"Blame is just a lazy person's way of making sense of chaos." ~ Doug Coupland.
Blame is inherently dualistic: If it’s not my fault, it’s yours. If it’s yours, it’s not mine. You’re the perpetrator; I’m the victim. Maybe I’ll accept a sincere apology, offered in a self-abasing tone and accompanied by an offer of compensation. Maybe, if you’re humble enough, I’ll even admit that I had something to do with the whole situation.
Taking responsibility for all of our actions and the consequences that arise from them is an advanced practice and a challenging pill to swallow when we truly feel like someone has betrayed us, or as if the Universe is conspiring against us. In one of my most recent teaching weekends, a student jokingly said "You made me so sore today!" referring to the previous days classes. I quickly replied to her, "I didn't do anything to you, it's your body, your practice, your in charge, not me." Now granted I knew what she meant and she was simply joking, but I could not let a teaching opportunity like that slide past. As yoga teachers and human beings on this path of higher consciousness and living on this planet together we must empower one another to take responsibility of our lives! It is a mature person who can acknowledge that we are all co-creators of our story and not just at the whim of fate, another person or yes, even a yoga teacher.
"We learn to stand strong in our truth without running away or hiding. We learn to communicate in an authentic and clear way, trusting that what we have to offer is needed and valued in this world."
It's easy to take responsibility for our actions when everything is going great, but what about when it's not? When a driver rear ends us on the highway, people steal from us, we slip and fall in a restaurant, a person talks slander and gossip about us, how do we respond? Do we choose the higher path? Or do we spend the next year or more of our lives bitter and angry trying to justify, seek revenge or get back at them? I understand that the "Scale of Justice" is set in place for a reason, but its important to acknowledge our intentions behind our actions. What energy are we allowing to take up residency in our body and life? What message are we sending out into the Universe? We all know that what we give out we ultimately attract. Being mindful of the stories we tell ourselves because they can quickly become our very identity. Projection becomes perception, phrases like, "They made me ... (fill in the blank), It made me... are so loaded with victim energy. Remember that nothing and no one has power over us unless we allow it.
But what about feelings? I'm a sensitive human being with feelings, and sometimes I "get hurt." Yes, our feelings are effected by others actions. When our expectations and desires are not met, or we feel we've been wronged. This has nothing to do with the other person or someone else hurting us, and everything to do with how we process the energy and respond. Do we play the victim or do we take responsibility for ourselves in any given situation? We have all heard the phrases, "have no expectations", but let's face it we are human, we are emotional beings and we feel. Plus, it's fun and natural to dream, plan, have aspirations and goals. Those things stoke our tapas (desire and zeal), get us out of bed in the morning and I believe are healthy when in check. Taking full responsibility for how we respond to situations and circumstances and trusting our power is a direct reflection on our spiritual and social maturity. This is usually a learned practice, and has very little to do with age.
As a yogi, the word “responsibility” is actually thought of as “response-ability" the skill of responding spontaneously and naturally from a core of inner stillness in such a way as to take a situation to a higher level. In the Bhagavad Gita there is a verse: “Yoga is skill in action.” Skill in action is the skill of knowing how to respond to situations from your center, when you stand your ground so firmly that nothing can knock you off. Nothing is personal, and yet everything is personal. This is one of the most challenging concepts to learn for a new yoga teacher, or any new postion, especially if we are passionate about what we do and feel that it is our calling and dharma in life. Not everyone is going to like us, period. Not everyone wants what we are offering and that's just fact. We have to be able to listen to feedback and comments whether it's directly from the person or third party hearsay (aka gossip) and not allow it to immobilize us, control us and fall into that victim mentality. The art of sitting with the situation whether it's through meditation or prayer, simply getting quiet and shifting our focus inward so that we are able to truly process the information and feel how it sits with us physically, energetically, emotionally and spiritually allows us to use what resonates with us and release the rest. This practice takes diligence and consistency in order to become second nature and a way of living. Remember, how we do some things, is how we do everything. Sometimes this requires a great deal of forgiveness, forgiving where we need to forgive and taking with us the wisdom that enables us to move forward in our lives with grace and a higher consciousness. We must remember that we don't really know what people are going through, so their "stuff" usually has absolutely nothing to do with us and everything to do with them.
To take full responsibility or "radical responsibility" for our actions and outcomes, has a way of empowering us. We learn to stand strong in our truth without running away or hiding. We learn to communicate in an authentic and clear way, trusting that what we have to offer is needed and valued in this world. Just like exercising, the more we start to take responsibility for all of our actions, the easier it becomes. Just like muscle memory, pretty soon we don't know any other way to live. If we are willing to accept responsibility for everything in our life, we can change a situation instead of being its victim. When we exercise radical responsibility, we stop blaming others, like our parents, crazy drivers, taxes, Republicans/ Democrats, ex's, your boss, and instead look at how we helped create the situation or at least how we might have done things differently. Therefore we are never a victim, because we know that we always have a choice.
As an advocate of "change your inside and you'll change your outside" theory of life, I’ve always leaned toward the radical responsibility position. Just as the victim stance allows us to feel innocent it also makes us powerless, but the radical responsibility stance is empowering.
All good yogis, and most successful, creative people are good at what they do precisely because they have learned the art of taking an injustice, a personal mistake, or an injury and using it as a catalyst for growth. An opportunity to take whatever happens, whatever material life throws at us and work with it, turn to our inner ground, our own being, and from there meet the situation creatively. A practice of self-recognition and self check-in can make a big difference in the direction and quality of our lives and relationships. Something about asking internal questions seems to invoke our inner wisdom and intuition, this is the part of me with the best chance of not only acting like a mature responsible adult, but also guiding me through difficult moments. We might be totally clueless in a situation, but our inner wise person knows exactly what to do, and also when to do nothing.
Questions to ask ourselves in that moment of pause and during meditation:
1. Who am I? or What am I made of?
2. Why am I here? or What is my purpose or service?
3. What can I do right now? or Where do I see myself going?
Remember that we are always responsible for our own choices and that ultimately we only have control over how we respond in any given moment. In the end, it is all about responsibility and the recognition of our part in co-creating the world in which we live. We will have greater positive impact by taking radical responsibility for making choices based on the highest and best understanding of the truth in any given moment. So, as human beings taking responsibility for our inner state doesn’t just mean doing our best to feel good, it means being conscious of our part in the web of life and making our choices with the intention that our responses be as clear, as positive, and as skillful as we can make them. This way of living is exciting and creative! It's time to take responsibility for being the co-creator's of our own destiny and the world in which we live!
with love, Tymi
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
TYMI HOWARD is an International Yoga Teacher, Certified Holistic Health Coach and Owner of Guruv Yoga Studios in Central Florida. A Pioneer of the Vinyasa Yoga movement in Central Florida, Tymi is dedicated to inspiring people in discovering their life’s purpose through the art of yoga.