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Who Has the Upper Hand?

Do you ever feel helpless? Powerless? Even bullied by people? Learn to get the upper hand in different situations.

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Do you ever feel infuriated with your boss, your partner, your family, or even your children for running you over? As if your opinion doesn’t matter? Or your words don’t count? As if no one is taking notice?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. My best friend got a rescue dog who was a complete nightmare to handle for the first couple of weeks. She’d run around the apartment, ignore all commands, try to jump on all the furniture, needed constant attention, etc. My best friend kept googling advice and came across Cesar Milan’s videos. Once she started applying his advice, the dog changed. The bottom line? Your dog needs to understand that you’re the alpha and that’s a state of mind, more than anything else.

Family and work dynamics can be tricky, as can friendships and relationships. The truth is, we all sniff out what others will allow us to get away with. The person with low self-esteem is more likely to be picked on because they accept it. They think little of themselves and allow others to treat them accordingly.

That’s not to say that there are outrageous situations where anyone can end up picked upon because they walk into a group of idiots. However, that’s different from someone who tends to end up picked upon in almost any situation.

Even if we don’t allow others to pick on us, we all allow others to have a certain level of power over us at times. Sometimes we allow our kids to emotionally blackmail us, sometimes we accept our partners to have the upper hand. And it all comes down to our internal state of mind. The moment you don’t allow any bullshit, people fall into line.

It can be really difficult to see how these power battles play out. An obnoxious dog is easy enough to spot, but in everyday life, we tend to fall into patterns we don’t even question. We just feel slightly uneasy about how our boss sometimes treats us, or not thrilled about how our boyfriend seems to make us feel bad in certain situations.

If you feel great on the inside, if you don’t let comments get to you, then pretty soon people stop handing them to you. They can see they have no effect on you. You can’t be mentally bullied into doing something you don’t accept.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is because I raise kids from a township and due to what they’ve been through, they act out in a myriad of different ways. And keeping your cool and not letting it get to you is sometimes difficult. Asserting power with kids who have grown up in an abusive environment and who therefore are abusive can drive the best of us to our limit.

The thing is if we snap and get angry, if we back down on our word because we can’t handle the tantrum, if we in any way, shape, or form give in, they know they’ve won. Staying cool and positive, not letting anyone else affect our state of mind is a lesson in mind control, self-confidence and learning to see a situation from the angle that benefits you the most. My coach always says the guy with the biggest hard-on wins, which may sound crude, but point taken. He also constantly reminds me we mustn’t get caught in other people’s hairy bullshit.

Some people seem to think that anger, being nasty, etc. is about power. It isn’t. Being calm and in control of your own state of mind, not letting others alter it unless you want them to, is about power. Feeling helpless and out of control, or feeling bullied by other people’s thoughts and feelings, is the opposite of power.

Finding your feet when ambushed by someone else’s energy, or by a situation (because let's face it: sometimes we feel "bullied by life, or simply "unlucky" as well) isn’t always easy, but it is possible. Finding your own inner power by choosing your thoughts is the starting point. You decide how you see yourself and the world and how you react to people and events around you. You are in charge, because you are powerful.  



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As we write in The Shared Heart, “The real soulmate is a state of consciousness, not a person.” That being said, there can also be an outer soulmate, or life partner, an ancient connection with another soul where the primary purpose is serving together, blessing the earth together, more than simply loving one another.

Joyce and I have a deep affinity for St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, really ever since we saw the movie, Brother Sun and Sister Moon, in 1973, and I left the movie theater wanting to give away all our possessions. Well, I never did that but, in our own way, we have tried to live a life of simplicity and spirituality.

And there is another reason we feel especially close to Francis and Clare. It was their profound love for each other. Were these two saints also soulmates? I believe so. How much time did they spend together? Very little. Did they ever have a sexual relationship? I seriously doubt it.

Then why am I convinced they are soulmates? First of all, I don’t claim to be a Franciscan scholar. However, I do have a shelf-full of books about Francis and Clare, mostly Francis, for very little has been recorded about Clare. These include the earliest works written by those who were actually with these two.

From all that I have read, it is clear how much these two great souls loved each other. For the purpose of this short article, I have to be brief.

Clare was just a teen from a noble family when she first heard Francis preach in about 1210, but he lit a spiritual fire within her that eventually led her to run away from her family. Francis initiated her as the first woman in his then little band of followers. He eventually cloistered her at San Damiano, the first church that he rebuilt. And there she stayed for the rest of her life, with a growing number of women, including her own mother and sister.

There are several recorded events about these two saints that reveal the profound love that they shared. One time, Francis was struggling with the direction of his life, whether to live his life as a hermit in seclusion or to continue preaching and traveling. He sent one of his brothers to San Damiano to instruct Clare to pray for divine guidance. Her prayer was answered. His life should be a path of service in the world. So great was his trust in Clare that he immediately obeyed her directive and set out on the road. Even so, he balanced his life with periods of seclusion and prayer in the most remote, and austere, places.

