Insights on Dams and DamningOct 25, 2023
There's a torrent of damning happening in the world right now.
And I wanted to share a story about what we can learn from dams in nature
to understand the act of damming / damning ourselves or others.
Especially for all of us privileged to not be in a war zone.
On Saturday morning, I was walking at Marsh Creek State Park in Pennsylvania simultaneously enjoying the autumn foliage and full of global heartbreak when I arrived at a large, earthen dam. I've studied dams for many years starting back when I was an Earth Systems major at Stanford and a researcher on a trip that studied the entire Colorado River watershed, including Hoover Dam. Standing on the dam, a stream of inspiration with Nature as teacher poured through me.
Dams are finite technologies.
Rivers in motion carry silt, and the faster a river flows the larger objects they can carry. This is why flash floods can move not just rocks, but cars, trees, and whole buildings. So when a dam is constructed in the riverbed and stops the momentum and power of a river, the silt drops out. Over time, the silt accumulates. E.g. there is 90 feet of silt accumulated behind Hoover Dam (*built in 1931).
As silt builds up over time, it begins to concretize under its own pressure.
And what once was a reservoir for water becomes rock.
If we think and sense in a symbolic, energetic way (which is often what I invite to learn about power), a dam is a construction to capture and withhold flow to create a reservoir. Sometimes the intention is to withhold our energy out of protection — e.g withholding connection or forgiveness bestowed to other people. It can also be withholding of lifeforce, withholding our own expression, or withholding our gifts, because we are overwhelmed by the bigness of flow (power) that wants to flow through us. The sensation is too much, and so we'd rather just stuff it down. Aka we create a dam in our being. We all constantly do this in life and work.
Photo of Marsh Creek Dam in Pennsylvania
When we stay in a protective, guarded, clammed-up state or a resentful, rageful, unforgiving state, there's a type of pressure in our being that will never go away.
The antidote is Power that Serves the Whole, which is like the undammed river that can carry away obstructions with its flow. We need to build our capacity to experience flow and learn to distinguish how we create benefit and harm with our power. The fear that we may conduct harm with flow is a huge part of why heart-centered leaders dam themselves, and part of why one may damn others too. We might think it's easier to withhold forgiveness, love, compassion, or our expression, desires, or inspirations. But it literally makes us sick to withhold the flow of our power and connection. We do it from so many forms of Shadow Power — because we are hurt, angry, in pain, scared, uncertain, wavering with doubt. Look, we all do it! I know this as well as anyone sitting in the seat of Founder and creator of Wayfinding and the Power Landscape.
I've devoted my life to understanding the flow and blockage of power
in my own being and in others.
I don't do this because it's a fun, intellectual exercise. I do it because it is a path of liberation and joy and it's a deep commitment in my own being to remove every single, possible dam in my person within my lifetime. That's my commitment to Power that Serves the Whole. It is total. I do not hold myself to a timeline by which I will do this though, and I am well aware that commitment and practice are more important than an end state.
I hope you'll join me in the commitment to decommission all the dams in your being.
Yes, all of them.
The power of making that commitment in oneself — the power of deciding “I will not allow myself to energize dams or damning, the damning of myself or others” — that type of commitment creates systemic cascades that we can't even fathom. Instead of damming and damning, we move energy through systems in a way that serves the whole. That's medicine. I invite you to join me in this life practice, in this community practice of cultivating our medicine. This is what alchemical leadership looks like. This is what lionhearted leadership looks like. This is what joyful power stewardship and culture repair look like. And we get to practice together.
Simple Actions & Reflections
- How have you been damming or damning yourself recently? How have you been damming or damning others recently? Sense which of these dams you are ready to let go.
- If you want to learn more about the Adversary Impulse, Shadow Power, and how to release its grip, join me for a free community event of learning and ritual next Wednesday — Understanding the Adversary Impulse. Learn more below or register here.
I hope you found this helpful and that it sparks inspiration to look inward or further at your own impulse to dam / damn.
Learn more and sign up for this embodied community experience of learning, reflection, and ritual to understand the impulse within each of us that disconnects, puts ourselves above and below others, and how to undo its grip to choose another way. Seats are limited and the recording will be made available to registrants afterward.
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