Lesson 14: Taking Ownership
Last week we explored our parts. We paid attention to how different personalities and energies emerge in different situations. We watched how we interact in relationships. We are using our mindful awareness to create space for all of ourselves—to trust in abundance, in God, and in our own Higher Self. When we find ourselves caught in a reaction or struggle, we practice detaching to find our center. Often, our best course of action is to do nothing at all. As we pause and center, we can find an inner peace that takes away our neediness and stops us from desperately grasping for resolution or control. This allows our protective parts to calm down, and we can act from a Higher place. When we cannot find this peace, let’s Reach In, Reach Out, and Reach Up. Reaching is a lifelong practice that we return to each day. Let’s measure our progress not by the perfection of our outer circumstances but by our increased conscious awareness.
This week, we explore finding freedom and empowerment through the instrument of accountability. We do this by considering the ways our egoic demands, self-defeating behaviors, and different parts may have caused harm—intentionally or unintentionally, to ourselves or others. In fact, we might even make a list of specific people we have harmed, an exercise that has helped untold thousands in twelve-step fellowships heal and grow.
Some part of us may recoil at the idea of so closely examining our past or focusing so directly on our mistakes. But let’s consider the possibility that what is left unexamined can silently hold power over our lives. Perhaps we have witnessed how pain that is not transformed can be transmitted to others, one way or another. When we take the time to heal and acknowledge the harm we have contributed to, we shift the energy in our lives: we are no longer running from the past. Courageous honesty and accountability can help us break the chain of our unconscious patterns, and our list of harms can help us do this.
We might find ourselves in a defensive shame spiral at even the suggestion we committed a wrong. To step out of this, we can lean on our growing mindful awareness, with God at our center, and remember that our divine identity includes our human limitations. We can recognize that we have the power to shift our mindset away from shame, embracing all parts of ourselves and all parts of our journey as stepping stones. Nobody is all good or all bad. We are each beautiful and complex human beings, with strengths and weaknesses, traumas and dreams, on a journey towards home. With a Higher Power at our center, we can find the courage to view ourselves more consistently through this growth mindset.
Eventually, we may reach out and make amends to the people on our list. This will be a uniquely personal and sacred step if we choose to take it. We might make amends in person, through electronic communication, or even through a letter we may never send. A healthy amends might concisely acknowledge the harm we have caused, express our regret, and ask for forgiveness. Let’s try not to excuse or justify ourselves or give long explanations about why we did what we did. We are not seeking to be understood or attempting to influence other people’s perception of us. We are simply acknowledging our wrongs and attempting to make them right where we can. We may choose to make amends directly, as soon as possible. Or we might find it best to take accountability through a changing lifestyle rather than a singular event. We can prayerfully ask God where to start, and trust that over time, as we are willing, all will be made right.
The purpose and benefit of this experience have nothing to do with the outcome or even how we are received. Some may receive us warmly, and relationships may resolve as bitter feelings fade. Others may receive us coldly or even with insult. This is okay. Let’s be careful not to expect anything in return for our efforts. Regardless of how we are received, there is power in our choice to humble ourselves and admit our wrongs. We can look ourselves in the mirror with a clear conscience, knowing we have nothing left to hide. This clear conscience can be an empowering empty cup to propel us forward in our lives, free of shame, guilt, and unresolved burdens.
It may seem counterintuitive to associate empowerment with picking through our past or making amends. We may even find the self-focus offensive. When we feel broken, burdened, or depleted, we may find our protectors standing guard, demanding that others apologize to us, or even expecting someone to swoop in and rescue us. Let’s instead learn how to turn to the only One who can rescue us, shaking off any self-defeating expectations that keep us stuck us in victim mentality. When we choose to find a healing path for ourselves regardless of others’ actions, we take ownership of our lives.
In our mind, body, and spirit, we can mindfully sense that the empowering energy of ownership feels opposite to the helplessness and blame of victim mentality. Ownership empowers and opens our minds to the infinite options available to us—no matter what our circumstances are. When we take full accountability for our actions and reactions, we take back our power. So let’s also include this ongoing mindfulness practice: when we are wrong, let’s promptly admit it.
It takes mindfulness and humility to acknowledge our mistakes in front of real people, but when we do, miracles can unfold. We can come to recognize our own great need for forgiveness, and find it easier to forgive others. We can feel greater self-respect and less need to defend ourselves. We can become more open-minded and less concerned with other people’s opinions. We can engage with the world from a place of authenticity rather than insecurity.
Where we used to criticize or judge, we can feel more empathy: “I know what it feels like to be afraid. I know what it feels like to want to be important. They’re just like me.”
Importantly, we do not identify our harms to shame ourselves or wallow in guilt. We do it to empower and free ourselves. Every uncovered coping strategy or shame clears space for closer connection to God and our fellows. So let’s empower our lives by taking full responsibility for what is ours and relieve ourselves of responsibility for what is not.
