Monday, June 23, 2008

Embodying Masculinity, Part One - Taking Responsibility

This is the first of many posts to come on how we might embody masculinity -- and not all of these are distinctly masculine. For example, this is a traditional Buddhist practice that is beneficial for everyone.

One area where many men (or people in general) are lacking is in owning responsibility for our lives and our actions. However, if we can take responsibility and own it without judgment and criticism -- and without making excuses -- we begin to take back some power in our lives.

The more we practice this skill, the more freedom we have to be and act in healthy ways. This particular practice is known as tonglen.
The function of the practice is to:
  • reduce selfish attachment
  • increase a sense of renunciation
  • create positive karma by giving and helping
  • develop loving-kindness and bodhicitta
  • it refers to all of the Six Perfections of giving, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom, which are the practices of a Bodhisattva.
Here is the practice:
Imagine vividly a situation where you have acted badly, one about which you feel guilty, and about which you wince even to think of it.

Then, as you breathe in, accept total responsibility for your actions in that particular situation, without in any way trying to justify your behavior. Acknowledge exactly what you have done wrong, and wholeheartedly ask for forgiveness. Now, as you breathe out, send out reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, and understanding.

So you breathe in blame, and breathe out the undoing of harm; you breathe in responsibility, breathe out healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

This exercise is particularly powerful and may give you the courage to go to see the person whom you have wronged, and the strength and willingness to talk to him or her directly and actually ask for forgiveness from the depths of your heart.

~ Sogyal Rinpoche
We aren't limited to imagining or remembering our mistakes -- we can do this in the moment. The more we can immediately see when we have made a mistake, take responsibility for it, and make amends, the better people we will become. In essence, the more mindful we become, the better men we become.

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