By Barry Goss and Heather Vale
In light of some of the confusion and surface-level teachings going on about the "responsibility game" (as in how far you should take your need to be responsible for everything that you see, feel, and experience ), let's start by analyzing, and putting deeper meaning, around this quote:
"Most people have no idea what responsibility means... They are into blame. As they grow and become more aware, they begin to consider that they are responsible for what they say and do. Beyond that, as you become even more aware, you can begin to realize that you are responsible for what everyone says and does, simply because they are in your experience. If you create your own reality, then you created all you see, even the parts you don't like." ~ Joe Vitale
The above quote is excerpted from Joe Vitale's best-selling (of course, he has the process down!) book, Zero Limits, which is about the ancient Hawaiian art of Ho'oponopono. The basic premise is that you are responsible for absolutely everything you experience, whether within your control or seemingly beyond your control, simply for the fact that you are experiencing it. In order to change it, you must clean yourself by sending out love, gratitude, and apologies to the Universe.
Now, apparently there have been some pretty awe-inspiring results come out of this seemingly strange practice. And yet, we keep meeting people who do and teach Ho'oponopono but still don't take responsibility for their lives and everything that happens to them. They still act as victims if someone says or does something that they don't like.
So the question is... are they extremely incongruent? Or do they just have a feeling, deep down, that we're really NOT responsible for everything that occurs within our awareness? Or is it perhaps a combination of both? And more importantly, where does the truth lie? Are we, in fact, responsible for everything we see, hear, smell, taste, feel and experience... whether it occurs in our own backyard, or halfway around the world?
This question has been floating around the spiritual circles, and hotly debated, for some time now. Followers of the movie The Secret tend to believe what the movie tells them, which is that we "attract" or "create" everything in our lives.
In the movie, Bob Proctor says that everything in your life, you are attracting into your life. Mike Dooley says that Thoughts Become Things. Michael Beckwith says that creation is always happening. Joe Vitale says you're like Michelangelo, and the David you're shaping is you. Winston Churchill is quoted as saying that you create your own Universe as you go along. Quantum physicist Fred Alan Wolf says that the mind is shaping the very thing being perceived. So they don't really say "responsible", they say "attract" and "create". But that begs the question... is "attraction" and "creation" the same thing? And where does responsibility fit in?
We think that Fred Alan Wolf's assessment that the mind shapes the very thing being perceived is spot on, because perception is so often taken as cold hard fact by most people. "You attacked me," "You turned your back on me," "You yelled at me," "You cut me off on purpose," and so forth are all perceptions of an event that took place, and/or perceptions of the intent of another person involved. But often these perceptions are completely the opposite of what the other person intended... and intention is so much more powerful than perception when it comes to what reality is.
So our minds shape what we experience based on our perceptions... but those perceptions do not make reality, just what we perceive as reality (which we can call "our reality," as in "we create our own reality," but it may not have any impact whatsoever on anybody else... and is therefore not "true reality").
If I send you a gift from the heart that I honestly think you'll appreciate and enjoy, and you decide that there must be some hidden message in why I would pick that particular thing, what's true? My intention of giving a gift from the heart? Or your perception of the hidden message that was "wrapped up" with the present?
I think it's pretty clear that my intention is what's true, and your perception, while it might seem true to you, is really not. Your perception shapes your reality, but no one else's, unless you're determined to tell everyone you know how terrible I was for giving you the gift. Then you're influencing my reality, and all the other people's reality too. But you haven't changed true reality unless you can change everyone's beliefs - including mine - about what happened.
But I don't think that "perception" is the same as "creation", and I don't think that perception requires taking responsibility for what is... only for what our reactions are to it. And in fact, despite the common habit of using both words interchangeably, I don't think "attraction" is the same as "creation", either.
When Joe says we're like Michelangelo, sculpting our own Davids (ourselves) he is definitely saying that we "create" our reality. But now, after lots of investigation and study, we're starting to question this premise. We "attract" what's in our lives, absolutely. That's the Law of Attraction, and it's not going to change. But "create" - as in the artistic sense of create? We'd have to say no, not by that definition of "creation".
Think of it this way... you can attract another person to you. But you can't create another person, unless that person is your offspring (and then you're only co-creating with your partner)!
I've painted many paintings in my life. They start with a blank white canvas, and I can create absolutely anything I want on that surface. It might be a cartoonish animal, it might be a landscape, it might be a portrait of a person, or it might be totally abstract. There are no rules, and I can create whatever I choose.
In life, we can't create whatever we choose. If you want your skin to be naturally darker, you can't create that. If you want to be a natural blonde when you're not, you can't create that. If you want to use your own leg power to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, you can't create that. If you want to run faster than a speeding bullet, or be more powerful than a locomotive, you can't create that.
If you want to have four legs, or six arms, or three eyes, you can't create that. If you want a unique pet, you can't just create any Dr. Seuss-like character you can conceive... even if you believe it (sorry, Napoleon!) Physics rule just as hard and fast as metaphysics, and you can't bend the rules. But you can absolutely attract anything that already exists on this planet... it was created by the Universe (The Creator, or a co-creation of the Universal consciousness, including you) but it's attracted by you.
