"Taking Responsibility" vs. "Handing it Over"
Los Angeles based wisdom master George Falcon spoke frequently of what we might call the Seven Stages of Mastery. You can watch the videos of this in his introduction to Basic Spirituality lecture series on Vimeo if you want all the detail. (The image of him above is a screen shot from one of those lectures where you can see the first five stages spread out over the bell curve of the human population).
For most of us, the first three stages are the ones that are important to understand and there are only a couple of elements that I wanted to highlight that are relevant for this post. The first is that to improve our lives a good trick is to pretend that we are responsible for everything that happens to us, both externally and internally (even when someone rear-ends you in traffic, assume that is your fault). George claims that if we do that, our life will begin to change and any negative emotions or experiences that we have day to day will begin to dissipate. This isn't the place for me to explain the whole theory but, with a data set of one (that being me!) I can say from my own experience that this technique does work. Using his Seven Stages model, the idea with this technique is that you don't need to know the theory or the background; simply by employing this trick you will begin to move from a Dysfunctional life to the Recovery stage.
Another core teaching of George's is this idea that we are not in charge of the universe and lack the power (at least in the form of our brain/body) to direct its flow. He would encourage his students to "let go" and "hand it over" and simply "witness the perfection" around us.
As someone who has always had a fascination with physics, this made sense to me. I think about what an infinitesimally small and temporary arrangement of particles in the vast cosmos that our bodies are and the idea that I can control the outcome of my day, let alone life and death issues, seems silly. Again, this is not the place to go into the theory behind this concept. George does that in the video lectures and Podcast episodes and the book on his teachings will be out soon and those are the places to find this sort of background.
Instead, in this post, I wanted to explore the following question: if there is a conflict between George saying, on the one hand, "a good antidote to dysfunctional thinking is to take 100% responsibility for one's self or situation or emotions" and, on the other, "hand it over to God/the Universe." Which is it, are we responsible or aren't we?
My thought up until recently has been that the answer is that at different levels of learning or consciousness you do different things appropriate to that level. If your lower chakras are dominant or you are in the "Dysfunctional" stage, then using the 100% responsibility technique can be an effective way to enter the "Recovery" stage. But as you advance on the spiritual path, I figured that you would be more in touch with "God's Will" or the intention and flow of the universe and therefore you could "hand it over." (Again, if "levels of consciousness" or "chakras" draws a blank for you, head over to the Vimeos or Podcast).
Recently, I was listening to a recording of a conversation George had with one of his students about dealing with someone you loved who was sick or acting in an incredibly self-damaging way. In that talk the student was asking what could one do to help. George pointed out that we lack both the power and the authority over the other person's health or actions. In contrast, we do have power and authority over our own selves (body, emotions, thoughts). With that conversation in mind, it seems to me that there is another answer to the apparent conflict between those two teachings.
You "hand it over" with respect to the ebb and flow of nature, other people, the universe. You "take responsibility" for the behavior/attitude/experience of your own personal brain/body and how it responds to that ebb and flow around you. And that attitude of taking responsibility puts you in the mindset of being brutally honest with yourself for the part your brain/body played in creating the situation you might find yourself in.
So, I've concluded they are not in conflict after all.