I’m not one for perky posts, but the two cards I pulled together this morning are rather jaw-dropping: Power and Creativity, from the Universal Wisdom deck by Toni Carmine Salerno. Does anyone else hear the Magician chuckling? Here I went and used a non-tarot deck, but some tarot friends showed up anyway. Power plus creativity makes me think of the Magician, of course, but Power alone looks like the Tower — or possibly the power of forward momentum, the Chariot. Creativity? Well, the only question I have here is whether our nude friend is the Queen of Wands or the Queen of Cups! With all that water, I’m inclined to say cups.
So I think we have a strong message here that even if we have literally nothing — not even any clothes, like our Creative Queen of Cups — we still have the power of manifestation. We have power simply by existing and being alive in the world, whether we recognize it or not. In fact, perhaps it’s only when we have nothing, or almost nothing, that we truly begin to recognize our real power. You can’t help but notice how a naked person holds herself (or himself). You can tell whether that person emanates dignity and balance. You can tell whether that person is in the present moment, or is grounded. It’s not the body that we truly try to cover with clothes — it’s the spirit, which manifests itself in how we carry ourselves at all times.
“True power is simply to stand in your own truth and take full responsibility.” –Toni Carmine Salerno, Universal Wisdom guidebook
These cards remind me of prison (because I’ve been volunteering there). It’s a truism to say that prisoners are denied access to nature, but that has always seemed incorrect to me. Inmates in prison are, first, nature themselves. Second, think in terms of the elements. Prison walls are made of stone — nature. Inmates weigh the same inside or outside the prison — because Earth’s gravity affects us no matter where on the planet we might go (except maybe inside a centrifuge). Air flows in and out freely — in fact, it gets vented in from outside. Water flows into prisons; it’s used in showers, for hand-washing, in toilets, in beverages. Fire is dicier, but in buildings that don’t have perfect climate control, the inside temperature of the building in some ways reflects the weather — and the sun or lack of it — outside. Moreover, as my daughter used to like to say when she didn’t want to wear her coat, we are warm-blooded — we can make our own heat, our own fire. In fact we can’t not do so. There is no getting away from nature, even in a prison.
So how could we ever truly be stripped of dignity? Even in a prison, what many people would consider one of the most undignified places we can be, we have the basic elements of dignity. We have the ground to hold us up and we have air to breathe. We have, more to the point, the present moment — that moment in which we can just be and look around and notice the energy around us. Looking brings up another element of dignity: the calm gaze.
“True power is to have the courage to just be who you are regardless of what others may think.” –Toni Carmine Salerno, Universal Wisdom guidebook
What does dignity have to do with power and creativity? Just that no matter where we are, no matter what we “have,” we can draw power straight out of our surroundings. We actually have that ability. True power is not based in the material realm. It’s based in the world of spirit. If you think in terms of physics, this makes a little more sense. You know that heat cannot help but travel, that it flows from a warmer place to a cooler one. Light cannot help but travel — it oscillates in waves. Air cannot help but travel — it flows to fill up the space it has available — and it also flows in and out of our lungs. The basic things we rely on the most are not solid objects, but flowing energy.
So if we find ourselves powerless and in need of power, we can creatively draw on our environment and on all the flowing energy that is all around us and in us. In a stressful job interview, or other stressful meeting (in an oral exam, in a courtroom, when we are giving a speech, or for those of us who are shy, maybe just having an ordinary conversation) we can plant our feet on the floor and draw energy up from the earth — or release fear and anxiety into the earth (which can easily neutralize them). We can take deep breaths, sending air to the parts of our body that feel most tense. We can calmly return the gaze of the person across the table. Simply to do these three things will be to project a dignified image of power — even if you are naked (not that I recommend interviewing naked for a job, but this is a thought exercise).
“True power is to have the courage to speak your truth without judgment or fear of being judged.” –Toni Carmine Salerno, Universal Wisdom guidebook
Power and creativity are always available, even when nothing else is. We may have to get creative to find a source of power — but it’s always there. In some very dire cases, the power that we have may be the choice to live or die — but it is still power — and we must still make our choices responsibly, and with dignity.