I’ve come to discover that when one in a discussion brings up the subject – or suggestion – of acceptance, most people react negatively. A lot of individuals see acceptance as something that isn’t good. Some mean that we can not possibly “sit down, relax and accept things” in an “always on demand and connected” society were everything is changing so very fast and when there still is so much in need of further change. Many others respond with asking what seem to be the most important question “well, if someone hurt you or harm someone you love should you then just accept what has happened and maybe even worse, forgive that person?!”. I understand these reactions as they are very legitimate. Acceptance can be kind of scary. That is, in the beginning of ones practise. In the beginning it can be difficult to let go of control of – or on trying to control – that which you know might have an impact on your life. It can be really difficult not to try and steer things, people or events in a, by you, desired direction.
Being in control – or rather the feeling of not being in control – and it’s impact on our behaviours is a phenomena widely studied. The feeling of not being in control of whatever it is that an individual feels not being in control of, has been scientifically shown to be a trigger for not only addictions like alcohol, drugs and sex but for illnesses such as anorexia nervosa, anorexia bulimia and other illnesses with distorted body images (like obsessive exercising or dieting among healthy individuals with normal bodyweight) as well.
People feel lack of control in such variety of areas that it is almost overwhelming – with everything ranging from money issues, work issues, relationship issues to health issues and so on. And the amazing thing is that when one of these areas seems to be “in control” or feels like it, most individuals direct focus on another area where there is a perceived lack of control – and unconsciously use that as a trigger, or “excuse” to continue with the damaging behaviour. We are acting like the hamster on a wheel!
It’s worth to mention that some people do not “act out” when in a situation where they experience lack of control but in fact do not act at all. Instead they might feel, and usually openly declare, themselves as “victims of the circumstances” with no power what so ever to change the situation, or they might simple feel overly helpless and become totally passive. Regardless of how one might react and feel when one experiences lack of control, the above explained is not the same thing as the meaning I am putting on the practise of “acceptance”. What I am talking about is a mindful approach to acceptance.
Let me explain further. We all know that life‘s complicated, hard, messy and even painful at times. At some point(s) we get so knocked down at what we are faced with that we don’t even know how to – or even if we want to – get up and move on. There’s no denying or getting around that. Facts are though that most of us – and bless the ones who did or choose not to – do get up. But many do not move on! There are so many individuals whom gotten stuck somehow in those feelings of pain, suffering, resentment and the likes. In other words, although the situation has changed on the outside, it’s still the same on the inside as it was when these individuals first encountered that event, thing or person that triggered it all. They are (un)consciously holding onto a feeling which doesn’t make them feel better but worse. And in some instances this turns into a pattern, which is where the ‘danger’ lies in it.
By holding onto feelings of pain, suffering, resentment and so on, we expose ourselves to the risk of these feelings turning into pure suffering. We are in other words causing ourselves to suffer! (Un)consciously. I know some may object to this and claim that “but it wasn’t my fault, (s)he did this and that, this happened to me, etc.”. And yes, you might be very right! Or not!
Presume that we are victims of circumstances – which I for the record do not believe myself as I think of us all as spiritual co-creators of our life in one way or another and more or less. Anyway, even as victims of some really nasty circumstances that totally knocks us off our feet and turns our world around to the almost unrecognizable and even less bearable, we do have within us the power and blessing to choose not only how we will react to it but also for how long it is going to have such (huge or small) impact on our life. And of course this is individually!
So what can one do about it? Well, the answer is simple but putting it into action might not always be that easy. It works however and it is in my opinion the only way to move on. Acceptance. Act on that which you in fact can change and accept that which you can not! Some things, many things, are totally out of our control no matter how much we in one way or another try holding on to controlling it. And it doesn’t matter what the objectives are, we still can not control it. By accepting this, and I mean truly intensely accepting it, we free ourselves from a sometimes very heavy burden. We free ourselves from suffering. We move from that which belongs to the Past, embrace our Present – the Now – and creates possibilities for a glorious Future.
We can never change what has happened in the past and we know nothing at all of what the future has in store for us. But it is in the now that we can fully live by accepting that we are not to control or be controlled. We are to live, learn and fully love! I most definitely know that life is really hard and painful at times and that it can be, and feel, utterly impossible to even gain the strength to breathe. It is true though that wisdom comes through struggle – it may sound like a bad cliché but in most cases it is in fact correct. That wisdom is gained at the moment you stop struggling and instead accept what is.
In his book The Art of Happiness, Dalai Lama states that “I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.” Beautifully said.