7 Keys to Courageous Self-Expression | AUTHORITY (Part 2 of 2)

Candice builds upon our foundational understanding of the first key of courageous self-expression: 
authority — our ability to live and express our lives as we see fit. Episode #3 is a deep dive into personal power. What is it? And why do those of us who are more empathically wired so often shy away from self-expressing at full potential?

You’ve likely heard a lot of talk about the higher self, but what do you know about the deeper self? Do you know how to tap into it?… and does it really mean kicking the ego to the curb? (spoiler: uh uh, no ma’am.). And finally, we explore numinosity; the extraordinary experience of soulular guidance that will at times summon us to walk through fire in order to grow and become. 

3:11 - Why Wonder Woman isn't all that
6:40 - Inviting in a new paradigm of power
8:59 - Yeon Dahn Practice (story)
13:43 - Finding The Deeper Self
19:34 - Redefining personal power
21:56 - The ego is not your enemy
24:47 - Numinosity & the divine summons
26:57 - Say yes to authentic suffering
31:21 - Keep your eyes on your own paper

#3 | Making Peace With Power

Greetings to you, my friend. Thank you so much for joining me today. This is The Deeper Pulse with Candice Schutter. In this episode, we will continue to explore the first key of courageous self-expression, Authority.

Whether we mean to or not, we are telling a story with our lives. What story are you telling? And how can you power it from the inside?

First, let me just say, I am super excited to be here with you today. Ever since I launched this podcast, you, my dear listener have been on my mind everywhere I go. I have a long and running list of things I want to share with you. Personal stories. Tools. Face palming oh-shit moments. And the enlightening ah-hahs that result. My mind swirls with ideas and inspiration. It's all I can do to keep myself from talking at you all day long. But hard-earned experience has taught me that when I give into urgency, clarity and depth is often lost. And, that talking at people is quite different than talking to them.

So I am breathing deep and taking things slow. Trusting in the natural rhythms true to any labor of love. In this, the third episode of The Deeper Pulse, we will pick up where we left off in episode 2, building upon our foundational understanding of the first key of courageous self-expression: Authority, our ability to live and express our lives as we see fit.

In the last episode, I spoke about the ways in which our past can keep us stuck in patterns of expression that no longer serve us. In this episode, there will be more of the same, but I want to take things a step further addressing the question: How is it that we come to know and express the story we really want to be telling with our lives?

This is where the experience of discord with our environment and the larger cultural story around us can come in quite handy. You see, we often uncover the story we want to live inside in moments when we feel out of sync with the story we're currently living in. Most of us know what it's like to shapeshift in order to belong, to morph ourselves as a force of habit, and with such consistency that we lose sight of who we are almost entirely.

Authority is about taking back the narrative arc of our lives and reclaiming a sense of personal power. So, in this episode, we will speak candidly about personal power. What is it and how exactly does it serve authentic expression?

Expressions of self-empowerment do not operate in a void; they're influenced by the power of social systems and the cultural stories that surround us. We cannot talk about personal power without exploring the concept of 'power' itself.

And so, we're going to start with Wonder Woman. I know, right? It seems a little strange as a starting point, but stay with me... this is probably not going where you're expecting it to.

A few years ago when I was living in Portland, Oregon; like a child, I fell in love with going to the movies all over again. Chris and I lived only a couple of miles from the Baghdad Theatre, a historic landmark on Hawthorne Boulevard, where we could enjoy a slice of pizza and an adult beverage while watching new releases on the big screen. Right around this time, a new trend was emerging in film where female protagonists were finally leading the charge.

It was a refreshing change up. And I was immediately drawn into storylines where a woman, or a young girl, would be centered as the hero of the story. I was on the edge of my seat. A couple of times I even left the theater in tears. I would imagine what it would have felt like as a young girl, to see women and other girls my age portrayed so courageously, so boldly, so natural in their free-flowing expression.

This went on for a few months. Chris and I kept going to the theater. The filmmakers kept rolling out sequels one right after the other. And then at a certain point, I began to lose interest in the female characters and the stories that they were inhabiting. I wasn't entirely sure why. That is until Wonder Woman came out.

Chris and I saw the 2017 reboot in the first week, and as we walked out of the theater, I surprised us both when my response to the film - a film that would soon enough be considered a sensational hit - was one of disappointment and dejection.

Now on the surface, I will admit it was rather well done for what it was, a reboot of an iconic character according to Marvel comic standards. Gal Gadot did her job, and she did it well. I've got nothing but love for her. No, see the reason I left the theater perplexed and dissatisfied had very little to do with the actors or the production value.

