≡ Life 2.0
I think everyone wants to be happy and at peace. Bookstores are filled with self-help books and a simple Google search will return a plethora of resources with guidance on finding happiness. There’s lots of good advice out there worth trying, and I’ll offer a piece of my own advice here.
Well, not my own. It goes back centuries but isn’t something people always think of and it’s certainly not the normal state of mind for most people. In a word: Acceptance.
People try all kinds of ways to be happy that aren’t necessarily recommended by the books and articles. Some people bury themselves in work and busy-ness. There’s alcohol, drugs, sex. Younger people (and sometimes older) will try some daring and dangerous feat, something to consume their attention and get them out of their head. Which gets to what all of these have in common. All these are methods to escape, to get away. Be it by distraction or intoxication, they’re all used as ways to reject, forget or escape.
These strategies can work pretty well for a while. That’s why people do them. But eventually they wear off and That Thing, whatever it is, returns.
Wherever you go, there you are. – Jon Kabat-Zinn
All these strategies are forms of resistance — and as the Borg explained on Star Trek, “Resistance is futile.” Resisting something won’t make it go away and might even make it bigger and stronger as we blow it up in our minds. We literally feed it by devoting so much time and energy to it. It’s like that annoying guy with a big ego. Make him the center of attention and watch him really become full of himself!
It is your resistance to ‘what is’ that causes your suffering. – Buddha
The Power of Acceptance
“Acceptance” is this context does not mean that we necessarily like something (whatever it is), support it, excuse it, condone it, endorse it, resign ourselves to it, passively let it continue, or anything of the kind. It simply means surrendering to the reality of moment — then maybe taking action if it’s warranted and possible. The question of possibility is critical here. If it’s not possible to change something, then we have to accept that fact no matter how unpleasant or awful it might be. We can’t be happy if we don’t.
Let’s say it’s raining outside. No amount of yelling, crying, complaining or moping will stop the rain. We can either accept the rain and work around it somehow, or make everything else about the day awful too. We’ll be miserable, of course, and quite probably will make everyone around us miserable too.
It’s possible to accept the unacceptable and then work to change it. In fact the action we take from a place of acceptance will probably be better and more effective! Think about it. Are we our best, thinking straight and acting logically, when we’re pissed off or depressed? Probably not.
Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. – Eckhart Tolle
The Pain of Resistance
Acceptance is a big challenge for me. I’m not alone. Most people don’t consciously realize or think about it, but they fundamentally resist the flow life. If we’re moody, irritated, complaining or depressed, we’re resisting something in life. Feelings are biologically normal and will happen, but then we usually take those feelings and build a whole narrative around them. They become bigger than the moment. At checkout, “I always get slowest cashier!” While driving, “Why do these f-ing lights always turn red on me?!”
There’s no getting around waiting at checkout or the red light. It’s the way it is. But in resisting rather than accepting, we add so much pain to the experience. We do it at checkout, then at the red light, then the next thing, then the next thing… and that’s our day. That’s our life!
What you resist, persists. – Carl Jung
The Danger of Resistance
Acceptance is an age-old concept. It was a central teaching of the Buddha and has been long recognized by various religions, psychologists and others. It makes total sense when you think about it — but… it is not easy to do! We’re not trained and wired for Acceptance.
Pretty much everyone I know, myself included, gets wound up to a greater or lesser degree by the frustrations of everyday life: work, school, the kids, shopping, bills. People everywhere complain about stress. It’s well-known that stress is a major contributor to all kinds of symptoms and diseases including heart disease, the leading cause of death in America. So obviously we need cut down the stress. Enter Acceptance.
The following are videos that explore the concept of Acceptance in some depth and offer guidance for getting there. We’ll start off with the the Golden Girls, always ahead of their time, as they talked about Acceptance way back 30 years ago!
Rose Nylund said they taught Acceptance at the counseling center. There are many great speakers and teachers out there from whom we can learn more.
One of my favorite speakers, Tara Brach, a Buddhist and clinical psychologist, wrote the book Radical Acceptance. Here she talks in depth about Acceptance, really drilling down. It runs about an hour, so grab some coffee. I heartily recommend watching.
All this talk of Acceptance sounds great, you might think, but how do we get there? How do we break out of the resistance we’ve felt and practiced our entire lives?
Acceptance is hard. Really hard. It is however, the way to peace. – Everyday Mindfulness
There are many different paths, but I’ll share mine. I use the popular Headspace meditation app developed by a former Tibetan monk, Andy Puddicombe. The app provides guided meditations including focused series of meditations, called “packs,” that concentrate on specific issues. I’m currently doing the pack on “Acceptance” that runs for 10 days.
This post is part of a continuing series under the banner Life 2.0 that examines Mindfulness, Presence, Meditation and Acceptance. The journey starts at my website with extensive videos featuring Eckhart Tolle, Tara Brach, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Andy Puddicombe, David Allen and others. This blog continues the journey from time to time with new thoughts, content and resources. I invite to visit my website and then follow the continuing posts here.
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