You Are Responsible For Your Own Humanity

three-year-old Aylan Kurdi

I am reading the new book of Research Professor in Social Work Brene Brown. It is called ‘Rising Strong’ and it is about Brene’s findings on how people rise up from a difficult and painful episode in their lives. I am absolutely impressed about how Brene uncovers difficult human terrain step by deliberate step. Every time her scientific research shows her that certain human behavior is needed to find fulfillment in life she musters up the courage to explore the terrain personally. This also means that her books are becoming more and more personal over the years. Not because she is born with this exhibitionistic trait but because she has found undeniable evidence that healing and connection comes from vulnerability and she is applying the lessons onto herself.

During the meditation classes of the 100 Day Warrior participants are shown how we are victims of our thoughts. As long as you take your thoughts seriously they have power of you. But you don’t have to believe your thoughts and you don’t have to obey them blindly. You have the option to explore the message and the feelings and bodily sensations connected to the message.

Of course, you also have the option to remain a victim. You can sit on your meditation cushion judging your experience, discarding everything that you believe to be ‘not zen’. After spending some uncomfortable minutes you can just decide not to wait for the bell but to get up from your cushion and go about doing all the things that are on your to-do list. This is a very well-known pattern but it has nothing to do with warriorship. In fact it is the opposite. That doesn’t make you a bad person. But it is not very brave either.

The theme of session 7 of the 100 Day Warrior is ‘Responsibility’. Responsibility is about not hiding yourself behind excuses and complaints. You no longer blame the present moment nor the circumstances to be wrong. You embrace every experience, discard none. You realize that hunting for pleasurable experiences in your meditations are merely ways to reinforce your desired self-image of being a successful meditator and to avoid discomfort. You abandon the hunt for comfort and approval and you surrender to what is. You allow the experience to penetrate you while remaining present. You accept whatever the moment offers you and you admit to it.

Taking responsibly for where you are in your development and what you have become by investing in your self-image all these years opens up a world of vulnerability. Responsibility implies action. If you see that your thoughts are primarily organized around meeting expectations and your workday is also full of expectations and you find your family life demanding it might be wise to admit that you are suffering from the fear of not being good enough. And instead of being a hostage of that fear you can start working with it. By taking responsibility vulnerability and compassion enter the equation.

Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

Becoming is a warrior is about taking responsibility for the rediscovery of our humanity. If you have been following the news lately you might have noticed that the world could use more humanity so don’t be afraid to increase yours.

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