Sunday, July 25, 2010

Power and Balance

I've been reflecting on power recently. Obviously, my previous post on institutional oversight has to do with macro level power. However, I'm also interested in how power manifests in day to day, moment to moment life. The way words are said, a shoulder is shrugged, and/or an eye is shifted, and how that can impact others in certain ways.

We had a meeting this morning at zen center about a topic which I might be blogging about more in the future. However, the topic isn't what I'm interested in right now. During the meeting, several versions of a story about the potential unfolding of the idea came up, and we deliberately talked about how those stories needed to be aired so that any personal disagreements could be examined in the open. As we went around, it was clear that the kind of thing that happens in the game Telephone - pieces of information getting passed around and, in the process, becoming blurred or bent out of shape - had occurred. And it was from the ground of that blurred or bent out of shape information that a lot of us in the group were working from and reacting to, which obviously can lead to trouble.

So, what does this have to do with power? I've been listening to a set of Buddhist teacher Ken Mcleod's retreat podcasts called the "Warrior's Solution." You can find them and other retreat podcasts here. In one of the podcasts, he speaks a lot about balance and imbalance, and when comes to power, I'm convinced that this is critical. Most of us in this group meeting this morning were a little off balance in our understanding of where things were, and thus, it was really helpful to go around, speak to that imbalance, and go forward from a more balanced place. The macro level abuse issues I was speaking about in the post on Friday have to do with, among other things, how groups fall out of balance and how they might best re-align themselves.

In some ways, focusing on balance and imbalance is a way to step out of the "good/bad" and "us/them" dichotomies that frequently come up within groups experiencing minor difficulties, like our group had this morning, or major difficulties, like the various sex and power abuse scandals that have rocked several U.S. Zen centers over the past 30-40 years. Viewing organizations as in balance or out of balance could be a way to deal with the tricky ethical issues arising without assigning blame to any one person - because no matter what, it's never just one person. And on a personal level, each of us can assess where our own balance points are so that we might better function within the various relationships we have in our lives.

I'll have more to say about all this after I finish sitting with the rest of the retreat podcasts, but I thought I'd write this short reflection because my experiences this morning and the post of a few days ago seemed linked enough to say something now.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting way to begin - not with power [a abstraction a concept after all] but with finding a sense of balance in the group.

Sounds like beginning with the 1st noble truth -it is always just a little out of balance - like a bike wheel whose spokes need to be tuned.

a writer I admire [Tony Judt] has ALS [lou geherig's disease].

He writes:
I'm more the grip of a neurological order...the vocal muscle is failing...communication is my weakest asset.

Translating being into thought, thought into words, words into communication will soon be beyond me and I shall be confined to the landscape of my interior reflections.

I love the way he starts with BEING becomes thought...

Balance must be closer to being than...power, do you think?

Nathan said...

Yeah, I think without balance there really can't be any beneficial power manifested.

I think you're right that balance is closer to being...