The Quiet and Sustainable Power
It is the end of August and the beginning of September. The Summer season is taking a slight turn and a nod in the direction of fall. There seems to be a well-timed lull between the wildness of the growing season and the upcoming harvest. If you move too fast it would be imperceptible.
Slow down, there is a beautiful undercurrent of power in the quiet pauses of life. Like the breath, each cycle of life begins with an intention, either deliberate or subconscious, hidden or apparent, designed or acquired by default. An intention takes place in the mind, formless, yet full and rich with potentiality. An intention to take a breath begins in the formless, the void, and then the inhale draws the air inward, and here, right before the exhale, is this ever so slight natural pause, a transition before the exhale, and the air moves outwards, and again here, right before the next inhale, there is a pause. Brief and perhaps undetected but the pause is normal and natural, it is almost impossible (with the exception of the circular breathing technique used when playing the didgeridoo) to breathe in while breathing out.
In the Yoga traditions this retention, this pause of the breath is called Kumbhaka, or Kevala Kumbhaka, and texts describe it as a state parallel to Samadhi; a blissful unification with the Divine.
“Once unaccompanied [kevala] breath-retention, free from exhalation and inhalation, is mastered, there is nothing in the three worlds that is unattainable.”
— Dattātreyayogaśāstra 74
There is so much Power in the pause, that lingering spaciousness between two points of action. And yet, so often in our culture we think of Power as loud, pushy, domineering, and blustery. Self-help books and manifesting ‘gurus’ urge us to ‘step into our power’ and live bigger and bolder, but what if, like kevala kumbhaka, Power was the space between, the quiet beneath the thunder and roar that steadfastly holds every star in place, and was equally a state of equanimity and purposeful pause?
In my work with clients, I have heard soft, and sometimes loud, declarations that they have given their Power away, or their Power was taken from them in various aspects of their lives from health, relationships, finances, or their unrealized desires and dreams. I have seen them, in desperation to not feel powerless, push the pendulum hard in the opposite direction, “taking back their voice” and in doing so creating somewhat of a tsunami in their relationships while leaving a path of emotional destruction, confusion, and disenchantment with the process.
Personally, I have been on both sides of the pendulum at times in my life feeling like I couldn’t get a foothold in the deepening sand and experiencing the wild exhilaration of accomplishing a steep and arduous climb. But life itself is all about movement and change and the terrain can shift quickly with its rises and falls. When we step back and look down our timeline, all the way down, and back to where we are in this very moment we can see that the line itself is Power and it is constant and runs through every moment, every breath, and every surmountable joy and insurmountable wobble. We can’t ever be without our Power, we can’t really give it away, and it can’t really be taken from us. We are ultimately connected through our breath; through our union with the Divine to this state of pure Power.
If we can hold our inner awareness on the recognition that Power is fully present in both our challenges and our wins and it is not something that we need to muster, rally, invoke, or create, but rather it is something we tap into, something we sink into, it is something that, when we take a pause, we quietly draw it into our awareness and let it saturate every part of our being, we will find that it is changeless, infinite, and eternal. We don’t have to deepen the well or dig another because it runs eternally deep.
In the book Power vs. Force, author David Hawkins reminds us;
“The universe holds its breath as we choose, instant by instant, which pathway to follow; for the universe, the very essence of life itself is highly conscious. Every act, thought, and choice adds to a permanent mosaic; our decisions ripple through the universe of consciousness to affect the lives of all.” — from Power vs. Force
Hawkins knows that ‘force’ is sometimes needed to be ‘brave’ or to get through inertia, but ultimately it is aligning with the Power fully present that is the generating current. Force then, is something to be used sparingly and infrequently. Power is something to recognize and quietly align with.
So how can we tell if we are standing quietly in our authentic Power? These two mindful inquiries around Power and force can help:
Force leads to satisfaction but Power leads to joy…
How am I feeling after an accomplishment, satisfied or joyful?
Do I have to muster up to accomplish the next challenge or am I quietly supported and self-sustained?
Force is self-serving but Power serves others.
In the moment of feeling powerful did I diminish others in any capacity?
When I felt powerful how did it serve others, what was the outcome for others?
Another gentle reminder; force is changeable, it has an end-point, and it is not sustainable. A quick check-in with our energy levels will also help us discern if we are ‘pushing the river’ or enjoying the current.
These inquiries can help us discern whether we are truly in alignment and in the flow of our innate and authentic Power.
Exploring Kumbhaka Pranayama or breath retention for beginners.
Start in a seated position, finding a comfortable seat.
Begin inhaling and exhaling naturally.
Gradually increase the duration of the inhale and the exhale. Perhaps 5 counts in and 7 counts out. (Stay comfortable, do not overexert the breath, just explore)
After the inhale pause and retain the breath for 3 counts. Exhale. Pause and retain the breath for 3 counts.
Continue this pattern noticing how adaptive the breath becomes and how quiet the phase of Kumbhaka (retention) is.
Continue your breath pattern for 2-5 minutes. When complete return your breath to its natural pattern.
Imagine holding any challenge you may have in the quiet spaciousness of retention and inviting it to be held by Divine Power.
Note: Advanced Kumbhaka Kevala should be done with the guidance of an experienced instructor.
Thank you for taking this journey with me!
Om & Blessings, Kate
Learn more about David Hawkins’ Power vs. Force here: https://amzn.to/3ZbDibD
You can keep in touch by sending your comments or questions to me at this e-mail or message me @108kate on Instagram
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