These practices are connected to this essay I offer on Responsibility.
What is your relationship to responsibility?
When you have an argument or disagreement, is it clear to you who is responsible for what?
Do you find yourself apologizing for things that aren’t your responsibility?
When you’re having a hard time, do you seek a savior? Do you look for a parental figure, knight in shining armor, or guardian angel to make it all better?
What are some family patterns related to responsibility? How did your mother or father relate to their own sense of responsibility? What did you learn through “osmosis” in your childhood home?
Do you overextend yourself at work or in collaboration and feel resentment later?
Do you feel like things will fall apart (at work, in your household, in your relationship) if you don’t take responsibility for everything?
Is it hard for you to sit with other people’s feelings without trying to fix them or feeling guilty? Blamed?
Where do you shirk responsibility? What are you avoiding right now? Can you turn ever-so-slightly towards it? What is blocking your engagement here?
Which responsibilities in your life bring you satisfaction, fulfillment or joy? Which feel like a burden? Notice the difference.
Meditative (Active Imagination) Practice:
Let’s practice accessing the part of us that has a healthy and even holy relationship to responsibility. We’ll look at our relationship to self-responsibility, to responsibility in our closest relationships, and then responsibility for the collective or the whole.
Sit with your eyes closed in a meditation posture. Breathe deeply for several minutes as you release the tension you’re carrying; letting your energy settle down into the ground. As you come into a state of deeper relaxation and concentration, feel your central channel, your spine, rising from your root to crown.
As you sense the downward flow of energy, conjure healthy feelings of humility and gratitude. Open the bottom of your heart to the ground. Feel yourself as a part of the whole; part of this great and unfathomable web of life: human, beyond-human. Feel your blessed insignificance along with your uniqueness…You are here. You are you. And you are one tiny atom in the great web of life.
As you sense the upward flow of energy to the crown of your head and above your head, feel your spine straighten with a sense of sovereignty. Feel regal, noble. Feel a fierce sense of pride as you open the top of your heart to the heavens. You are a unique expression of Life, your Will is powerful. You are magnificent and precious. Feel your omnipresence and your enormous capacity to hold the whole. You contain the whole within your being. Expand your consciousness to the size of the universe.
Sitting and feeling alternately the humility and the nobility in you, try to hold them both simultaneously. Try to hold the paradox that we are both omnipotent and insignificant. It’s a real challenge to do this. But it’s closer to the truth than either side of that equation is on its own. The heart is the place where all paradoxes are resolved. Focus here as you breathe.
Recall a childlike sense of wonder and freedom. Bring yourself to a memory of being a child in a carefree state. Notice what is alive in you when you feel carefree. Maybe your senses are heightened. Maybe there’s a deep connection to Nature. Maybe there is a sense of presence, timelessness and a sense of oneness with all life. Feel in the body what it is like to put your burdens down. See what opens or shifts as you let go. Enjoy for a minute before coming back into your adult sense of self sitting upright and centered on your sovereign throne.
Now, continuing to sit in this sovereign “throne” of your central channel with your heart as the blazing sun of awareness plus the radiance of love. Through the heart channel, use direct perception to sense your relationship to responsibility. Ask yourself what and who you feel responsibility for in your life. Look at how responsibilities feel in your system. Are they burdensome or grounding? Feel where you’re clear and your boundaries feel in tact. And feel where relationships are foggy or troubling to you. Without judgement, just look at how responsibility lives in your inner landscape.
Imagine how it would feel to be sure of your responsibility for yourself, within your relationships and to the greater good. Take each one in turn and imagine how a healthy sense of responsibility could serve you and others.
If I was truly responsible for myself, I would feel…I would do…I would be…
If I was truly responsible for my family/friends, I would feel…I would do…I would be…
If I was truly responsible for others/the planet/the environment/my community/all living beings, I would feel…I would do…I would be…
Looking at healthy responsibility may bring up images or feelings associated with areas of your life where you are currently confused about what is your responsibility. You might even notice places where you are taking too much responsibility or wrongly assuming responsibility for something you cannot control. Imagine what it would be like to loosen your hold on these situations, maybe you can even drop them or set them down gently. Let go.
Finally, imagine there is Great Being or multiple Beings who are responsible for you. This can be an actual teacher, ancestors, guardian spirits or any of the great ones: Buddha, Jesus, The Prophet, Mother Mary, Durga…Gods, Goddesses. Imagine you are being held in their care, protection and guidance. You are supported. Your responsibility is bolstered by and connected to them. Feeling them smiling on you, holding you, strengthening you. Ask for their help being clear about what is and is not yours to tend. When you feel their response, bow to them. Bow to yourself. Bow to your practice.