I had the great pleasure of speaking with Gary Zukav, author of The Seat of the Soul, and his spiritual partner Linda Francis. I am delighted to share with you their beautiful insight.
B: I’ve heard you talk about authentic power. What do you mean by authentic power?
GZ: Life with more joy and less pain, life with more love and less fear, a life that you live consciously and in which you’re fully engaged in the present moment. A life in which what you do is fulfilling and satisfying and your most heart-felt creativity flows without obstruction. That’s authentic power. It’s possible to create such life and, in fact, the only way that you can experience such a life is to create it. That’s what all of our books and all of our activities help people to do: create authentically powerful lives.
B: Every time I turn on the TV I notice that there is an ad for a new drug or antidepressant. It seems that stress and worry are so prevalent. We talk about authentic power but it seems that very few people understand how to actually access that. They are so caught up in stress, worry and fear. Why do you think it’s so prevalent and why are so many people misunderstanding what they need to do to create the lives they desire?
GZ: Most people don’t know what is necessary to create the life they desire because they are not aware of the necessary tools, such as emotional awareness and responsible choice, among others. Tools such as meditation, mantras and prayer are all very helpful, but in order to see what else is now needed it is necessary to look at the dramatic shift in human consciousness that is now underway and affecting millions of people. This shift is occurring inside each of us, one by one. It is an expansion of our perception beyond the five senses. In other words, it’s your ability to obtain information or data that your eyes, ears, taste, nose, and sense of touch can’t provide you. We’re becoming highly intuitive, and this new expansion of human consciousness brings with it new potential. Old ways of becoming healthier aren’t as affective anymore. In fact some of them are counter productive. So as we all become multisensory, no longer limited to the perceptions of the five senses, we begin to become aware of ourselves as more than bodies and minds. We can sense that there’s meaning in our lives. There are reasons for our experiences and we can learn from them. All of that is true.
LF: These are the parts that get overwhelmed, stressed out; feel like it’s not worth living. Why am I doing this? I feel like I’m on a merry-go-round. These are parts of your personality that are frightened.
GZ: Your question was, why is there so much stress? There has always been stress in human life. Now our evolution depends on finding the internal sources of our emotional pain and changing those sources rather than changing what on the outside of us appears to be causing that.
B: So if someone were to come up to you and say, Okay Gary, I need to find my internal sources. What do I do? How do I do it? What would you tell them?
GZ: Oh, that’s easy. Do you have any buttons that someone can push? If you talk to someone long enough, you’ll get a button pushed. You’ll get angry or resentful or defensive or judgmental. That reaction is the experience of the frightened part of your personality.
B: I teach that all the thoughts and beliefs that we have get held in our body. One of the things we need to do is not only to be aware of our thoughts but also to be aware of the feeling in the body. Can you talk about that a little bit?
GZ: Let’s put it this way, emotional awareness is a very central part of creating authentic power. As you become multisensory you begin to understand that your painful emotions are not simply unpleasant experiences that are to be avoided if possible by staying inside your comfort zone. They are instead designed to bring your attention to parts of your personality that you need to heal, that you need to change in order to move into your fullest potential. Everyone wants to create harmony and cooperate and share and revere Life. Everyone wants to be a kinder and a gentler person. Everyone has high aspirations, but you can’t reach them when you’re angry or jealous, or when you can’t stop eating,
LF: or when you’re judging people,
GZ: or when you’re watching pornography and can’t stop,
LF: or blaming others,
GZ: or in a continual power struggle.
B: It sounds like the lack of awareness of our emotions leads to addictions.
GZ: It’s not the lack of awareness that leads to the addiction. It’s the other way around. When an emotional experience is so painful that you don’t want to feel it, then you often do something that keeps you from feeling it. For example, shouting at someone. When you get angry, if, instead of acting on that anger, you feel what your feeling in your body, you will find physical discomfort; physical sensations that are unpleasant and often painful. It’s easier to shout than it is to actually experience those sensations. For some who don’t want to experience the emotion, the fix is to shout when they’re angry. Others who don’t want to experience the emotion will use shopping or sex as a fix. For others it’s to work fourteen hours a day. And yet for other people it’s to have their house in perfect order.
B: In other words, we distract ourselves from our emotional pain, not realizing that it is our pain that is one of our greatest teachers.
GZ: That’s exactly right. And when you become aware of that, you naturally want to experience everything that you’re feeling. Your life then becomes a walking, living, 24/7 meditation that shows you the parts of your personality that you need to heal in order to be the loving and enlightened person that you know you can be. Every time you observe yourself out of control, such when you are arguing, a power struggle, or needing to smoke, eat, drink, gamble, watch pornography, have sex or work until you are exhausted, anytime you see any of those activities in you, you can stop that activity, even if it is only for a moment, and look inside yourself to feel what physical sensations are occurring. Look for the physical sensations. Look for them in your throat, or your chest area or your solar plexus area. There are actually seven places in your body where you can look for those sensations. In the East, they are called chakras. When you find those painful physical sensations and you focus on them, your attention automatically goes to what is occurring inside of you instead of what you think is creating what is occurring inside of you.
