TRANSFORMATIONAL QUESTION: Am I owning everything I think, feel, say & do?
Most people do not want to take responsibility because they don’t want to be blamed or criticized. But without responsibility there is no power to create. Powerlessness and lack of responsibility go hand in hand.
Perhaps it is more accurate to say that people find it easy to accept responsibility for the things that they do well that are appreciated by others but have difficulty accepting responsibility for their mistakes. The truth is, however, that we all make mistakes, lots of them. Most of life is a process of learning from our mistakes — not a process of avoiding them. If we do not acknowledge our errors and learn from them, we live in denial.
We create a fantasy world. We never learn to be in our lives successfully.
Success in business, athletics, health and well-being comes when we experience failure or adversity and find a way to
overcome it. If we give up the first time life challenges us, we accomplish very little.
If you need to be perfect, you won’t succeed, because no one is perfect. But if you need to be better than you were the
first time you did something, then you will learn from your mistakes and become stronger and more proficient. Skills are built in the face of adversity.
You learn to believe in yourself by overcoming challenges, by pushing through difficulties and transcending conflict.
Strength is built through resistance training. Character is built through trials and tests.
Greatness is built through braving controversy or standing up to injustice. Innovation is created by taking the path less
traveled, even if it is more difficult.
You might think it is no big deal to admit your mistakes and learn from them, but it is a very big deal. When we first do it, it is a defining moment.
Why is it so hard to acknowledge our mistakes? Because when we own our mistakes we think we become a target for the
attack of others. Saying “I did it” is like holding a sign that says “hit me.” We live in a culture of blame, shame and punishment,
not in a culture of forgiveness. We believe that owning our stuff means signing up for being crucified. The result is that very few of us own our stuff.
But here’s the rub. By not owning our stuff, we cannot come into our creative power. We cannot be successful. In order to succeed, we must be willing to fail. We must be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. We must be willing to say “I screwed up; I’m sorry.”
Forgiving ourselves and others for our mistakes gives us all a new lease on life. We get another chance and a man or woman can do wondrous things with another chance. There are many examples of this. I am sure that you know one or two.
All of us want to be lifted up. All of us want to be celebrated. But those who have been lifted up and celebrated will tell you some pretty heart-rending stories of the times when they have crashed and lost everything. You think you have troubles and difficulties? Listen to those stories. They will humble you.
Without humility you have no chance to succeed. Life takes everyone down sooner or later. Better at the beginning of the journey than at the end. Better to learn the lessons of humility now while you have time and the circumstances of your life permit. Otherwise, you might not learn those lessons and you will not know what to do when the great storm comes.
A humble man or woman rides out the storm. A proud man or woman sinks with the ship.
Life is not charitable to those who think they are special and have little regard or compassion for others.
So even if you don’t have compassion for others yet, have compassion for yourself. Be kind to the one who is struggling
to make ends meet. Learn to love and value yourself and show up for your life. Learn from your mistakes and be gentle with
yourself. Every time you forgive yourself or someone else, you are gathering momentum and strength. You will see.
The Crash Course in Boundaries
For many years I have given my students this important key to their awakening. It is just one sentence, but that sentence
is powerful and it will change your life. That sentence is
“Everything that I think, feel, say and do belongs to me and everything that you think, feel, say and do belongs to you.” I call this The Crash Course in Boundaries.
The Crash Course is a profound tool on the spiritual path because it tells you exactly where your responsibility lies and
where it doesn’t. You are responsible for everything you feel and everything you believe to be true. You are responsible for
the words that you say and the things that you do. No one else is responsible for any of it.
Someone may push your buttons and you may respond in anger. But that person is not responsible for your angry words or actions, you are. It doesn’t matter who you think made you mad or sad. It is your belief. It is your anger or sadness. It all belongs to you.
Of course the same is true in reverse. If you trigger anger or sadness in others, that anger or sadness belongs to them, not to you. The responsibility for their thoughts and feelings, words and actions belongs them and to them alone.
The point here is that each one of us chooses what to think, what to feel, what to say and what to do. Of course, when our reactive patterns take charge it may not seem like we have a choice, but we do. The choice is simply made on an unconscious level.
Our job is to understand that because we have a choice we also have a responsibility for the choices that we make. Unconscious choices create suffering for us and for others. So we need to become aware of the reactive, unconscious choices that we are making and of the consequences of those choices. If we don’t like the results we are getting, then we have to go back and identify the wound driven behavior behind the choice. Then we can see the wound that needs to heal and the belief that needs to change.
As we consciously bring healing to the wound and change our false, dysfunctional beliefs, our unconscious, wound-driven
choices diminish and we find that we are able to make choices more consciously. The more awareness we bring, the better our choices are and the more we like the results. Our thoughts are more positive, our feelings are more harmonious, our words are kinder and our deeds are more powerful.
All this happens because we are willing to bring awareness to every thought, every feeling, every word that we speak and every action that we take. We bring this awareness as our moment to moment spiritual practice, knowing that we are ultimately responsible for all of the contents of our consciousness. We do this not to find fault with ourselves but to be vigilant and aware of our creative power, knowing that what we believe about ourselves and others will tend to out-picture in our lives in one way or another.
