This true nature of ours tells us what our power is. Understanding power is absolutely critical because you can have all the smarts and devotion and information to carry forth a campaign of action, but if you are still falling for the old notion of power you are crippling yourself. The old notion tells us that power is what one substance does to another piece of substance. And what can it do? It can push it around. It can exert its will. Hence we have identified power with domination—power over. And we've imagined that power means having strong defenses, really being invulnerable so others don't push us around. In contrast, an image frequently used by systems thinkers is the nerve cell. In a neural net, nerve cells are constantly interacting and interdependent, allowing flows of matter and energy and information among them and transforming those flows. What is the power of one nerve cell in relation to another? It's not power over or the power of being invulnerable. If a nerve cell were to build strong defenses to protect itself from painful information, it would die. An effective nerve cell lets the charge through. It communicates and develops collaborative assemblies or networks. We can call that power with, or as systems theorists do, synergy. So when we remember our true nature as change, as action, we remember also the true collaborative nature of our power.
A second thing that helps is mudra. We go from philosophy to gesture. There are two symbolic gestures, or mudras, in Buddhism that help me a lot. The abhaya mudra, palm outward, means "Fear not." Don't be afraid. It arose with the teachings about impermanence and interbeing. When I wonder where is my refuge, my safe haven, it reminds me that my real refuge is in my action, in the flow going out of the heart, in the connection. The other mudra is this gesture—touching the ground. When the Buddha was sitting under the bodhi tree, Mara said, By what authority are you doing this? Gautama didn't recite his pedigree or what he had accomplished in his life; he reached down and touched the earth. This is my right to be here; this is my right to seek freedom from endless suffering and inflicting of suffering. The scriptures say that when he did that the earth roared.
Knowing this, we know we don't need to fear pain. We can see our pain for the world as flowthrough of information in the great net. Grief can ambush us at any time, and our power doesn't have anything to do with being immune to that. It derives rather from our capacity to suffer with—the literal meaning of compassion. To be able to suffer with is good news because it means you can share power with, share joy with, exchange love with. Let your pain tell you that you are not alone. What we thought might have been sealing us off can become connective tissue.