Very often, we take our own power for granted because of the cultural brainwash that nothing we do really matters. And yet we are quickly awakened to the realities of power when it is misused and we become victimized as a result.
Recently, one of the vegetarian restaurants that I go to got mugged. As a result, they had to take extra precautions and install alarm systems and monitors. Just this morning, as I was walking my dog, I was verbally harassed. This is not the first time it happened. When I was younger and such things happened to me, I wondered if I gave off any vibe that allowed it to occur. Now I understand. Other people's psychological problems are not a reflection of me. It is a reflection of them. I was rattled, yes, but I wanted to set my boundaries so I responded in a clear, loud, and unshaken voice, "Turn around and look at me. I'm going to take a picture of you and post it all over the internet. You're a shameless maniac!"
I do wonder how one human being can just use his power like that to put others down. To a large degree, I honestly do not understand it. It felt surreal that you can just use your voice or actions and dominate another being. It frightens me how much power we have.
We are all so lucky. You who are reading this are so lucky. Regardless of what someone does to us, regardless of how much they wish to victimize us, most of us have the power to fight back. We can stand our ground. We can speak up. We can defend ourselves. We can seek justice and equality.
Other beings are not so lucky. Many animals, through no choice of their own, are currently suffering- in factory farms and small farms, in zoos and puppy mills, in research labs and slaughterhouses, in all other industries designed to profit by bringing unimaginable suffering to others.
There is no difference to whom we direct our misused power to. As long as we use our power to put down another being, we are perpetuating the cycle of suffering, not only the suffering of others but also our own. Whenever we put another being down because of his or her ethnicity, gender, social status, sexual orientation, economic standing, and even species, we are robbing this being blind of his or her happiness. We are taking away his or her birth rights which are freedom and happiness. And whenever we consume animals for food, clothing, entertainment, research and other uses, we are treating them as properties rather than acknowledging those birth rights.
We take our own power for granted because of the cultural brainwash that nothing we do really matters. And yet everything we do matters. Our choices have the power to uplift the lives of others. Our choices also have the power to enslave others to unnecessary suffering.
I love that the commentary of Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu in the Jivamukti tradition is a very active one. It does not just say: May all beings be happy and free. It is more than a wish, more than an empty prayer. It is an intent to follow through with our actions. May the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that freedom and to that happiness for all.
Because, yes, we are that powerful. The question lies therein: How will you choose to use your power?