It had everything to do with power.

I knew in my heart that an opportunity had been missed. An opportunity to redefine and re-express power, as it is defined by women. The screenwriters made an attempt to convey - at least through dialogue and implication - that Wonder Woman's critical superpowers were love and empathy and a commitment to truth. But apparently they weren't all that sure how to actualize the expression of these powers; or maybe they did know how, but they feared it wouldn't sell superhero movie tickets to the masses. In either case, it was more or less the same masculine trope. Our heroin spent most of her time flexing her ass-kicking power over the enemy. Wonder Woman's primary powers were to persuade and dominate through her suberb martial arts skills, as well as a souped up version of old fashioned sex appeal. I couldn't help but wonder what made our female superhero and her expression of power different?

But I'm going to pause here and say... this isn't a feminist diatribe on the film industry. This is a discussion of authority and how the stories we tell ourselves, and one another, serve to teach us what power is, what it looks like, and how it functions in the world.

The common narrative displayed in the superhero storyline, where power can be reduced to good versus evil... I find that it erodes empathy and connection to ourselves and to one another. It defines power as something that is simplistic, dualistic. It teaches people that power expression is aggressive, dominating. It implies scarcity. We learn that power must be won. And that, in order for us to win someone else must lose.

This misunderstanding of power comes from a cultural history that colonizes bodies and minds and hearts in the name of a singular truth. And it is long-past time that we make peace with power, make peace with it... in our own hearts, and make peace around us by embodying a new expression of power that is fierce in its desire to create love, kindness, and connection.

I speak with women all the time, who stand at a crossroads in their lives; conflicted and unsure about doing and saying the bold and audacious thing because their personal experience with people who do and say audacious and bold things has been painful. Shame inducing. Even marginalizing.

Well, what does this have to do with personal power? It has everything to do with it because when we don't trust power in general, we likewise shrink from the power within us.

Many of us long to express ourselves freely. But if we are sensitive and empathically wired, we may struggle to do so in ways that do not alienate others. We innately understand that expression is power. So we stay silent, rather than risk the impact that our words and actions might have on the people around us. The truth is, we simply don't have a lot of role models when it comes to personal power that doesn't seek to control or dominate. When our voice has been silenced by virtue of an authority out there, we learn to second guess our own motives and our ability to positively influence the world around us.

When I was 26, I became a devoted practitioner of Dahnhak, a Korean practice that is a blend of martial arts, qigong, and yoga. I would attend 3-4 classes a week and, most mornings when I would arrive at the dojo, practice was what you might expect; a mix of meditation, breathing, and stretching exercises. That was most days, but on Thursdays at 4:00 PM, I took the advanced class. It was called yeon dahn.

We would spend the first minutes of class doing a familiar series of stretches and breathwork. And then about twenty minutes in, the teacher would walk over to the CD player and crank the volume. The rich and deep sounds of Japanese Kodo drumming would fill the air. She would then guide us into a yoga posture for an exercise in endurance.

Imagine you are standing in a wide-legged stance. Your knees are bent deeply. Your arms raised high above your head palms facing to the sky. That's not so bad. Right? Okay. Now, imagine holding your body in that same position for 20 to 30 minutes.

This was the practice of yeon dahn.

First, my shoulders would begin to ache and shudder. Then, a tremor would move up through my legs and into my buttocks. Sweat would drip from my chin and puddle at the backs of my knees. My entire body would begin shouting at me. I would do as I had been directed, breathing deep, all the while fighting an urge to run from the room, leaving a string of profanities in my wake.

Each minute that ticked by felt like an eternity of discomfort and resistance. Feelings, sensations, and thoughts would parade through my body and mind at breakneck speed. I would grow desperate and irritable. And I'd fight back tears, swallowing the urge to collapse on the floor in a puddle of shame and relief.

My pity would eventually morph into righteous defiance. My eyes would narrow and I would ponder my own stupidity. What in the hell was I even thinking? Willingly subjecting myself to this torture? Offering these so-called 'masters' the sadist delight of my suffering? I would stand there quivering, fantasizing about calling their bluff; imagining myself laughing in their faces before walking out of the room, my fist or my middle finger held high.

But I stayed put.

About midway through the exercise, a stubborn ambition would rise up in me. A heat, a fire, a desire to prove to my teacher that I was strong enough to endure and that she could not in fact break me. Each time she passed by, I would stand taller, setting my jaw with determination, bending my knees deeper as they shook.

She would weave through the group of us repeating a set of mantras over and over again.

My body is not me, but mine.

My mind is not me, but mine.

