The entire goal behind te-a and Conscious Enlightenment is to create empowered individuals. Which requires a number of conditions to be met.

The first and most important of these is to understand what empowerment is. It is not something that you can be given! No matter how long you wait for that guru, that father, boss… whoever it is, no proverbial knight in shining white armour can ever give you empowerment. Empowerment is something you have to take for yourself. It is an attitude, a knowing deep in your soul that you are worthy, that you have a voice and that you have choices.

Yes, you have a choice!

This concept is perhaps the hardest for individuals to ‘get’. Where is the choice when you get laid off and no longer have a home? You have to go to work otherwise there is no food on the table, where is the choice in that ? Where is the choice when you live in a township, have no education and so no way to get a job and provide for yourself and your family?

The thing about choice is that you have to be aware of who you are and your surroundings in order for you to begin to see the choices that are available. The entire mindset that we have no choice  is based on being unaware. We live in a kind of default program, living what we expect to be true without ever questioning our assumptions. We are unaware of who we are, we are unaware of what we think and we are unaware of what we say and what we do. We do not see the connection between what we say and what we do and the experiences we live.  We see instead people (often defined by colour and gender) who speak differently, who act differently and we want to be those people without understanding that really the only thing that differentiates us from them is the way we think about ourselves and our world.

When you live a life of unconscious unawareness, you live a life of permanent reaction, never questioning, never asking if this is true, never wondering if there is something else out there, always wishing and envying those who have. When you are living unaware your seldom believe that you have the ability to create the life you envy. So you never make new choices, instead you say and do the same old things and so create the same experiences and limitations.

Yes, you need to work to get the money to pay for the bills, but is it true that you have to put up with humiliation and derision and unpleasant people ? No! Do you have a choice, yes! The choices range from the extreme (making a stand and accepting the possible consequences there-of) to finding an alternative job, but there are choices.

When you are living in extreme poverty the choices become more limited but they are still there. You still have a choice in how you engage with the world, in who you are being. You get to choose if you are going to be defeated or simply make the best of a horrid situation and if you watch the people who choose not to be defeated, you will see that somehow that choice seems to lift them out of where they are, creating opportunities that open up more choices… and creates a more empowered and abundant life.

Until you as an individual can make a choice (be it where you live, what you do, who you marry or how you vote) based on what YOU want and not based on history, skin colour, gender, culture, circumstances, family, religion or any of the thousand labels that limit your, until then you will always be trapped. Choices need to be free of all those labels, all that history and all that guilt. Choices need to be about what you want ! Which is a question most of us never engage with.

Living in the new South Africa I feel this lack of conscious choice. When I look at my country (one I have a passion for and could never leave), I see one that is still divided by gender and race. I see a nation that approaches each election knowing things are not right but unable to make individual choices based on what they want. Instead we make choices based on loyalty and race and so we create a country where loyalty and race are king, instead of a country where we demand performance and equality. Yes, that is perhaps a simplistic view, but think about it? How do you make the decisions in your life ? Do you think that as a woman your place is defined ? Or that you can not move up the ladder at work because you did not have the right parents, the right school ? All of these assumptions create labels that define and restrict you. All of these assumptions about why you can not create change disempower you and make you into the never ending victim. The people you envy are people who have things because they never believed in those limits and they were prepared to make choices (often hard choices) to do whatever it took to create what they wanted.

At the end of the day, limits are choices. The trick is to become aware of those limits and so either accept them (and the consequences they bring) or make a new choice.

Perhaps I see this from a perspective where I am already empowered, yet there are moments where I feel completely defeated by my world.  The goal behind Conscious Enlightenment was to take the empowerment I created in diving when I attained my world record and transfer it into any and every moment of any and every day. In the real world it is too easy to forget I have a choice an instead fall into the never ending victim thinking that is so pervasive. There are way too many days where I find that the world is a place where there are too many people making choices for me – my boss, my colleague, the President of my country, the President of the United States. I seem to live in a world where other people’s decisions create turmoil in my life. I have to live with the consequences of other people’s actions. I have to stand up and explain why I am not performing yet it is not my fault, these were not my decisions. I live in a permanent state of victimisation.

So I actively work on trying to find choices! I may not be able to control the effects of other people on my life but I can make the choice to let go and instead use that energy on trusting myself and creating a flexible attitude. I can let go of the outcome and focus instead on who I am being and my reactions to events. Instead of being a bitch about it, I can focus on how to make it work for me and so create an experience that is calmer and more pleasant not only for myself but for the people around me. I can make a choice to express my needs instead of getting more and more frustrated as no-one seems to care and I become more and more invisible. These days, the choices I seem to be making seem to be less about changing the circumstances around me and more about changing how I react to those circumstances. I want to be living a life where circumstances and other people do not define who I am and so do not define my experiences. I want to have control back of me.

I want to be empowered. I want to use my voice to make the choices that are right for me. And I want the people around me to start seeing that there is always a choice and to be Empowered is one of them!