man of integrity, with a good home, a loving wife and healthy children. This is one who is blessed by the spirits, and that is a Man of Power. 

This is a very different vision than what I had read about back in High School, and it led me to consider some of the clear differences in our modern culture - relative to tradition ones - that lead us to believe that power is always something to use against others. 

It seems to me that our modern Western culture, especially here in the US, is more than a little bit like that wounded teenager I used to be. It seeks to overcompensate for its feelings of vulnerability by being so big and scary that no one will come near. It doesn't trust the good will of others, and is more motivated by its fear than by its real strength. Unfortunately, too many of us living here have become reflections of this cultural model. I know that I myself and still healing the wounds of that teenager, slowly realizing that I do belong after all and that there is room for me to explore the gifts that my ancestors granted me.

This is a message that is slow to come to people living here in this beautiful land. This is a place where money and possessions have been given great value, so that those without these things are considered powerless, helpless and pathetic. People here have forgotten that money is nothing more than a means of storing and directing energy. Perhaps it is because they have forgotten their connections to earth, ancestors and spirit that they have put so much onto money. But I can see what an empty goal it is, when that becomes an end in and of itself.

The only true power, in the traditional sense, comes from living a life in balance; honoring your ancestors; caring for those who you love; treating others as you would have them treat you. I have been walking this path for awhile now, setting aside the old wounds and taking up joy. In doing so, my life has changed completely. It has not been easy. The old wounds are hard to let go of. But the result is that I live a fulfilling life. I love my wife and look forward to having a family with her. My work is easy and rewarding, because it flows from within me. I am loved, respected and appreciated by those who are important to me. This is heaven. This is becoming a Man of Power. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sorting Babas

I had an experience today that points out just how easy it is to use the same words to mean different things. 

I had zoomed out of the house for a lunch appointment with my friend Rabbi Dave and had almost made it all the way across town to Baba India, one of my favorite restaurants, when I realized that I had zoomed out without my monk's bag (wallet, driver's license and other necessary items). So - I found a place to make a possibly legal U-turn and zoom back home. By now I was feeling a little like a mazda commercial gone wrong. 

My bag was right where I had left it and I snatched it up and ran back out the door, jumped in my car and sped off again. On my way, I realized that I was already late for our appointment so I juggled cell phone and palm pilot to find Dave's number and gave him a quick call to let him know that I was on the way. "No problem. I'm here. See you soon." So, I arrive at Baba India and walk in, scanning the packed tables for his familiar smiling face, and . . . nothing! Did he get bored and leave? Is he in the men's room? 

I step back outside and take a turn around the parking lot to see if his car is there. No familiar bumper stickers! I begin to panic - mildly. I get out my cell phone and call Dave again. 


"I'm here. Where are you?"

"I'm in the back, where the couches are."

(Couches? What couches?) I walk back inside, still scanning. "I don't seeee you. Are you at Baba's?"

"Yes. The one in Clifton, right?" 

"No! The one in Clifton is AMBAR India. Baba's is owned by their cousins - or something."

"No - Baba Budan's. The coffee bar?"

"...oh. Wow. I haven't been there in a long time. Are they still around?"

SO you see how easy it is to take one name - Baba's - and have it mean two very different things. 

Fortunately the story ends well. We had a great lunch that started late but lasted until after 2:00. We discussed future projects and set up a time for our next lunch - location to be decided - before going our separate ways, full, satisfied and no longer quite as confused, at least about where Baba's is. Somethings are just in more than one place at a time. 

(And it gave me something to break the writer's block I've had on this blog, so all is well!!!)