Using Power & Love

Today is the solstice. No matter which pole of this beautiful planet you stand closest to, it is a day to contemplate the gifts of nature, particularly the gifts of the earth’s cycles through lightness and darkness.

I have spent the past few months thinking about the idea of seeking light—pieces of my reflections are captured in Issue 06 of Anchor. Today, on the solstice, I offer the following reflection as a way of sharing some of the thoughts I have not yet expressed.

My experience of 2016 has been one of high highs and low lows—it has been a roller coaster of human experience both personal and communal. Like many of us, I have felt the dis-ease and uncertainty of our times politically, socially, and economically seep into my spiritual life, my professional life, and my relationships.

I have witnessed people coming together in solidarity as well as breaking up in division. I have shouted out loudly in protest. I have sat silently in prayer. I have laughed and cried, accepted and resisted, connected and isolated. I have turned toward my family and away from them. I have sought out relationship as well as solitude.

It’s been a year of paradox, sometimes dizzying in its confusion and yet more often profoundly clear in its truth; the truth that it is our ability to balance power and love that creates the path through joy, pain, uncertainty, and change.

As I talk about power and love it is easy to think of the stereotypes of the two—power as the wielding of control in an outward direction and love as inward, needy, perhaps stifling, mushy sweetness. I challenge you to expand your definitions of both in order to embrace this idea of seeking a balance power and love as a way of navigating these complicated times.

In his book Power and Love: A Theory of Social Change, Adam Kahane develops these ideas much more articulately than I will here. He defines—as Paul Tillich does—power as the “drive to self-realization… manifested in a focus on self-expression and self-growth” and love as the “drive to unite the separated… manifested in a focus on relationship and connection.” Furthermore, he suggests that the generative dimensions of power require love and that generative qualities of love rely upon power.

Exploring and teaching the ways that this theory operates in leadership for equity, peace, and healing is the spiritual justice work that my colleagues and I at Still Harbor aim to do day-in and day-out. In addition to my work, on a personal level, I have come to understand that my spiritual life is defined by the space and experience within which these two drives of power and love become one.

The solstice is a day that our sacred earth offers us an example that communicates the fundamental tool of perspective shift that is needed to embrace the truth of life’s many complex paradoxes.

We are able to celebrate the many gifts of sunshine because we know the challenges of the dark night’s sky. We are able to embrace the dark of night because we know it offers rest from the light of day.

Nature offers us insight into the question of how we ourselves are called to celebrate and embrace our own cyclical journeys between the poles of our experiences. Nature invites us to explore how understanding both the highs and the lows is precisely what enables us to find integration, balance, and oneness.

Today, I will be honoring the lessons in nature as I contemplate how 2017 can be a year of accepting the full range of human experience—mine and others’—in order to become more skillful in using power and love harmoniously.

What will you contemplate today as you honor the wisdom that nature offers us?