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We Can Be Superheroes

Paul MacCormack


A couple of years back I saw an animated short on Youtube (below) narrated by author, ABC news personality, and podcast host Dan Harris. In the video Harris likened the practice of mindfulness to being an actual superpower. Our ability to choose to respond wisely rather than be carried off by our habitual reactions is on par with x-ray vision or shooting webs from your wrists. 

The interesting thing about most super heroes is that they aren’t just one-trick ponies. Even though the likes of Superman or Wonder Woman are best known for their superhuman strength and ability to fly, they also both have lesser-known powers — things like telepathy, laser vision, or even the ability to speak any of the world’s 6500 languages — that they can call onin a pinch.

The art of mindfulness is actually very similar on a great many levels. Our ability to respond wisely and quiet our minds are often the main superpowers people tend to focus on. But there is also a long list of lesser know powers that can be called upon our everyday lives. Things like gratitude, kindness, presence, or seeing the interconnectedness of all things. These can be life changing skills.

There is also another power that has the ability to diffuse negativity, help us work with shame or guilt, or even change the relationship with the “evil villains” in our lives. It is the simple but powerful notion of self compassion. 

Just pause for a moment and imagine yourself face to face with your nemesis of choice from the comic books or movies (or even your own life). This villain has the ability to make you feel intense shame, overwhelming guilt, aggression, anger... basically stir up anything that makes you dislike yourself. Let yourself feel the full brunt of this confrontation deep in your body, inhabiting the sensations completely. 

Take a breath or two and now shift your perspective to your inherent superpower. Imagine even a warmth or inner light emanating from deep within engaging and diffusing the negative onslaught from your enemy. The power of self compassion has the ability to open our hearts and create space for us to respond with friendliness instead of judgement. This space creates a container to hold the pain and allows us to respond wisely rather than go down the rabbit hole of reactivity. 

The power of self compassion has the ability to open our hearts and create space for us to respond with friendliness instead of judgement...

This imagined episode is the same story that plays out with us when we are trapped inside self-defeating storylines. The only difference is that the “arch enemy” we face is our own mind. Practicing and strengthening our ability to respond to self loathing with compassion and love transforms our lives on truly heroic levels. 

The other interesting thing about superheroes is that they are usually the ones who are called upon during times of great upheaval or crisis. They calmly and wisely respond by using their powers to transform the situation and help others to relative safety. By giving selflessly of themselves they help to restore balance and foster a renewed sense of peace. 

We are currently caught in the midst of such upheaval. The crisis we are living in real time has brought untold suffering on both a global and intensely personal level. Navigating these perilous times takes a great deal of inner resourcing and patience. As we choose to respond to the crisis with both equanimity and self compassion, we become a beacon of hope and stability for those around us. As they bear witness to our wisdom they can in turn begin to tap into their own inner strength. 

And therein lies our superpower. We don’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound or transport to a different dimension to combat aliens. We simply need to open our hearts and minds to the radical idea of making friends with ourselves. The ripple effect we create has the power to transform our own experience and also that of those in our orbit…and right now that’s a super power the world sorely needs. 

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