“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I’m afraid.” -Audre Lorde

The words of Audre Lorde define real power. It’s the potential to influence the world in a way that enhances and brings meaning to it, and we all have this potential. In my younger years I didn’t know this. I cowered under the weight of fear, doubting myself and seeing others as having more power and influence than I did. Gloria Steinem says that “the act of taking power is power itself.” She’s right, but taking responsibility for our power comes with time and maturity. We have to grow into it, and part of that is “unlearning” the general understanding of power as aggression, as power over someone else. There’s a song lyric by one of my favorite artists Patty Griffin, “I thought anger told me what to do” that reflects this thinking, and I believe this is true for many of us. Righteous anger can motivate us to take action against injustice, but it’s never a good stance to adopt as a general rule. Anger offers protection that feels like power, but it’s not; it’s just aggression. True power is risky because it requires living with an open heart, developing discernment and giving a lot of ourselves. It has nothing to do with gratifying the ego, investing in our own status or name, or protecting ourselves; in fact, just the opposite.  Deepak Chopra tells us “If you want something, give it”, which is counter-intuitive to our general understanding of how to get what we want or have control. Again, it’s about unlearning the old rules to create anew.  Forget having control or protecting your heart or keeping yourself safe. Have some courage, brave the elements and ask yourself, what do I want to bring to the world? Your answer matters. Your kind heart matters. In fact, it makes all the difference. Claiming your power is an act of courage and of vulnerability. It’s always both. In your power, your heart can still be broken, people can still disappoint or even betray you, and things won’t always go your way. But your risk to be kind and generous and open in order to influence and help empower yourself and others is transformative, and it’s contagious. Like fire, such courage and enthusiasm and commitment to what we care about spreads. And we never know where it ends. So, tap into your inner storehouse of power, claim it, and be encouraged by the words of dynamic thinkers like Audre Lorde and inspired by the words of poet Mary Oliver, who proclaims, “And I say to  my heart, Rave On.”