Another time, probably before Clare was established at San Damiano, she was walking with him in the wintertime along a snowy road. She asked, “Francesco, when will I see you again?” Probably to put her off, because I believe he was a bit scared of his love for her, he said, “When you find a rose blooming in the snow.” He was probably confident in the impossibility of this happening in the dead of winter. As the story goes, she immediately walks into the woods, finds a rose in full blossom, and returns to show Francis. That’s how powerful Clare’s love was for Francis.

Well, from the different reports, Clare hardly got to have any time with Francis in person. Soul to soul, they were always together. Clare finally had her wish granted near the end of Francis’ life. Very ill and blind, he was brought to San Damiano so that Clare could minister to his many ailments. Even if she couldn’t cure him like she did for so many others (for by then, throngs of people came to her for healing), she still could tend to the man who awakened her heart to the presence of God.

Clare devoted her life to God and to Francis. Each autumn, during our retreat in Assisi, we bring the group to San Damiano, where many can feel the powerful presence of Francis and Clare, even in the blocks of stone that Francis carried and put into place to rebuild the small church. We tell stories about the two divine lovers in the little room where she slept with her spiritual sisters, and later died. Frequently, other groups who understand English linger to hear the stories. And we see Clare’s tiny private garden, where she had a view of Mt. Subasio. She could feel when he was up on the mountain, and could join him in prayer, blessing his ministry no matter where he was.

Perhaps my favorite story is one that had numerous witnesses. Clare once revealed to her sisters, “If only I could have a meal with Francesco.” Very likely, she never had that privilege. Somehow, word got back to the brothers about Clare’s desire, and they approached Francis, saying something like, “Hey Francesco, all Chiara wants is a simple meal with you. Don’t be a jerk!” They probably didn’t say that last part.

At last he relented, but he didn’t want to be alone with Clare, so he insisted they be chaperoned by several sisters and brothers. Clare arrived at the Portiuncula (the “little portion,” a tiny church he had also rebuilt that became the center of the Franciscan movement). The sisters and brothers laid out a simple meal and Francis and Clare began to pray.

Meanwhile, up the hill in Assisi, people looked down at the Portiuncula and saw flames that seemed to be consuming the little church. Alarmed, the townspeople came running down the hill with buckets of water to put out the fire. When they arrived, however, the flames they saw was a spiritual, not a physical, fire coming from the divine rapture of these two saints and soulmates.

They never did get to eat the food, so great was their spiritual meal!

Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following longer events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell:

Jul 21-26, 2019 — Shared Heart Summer Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR

Sep 24-30, 2019 — Assisi Retreat, Italy

Feb 11-16, 2020 — The Couples Journey, Aptos

Jun 7-14, 2020 — Shared Heart Alaska Cruise, leaving from Seattle

Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world's top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of eight books, including two new books, To Really Love a Woman and To Really Love a Man.

Call 831-684-2299 for further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.

Isn’t it time that we move beyond religion and rules and belief into honest spirituality which is based on personal experience? Religion offers community which feels comforting and guidelines for behavior which build character. But true spirituality requires an adult’s presence to her own experience. Thinking about what an authority tells us is, at best, a jumping off point for us to assume our own authority.

Developing your personal spirituality means that you choose to participate with Life as an adult. You own your responsibility not only for your behavior but for your thoughts and for conflicts lying just below your awareness. You know that at your core you are a spiritual being having a human experience. You accept that this lifetime is a gift for you to learn some truths and, wisely, you surrender. You know that change is constant and you release your hold on everything, appreciating in this moment what you have been given but not demanding that it continue.

The emphasis is on attending. What am I supposed to learn from this frustration? What is my lesson in losing what I had loved? How am I gifted by the obstacles that block my hoped-for path? We pay attention to the details of our lives in a non-proprietary way.

Through our surrender we see pattern in our experience. We learn to listen to Life and to trust its tugs. We notice that we are asked to submit and to receive. We practice presence. We experience everything, inside and outside, and we release it. We practice gratitude, especially for what we don’t like. ‘Thank you for the opportunity to learn patience while I sit at this red light.’ ‘Thank you for showing me the part of myself I hate in another whom I find irritating.’

A Spirituality of Your Own

And we notice that the details of the day lead us deeper within ourselves. When we pay attention to what happens to us, we are led to what happens within us. We learn more by observing than by attempting to direct.

When we appreciate the unity of the outside world and the inside world, then we truly experience our own spirituality. Spirituality is oneness. It isn’t light and joy and beauty and otherworldly music. It’s the baby crying and the cat messing on the new carpet and the car that stops on the freeway and the job that doesn’t materialize. And it’s saying, “Yes, thank you. Now show me the next step.”

When we embrace our spirituality we say “Yes” to everything that happens because we know that we are one with everything. Our lifetime is not an opportunity to run our will. We are not on earth to see what we can make of ourselves. When we accept Life as an adventure and know that we are the students, then we open to learn. Openness, attention, and surrender are the hallmarks of a mature spirituality.

About Author -

Ruth Cherry, PhD

Ruth is the author of Living in the Flow: Practicing Vibrational Alignment, Accepting Unconditional Love, Transformation Workbook, and Open Your Heart.

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