At first, the words would feel empty and annoying. But eventually, they would become undeniable. Self-evident, really. Soon enough morphing into a question...

If I am not this body that cries out for mercy... if I am not this mind, that exhausts me with its reasons... then who am I?

Eventually, a sort of inner stillness would rise up. My body's incessant cries would fade into the background. Physical sensation would become one with the sound of the drums, beating into my bones and muscles. I was somehow suddenly at a percussive distance from the pain. My mind would tire of its negotiations, and I would drop my attention low into my belly as had been directed, breathing there deep and full in an altered state of distance from it all.

This was the first environment where I became intimately acquainted with what spiritual teachers refer to as The Witness, the She in me that holds the form yet no longer identifies with it.

That said, the practice always ended with my great relief. I could only sustain that awareness for a short period of time and, each and every week, no matter how far I'd come the week before the process would begin in the same way. It was as if my mind and body had become a whole new wild horse to break.

Now, I want to make one thing crystal clear from the get go here. I am not recommending this practice to you, my dear listener. Not at all. Having said that, I can easily make a strong argument for and against its merits.

On one hand, there's a case to be made for what I learned, sweating my ass off in active meditation all those weeks. It did indeed become an embodied understanding, that I am not my body, nor my mind, nor the feelings that flood through each of them. I did gain a visceral understanding that there is something more to me, something much, much more. And in that way, the practice served me.

But I was young, physically fit, and autonomous by nature. But there were other people for whom this particular practice was damaging and disempowering.

There is a very thin line between transcending our pain and dissociating from it. And it's not always easy to tell which one is operating. Reaching for the higher self is all well and good... unless we are asked to abandon the deeper self in the process.

The question of authority: Who is choosing what, where and why? This question was largely ignored at the dojo. As such, this organization has since been reported a number of times for cult-like indoctrination; for the ways in which they pressure people to progress through a brutalizing series of initiations, each phase of training progressively more intense than the last. I have tremendous compassion for these folks because I myself was indoctrinated into this culture... where the spiritual higher-ups used our bodies as a doorway into our minds... teaching us to transcend our instincts.

When it came to the regular qigong practice itself, I was experiencing a lot of benefits from taking classes there. Because I was already a movement teacher, the leaders at the dojo approached me early on and invited me to attend their most prestigious training program. The only thing was, it was $10,000 and there was no way in hell that I could afford it. But the teachers were so encouraging. They would smile and shake their heads warmly from side to side: "Oh, Candice Do Woo Nim, do not be concerned, for Spirit will provide."

It wasn't a problem that I believed them. It was problematic that belief in the path forward required that I surrender my own authority. I was taught that... if I was devotional enough, if I demonstrated to some invisible and unseen force that I was committed, that my intention was pure... then I would be able to "manifest" the funds for this training.

Now if all this sounds a bit out there to you, keep in mind, I had been groomed by the attention of the higher ups. I felt special and chosen, and I was hungry for the validation they offered.

So I did what I was told. I became more devotional than ever. I would get up on weekday mornings at 4:00 AM and drive 40 minutes for a 5:00 AM meditation. I did 100 prostrations in the morning. I prayed when I was taught to pray. And I shouted when I was taught to shout. I sat and wrote affirmations in my journal before bed each night. And when the money didn't magically show up, I was told I needed to take more action. So I reached out to loved ones and asked for loans, and thankfully they refuse to give them to me.

You see the whole damn time I was doing all of this, there was a growing knot in my belly. A discomfort within that said, this is so not the way forward for me. But whenever I verbalized my reservations, I was told to disregard my ego and the misguided ideas that had had in mind for my life. This was a new path, a new way forward. Didn't I feel my body changing? My heart opening? Yes, in fact, I did. And because no one had ever bothered to teach me how to listen to the guidance from within my own heart, I believed them. Well, for a while I did.

You see, staying put in those Thursday afternoon, yeon dahn practices... it did. In fact, serve me by design. I was discovering a connection to who I really was apart from my body, my mind, and the stories I'd long been fed; including theirs. So, rather ironically, I began to use the voice that I had uncovered... arriving at the dojo one day and informing my teacher that, no, I just wasn't going to be able to attend the months-long training.

It was a painful dialogue, one in which he continued to push and push and push until he pushed me just an inch too far. On that day, I would leave and never returned to that space again.

But listen, I bear them no hard feelings. So many who have power are blind to the ways in which they flex that power in order to keep it. Because deep down they've been taught to believe that power is scarce, subjugating, and externally-sourced.

We are all guilty of this in some manner or fashion. Not because we mean to enforce our will upon the world around us, but because what we have come to believe about power directly impacts how we express our own. We have come to know power as a hierarchy in which the authority is the one on top who calls the shots, or simply provides for the needs of those on the bottom. But what if you are now living a life in which that outdated story no longer serves you?

Let's take a closer look at personal power. And more specifically, its two varieties of expression.

When we speak of personal power, most often we think of extrinsic power expression, the power that comes from being able to control ourselves, others, and our environment.

But there is another type of expression when it comes to personal power, intrinsic power, the power we uncover when we learn how to connect with vulnerability, depth and the source of meaning from within.

Extrinsic power helps us direct our lives toward a desired end, but intrinsic power is essential. It is an intimacy with self that helps us to know and discern which sorts of actions will bring meaning into our lives.

For a variety of reasons, we have been taught, quite literally conditioned by our stories, to diminish the importance of intrinsic power. Many consider self-care a privilege reserved for the weekends. Or they point to therapy and self-examination as fluffy, narcissistic indulgences. And it's true that when we're in survival mode, when we must find our grounding first, we often trade our authority in exchange for protection and belonging.

But what happens when, for the most part, we are safe to express our power and it becomes something more than a means to an end?

As we mature, we evolve in our understanding of our own power. And we come to understand that self knowledge is critical to agency, self-efficacy, and the liberation of choice.

This is perhaps the most tragic consequence of power-over and the expressions of dominance that operate around the world. Conventional power models seize and sustain their authority by stripping individuals of their most sacred right: that of choice.

What if those in power were to ask:

Is this what you want? Does what I am offering you feel right in your bones? Do you feel aligned with what it is I'm asking of you? And if not, what can I do to be of better service?

If those who led us, those in power, were to ask us these questions with regularity, we would come to ask these questions of ourselves.

If you've been conditioned to not trust your deeper self and its impulses, you are not alone. In fact, it is the ego that most often gets blamed. We're taught that the ego is the bad guy. It's true, the ego loves to read its lines from shared scripts, and this does get it into trouble from time to time. But just as we shouldn't blame a child for acting like it's parent, we must be compassionate toward our egoic self and its imitations of power.

We must strip the old script from its hands and say "enough, darling enough."

The ego is not your enemy; it is your friend. The ego is only a problem when it is no longer in service to the soul.

Depth psychologists teach us that the soul is 'the organ of meaning,' the unique psycho-spiritual self that lives within each one of us. The soul stands apart from our egoic identity and its preferences, and yet it continually registers its approval and disapproval of the ego's responses to our needs and to the environment that surrounds us.

Some may think of the soul as the higher self. But I find it more helpful to discern between spirit and soul. Let us imagine spirit as an other worldly connection to divinity, however you may define it... as it is expressed 'out there.' And let us come to know the soul as the aspect of our being that brings a unique connection into and through the physical world.

Think of it this way. Whereas the spirit inspires the higher self, the soul taps us into the deeper self. Connection to 'the deeper self' can help us to make sense of our story and the power that is available to us through our shared humanity.

Now the soul, as we talk about it here, doesn't have anything to do with your religious beliefs or lack thereof. The soul is your most elemental self. It is the core of you. Like any other aspect of nature, you grow through seasons of change. Your journey moves you through passages of revelation and devastation, again and again. And at any point along your path, the soul is continually speaking to you. The call to return home to the soul... to the authenticity at your core, to the deeper self... it is sometimes referred to as a 'numinous' experience.

Numinous, which literally means 'a divine nod, summons, or beckon' is any experience that draws your attention back in the direction of your deepest truth and your highest good. While it might sound airy fairy on the surface... and sometimes it is... the numinous also includes encounters with dark directives and new energies and possibilities that require painful loss and dramatic plot twists.

The numinous sometimes inspires us. And at other times it rips the rug right out from under our feet. It can send us reeling, forcing us to change our lives, whether we want to or not. In my own life and while working with clients over the years, I've had the benefit of bearing witness to all sorts of numinous calls.

Sometimes they show up as synchronistic opportunities or connections. Like the client who I recently spoke to who, soon after considering a move across an ocean, was somehow aligned with the perfect new business partner overseas. Or the time I was told I no longer had a place to live and, within 15 minutes... following a mysterious sense of inner direction... I drove myself to an affordable new apartment and signed the lease on the spot. Sometimes it shows up through a catalyzing new relationship that forces us to examine the status quo in a whole new way. It could be a devastating diagnosis, a painful betrayal, or even just the subtle inkling of new inspiration or creative insight.