If you write a book, you created it. If you read a book that happened to come along into your life at the precise right time, and you just know it was a sign from the Universe... you still didn't "create" it. You only "attracted" it. Or, as I like to say: We don't create, we facilitate.
If creation is the equivalent of an artist's painting, then facilitating is the equivalent of making a collage out of pictures that you've cut out of magazines, photographs you've taken, keepsakes and mementos you've picked up, and various other odds and ends lying around.
In the corporate world, we facilitate a meeting - conceive it, put it together, make sure it happens and guide the way it unfolds. But nobody says we create a meeting, because you can't create how others will be involved. Facilitating is basically another way we can look at attracting, but it implies a more hands-on approach that I really like, and that inspires self-responsibility for what we experience.
Back to the example of attracting vs. creating other people... Barry and I were first "attracted" to each other in the classic metaphysical sense: the Law of Attraction at work. But Barry facilitated our first conversation by taking the initiative to email me. Over a year later, we became "attracted" to each other in the physical sense: animal magnetism at work. But again, Barry facilitated that becoming more than just a mutual admiration. Yes, he was the one kick-starting that phase in our relationship too. But a couple of weeks later, when I also realized what I wanted, I helped in the facilitation process (by sending him an REO Speedwagon song, to begin with) and we ended up where we are now (another whole journey in itself). Yes, you could say we "created" the relationship. But from a true something-out-of-nothing perspective of creation, we really "facilitated" it happening the way we had designed and envisioned, rather than creating it from scratch.
But back to one of my original questions: Are we absolutely responsible for everything we experience - whether it happens in our personal circle of influence, or halfway across the world? Are you responsible for a tsunami because you watched it being covered on the TV news? Are you responsible for a co-worker being fired because you witnessed the boss axing him? Are you responsible for the price of gas because you filled up your car? Are you responsible for global warming because you commented on how nice the hot weather was last summer? Various scenes in The Secret would imply yes. The principles of Ho'oponopono say absolutely, yes. We say no.
Now at this point, it's important to make a clarification. When teachers talk about "you" creating your personal reality, or being responsible for what you personally experience, they are often talking about your Higher Self you, not what we'll call your Lower Self you. They don't usually make that distinction, which is why so much confusion abounds... but that's what they really mean.
The Higher Self is you on a spiritual plane - the part of you that has all, knows all, and probably guides all in your life. The Lower Self is you on the physical plane - the part of you that experiences all, and is learning with each step along the way. We could call it Mini Me (physical) and Maxi Me (spiritual); or as fellow metaphysical writer Stuart Davis says, the spiritual part is your Self and the physical part is your self. Get it? Upper case "Self" = Higher Self, and lower case "self" = Lower Self.
The point is, listening to teachers who say "we already have everything we need" or "we're already whole" is misleading, because they mean the Higher Self, which of course is already whole! We don't need anyone to tell us that, it's obvious. But most of us aren't 100% connected to what our Higher Self knows and wants at any given time.
So if you get raped or mugged and a teacher tells you you're "responsible" for that, should you feel terrible about it? No, because if there is any responsibility in the equation, or if it was pre-planned for that event to happen, it was all your Higher Self's doing. The Lower Self experiences it, and can choose how to react to it (such as acting like a victim, or taking a strong stance as a survivor or, even better, a thriver). But obviously the Lower Self did not choose to experience that, even if the Higher Self did. The Lower Self is not fully responsible, even if the Lower Self attracted it.
How would the Lower Self "you" attract such a terrible thing? Either by thinking and feeling things like "nobody's trustworthy," "everyone's out to get me," "men are only after one thing from me," etc... or by walking around like a victim with shoulders stooped, expecting the boogey man to jump out at any second. Criminals look for the victim attitude, and never attack someone who walks with confidence and a don't-mess-with-me attitude.
Extending this argument to global events takes on a whole different level of suspended disbelief, however. Can we say we're responsible for that tsunami because we walked around like a victim? Or even that we're responsible because we watched the weather report on TV and said out loud, "Wow, the environment is really getting out of whack lately!" I don't think so... what do you think? What does your soul tell you? What are your gut reactions? How much of what you experience or witness do you truly feel you're responsible for? And when engaging in this discussion, keep in mind whether you're referring to your Higher Self or Lower Self when you say "I".
So now, where do YOU stand on the issue? What does your intuition tell you about what you're responsible for? Just remember my favorite Jack Canfield formula: E+R=O (Event + Reaction = Outcome) and take a curious look at your reaction to what you read here. Does it ring true? Does it ruffle your feathers? Does it make you want to embrace me or lash out? Only you have control over that... we're not responsible!
But that's good news, because taking self-responsibility for your habits, your reactions, and your roadblocks is one of the most empowering things you can do. It allows you to see your self-defeating behavior and patterns, and adjust accordingly so you facilitate a more desirable situation for yourself. We just don't think you need to take self-responsibility for the earthquake in California.
We're not approaching this from the position of uninformed non-spiritual people who just don't get it. We're approaching it from the stance of investigators who have been there, done that, dug deeply, and discarded what doesn't jive.