Trust in ourselves and others is developed by self-knowledge and self-care, disciplines that have been available since before recorded history. Daily practice improves our courage and self-confidence to allow our natural splendor and beauty to reveal itself.
We have taken a tremendous risk by looking straight into the eyes of our toxic shame in the previous steps. When we move out of that despair within ourselves, we end the power of the domination and violence paradigm immediately. We are free.
Now we trust that we can bounce back, learn to fly as we recover from not only systemic or personal abuse, but also our old behaviors of allowing ourselves to get thirsty, tired, hungry, angry, lonely or any other depleted state. Each time, new lessons in self-care become evident, obstacles become opportunities, and we continue to grow as vital human beings.
Not only do we need to practice physical self-knowledge and care through proper rest, exercise and diet, we also need to pay constant attention to our relationships because they have become extensions of our own humanity. When we offend someone emotionally or physically, whether intentionally or not, we promptly admit our mistake and make amends.
The deeper meaning of the word responsibility is the combination of two words, “response” and “ability.” We all have this ability to respond to change, to adapt, to grow, and it is in this ability that we find our most human qualities. We give thanks for each new opportunity to set things right, and our positive expectations create a feedback loop where things do become right. We become resourceful, creative, and optimistic. Life becomes a joyous adventure that is aimed at becoming fully alive.
- Where do you derive your courage? How often do you attend to your need for courage?
- How do you carefully examine your thoughts and behavior in a compassionate and honest way?
- What resources do you have to help you deal with sudden change or loss?
- Can you separate your essential needs from your temporary desires? How?
- When you maintain a state of reconciliation with other people, does it weaken their willingness to become violent? Can you illustrate this with a specific story?
- Do you know your personal “red flag” signals that warn you of increasing frustration, anxiety or irritability?
- Does the challenge of becoming more fully alive require you to deepen your connections to other people? Why or why not?
This step propels us into a permanent kind of peace, gratitude and joy that may be shaken by outer events from time to time but remains as a core identity to which we continually return again and again. We may be upset or traumatized by situations, but we are no longer life-time victims of those events. We experience and know that we have a choice about how we respond, about our attitude. We see the “big picture” of not only our personal growth from dependent to independent to inter-dependent, we also compassionately see the struggles that others face on the same journey.
This serenity is powerfully contagious, a benign virus. It provides the space for others to seek and discover the calm space that resides within them.
Exactly how we cultivate our emotional peace is unique from individual to individual. The techniques are as varied as an active engagement in an art or sport to a quiet time spent in meditation or writing. Whatever we do, the key ingredient is the practice of “flow,” or relaxing into a consistent focus of attention which strengthens our ability to manage our thoughts and our emotions.
Whatever we place our attention upon, whatever occupies the foreground of our thoughts, tends to set the tone and sequence of those thoughts. In order for us to escape the repeating loops of negative, alarming, pessimistic or depressing thoughts, we need to have a separate “witness” identity that can notice and recall a larger and more stable context. That witness will be able to answer the questions,
- Who am I?
- Who am I with?
- Where am I going?
The answers to those questions provide us with a ground — literally, a connection to the earth under our feet — upon which we can stand and feel secure, capable of movement in creative and productive directions. Over time, the answers will change into deeper and more solid certainties.
- What self-care practices do you use to gain serenity?
- What is your response to the domination system? Do you have a better idea for organizing society?
- What is political power? Can it be stolen, because it is scarce, or is it unlimited?
- Recall your most recent verbal or physical opponent. What is your best guess about the life experiences that led them to their viewpoint? What do they need, what are they looking for? (Refer to online human needs inventory if necessary)
- What is your common ground and basis for a friendship with difficult people? Do you have some of the same needs? What are they?
- How could you creatively collaborate with those who may have offended you?
- In difficult and uncomfortable conversations, how can you adjust your language and time spent listening to meet others with empathy, respect and curiosity?
The process of social change — the defeat of tyranny — requires each individual to move through the fear, anger and grief around the loss of old ideas and familiar behaviors. We need the courage to act in spite of our fears, to not only repair the damage but also to prevent it from happening again, and we get this courage from each other.
Recovery has to be a social process. Accepting that we are not alone is the first, necessary step. Finding our way back to fully being alive requires support for the process of letting go of the familiar, and leaping into the unknown. We need a map and consistent pathway beacons, friends and mentors who remind us of the big picture, accept our wanderings, and celebrate our mileposts.
The ability to let go of our damaging behaviors, the ones that have harmed the people around us, depends upon our moving forward in small affinity groups of mutual support for that grieving process. As we practice giving away our compassion to each other around the issues that we share in common, we become internally balanced and secure. We find strengths we never knew we had, and virtue in the original sense of the Latin word, virtus, meaning “valor or courage.”
When we began this journey, we exposed many factors that have caused us to isolate ourselves from the rest of humanity. Gradually, we let go of those reasons to feel that we did not belong. Now we celebrate our re-union and prepare to serve our community with a new willingness to be present for unresolved conflicts, confusion and grief.
Sharing that spark of self-esteem and response-ability is the real beginning of recovery from a culture of control, domination and violence. As long as we focus on creating nurturing relationships, not run away from difficult emotions and will ourselves to be empathetic, present and grounded, there is no way that we can fail to attract the spiritually sick and tired into recovery from violence. Peace will then grow.
This is not the end. As we engage with our brothers and sisters we discover yet another, deeper level of fear and contraction within ourselves. There’s more work to do! Having been through the cycle of steps before, each re-visit brings anticipation of greater freedom.
- What group inspires you with the courage to be vulnerable, open to changing your attitudes and behavior?
- What issue draws your specific passion to contribute to your community? What do you do with it?
- Do you belong to a group that practices some form of collaborative service? How does that benefit you?
- Can you understand the confusion and grief residing in people in conflict? What have you done with those insights?
- Describe in detail what “beloved community” means to you.
- As you have become more aware of your life’s meaning and path, how has this given you more self-confidence and stability?
- What is the relationship of love to all of these 12 steps?
To start at the beginning: