The Power of Having a Higher Power

Once upon a time, not so long ago (ok, maybe 30 years ago), I did not believe in such a thing as a “higher power.”

When I was a child, I had experienced a profound love of God and a deep connection with nature. But as I grew up, I took to heart the Marxist sentiment that “religion is the opiate of the masses.” I abandoned my early Catholic education in favor of rationalist secularity. By the time I was a young 'tween, I had dismissed religion lock, stock, and barrel. My early feminist sensibilities doubly endorsed my choice to evacuate the patriarchal oppression I saw in the Church. I was out of there faster than I could say a Hail Mary.

I was reintroduced to the concept of a “higher power” when, at age 16, I attended my first (and last) Al-Anon meeting. Al-Anon is the 12-step program for friends and family of alcoholics. My boyfriend at the time was in AA and I thought Al-Anon would give me some needed support for dealing with the craziness of addiction. What I recall from that lone meeting was the feeling of desperation in the room (it was palpable) and the absolute insistence that I must surrender to a power greater than myself in order to find peace with my addict boyfriend's cray-cray.

In retrospect, I see a lot of value in the 12-step framework, and I personally know many people who have found sanity and sobriety through AA. (As they say: It works if you work it.) At the time, however, the concepts offended my rationality and my sense of personal agency. The thought of taking refuge in something larger than myself smacked of weakness. I was an independent, strong, young woman. I didn't need Al-Anon, and I most certainly did not need an addict boyfriend calling me at 5am from the county jail. I said so long to both.

I am still an independent, strong woman. And — with 40 being the new 30 and all — I'm still young... though not as young as that 16-year-old. I've lived a lot, seen a lot, grown a lot. And through a divinely-guided series of adventures over the past 20-plus years, I have come to recognize the presence of a higher power at work in all aspects of my life.

I did not come to this recognition through any institution or program but through my own encounters with reality. I see this higher power every day in the rhythms of sunrise and sunset. I feel it every month in the pull of the full moon. I witness its power at work in the ever-repeating life cycles of nature. I have also witnessed magic and flat-out miracles in my own life and the lives of others.

There is — in fact, not just in concept — a greater order that is much larger than I am. I am embedded in it, just as you are. We are all embedded in communities that are interwoven in this Earth system which is itself embedded in a cosmic system.

Whether you ascribe a personality to this greater order or not — whether you call it God, Goddess, nature or nothing at all — it exists. And it is available to you for comfort, respite, inspiration, and empowerment.

You don't have to force the sun to rise. It is not your will that turns the planet. You do not need to labor to inflate and deflate the moon each month. Photosynthesis happens without you needing to lift a finger. Your body is built to breathe without you needing to even think about it.

How cool is that?

You can reject religion, ideologies, and healing programs. But when it comes to making life changes, it is super helpful to have a relationship with your higher power, as you understand it. Life becomes easier. Results come more swiftly. And you get to feel deeply supported through the process.

Take some time to reflect on your relationship with divinity, greater order, higher self, whatever-you-call-it. What do you believe? And what's the most empowering aspect of that belief? What step forward could you take in your life that's congruent with your belief?

One of my cohort at the Catholic university where I earned my graduate degree likes to tell a story about a young seeker who says to a teacher: “I don't believe in God,” to which the teacher replies: “God believes in you.”