Each one of us is a creator and as such we are responsible for our creations. That responsibility will be there whether we create consciously or unconsciously. Some people call the creative power when it operates unconsciously Karma. It really
doesn’t matter what you call it. The bigger the unconscious net you knit the greater the chance you will get caught in it.
So knit carefully. Knit consciously. Take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, words and actions. Your experience belongs to you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it belongs to anyone else. You are the architect and the builder. You are the judge and the jury.
The converse is also true. Others are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, words and actions. You are not responsible for the creations of others. Don’t take on a false responsibility that does not belong to you. Let others be responsible for their own experiences.
Moving Beyond Shame and Blame
The quickest way for you to cross boundaries and trespass against others is to try to make them responsible for your thoughts, feelings, words, or actions. You do this by telling them “It’s your fault that I got angry” or “You made me angry.”
That is not true and it will never be true. Because they trigger your anger, does not make them responsible for it. You retain
that responsibility, no matter how much they provoke you.
You have a choice how you will respond to them. If you don’t take it personally, if you know “it’s their stuff,” you can let it roll off your shoulders. You don’t’ take it on. You don’t get stuck in their thoughts and feelings. You don’t get triggered by their words and actions. You know that their thoughts, feelings, words and actions belong to them, not to you. Because you don’t get triggered, you don’t respond unconsciously. You don’t attack back verbally or physically. You don’t shut down emotionally, but you do detach. You let them have their own experience and you try not to judge them. You know that everybody gets triggered. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has a bad day once in a while. You don’t take it personally.
You take people off the hook. You take yourself off the hook. You don’t feel responsible for their stuff or try to make them responsible for yours.
That is how you move out of shame and blame. You stop victimizing others or playing the role of a victim. You know that everyone has a choice. Everyone can get off the wheel of suffering. They simply have to take responsibility for their own experience.
Shaming and blaming others only deepens your own pain. Choose not to do it. Give up the idea that anyone else is responsible for your happiness or lack of it. Take full responsibility. Let others know “I can be happy with myself even when you are unhappy with me. Your happiness is not my responsibility and I won’t take it on.”
Tell them also “You aren’t responsible for my pain, my joy, my happiness or lack of it. I refuse to blame you or shame you
for any condition I encounter, because I know I always have a choice. I choose my pain. I choose my joy. You cannot choose
for me. Therefore my choice can never be your responsibility.”
The Crash Course in Boundaries helps you refrain from trespassing on others or allowing others to trespass on you. It establishes appropriate responsibility and true equality. It helps you to give up shame and blame of yourself and others.
Working with the Transformational Question
The transformational question here is “Am I owning my thoughts, feelings, words and actions.” Am I taking responsibility for my own experience or trying to give the responsibility to you? Am I allowing you to take responsibility for your own experience or am I accepting inappropriate responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, words or actions?”
The transformational question helps you identify trespass (crossing of healthy boundaries) when it occurs or is about to occur. It is a compass that tells you where you are and helps you figure out how to get to where you want to go.
On the journey, true north is always the place where there is no shame or blame, no trespass on self or other. When you
are blaming or shaming others, you need to become aware of it and stop. That is your responsibility. When others are blaming or shaming you, you need to make them aware of it and ask them to stop.
Tell others, “Let’s not shame and blame each other. Let’s each own what belongs to us. Let’s take responsibility for
what we are creating right here and now.”
Tell yourself “I am here to wake up and take responsibilityfor my experience. Shaming and blaming others is co-dependent and leads to mutual victimization. I cannot empower myself by blaming or shaming someone else.”
Acknowledge the times when you forget The Crash Course in Boundaries and trespass upon others. See your mistakes,
own them, and learn from them. Vow to correct your errors and ask for forgiveness for your trespasses. Practice the Lord’s
Prayer. Forgive the trespasses of others against you and ask them to forgive your trespasses against them.
Jesus did not give us this prayer so that it would remain inside a holy book. He gave it to us to be a practical tool that we could use in our daily lives.
Whenever you find there are angry or hurt feelings inside another or inside yourself, ask the transformational question. “Am I owning my stuff or am I trying to make someone else responsible for my experience?” and the converse: “Is the other person owning her stuff or trying to make me responsible for it?”
Use the transformational question to bring awareness of the trespass and bring the correction that is needed. Don’t use it to beat up yourself or someone else. When you become aware of trespass, don’t shame or blame. Just stop. Stopping is enough.
If you are brave, acknowledge that you were inappropriate or out of order. Say “I see that I tried to make this about you,
but I now know that it is about me only. This is my stuff, not yours. Please forgive me if you can.”
That way you reclaim the truth. You re-establish healthy boundaries. You regain trust and mutual respect. You restore
acceptance. You re-establish the law of love as the operative power in your life.
Important Things to Remember
- Without responsibility there is no power to create. You might think it is no big deal to admit your mistakes and
learn from them. But it is a very big deal. For most of us. It is a defining moment.
- You are responsible for everything you feel and everything you believe to be true. You are responsible for the
words that you say and the things that you do. No one else is responsible for any of it.
- Shaming and blaming others only deepens your own pain. Choose not to do it. Give up the idea that anyone
else is responsible for your happiness or lack of it.
- Others are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, words and actions. You are not responsible for the
creations of others. Don’t take on a false responsibility. Let others be responsible for their own experiences.