Most people associate meditation with calmness, acceptance, letting go, and living in the moment. This is the peace aspect of meditation (shanti, in Sanskrit). Yet meditation is also about focus, self-mastery, willpower, and energy. This is the power aspect of meditation (shakti, in Sanskrit), not as widely appreciated.
Both are true and both are important. Depending on how meditation is taught, the technique used, and the philosophy behind it, one of the aspects will be emphasized.
We all know how meditation is calming. But how is it empowering?
- It gives you a gap between you and your thoughts, your emotions, and your impulses. With this space, this pause, you have the freedom to act according to your values.
- It teaches you how to focus all your attention on a single point for prolonged periods of time, and thus accumulate energy that can then be directed to anything you want.
- The very exercise of focusing the mind enhances your willpower and determination.
- Over time and with deeper practice, you even gain the ability to actually control the mind.
Peace or Power?
Most meditation teachers these days emphasize only the passive aspect of meditation (peace), which is why many people are concerned that going too deep into meditation might make them passive, demotivate them for other goals in life, and perhaps even make them apathetic. Depending on the meditation approach, these concerns are not totally unwarranted, as research has widely demonstrated.
In my teachings, I emphasize more the active aspect of meditation (power)—hence mindful self-discipline. First, because this is an important message and one that doesn’t get enough attention. Second, because this is more closely aligned with my own meditation journey, and the teachings of the wisdom traditions I’m most connected to (Yoga and Hindu Tantra).
The power of concentration is the only key to the treasure-house of wisdom. (…) There is no limit to the power of the human mind. The more concentrated it is, the more power is brought to bear on one point—that is the secret.
— Swami Vivekananda
In general terms, looking at the different types of meditation, we can say that the observation and pure being styles of meditation are more about peace, while the concentration styles are more about power. (Learn More)
Peace and power, exhalation and inhalation, water and fire, awareness and will—these are the yin and yang of meditation practice. As a practitioner, it is important that you develop awareness of the aspect you need the most, in this phase of your life; or that you work with a teacher who appreciates them both, and can guide you accordingly.
Finding Your Balance
In Mindful Self-Discipline, we discuss how every virtue casts a shadow. Every virtue or quality is at times an asset and at times a liability. Think of the virtue of tolerance, for example. At times, it is the right way to respond to a situation, for it conserves your energy, your peace, and also your relationships; at other times, though, it is a recipe for being abused. (See my older article on this topic here.)
Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power. — Buddha
If meditation for you is all about peace, and you get a lot of it, then it will feel deliciously satisfying, but could also be limiting in several ways—unless you live in a monastery or cave.
If meditation for you is all about empowerment, you will also feel great, enjoying the expansion, high energy, and willpower that comes from it; but at times you may also feel that something is missing, and long to touch a deeper stillness.
The synthesis is that it’s about empowered peace and peaceful power. That is what my work and my personal practice are about. I tried capturing this in the logo of the meditating lion, used in my first website, in the phone wallpapers I’ve created (below), and also in the cover of my upcoming book, Wise Confidence.
Needless to say, this “power” is not power over other people, but power over oneself—taming your own nature. It is a state of high energy, focus, determination, and positivity. Just like being clean is its own reward, being in this state of empowerment is also its own reward. It makes you feel more alive, expansive, and confident.
Yet that is not enough. This power needs to be at the service of a higher purpose. Only then will it lead to peace, fulfillment, and your higher good.
In most meditation traditions, that higher purpose was, originally, spiritual growth. Yet in some traditions in India and Tibet, for many centuries, the inner power generated from meditation was also used to achieve whatever goal in life one was aspiring to. In the case of Michael Roach, for example, it led him to build a successful diamond business and sell it to Warrant Buffet for 200 million—using the principles learned during his Lama training.
In Mindful Self-Discipline, our tagline is Purpose, Power, Peace.
- We start with a sense of purpose: the change you want to make in your life, or in yourself. Your aspirations.
- Then we cultivate our inner power through meditation and the several awareness and willpower practices in this framework.
- Having become more focused, centered, and empowered, we are then able to achieve our goals. The byproduct of that is peace. We become fulfilled, as we have resolved our previous desires, needs, and anxieties.
This is not only a way to achieve your goals mindfully, but also a way to live with greater well-being and better mental health.
When you are living aligned with your purpose—or living inside out—you know your place in the universe. You know that you are living the life you were born to live. As a result, you experience peace of mind. You don’t feel anxious, because you are aware of your power—just like a lion doesn’t feel anxious walking through the savannah. And you don’t fall into depression either, for that doesn’t happen when you are deeply moved by purpose and by engaging life goals.
Empowered peace, or peaceful power, is more than just bringing together opposite qualities. It is navigating life, and meditation practice, in a more holistic way. It is the synthesis of much of my study and work, and I hope this article has helped connect some dots for you.
I’ll leave you with a couple of questions to reflect upon:
- What do you need to cultivate more in your life right now, peace or empowerment, water or fire?
- Are your thoughts, mindset, and life philosophy helping you achieve that, or do they need some tweaking?
To deepen on these topics further, check out chapter 39 of Mindful Self-Discipline or chapter 19 of Wise Confidence. Or subscribe to my YouTube channel for daily short videos that explore this synthesis.
May your life be filled with purpose 🧭, power⚡️, and peace✌🏻!