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The Sword in the Stone: How Others Empower Us

Seeing with New Eyes
(30-40 minutes)

T.H. White, in the Sword in the Stone, tells us the story of King Arthur as a boy. I have recounted this in workshops because it portrays the dimensions of power available to us as open interconnected systems.

The wizard Merlin, as Arthur's tutor, schooled the boy in wisdom by turning him into various creatures and had him live, for brief periods, as a falcon, an ant, a wild goose, a badger, a carp in the palace moat .... The time came when the new King of All England was to be chosen; it would be he who could draw the sword from the stone. All the famous knights, who came to the great tournament, went to the churchyard where the stone mysteriously stood, and tried mightily to yank out the sword that was imbedded in it. Heaving and sweating, they competed to prove their superior strength. No deal; tug and curse as they might, the sword did not budge. When the disgruntled knights departed to return to their jousting, Arthur, who was just a teenager then, lingered behind, went up to the stone to try his own luck. Grasping the sword's handle he pulled with all his strength, until he was exhausted and drenched. The sword remained immobile. Glancing around, he saw in the shrubbery surrounding the churchyard the forms of those with whom he had lived and learned. There they were: badger, falcon, ant and the others. As he greeted them with his eyes, he opened again to the powers he had perceived in each of them — the industry, the cunning, the quick boldness, the perseverance ... knowing they were with him, he turned back to the stone and, breathing easy, drew out the sword, as smooth as a knife from butter.

After hearing the story we learn through the following exercise how we, like the boy Arthur, can find our powers enhanced by others.

You have a task before you. It has to do with healing our world. This task often seems impossible to accomplish. It is as difficult as pulling a sword from a boulder. Let this task, for the moment, become the removal of the sword. Feel the grain of the stone — how rough and unyielding it is, how rock-solid the sword is anchored in it right up to the hilt. Feel how it can't be moved by your own desperate attempts. No matter how hard you strain and pull, the sword does not budge.

Now look about your life, as Arthur looked about in the churchyard. See around the edges in the beings who have been important in your life. Some you may live and work with now, some may have lived a long time ago. But their vision and their qualities do not die; they live still. Let these beings appear: loved ones, teachers, saints, leaders, animals that have inspired you. Think of the qualities in each that you love and admire . . . breathe them in .... These qualities are already in you or you would not have recognized them. Feel their energy quickening in you, these friends are smiling at you, reminding you of what you have in common and what is available to you now. The courage, the intellect, the goodness, and power that poured through their lives can also be yours. Feel their energy and insight pour through the web in which we all take being. Breathing in these strengths, reach for the handle of the sword, slowly, easily — now draw it out. See how the sword answers not to your own separate ego-efforts, but to the power of all beings, as you open to them.

After the story and the guided fantasy participants in the group can share with each other the sources from which they draw power.

Who appears in the surrounding bushes of your life and gives you strength to pull the sword from the stone? Who gives you insight and courage? It could be a grandfather or a third grade teacher, Mahatma Gandhi, or Rosa Parks .... The gifts they received from the web of life are available to you as well.