The power of acceptance.
Acceptance is a big word for the mind. The mind may counter, ‘Why should I accept?’ or ‘Why am I being forced to accept?’ If there is a magic pill that helps us adapt to all circumstances, it is acceptance. Just as water mixes easily with water, acceptance allows us to mix with the unpredictable flow of life that takes us through good and bad circumstances.
If there is a magic pill that helps us adapt to all circumstances, it is acceptance.
Good and bad times are like side streets that turn away on either side of a straight main road. Turning away in one direction may take us on a smooth road, while another turn may take us along a bumpy and slow road. Our choices push us one way or another, but sometimes life makes those choices for us. Acceptance is in the middle, and it helps us remain on a long straight road as we progress through the journey of life.
Acceptance can apply to any situation, experience, or thoughts from the past, the present, or the future. Retroactive acceptance of the past and proactive acceptance of the present and future present their unique set of challenges. They are two distinct skill sets and are equally important to develop.
Retroactive acceptance of the past and proactive acceptance of the present and future present their unique set of challenges.
The past is like a fully grown tree. The present and the future are like seeds just planted and in the process of sprouting. We approach a tree and a seed differently. The former is capable of drawing its nourishment without needing someone to water its roots daily. We cannot see the roots of a fully grown, but we can taste its fruits. It may be sweet or bitter, but we will have to accept the taste. We cannot command the tree to change the flavor of its fruits. Similarly, we will have to accept the past in its raw state. We may sugarcoat memories past, but we cannot hide bitterness that may lie within them.
It may also be hard to erase the past from memory. However, we have in our control our reaction to those memories. A small leaky faucet, given time, can empty a large tank full of water. The conscious mind is a ‘leaky faucet’ through which the past continually drips into our field of awareness. It is unavoidable.
One way to deal with a leaky faucet is to fix the leak and store water in the tank. Another way is collecting that water to water plants or other such uses. The ‘leaky faucet’ responsible for dripping memories into our conscious awareness can be ‘fixed’ through suppression of those memories, or that energy can be used as a source of motivation to emerge stronger and happier in the future.
Repression builds up tension in the mind, and eventually, the slow drip may turn into an uncontrollable gush of thoughts that may ruin our peace of mind for a long time.
But if we remain watchful as those memories as they come into the conscious mind, along with removing the lens of judgment, hurt, need for vindication, fear, anger, and self-pity, they fall away like harmless little raindrops. To a tiny seed, even one drop of rain serves as life-giving food. Similarly, as those thoughts slip away from our hands, other budding thoughts will reclaim their energy while the contents will evaporate and disappear for good.
Being alert and watchful is one of the cornerstones of any meditation practice. Watchfulness turns into proactive acceptance. Such active acceptance, considering all events equally, whether positive or negative, helps us remain tranquil and centered during boom or bust cycles that are part of human life. We readily accept prosperity and consider it an entitlement, while we fear downturns, especially when misery and suffering are accompaniments.
Acceptance of all circumstances, good or bad, coming freely and wholeheartedly from within, is a sure sign of lasting inner transformation. Such transformation is the harbinger of perennial joy. The measure of real and lasting happiness is how much we can uncouple our emotions from external events while remaining centered and peaceful.
Life tests us in many ways, through both positive and negative circumstances. External happenings probe the foundation of the mind, whether it is built on the shaky ground of dependence on the outer world for happiness or whether it can stand on its own.
The mind is a foundation for both the external and internal aspects of our lives. Science teaches us about the outer, and its practical applications help improve our lives. But it cannot guide us on understanding our inner nature.
If we are experiencing misery inside, no matter how perfect the external world, it will not bring us any joy. Succumbing to negative feelings associated with distress breaks the mind. When we are miserable and unhappy, there is nothing we can do for the world, and we cannot be of any help to others.
However, if we are happy inside, even if terrible things are happening in the world, it will not drag us down emotionally. This helps us become objective by which we can offer assistance in many different ways to help lessen the suffering of others. Through inner strength, we can tap into our well of happiness. Such inner happiness serves to insulate the mind. Greater the insulation, the more we can do for the world.
The world depends on each individual, and in turn, everyone is dependent on the planet. We may not share the same views about life, but we share one earth, one sun, one moon, and one sky. Accepting of this common denominator levels the field. It leads to greater engagement with the rest of existence.
The world depends on each individual, and in turn, everyone is dependent on the planet.
Importance of being in a state of acceptance
Acceptance is a lifeline bringing harmony between the inner and outer aspects of our existence. It keeps the mind in check. The mind can be unpredictable, continually seeking whatever is pleasant. Anything that stands in the way, especially adverse life events, creates a disproportionate amount of upheaval. When the foundation of our daily life, the mind, if shaky, makes everything else outside of us seem unstable.
Danger and unpredictability are life’s tools to sculpt and shape the overall ecosystem. No matter how advanced our civilization gets, it cannot subdue some of the forces in nature that act through the air, water, and fire. The air that sustains our lives can also be the agent that takes our lives. In 2020, the big challenge for the world is recovering from an airborne viral pandemic that has affected countries, rich and poor, on every continent.
Human civilization can’t adequately prepare for all possible eventualities. However, we can train the mind to be ready to face any eventuality through acceptance. The seed of acceptance is in everyone, and we practice some form of it every minute.
We accept the life-giving process of breathing, which happens on its own. We don’t stand in the way and say, ‘I’m in charge, let me control this process.’ The body accepts food when we are hungry. When we are watchful and not interpreting and judging experiences, the mind readily accepts and digests them without creating friction within.
We don’t interfere with the natural functioning of the body unless there is a disturbance, such as a disease process. But when it comes to nature, we readily interfere with its natural balance and functioning. Nature is the ‘collective’ body of humanity. Within each physical body are trillions of individual cells working in harmony with the overall structure. Similarly, within the collective body of humanity, we are individuals. Unless we work in concert with the whole, there is bound to be a disturbance.
When there is acceptance, it becomes easy to cooperate with other people. Such cooperation is a vital link for the preservation of our civilization. Natural calamities do not respect national borders, our social standing, or religious inclinations. However, if we put all our differences aside, we can help one another through any difficulty. We are all on one island in an endless ocean of space. If we turn against one another, there is nothing extraterrestrial we can turn to for help. We have one another, and that is our most precious gift.
When there is an illness, we don’t reject the cure because it originated in a place or from the hands of people we dislike. We readily accept the curative formula. If someone comes up with a good idea for the benefit of all, let’s accept it instead of fighting amongst ourselves. It should not take a global calamity to force us to join hands and collectively overcome hurdles. Acceptance is an individual effort, but the benefits are universal.