by Deepak Chopra, M.D: The word “empowerment” suggests something very desirable, namely, being in charge of your own life…
But personal empowerment seems far out of reach during difficult times—a global pandemic creates uncertainty, economic hardship, fear of contagion, and widespread increases in anxiety, depression, and domestic violence. Who doesn’t feel powerless at such a time?
Yet, there is one advantage to such distressing experiences. By personally feeling what being powerless is like, you can make choices that promote personal empowerment. This is done by paying attention to what is happening and directing your intention toward the things that matter most to you. Without being conscious of it, your greatest power has always been a combination of attention and intention.
How to Stop Surrendering Your Personal Power
First of all, what are they? Attention is focused awareness. Intention is awareness given a purpose. Both are inner qualities, a simple fact that has great importance. What happens “in here” is the true source of personal empowerment. Most people pay too much attention to externals, assuming that the world “out there” is in charge. In this way, you surrender your personal power, allowing bad news, controversy, disasters, and strife to be causes of distress.
You can take a major step toward personal empowerment by placing your attention on being centered, calm quiet, and grounded “in here.” Meditation achieves all these things, but there are practical steps to take so that you encourage inner calm and stability throughout the day.
- Stop obsessing about the news and limit yourself to a few minutes a day for catching up with events. The minute the news makes you feel stressed, turn it off.
- Likewise, if the contents of social media make you feel stressed, stop engaging in it.
- Don’t rely on distractions. They scatter your attention, which will then have a harder time becoming useful.
- Keep away from arguments and disputes.
- Take responsibility for your own moods and emotions.
- Don’t waste your energies on blame and resentment.
These are simple steps that most people neglect because they assume it is their obligation to get involved in the distress around them. At a deeper level, they don’t know how to use attention in a better way. Your life is dominated by two intentions almost all the time: You work at a job, and the rest of the time you seek distraction.
If your job is interrupted, you can no longer rely on the routine of life and, as for distractions, unless you can make yourself play video games, watch YouTube, tune in to Netflix, and gossip on social media all day, distractions lose their ability to keep bad things at bay.
Focus Your Attention in Positive Ways
There is another way. You can unite attention and intention to increase your well-being. There are some immediate and effective changes that you can incorporate immediately. At least once every day, try to do the following:
- Be of service to another person. Give them your time, sympathy, and attention. Make them feel listened to and cared for.
- Immerse yourself in nature and its healing influence, even if it means only a brief walk outside. As you walk, don’t occupy yourself texting or talking. Let your attention be quietly captured by trees, grass, the sun, and the sky—whatever allows you to commune with nature.
- Do something that comforts you. Do something that comforts someone else.
- Find a source of inspiration. Whether it is art, music, or poetry, make it be something that touches you deeply.
- Do something that you enjoy and makes you laugh.
- Extend your appreciation to someone else.
- Act out of love.
Now you have a basis for using your attention in a positive way that enhances your well-being while avoiding the use of attention that increases stress. But there is one intention that goes even deeper, and if you adopt it, you will find that attention and intention have the power to transform.
Make Your Intention to Meet Yourself Where You’re At
Make it your purpose to meet yourself. By this, I mean going inside and feel what it is like simply to be here now. Most people have never actually met themselves in this most basic way. They spend a lot of energy avoiding their inner reality—this is known as denial. Distraction and stress also take you out of yourself very effectively. Putting your focus on work keeps you very active “out there” without needing to attend to things “in here.”
Put this all together and you can spend your life never really meeting yourself. Unfortunately, the day will come when you are forced by circumstances to be alone with yourself. Then the onset of depression, anxiety, and inner emptiness begins to take its toll. Yet it is never too late to meet yourself.
This is one journey you can take despite the distressing times. Start by sitting alone and feeling your body. Take a few deep breaths, and let your attention go where it wants to go. Remain in this state for as long as it feels comfortable, because emotions and sensations will arise that are not immediately welcome. This is perfectly natural. These emotions and sensations are trying to leave. It’s all part of restoring the undisturbed balance between mind and body.
If you give yourself the experience of meeting yourself as often as you can, you will know what it means to be at home. Awareness has always been your home no matter how much you have tried to avoid it. Another word for home is your source. Awareness is where the highest values of life originate, including love, compassion, empathy, creativity, security, self-esteem, and inner growth.
All of these values will grow if you pay attention to them and direct your intention toward them. This is the secret of personal empowerment. Now that you know the secret, you have found the ultimate value of attention and intention.