The definition on dictionary.com for the word sovereignty is as follows:
- the quality or state of being sovereign, or of having supreme power or authority.
- the status, dominion, power, or authority of a sovereign; royal rank or position; royalty.
- supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community.
However, in regards to sovereignty as it pertains to a quality we can develop and strengthen in our daily life, which can help to bolster our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, this textbook definition is not so helpful.
For my purposes, I would define it as: the state of relaxing with solidity and ease, into all the parts of who we are.
My husband Mike and I are slated to give a joint talk at our meditation group, Be Here Now, tomorrow night. The title and topic of our talk is: cultivating sovereignty. Aware that this word is not common in our collective vernacular (here in the U.S anyway), we will start off by sharing each of our own working definitions that we’ve come up with. His is as follows: freedom and liberation from being governed by unskillful habit energies.
Sovereignty involves being able to carry our true home with us everywhere we go. While we will of course still experience difficult situations and the full gamut of human emotions, when the quality of sovereignty is strong within us, we will be able to maintain our calm and clear center, without getting uprooted by the winds that blow around us.
Sovereignty is akin to a tree. A tree trunk is upright, solid, and grounded (solidity). Its branches, however, go with the flow and bend in the wind and its leaves change, shed, and regrow with the turning of seasons (ease).
After offering my working definition, I plan on giving a couple of personal examples (see below) of how this quality has shown up for me in the last few months, to hopefully help give some context and illustrate how sovereignty can be a beneficial quality to invest our time and energy into. I mean, it’s all fine and well to teach about cultivating certain qualities and states of being, but I think it’s important to also speak to the why as well. Whether I want to speak about cultivating mindfulness, joy, a sitting meditation practice, sovereignty, or any other number of things, it’s good to offer at least a brief reference as to the potential benefits that watering these seeds can have on our everyday lives.
Over the summer, I got a new/used motorcycle. I stepped up into a bigger bike and fell even deeper in love with riding than I had been, so I was taking it everywhere I possibly could, whether near or far. If I could be on the bike, I was on the bike. During this heightened ride time, I was set to meet with someone over at Har Shalom, our local Jewish synagogue. They were interested in meeting with me as the director of the Open Way Mindfulness Center, in order to discuss how we manage and operate our center rentals to community groups, as they were also interested in possibly doing something similar with their lovely space. On the day of our appointed meeting, I was getting ready to head out the door and my first thought was: I’ll take the bike. My second thought, however, which followed close on the heels of that first thought, was: Is it appropriate for me, as a representative, director, and spiritual leader of the Open Way Mindfulness Center, to show up for a meeting with another head leader at a place of worship, on a motorcycle. I wondered about how it would translate to the person I was meeting with – how they might view our center and sangha, simply based on my showing up on a motorcycle.
Fortunately – as I’ve been intentionally investing in cultivating sovereignty in my practice for about six years now and it’s gotten easier – after a few moments of considering that second thought, a third thought arose: Yep, it’s cool. I’m taking the bike. So I took the bike. Had it been six years ago, I would’ve stalled out on that second thought and allowed my self-conscious fueled doubts and comparison games to run the show and I would not have taken the bike. So in this instance, I was able to relax fully into the part of myself that is a devoted motorcycle enthusiast. When I am able to own, with solidity and ease (and it’s super important to mention that both elements complete each other and must go together in the context of cultivating sovereignty) all the parts of who I am, I am received in a different energetic way than when I’m showing up feeling tentative or trying to be someone other than who I am.
Something I do frequently – and have been doing for many years – is write notes in pen on the top of my left hand. If my paper day-planner is not close by, and there’s something important I need to make sure I remember, I’ll write it on my hand. A month or so ago, an older friend and mentor of mine noticed some penned notes on my hand and said: “I thought only 12-year-olds did that.” Without missing a beat, I replied: “It works for me!” Not only was my statement true and accurate but I was able to say it without matching the biting tonal quality I felt I was being given, as well, which is important to mention. I was able to respond to that person’s comment, rather than simply react. Years ago, I would’ve carried that person’s comment with me for days, maybe even weeks. I would’ve replayed it and spun around with it, and I would’ve spent a lot of time and energy second-guessing whether or not to continue writing notes on my hand – I may have even stopped doing it, because it’s not what an adult “should” be doing, in the eyes of this older mentor. I would’ve plunged myself into the murky waters of self-doubt, all the while not taking responsibility for my own actions and blaming that other person for “making” me feel whatever I was feeling. In this case, however, I was able to respond with an energy of ease and own the fact that I am someone who writes notes on their hand in pen. It’s something that works super well for me. It’s not what someone else may or may not think about me that matters – which, by the way, is based on their own habit energies and wounds and collection of life experiences – what matters most is what I think about me and what percentage of myself I’ve made friends with.
