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Center for Action and Contemplation

Powerlessness: Weekly Summary

Saturday, April 1, 2023

It is the imperial ego that has to go, and only powerlessness can do the job correctly. Otherwise, we try to engineer our own transformation by our own rules and with our own power–which is therefore, by definition, not transformation!
—Richard Rohr 

It’s recognizing, “Richard, you don’t know how to love at all” that keeps me on the path of love. Constant failure at loving is ironically and paradoxically what keeps us learning how to love. When we think we’re there, there’s nothing to learn.
—Richard Rohr 

Admitting our powerlessness frees us to allow the One who is Power to become active in our lives. We become more open to new ways of doing things as we allow God to love us and teach us how to give and receive love.
—Catherine Chapman 

What precedes admitting and makes admitting possible is hitting bottom. It’s very painful to admit that our lives have become unmanageable because we all need a sense of self-efficacy.
—James Finley 

Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up. The opposite may be true: We may not be able to get it together until after we show up in such miserable shape.
—Anne Lamott 

In my mind’s eye I could see and feel myself searching here and there, looking for Jesus so that I might share with him how powerless I was to be true to who I sensed he was calling me to be.
—James Finley 

AGE Practice  

Buddhist teacher and addiction counselor Valerie Mason-John created the AGE (Awareness, Gathering, Expanding) practice to help people when they are suffering. Through greater consciousness of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, contemplative practice helps us encounter Divine Reality in our powerlessness. Mason-John recommends taking three minutes for this practice, one minute per stage of breathing: 

There are three stages to [the practice]: Awareness, Gathering, and Expanding (hence AGE)…. 

1. Bring Awareness to whatever is happening right now. (Assume a gently upright posture.) Become aware of your thoughts: what are you thinking right now? Allow your thoughts to be there, without pushing them away. 

What are you feeling right now? Let your feelings be there too. Acknowledge them as they are, even if they are difficult.  

Become aware of sensations in your body, especially any strong physical sensations. As best you can, just allow them to be there and bring an attitude of friendly curiosity toward them.  

2. Then, Gather your attention on the breath, becoming aware of the breath coming in and going out of your nostrils and the movement of your chest and belly. Focus on the physical sensation of the breath.… 

3. Finally, Expand your awareness to include the whole body. As best you can, feel the physical sensations in the whole of your body…. If you notice any areas of tension or tightness, you could direct your attention there. You could imagine directing your breath to these areas, breathing into and exploring the sensations with the breath.  


Valerie Mason-John and Paramabandhu Groves, Eight Step Recovery: Using the Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction (Cambridge, UK: Windhorse Publications, 2016), 23. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Jenna Keiper, Mystic. Jenna Keiper, North Cascades Sunrise. Jenna Keiper, Jonah. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Regardless of the conditions we find ourselves in, we learn to navigate in the midst of our lack of control. 

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