While stepping back and becoming part of that larger perspective is part of the old soul experience, there's a not so fine line there. When that stepping back is done to create a denial of what's being felt in the present than that is not particularly useful.
Our suggestion about how any person can view their life in terms of choice in a way that's empowering would be to instead of looking at things at the macro level to look at the micro level and to connect emotion to every moment:
As I pick up my coffee cup to take a sip, what am I feeling? Am I feeling energized? Am I feeling frustrated? Am I feeling hurried because I need to gulp down a whole cup of coffee before I leave for my day? Am I feeling complacent? Am I feeling bored?
That's only a small fraction of the kinds of feelings that someone can feel in the simple act of picking up coffee cup to take a sip. The more you are present and aware of what you feel in a given moment, the more you will feel connected to your own empowerment regarding choice.
Choice within Simple Actions
Let's examine this more. We will go back to the coffee cup analogy. In that act of picking up the coffee cup, you have all kinds of choices. Perhaps they might be in some ways dependent upon or connected to other factors. If you're in a hurry, then you might pick up the coffee cup in a certain forceful way. If your mind is engaged in something else and you reach out with a fumbling hand because you decide you want a sip of coffee while you're staring at your laptop screen, that's another way of being present in that moment.
A small word of caution: while it is possible to be mindful and aware of what you were feeling in every given moment, that again is not necessarily useful to the human experience. In other words, you can get anal about it: "I'm sitting in a chair. What am I feeling now? I'm leaning back a little. What am I feeling now? I glance out the window. What I am feeling now? ... " And you can get caught up, lost in the midst of intellectualizing. You would be trying to feel instead of allowing the feelings to be present. There's a balance.
Not everyone that we're speaking to can join in what's referred to as an "old soul perspective" of stepping back and becoming distant. And that's okay - it's not necessary in order to feel empowered in your own life or feel good about what's going on in the world.
When we are referring to empowerment in this instance, we mean feeling that you yourself have the ability to make changes in your life as you see fit. The very first step in that is assessing where you are in a given moment. This is why we talk about the micro level, or bringing in an element of mindfulness.
The most useful way to apply that concept is when you feel the "big feelings" - when you feel a fair amount of emotion. That's when you rest in that and simply ask "what am I feeling?" from within your presence - from outside your intellect. Allow the feeling to be there while you rest in it.
Question: I recently had an experience where my child was misbehaving and getting very angry, screaming and not listening. I felt a very strong impulse to spank him until he "behaved", but then I caught myself because I know that is very bad for him. I guess my own childhood pain came out - I don't know. But then I got very tense and pushed away the feelings, but I still noticed him being very frightened of me and seemingly feeling threatened. I guess by stuffing away those violent feelings, I was also being unloving. This relates to the nature of choice to me - both were fairly automatic. Either I behave like my parents did to me or I try to repress and do the opposite, but somehow create a similar dynamic. I didn't feel I had any other choice.
This situation is a moment of big emotion. The parent, feeling all this welling up inside them, has a moment to create that change from how they themselves were treated as a child. So the parent can assess this, starting with the knowing of "I'm feeling this big emotion."
Realize first that immediate action is not necessary. In other words, following through with that spanking energy is not necessary. Removing or changing the emotion is not necessary. If there is a big emotion there then this is a time for the parent to sit with that emotion for a moment without taking action. Allow it to be there. The action arises from believing that the emotion can't be there. It wants to move through and out. Tensing is another way of saying that the emotion cannot be there - and it also communicates to the child that their own mirroring emotion should not be there.
Again, this is an invitation for the parent to truly be with that emotion without moving into action. This "action" can be external or internal, such as tensing or rationalizing. Understand that this moving into action is likely a pattern for that person that came from their own childhood (such as with the pattern of self destruction). Whether or not they tense themselves and try to try to deter any tendencies that feel negative, or they go ahead and strike the child: those are two opposites of the same spectrum of non-acceptance. The trick them would be to simply sit with the emotion and to let it be there without taking action.
Once the parent does that, other perceptions begin to come up: realizations that this is a connection to my own life. Realizations that I don't need to perpetuate this with my child, that there are other choices available now that the need to push an experience away has dissolved. Emotions are simply energy. They are an experience. From our perspective, all emotions are good emotions, as energy itself has no value judgments attached. But people can feel disempowered by emotions when they have not been encouraged to actually feel them. Surrendering to the experience of an emotion is a tremendously empowering act.
The child's experience is a little different. A child is naturally feeling a little bit disempowered, especially in western cultures, because of the physical dynamic that already exists. In other words, they're a small person and surrounded by big people who make the rules, provide the structure and play the "authority figure". There's already an atmosphere of not feeling that they have a choice. But also within the child is a beautiful invitation to create a sense of choice in the midst of what could feel like a disempowering situation. The choice is about feeling. The child too has the impulse to take action: Do I cower and cover my head? Do I run away? Do I try to smile to defuse the situation? Those are all potential actions. But the child too can simply be with the emotion.
A child naturally does this at a very early age, but in the western
culture is largely educated away from this. This is true in the modern
world in many Eastern cultures as well. The role of "parental
authority" is a factor in 90% of the cultures around your world now.
We can offer a practical exercise beyond the theoretical which we've already given you that can increase your ability to feel connected to the choices in your own life. We've already talked about stepping back while feeling and allowing yourself to feel when a big emotion comes up. Again, that's useful situation by situation as it comes up for you.
In order to assist, provide support and create a pattern of energy movement within you now that can become a foundation for you whenever those big emotions come up so that you can practice what we've already told you, we can offer this.
This exercise is best if done seated and your spine is relatively
straight. If you are accustomed to a particular meditation posture this
is a good opportunity to take a particular posture but it's not
necessary; you can be seated in a chair.
[We offer the audio
recording of this with beautiful background music which you may download
to aid you in this exercise.]
Closing your eyes, take a deep breath and allow it to float out if you. Take another deep breath, hold it for a moment and allow it too to float out if you. As you release that breath, imagine your conscious awareness expanding. Every time you breathe in and breathe out your awareness expands. In other words, rather than being tightly placed inside your head, perhaps, it moves to a space outside yourself. You can start with a space that extends about a foot away from your body.
Just as you breathe out, allow your breath to float into that space about a foot on all sides of your body and allow your awareness to extend to that distance. It's especially important to bring your awareness up over your head to that distance.
Now you can imagine that your awareness has expanded to a place that's up above and slightly outside of your physical body. This causes you to have the sensation that your movements would be slower, more flowing than you are accustomed to. You feel wiser, perhaps.
Understand that within the space you may also incorporate all your emotion world by stepping up and back and out just slightly. You have the opportunity to include an awareness of more of yourself than you are accustomed. Yet this is not a place of overwhelm. This is where you can be with those big emotion's without being overwhelmed by them.
If the idea of choice and empowerment has been particularly troubling to you - in other words if at times in your life you have felt buffeted by the winds of chance - then we would suggest taking a few moments of each day to perform this exercise. Understand that when those big emotions come up for you this is the place that you can rest in while you are allowing yourself to be present within those emotions. And when we say "be present with" we are not suggesting that you become detached from and intellectual about them. But we are suggesting that from this space you can see them for what they are. You can allow them into you without creating a need for action.