Taking Passionate Responsibility

March 20, 2012


Two of my all-time life heroes are Ellen and Scott Nearing, radical back-to-the-landers who modeled their values through HOW they lived their lives. At a time when the masses were living the prescribed life, the safe life, the unconscious life, the Nearings modeled a revolution through conscious choice in the ordinary details of daily life – from their food and shelter to how they defined work and related to time. Their mission was to align every aspect of their lifestyle with sustainability and self-reliance at a time when society was heading in the opposite direction. It was hard work but they received the daily reward of freedom that only comes from being willing to roll up one’s sleeves and meet life with an appetite for truth that goes beyond the ordinary passive consumer prescription. Sound familiar?

My grandparents were in this category too. They lived their lives as free spirits and embodied the archetypes of the bohemian and the pioneer. They did so not because it was cool, but because they looked with caring open eyes at the world around them and chose to respond in accordance with their deepest values of creativity and service, rather than with what the populace was doing. They modeled reverence for life and irreverence for social expectation.

In a culture where “responsibility” has been given a bad rap and weighs heavy with notions of burden and sacrifice, I propose it is time to reclaim the power, sanity, and joy of taking responsibility for how we live our lives…and to do so with passion (passionate responsibility). In a culture that rewards individuals and corporations who are not accountable for the impact of their actions and/or products, a culture that offers endless distraction when we choose to close our eyes to that which is hard to see about ourselves or our world, the art of taking passionate responsibility, as daily practice, is revolutionary – personally, politically, and spiritually.

I like this dictionary definition of responsibility: “the ability or authority to act or decide on one’s own, without supervision.” This requires observation and inquiry. I also see it as response-ability, our ability to respond to life consciously, from the deepest place inside of ourselves, even when inner resistance is present, free of a conditioned script. Think of the possibilities when we let go of the fear that compels people to “pass the buck” and ”let someone else deal with it,” to live sans denial and with faith that we have what it takes to meet whatever life presents us with powerful loving presence NOW?

As many of you know, my primary passion is the practice of compassionate awareness, a non-text book term to point to mindfulness practice (the essence of Zen). Compassionate awareness requires both discipline and effortlessness. It also requires us to take passionate responsibility for our perceptions and habits of mind on a moment-by-moment basis. Our response-ability, our ability to take care of ourselves and our world, has everything to do with our ability to stay present. Through meeting our moment-by-moment experience with a gentle curiosity, life becomes a laboratory for cultivating wakefulness, kindness, and freedom of choice. Practice requires open-hearted inquiry into every dynamic we encounter. Whether it’s meditating with an uncomfortable sensation in your body or staying present through an emotional trigger in a phone conversation with your mom to receiving news about Monsanto…it’s a simple practice, but it’s not always easy.

Taking passionate responsibility puts us in touch with our willing, present, compassionate, heroic, and fearless selves… the part of us that owns the power to make a choice… that is willing to turn freedom into a continuous game… that is loving enough to stay present even when it is painful… the part of us who is fool enough to trust the still small voice within even when the noisy conditioned world says different…and the part of us that is on fire about being awake and making the choice that serves LIFE.

I invite you to nourish yourself by acknowledging & celebrating all of the ways you ALREADY choose to take responsibility in your life. And, inquire into How are YOU taking response-ability in your life today? Perhaps you are taking responsibility for your perceptions and habits of mind, for what you are bringing to a relationship, for your imprint on the environment, or for your health and well-being. I welcome your reflections below.

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