In any case, the numinous encourages a new path forward. It's like a light on a distant horizon that we know we must move toward, even though we might not quite understand exactly why. There are countless mysterious iterations of numinous experiences, but the common ingredient is an undeniable sense that something has, or must shift in a new direction lest we continue to suffer the crushing ache of inauthenticity.

Remember James Hollis, the depth psychologist I referred to in the last episode? Hollis makes a strong case that, when it comes to the soul and its messages, there is a singular choice we must make. When there is no easy path forward, we must choose between authentic or inauthentic suffering.

Inauthentic suffering includes everything we say and do... or everything we don't say and don't do... to avoid the discomfort of disrupting the norm. Much like my yeon dahn practice, we essentially 'stay put' either literally or emotionally, and we may even gain a certain amount of internal power. But when the soul begins to protest in ways that we can no longer ignore, the ache can become unbearable.

Authentic suffering on the other hand is when we respond to the numinous call, to the soul's cries for realignment and the restoration of integrity. And this usually requires we disrupt the status quo in some way. Now this disruption can be an internal one, such as the cognitive dissonance we feel when we must shift our beliefs and our mindsets in a whole new direction. Or in some cases, it is a shift to the external narrative. Something in our life requires attention and perhaps redirection.

Essentially, there comes a point in our life when the plot twist is inevitable. Either we stay and we suffer the soul's cries for integrity, or we realign with it and allow for the next chapters unfolding.

In episode two, I talked about the word respond and its meaning. To review, 'respond' has two etymological meanings: to answer and to pledge again. So when it comes to authority and the expression of personal power, perhaps rather than reacting to our environment, we can teach ourselves to respond... to answer the numinous call that arises from within... taking the soul's pledge again and again, and again.

And now maybe you're thinking... but Candice, if I respond only to the summons within, won't that just turn me into a selfish asshole? Isn't it narcissistic to respond to life on my own terms? Well, absolutely, it can be if you're confusing your story, your personal narrative and your identity, with your soul's cries for your attention.

Remember what I said earlier about the ego only being a problem when it is longer in service to the soul? The deeper self cannot be found in the hungry urgencies of identity, or its need to lord its expression over others. These superficial aims are too fleeting for the soul. Your soul is not interested in your emotional comfort, your status, or the power of the sort that conquers or excludes. It's not at all concerned in the persona you've been carefully crafting for years. The ego wants to satisfy its hunger, but the soul longs for depth, substance, and meaning. The ego urges you to sidestep fear and discomfort, but the soul wants you to consciously tend to your chronic anxiety.

But we don't want to turn our backs on the ego. The strength of our personality offers us a vehicle through which to express the soul's deepest truth. If we stop allowing our ego to be distracted from our deeper knowing, we can put it to good work, teaching it to be responsive to the deeper pulse within.

Spiritual maturity is the ability to look beneath our desires toward the soul that longs for expression. Numinosity helps you tune into what gives your life purpose and meaning; it is your value driven self. The part of you that knows what feels right to you. But not 'right' because of an authority outside of you that is telling you what you should do. Right because it is in alignment with your ever evolving, deepest true.

I've purposefully divided this lesson in authority into two episodes, because there are two lenses I urge you to look through it when it comes to reclaiming and sustaining inner authority. Authority requires we take back ownership of our story and that we learned to power our lives on our own terms. We can look to the past, we can look to our culture, or we can look within.

Do you remember in school when the teacher would say, "keep your eyes on your own paper." It's sort of like that. When it comes to authority, we must keep our eyes on our own paper.

Our life story is unfolding and, at a certain point, we are meant to become its author. If we keep our eyes on our own paper, on our own path before us... If we pay no mind to what happened once upon a time... we stop attending to what he or she or they are doing... when we make peace with power, make peace in our hearts and our lives by using our expression towards greater ends... we come to know authority. And we help to redefine the larger narrative about what power looks like.

We must do the difficult work and stop imitating the stories we've been fed so that we can start embodying the stories that we can imagine. Go ahead. Be inspired by the people around you and do your work to integrate your past and get at what it has to teach you. And then, keep your eyes facing forward and centered on the page that is open in your own book.

May you find yourself at the center of your story. May you answer the call from within and take a pledge to whatever gives your life a sense of meaning and purpose. And may you come to know power as an intrinsic connection to self and the soul within.

I know how valuable your time and attention is. And I thank you so much for spending this time with me. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

Until then... even as you reach higher, continue to connect to the deeper self. And let that connection to authenticity guide you... as you move toward what moves you.

© The Deeper Pulse, Candice Schutter