“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment….. unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.” – Alcoholics Anonymous
What does acceptance look like?
We can be sad. We can cry. We can feel disappointed. Is that the same as suffering? What if we feel what we feel without judgments? What if we accept the tears and allow them to flow? What if we sit with our sadness and understand this is part of life? How is that different from what we currently do?
What does the opposite of acceptance look like?
Do we resist what is? Do we ‘wish’ it was different? Do we feel the other person ‘should’ change? Do we have a story about how they ‘deserve it’? Do we even go so far as to believe they should ‘suffer’ for their ‘crimes’? What do our judgments do for our state of mind? Do we feel agitated, resentful, justified, superior or afraid? Do we suffer?
Ever notice how many opportunities we have to be pulled into reactivity? Do we judge others with comments like “where in the world are you coming from?” or make assessments with YOU statements “you need to heal” or project our stories onto others “you need to stop living in the past”. Whenever we are lost in ‘you’ statements we are really speaking to ourselves. This person does not understand themselves, needs to heal and learn to live in the present. That is the message we deliver when we project those statements on someone else.
So how do we shift our state? What does it look like if let go of attachments/judgments and practice acceptance?
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” – Buddha
First, in order to discipline our minds, we have to be willing to step outside our reactions. This is a mental work out that many of us may be too lazy to engage in. It’s like going to the gym, we must stick with a regular program in order to experience the results. If we stop and go, give up, think about it in our minds but do not practice it, then we will not get the results. We may even begin to think that life is not treating us right, that we try so hard and don’t get the results we deserve. When we are in this state of self pity it is often because we have forgotten some basics.
Basic One – Be vigilant of my thoughts and reactions.
What if whenever we are reactive we ask ourself what are we afraid of? What if we notice our ego using YOU statements and instead of directing them at another we focus those statements on ourself? Before we judge with statements like “YOU NEED TO HEAL” what if we asked ourself why did we chose this specific language? What about this situation has triggered this reaction within me? Is it possible we need to heal and therefore have projected onto them those unhealed parts of ourself?
The saying ‘others are a mirror’ could mean we are only capable of seeing our own reflection in others. We may not even see them. We may only see our own reflection or self image. So if we frequently see the beautify in others we may be saying we recognize our own beauty. But if life is hard, depressing, impossible, cruel, vicious, and others suck, are mentally disturbed and so on then what does that really say about our inner state? OUCH!
Basic Two – Am I feeling tired?
When we feel tired it may be because we have forgotten to ask for help. We may have poured too much in our schedule. We have a full plate and don’t make enough time to build up our spiritual tank. We may not feel well or have some health issue. It may be a combination of all the above. So the solutions are simple. We ask for help. Lighten our schedule and do only what is necessary until we have more energy. We take time for ourself.
Basic Three – Disengage others when they are reactive.
We burn up energy foolishly when we allow the reaction of others to spark our inner ego. We do not fight. We do not struggle. We can use disarming thoughts like
“you may be right”
“I can imagine”
In this way we can discipline our minds. We can accept. We do not attempt to change the other person. We just move forward, stay present and continue to grow in our own life regardless their assessments, their judgments and their reactions. When they make all those assessments we can recognize perhaps that’s only a reflection of their inner state and has absolutely nothing to do with us. In this way we no longer feel defensive or feel the need to ‘explain’. We can just let go, accept and end our own inner suffering.