That puts you in a position to start changing the source of those painful sensations. The source is not outside of you. It is never outside of you. It is inside of you, so as long as you continue to try to change what is outside of you, you won’t be able change the source of your painful experiences. You may be able to relieve those experiences temporarily. For example, if you’re angry at someone and you shout because you are angry, or you weep because that’s your way of getting someone to do what you need them to do, then as soon as the other person does exactly what you want that person to do, you temporarily stop feeling the painful physical sensations in your body. But the next time another person does something that displeases you those sensations come back and the next time and the next time. So you have to keep trying to change people outside of you to get them to do what you want them to do, to think like you.
LF: until you decide to look inside yourself and see what’s happening in you, and when you begin that process it’s painful. It’s not easy to do, but if you don’t do that, then you continue to be controlled by what’s going on outside of you. You don’t even know it.
B: Once you begin to have an awareness of this pain, what do you do with it?
GZ: The question is not what you do with the pain. The question is what you do with your life now that you’re feeling the pain. Suppose that you’ve developed the skill in your life to be able to scan what you are feeling in the vicinities of energy centers in your body. Now when you feel that you absolutely need to have another cookie, you can scan and feel whatever painful sensations are occurring in you. Then the next question is whether you are going to have the cookie or not. If you take the cookie, that is the fix. Every time you choose not to take the cookie, the frightened part of you that is causing the pain that you have been masking by eating begins to lose its power over you. That’s how you challenge it, and the more you challenge it, the more it loses its power over you and the more you gain power over it. That’s how you create an authentically powerful life.
Most people are living an unempowered life. When they get angry they shout. When they feel hurt, they withdraw emotionally. When they don’t want to experience the pain of feeling rejected or not having the world the way they want it to be, they work harder or have sex or take a drink and all of that is a loss of power. You lose power when you are controlled by external circumstances.
B: With regard to appreciating life regardless of what comes up, I believe that we tend to label everything as good and bad. It sounds like, when we experience authentic power we don’t see circumstances as bad, but as an opportunity, is that correct?
GZ: We don’t see painful experiences as bad but as learning opportunities. Everything in the Earth school is good. That’s why the experience that you have between your birth and death is meaningful. It all has a purpose. The purpose is to help you grow spiritually. This is the central perception of the human who is becoming multisensory. If you’re experiencing painful emotions it’s not because you’re bad. You’re experiencing a frightened part of your personality. That frightened part of your personality among other frightened parts is what’s keeping you from enjoying your life, from giving your gifts, from accessing your creativity, your spontaneity. It’s keeping you locked in a narrow focus of fear or resentment or anger or jealousy.
B: I’d like to talk about relationships. It seems we have some misconceptions about relationships. When we enter into a relationship how do we apply authentic power and understand what relationship is really about for us?
LF: I think that most people, for instance, when they get into a relationship or get married, think that everything should go smoothly. They try their best, at first, to put up a good front, to please the other person, to make sure that everything goes well. Then things start to fall apart and unravel they think that something’s wrong,something’s wrong with me, something’s wrong with him. But if I know that my purpose in the relationship is to grow spiritually, then it changes everything. Everything that comes up in the relationship that creates painful sensations in my body, whether it’s getting angry, being in a power struggle, wanting to be right about whatever, they are all opportunities for me to look inside and see what’s going on inside of me rather than blaming my partner. If that is really understood deeply, then everything that happens in the relationship has great value and gives great support in growing spiritually, in creating authentic power. The power struggles bring great opportunities to learn about myself. I know that when Gary and I are in a power struggle, we stop. We feel what we’re feeling and look inside and see what it is that’s coming up. That way I cannot only have love for myself, but I feel loving towards my Beloved.
B: So rather than blaming then, we are turning it around and saying thank you for showing me my hurt places because you are giving me a chance to grow?
LF: Your frightened parts are very strong and they want to be right more than anything. All of us know that. All of us know that when we are in a power struggle, we want to blame the other person and think that we are right. When I see I have encountered this part of myself that wants to be right again, that’s blaming. If I feel what that feels like in my body, and then choose differently than I have in the past, for example, to say something loving or not speak at all, what a difference that makes! I may even find out why that’s coming up. Maybe I’ll find that out in the moment and maybe I won’t discover that until later, but the most important thing is that I’m challenging that frightened part of me instead of indulging it again.
