A Meditation on power

Find a comfortable place to sit. Be aware of your posture. Is your back straight, are your knees below your waist? Breathe in calmly and deeply. Focus on the phenomenon of power. When have you experienced power over another living being or another living being exercising power over you? How did it feel? Is the power something more than this experience? How would you know? Keep breathing. Let us define power as the experience of power. All the power that affects us happens in our mind. Yes, let’s think of a ‘powerful’ person who hits you on the head with a club. It hurts. But is it an exercise of power? What is the likely motivation of the person bludgeoning you? He doesn’t get what he wants. He fails in exercising his power. Violence is a sign of impotence, we often hear say. But we cannot be sure. We were guessing at the person’s motive. He might have any motive imaginable, for all we know. He might want to try to trick you into believing he is impotent. He might be playing a game with you.

It is possible. Still, this consideration happens <i>inside your mind</i>. Power happens in our mind. Political power happens in many minds simultaneously. Focus on your breathing. We are nowhere yet. What is this experience of power and how does it differ from other experiences, like love, hate, fear, shame, pride, greed, thrift. Or are they the same thing? Is power the more general term of experiences of what we assume are the effects of other minds? Everything is the will to power. There is the will to power – und nichts außerdem, and nothing else, Nietzsche said. Come back again to your breath.

What do all these power-emotions have in common? They are types of expectations. Are they, really? Go through them, one by one. Is there always an expectation involved in love, hate, fear, shame, pride, greed, thrift? What kind of action do we expect from the other person or persons our emotion is directed at? Does the action benefit us or the other person? What do we fear? What are we ashamed of, proud of, greedy about? Focus on the power as it happens inside your mind. Whose power is it? We don’t know? Experience the power as such, don’t try to disentangle the complex expectations involved. Widen your understanding of power. Breathe more deeply.

Think about the narrow definition of power as “making somebody else expect negative consequences” and go through examples of such power. The power of the general over his army. The power of the armed robber over his hostages. The power of an abusive father over his children. The power of a rapist over his victim. The power of a frog over a fly. Focus. Distinguish conscious and subconscious power. Are we aware of the negative consequences? Go through some situations of power that you know from your own experience. Choose experiences in which you are exercising that power and also experiences in which you are undergoing that power. Find words for the expectation you have in each case. You are not making the power relation itself conscious but pretending it is conscious. And return to your breathing again.

Power is relational. There is no ‘seat’ of power other than your own mind. Pretend you control your mind fully. Breathe deeply. Keep your eyes closed. Observe the power as it happens in your mind. Enjoy the struggle that takes place before your mind’s eye. You can pretend you are an independent observer of this power struggle. You possess a kind of ultimate power as a host of all these power vectors. Forget in which direction the power vectors point, toward you or toward others. It is irrelevant now. Now. Breathe calmly and observe. Are you smiling inwardly? You can pretend to smile outwardly if you wish. Or actually smile. It is up to you.