Cedar Barstow – The Rocky Mountain Region’s Vice Chair
Here we are, Ren and I—at five years of marriage. We’re celebrating with a gorilla at the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland, Colorado. I had never heard of Subud before meeting Reynold Ruslan Feldman (Ren), although I later discovered that my former husband, Tom Daly, and his first wife were both active in Subud while they were attending the University of Colorado! Subud practices of latihan and testing as well as my wonderful Subud companions in Boulder are very meaningful and grounding for me. I come to Subud as part of a long spiritual journey starting with my youth in the United Church of Christ (UCC). My grandfather was President of the Hartford Seminary Foundation, perhaps the major UCC seminary. I then spent many years as a Quaker after graduating from Earlham College, a fine Quaker school in Indiana. I then dedicated 20 years to learning about shamanism, ritual, and the Christian Kabbalah from Elizabeth Cogburn and the Earth Song Ceremonial Community. Now Ren and I attend St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder.
I’ve enjoyed working with Roland Evans as his and the RMR’s vice chair for the past year and a half. At the June Regional Gathering in Crestone, Colorado, I gave a workshop on “Resolving Difficulties.” I’ve found that most of us automatically link conflict with loss and/or pain. Part of the process of resolving difficulties involves understanding and beginning to shift our personal automatic habits for avoiding conflict, like for example laughing or blaming the other or shutting down or taking all the blaming or making light of the situation or silence. We spent some time identifying these. Like all organizations, Subud has its share of disconnected relationships and unresolved conflicts. We had a discussion at the Regional Gathering about some of the reasons for these situations.
I then guided dyads through a resolution process. To feel reconnected, most people want or need any or all the following five things. These are remarkably straightforward, and the pairs who were practicing together were surprised at how far toward resolution they got in the short time period they had. Here’s the hand-out in case you’d like to try it. This focus on attending to interpersonal difficulties is from my current work as a Hakomi psychotherapist and trainer as well as my humanistic ethics program and book called Right Use of Power: The Heart of Ethics.
My deep interest in power and ethics grew from my pained awareness of the egregious harm that those who abuse their power cause. The newspapers and television are full of sensational and horrific abuse-of-power stories. As a teenager, I think I decided that if I didn’t want to cause any harm, I simply should not have any power. As a psychotherapist and a teacher, I delved deeper into learning about power. I found that the definition of power is “the ability to have an effect or to have influence.” It followed that if I wanted to have an effect or to have influence as a teacher or therapist I needed to own the power I had.
I identified several kinds of power–personal power, role power, status power, and collective power. For people of all professions or assigned positions, role power is the additional ability to have an effect or influence that automatically goes with the role, whether it be teacher, peace officer, consultant , or health-care provider. This power and influence is an add-on to personal power. Like a scarf, it can be taken off and put on at work. Role power therefore creates a difference in power between doctor and patient or psychotherapist and client. This difference and its effect on the relationship are the foundation of the need for ethics. Role power can be used wisely and skillfully, or it can be used harmfully. Of course there is also the source of power–God, the Great Life Force, or the More. This source, channeled through each of us, can be used for healing, for service, for the good of all. Or it can be used to exploit or dominate or force, sometimes in confusing or subtle ways.
As in other organizations, many people in Subud have role power that gives them responsibilities and greater power and influence over others–local, regional, national and international officers, chairs, program directors, and especially Subud helpers. This extra role power is a good thing for all of us or a challenging thing depending on how the role power is used. It is my experience that right use of role power is not an automatic result of good intentions or guidance. These are necessary, but using power wisely requires awareness, interpersonal skill, engaged compassion, and a working understanding of the impacts and complexities of power differences.
For more information about right use of power, see www.rightuseofpower.org.