GZ: Whatever you react to shows you something about yourself. If you see in your partner something you don’t like and it angers you, for example, you think that your partner is being inconsiderate or self-centered, that is the time to look inside yourself. When you do, you will find in you the very thing that you don’t like about your partner. You will find that there are frightened parts of you that are inconsiderate, disrespectful, and manipulative. Whatever it is that angers you or upsets you when you see it in someone else, you will be able to find in yourself if you look. When you find it, your irritation with the other person will evaporate because you will know what that person is feeling, you will understand it and your heart will melt. It might be that the other person is actually inconsiderate or attempting to manipulate you, but if you don’t need to manipulate others and you encounter a person who does, you’ll simply see that that person as he or she is manipulative. You won’t get upset about it.
LF: Or judge them. You’ll make choices that are in alignment with what you need to do for yourself.
GZ: When you have an emotional charge, that’s your flag that tells you that you have something to learn about yourself. Most people, when they have a negative emotional charge think that there’s something to learn about the other person, and so they don’t take the time to look inside themselves. They are then in the position of someone who is in a room filled with riches but who won’t turn on a light to look around.
LF: When you meet a person and you instantly don’t like them, that experience gives you an amazing possibility to learn so much. If you write a list of everything you don’t like about that person, you will begin to see, if you are open and honest with yourself, that the list contains some of very the things you have denied about yourself, that you don’t want to look at about yourself. You’d rather push someone else away and say it’s that person and not you who is repulsive, instead of finding and healing frightened parts of your personality.
B: So every interaction that we have is an opportunity to take a look at what’s going on within you and heal.
GZ: That’s right or to find the loving parts of your personality and cultivate them. There are two parts to creating authentic power. One is finding the frightened parts of your personality. As you develop emotional awareness, you can identify these parts because they are painful to experience. You challenge them by not doing what you habitually have done when they are active, for example, you don’t shout when you are angry, if you usually shout when you are angry. You also find the loving parts of your personality. These are the parts that are patient and caring and considerate, the parts that love life and are compassionate. And when you find those parts, you cultivate them.
LF: In other words, when you’re really having a difficult time, for example, you’re feeling angry or jealous or resentful, you can choose to feel what’s going on inside your body rather than act out what you usually do, like withdrawing or shouting or judging. When you look inside yourself and feel what’s really going on,what physical sensations you are experiencing,you can make different choices while you are feeling the physical sensations in your body, even if they are painful. Everyone knows in their heart what a loving choice is. In other words, you challenge a frightened part of your personality,one that is angry or jealous or resentful by feeling it and choosing to act in a more conscious and considerate way. You don’t deny that it’s there. You feel it fully. But, then choose to do something loving anyway.
B: And don’t beat yourself up over what you’re feeling either.
GZ: Suppose you’re in an Express checkout line. A sign above the cashier says, Cash Only, Maximum Ten Items. You’re in a hurry, you’ve got four items in your basket and cash ready to pay for them. The person in front of you is unloading a basket filled to overflowing and taking out a checkbook. You start to tap your foot, roll your eyes and cross your arms. You make a judgmental comment to the person behind you, loud enough to make sure that the person writing the check can hear. All of those are behaviors that help you avoid real pain that you are feeling but not allowing yourself to experience.
The next time this happens, you can see for yourself that this is true by not allowing yourself to do any of these things, not even distract yourself with judgmental thoughts. You’ll feel how much pain you have in you. Because your life is out of control. Because you’re in a hurry. You can’t do what you want to do. The world isn’t the way you want it to be. Now suppose instead of tapping your feet, rolling your eyes, and making sarcastic complaints, this you feel the pain and then you decide cautiously to do something else. Not to mask the pain but to change your life. For example, you remember the last time you got in the express lane. Then you begin to soften towards the person. Maybe you didn’t realize you were in the express lane. You didn’t know it until you got out your checkbook and someone started to criticize you. Maybe the person in front of you is like your mother, or your grandmother and she didn’t notice. If you shift your orientation, you challenge the frightened part of you that is impatient.
Impatience is just wanting to have your needs met first. If you think that’s not so then consider how you feel when your needs are met first. You have all the patience in the world. When you challenge your impatience, then you challenge a frightened part of your personality and that’s how you begin to gain control over it, to gain power over it. Until you challenge it, it controls you. It has power over you, and it will continue to control you and have power over you, which means that every time you’re in a checkout line that’s not going fast enough the same thing will happen. When you challenge the frightened the parts of yourself, then they begin to lose their power over you and eventually as their power over you diminishes the pain you feel diminishes. Eventually that frightened part isn’t there anymore. In other words, you’re more interested in other people than you are in having your needs met first.
B: With the world as it is today, what can each of us do to make a difference?
LF: I feel that the best thing anyone can do, the very best thing that I can do, is change myself and to heal all of the frightened parts; in other words, to align every frightened part of my personality with my soul. This is what Gary talks about in The Seat of the Soul. This means that instead of being a victim in the world, I become a creator. I become a creator in the way that I get to give the gifts that I want to give in the best way that I can. This is true for everyone. Everyone on this planet can do that and that’s why we’re working with people. To support them in doing that, and I love that.