Business wisdom from the Grand Canyon: terror, power, and becoming a person of power

scouting-rapid.JPGWe’d tied up the rafts, hiked down river on the well-worn trail, and stood high on the rocks, looking into the frothy maelstrom that was the first big rapid on our Grand Canyon river trip.

It’s always a good idea to scout the bigger rapids in this way, to get a big-picture sense of the rapid before you enter it, to notice where the current is going, where the “must avoid” danger spots are, and where the sweet line through is. You identify Plan A, then tuck Plan B, C, and so on into the back of your awareness to be pulled out in a heartbeat if needed.

As much as I appreciate scouting big rapids, they’ve always been a bit of a mixed bag for me because they offer plenty of time for the terror to build. The truth is that despite decades of rafting some pretty gnarly whitewater, I’ve always been deeply afraid of it.

When I was a wee one of three, I almost drowned one hot summer day at the beach. One moment I was playing with my little pail in the wet sand and the next moment a large wave knocked me off my feet and swept me out into deep water.

I have no conscious memory of it, but the terror of being thrashed around helplessly underwater and feeling like I was drowning, this terror was indelibly etched into my body from that moment forward. For some crazy reason, despite that experience, I was deeply, passionately, and undeniably drawn to whitewater rafting as a young woman.

Later I came to appreciate how it was a path of healing for me, a path of discovering myself as a person of power. Yet along the way, that terror was with me every day of my 10-year rafting career as well as for the 17 years of rafting for fun since then.

running-rapid.JPGOnly now it was gone. Miraculously, unexplainably gone.

With each big rapid we stopped to scout (they got bigger and more ferocious as we made our way downstream), I felt an unfamiliar calmness as I assessed each particular configuration of liquid chaos. Dropping into the bigger rapids and navigating my way through, I felt a quiet yet exhilarating joy that was new for me.

What had happened?

Power. I’d come into a new relationship with power and what had previously terrified me, no longer did.

On some level, you could say that it was the power of violent chaotic whitewater that had terrified me all along. Given my near-drowning experience, there’s a lot of truth to that.

Yet on a deeper level, it was my own power that scared the bejesus out of me. I was afraid of power, of accessing power, of allowing it to flow through me, of becoming a person of power.

Power can be such a tricky thing for conscious, good-hearted entrepreneurs, and even more so for women.

You have a vision for the great work you want to do, for the business you want to grow, for the contribution you want to make to our world. Power is required to unfold your vision or it goes nowhere.

Yet as you look around at our modern world, it’s easy to feel sick with the endless display of power that’s been abused, that’s run amok, that’s created great harm and suffering. If this is what power looks like, you tell yourself you want no part of it.

Layer in the very real dangers that women who have dared to embrace power have encountered at times throughout humanity’s long history, and it’s understandable why the consequences might not seem worth it.

Still, the vision burns in your heart, and you take the steps you can with the level of power you’re currently willing and able to let yourself have access to.

The vision, unconcerned about your discomfort with power, keeps calling. The gap between the grand magnificence of your vision and the often smaller manifestation of it is a reflection of your relationship to power. When that gap gets too big, it’s painful.

So what to do and how to respond?

Keep saying yes. Stoke the fire of your passion. Allow your calling to be stronger than your fear and keep going. The daily doing of things grows power in you.

Pay attention to this growth. Notice when a new level of power has taken up residence in you and adjust your actions accordingly.

cactus-heart.JPGCall in a new aspect of your vision, a wilder, more amazing one than you could previously have imagined. Take bigger steps with the new power available to you.

Seek out ways to grow your access to power. Welcome those “power initiations” that Life sends your way. Keep coming into greater relationship with power. And love yourself for having the courage to do so!

On my own journey, I’ve come to realize that this power isn’t MY power. It’s not ever what’s often referred to as “power from within”, although it can feel like that.

It’s power that’s available in the universe that I can learn how to come into right relationship with and flow through me. This is the timeless wisdom perspective on power that indigenous people the world over know.

Without realizing it until recently, it’s what I’ve been doing throughout the long arc of my life – overcoming the legacy of being born into a family living under the veil of fear, growing a new understanding of what power really is and how to be in right relationship with it, and becoming a woman of power capable of unfolding a world-changing vision.

You may be on this very journey yourself, without having quite seen it as such. In fact, I’d wager you are.

fire-dance-300.jpgLast winter I was unexpectedly thrust into a situation that appeared as one thing on the surface, but that in fact was a test of power, an initiation into a new level of power.

While the details aren’t important, what’s significant is that it emerged like three rings of fire, one after the other with each larger than the previous one. At first it was frightening and I wanted to run away.

But I quickly saw it for what it was and, despite the challenge of doing so, allowed the old stories about fear and powerlessness to be burned away by the fire.

I emerged with access to an astonishing new level of power that is already rippling out into my business. New aspects of my vision are taking shape and I feel relaxed and confident about unfolding them in a way I now realize I never have before.

Staring into the gaping maws of Grand Canyon rapids, stunned to notice that a lifetime of terror had simply vanished, the river was mirroring back to me my new relationship with power.

So to you, dear intrepid soul, I offer this reminder. When the invitation to step into a new level of power presents itself, say yes.

Know that it won’t likely arrive surrounded by butterflies and bathed in the glowing light of a rainbow. More likely it will come with grit, or fire, or flood, or some other force perfectly suited to polish, burn, or wash away the old stories about power.

Welcome it and say yes to becoming the person of power you’re meant to be, the woman of power who’s here to unfold the extraordinary vision you’ve been charged by Life to make real. Say YES!

(Not surprisingly, my work is expanding to include a growing focus on power and on helping those who are ready to become a person of power. If you know you’re on this path and want an alchemical guide, reach out and let’s talk!)

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