A helpful mantra here might be: “I am responsible for me. You are responsible for you.”
This concept can sound deceptively simple, but we often get this entirely backward. Perhaps we feel responsible or guilty for others’ discontent when in reality, their happiness is not our responsibility. Or maybe when we find ourselves in unhappiness or resentment, we tend to blame somebody else rather than looking inward. Other times we may say yes when we don’t want to, and fail to say no when we do want to. The more deeply we look, the more clearly we can see: when we confuse our stewardship, we contribute to chaos. In identifying our correct position to God and others, we can begin to see where our misguided expectations and misplaced responsibility have done harm.
This week, let’s be mindful of our no and our yes. When we are disturbed, no matter what the reason, let’s say yes to self-inquiry. Let’s accept full responsibility for our own emotional state. Let’s do whatever is needed to find our way back to center. Let’s also take note of when and where no is needed. Let’s work to identify the places in our life where we are taking responsibility for what is not ours. Let’s recognize the red flags of resentment and overwhelm, and value them as the markers that they are. They can show us where a no is needed. Let’s place peace and Presence as our highest priority, and say no when no is called for.
Mindfulness Practice: Deepening The Art of Surrender
This week’s mindfulness practice is to deepen the art of surrender, which assists us in taking ownership of our lives. We have already seen how we can burn our power by focusing on things we cannot control, including other people, outcomes, and the past. Our harms list probably includes a mix of these things, so we will need to practice surrender as we go.
Let’s be careful as we survey our harms not to get caught in our old narratives or wallow in guilt. Let’s simply admit each situation where we caused harm, detaching from both the story and our need for justification. Acknowledging harm is a necessary part of our own healing and progress, as well as that of others. Let’s trust in God and the process. When we catch ourselves worrying, wallowing, resenting, or trying to control anything outside of our own mind and heart, let’s pause. Let’s breathe. Let’s surrender.
When we surrender mindfully, we can feel a tangible release in our mind, body, and spirit. We can feel our heart open, our shoulders relax, our breathing slow. If we are struggling to find such a release, we can employ our tools: Reach In, Reach Up, and Reach Out. Sometimes we may have to use all three strategies or other mindfulness tools to fully feel the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual release.
Surrender is so simple, and yet it is also a profound practice that requires deep trust in our Higher Power, and in life itself. Surrender can be thought of as faith in action. Letting go of outcomes that we have built our identity on is no easy task. We might feel that we can only let go for a trade-off— if we feel that doing so will guarantee us the outcome we desperately want.
“I can only let go if I know he will forgive me.”
“I can only let go if I know I won’t gain weight.”
“I can only let go if I know she will get well.”
“I can only let go if I know he will make the right choices.”
“I can only let go if I know my marriage will survive.”
True surrender means that we prioritize our inner peace above outcomes. In this mindset, we trust that if we take the next right step toward inner alignment, then the outer parts of our lives will fall in line with His will over time. But this is where things can get sticky. Can we accept that His will may be different than what we think we need? Our optimal health probably won’t mirror the people on magazine covers. Our teenager’s path may not reflect our wishes. Our loved one might not recover from their illness.
Accepting what is with Grace is precisely what surrendering means. Surrendering the outcome is the essential factor that shifts our energy. When we do, the Universe can begin to abundantly offer us that which our fear-driven striving may have unconsciously complicated. As we let go of our own agenda, God can make up for our perceived losses in miraculous and surprising ways.
We deeply surrender when we stop trying to manipulate, manage, or control other people. It takes Grace to let go when other people’s choices affect our happiness. When our loved ones struggle, it can feel like we are hostages of their self-defeating behaviors. In these moments let’s kindly ask: “Can I let go and allow my loved one to find their own messy path? Can I trust them to the care of a Higher Power instead of relying on my own power to save them?”
Let’s go back to our practice of accepting all parts and remember: pain and joy are essential elements of our progress, and there is space for both. Let’s reflect deeply on our journey, and consider if this has been true for us. Finally, let’s practice making room for others to experience the same transformative gifts, supporting them with love, empathy, and acceptance in their sacred moments of struggle.
As we deepen our surrenders, we open our minds and empty our cups. We become more creative in the way we define success and envision a beautiful life. As we open our hearts and minds, we can find that God is capable of creating a life much richer, sweeter, and more powerful than what we had imagined. We begin to see countless pathways to the Divine. We can even laugh at the idea that there is only one right way to be beautiful, grow, struggle, feel God, or move through life. As we open our eyes to the mind-blowing color and diversity in this world, how can we doubt that our Creator intended otherwise? Let’s make every pathway a pathway back to Him, and worry more about feeling Him at our center than how perfect our path looks on the outside. Let’s set down the heavy baggage of expectations and outcomes and take ownership by taking responsibility for what is ours, keeping ourselves aligned with God in mind, body, and spirit. As we let go of our way, we clear space for His infinite ways. Let’s allow Him to surprise us.