At this point in the talk, Mike will take over and share his working definition and a couple of his own recent examples. We’ll then both share about how the cultivation of sovereignty is currently showing up for us individually as a married couple, regarding Mike’s current re-surfacing of depression. And in the interest of writing being the best way for me to flesh out ideas, here are the points I plan on focusing on for this portion of the talk:
– I’m working to stay in close connection with the truth of how Mike and I’s differences don’t equate to being right or wrong and operating instead from a place of developing understanding and connection, verses judgement and separation. And part of this involves seeing clearly that we have different social needs and being okay with that. And now I’m at the point where I can go out on my own and do the things that I like doing, without feeling guilty for leaving him at home or resentful that he doesn’t want to join me, which are two things I used to experience A LOT.
– I’m working at giving him space when he gets home from work, when he needs to just come home and shut down AND I’m working on finding ways to voice my want for more communication and togetherness without being fueled with feelings of frustration.
– I’m working on not taking it personally in regards to how his depression symptoms show up, which involves two parts: 1. Not regarding his depression as being my fault and 2. Not thinking I have to turn into the caped crusader of mental health and “save” him. (Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t things I can offer to do that might be helpful and supportive, so it’s important for me to investigate and stay in contact with the differences between wanting to help someone and trying to save them.
– And perhaps the most beneficial thing I’ve experienced in relation to my own cultivation of sovereignty within the context of our life as a couple, is centered around deeply absorbing & embodying the teaching of how when I take good care of myself, I am automatically helping to take good care of my husband. There is an incredibly deep and rich well in this one teaching alone: When I take good care of myself, I am automatically helping to take good care of those around me. There is no separation. The more we are able to truly see our interbeing nature, the more we are able to experience ease and liberation.
Concluding thoughts & optional homework assignment
If we find that we are continuously attracting and/or surrounded by rude, disagreeable, unthoughtful, unpleasant people, and are constantly feeling affronted, annoyed, put out, or otherwise unglued by the words and actions of others – whether we know them or not – it’s a very good indication that our quality of sovereignty is greatly under-nourished. How we view and regard ourselves directly correlates with how we view the people around us. How we interact with ourselves internally, gets mirrored in how we interact with others externally. There is no separation.
If we are unable to own certain parts of ourselves, no one else can either. So the first step in cultivating sovereignty is to learn how to make better acquaintance with our own person. To make friends with ourselves – and not just the parts we’re on good terms with. We need to step into accepting and embracing the full scope and entirety of our human manifestation. All of it, without exception.
On this note, two of my favorite quotes, which are included in the memes above, are:
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. – Carl Rogers
Much of spiritual life is self-acceptance, maybe all of it. – Jack Kornfield
I would highly recommend using one or both of these two quotes as a guiding support and light on your path. Pin them up someplace you will see them on the daily; commit them to memory; repeat them; if you enjoy writing use them as a prompt; investigate them; look deeply into these one-line teachings in order to discover the fruits of what they are speaking to.
A couple of posts ago, I included my inspiration for what I designed to be a piece of optional homework to give to folks tomorrow night. (You can view that post here: https://goingoutwordsandinwords.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/on-self-acceptance/)
The above pic is a handout that people can take with them, if they so choose. The homework will be to fill it out with small tidbits of info about yourself that you either tend to hide or put a spin on, have felt self-conscious about, or have been shamed for or looked down on for in the past (you can view the one I filled out by clicking on the link above).
I also plan on urging folks to share one (or more) of their small tidbits with someone – someone, of course, that isn’t already aware of whatever they’re choosing to share about. And if folks don’t have someone who springs to mind that they feel comfortable sharing with, I’ll invite them to email me directly. The point is to encourage folks to stop hiding parts of themselves from other people, so that it enables them to step more fully into their own skin with ease.
Making friends with all the parts of who we are and sharing more openly with others go hand-in-hand. Our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being will be improved by committing to cultivating these actions ongoingly.