It’s been a while since we have had a tea time conversation. Yesterday I spent the day rerunning the water pipes for my washer machine and had the inspiration to write on this topic.
I’d like to touch on the topic of acceptance and self-acceptance. Most people feel that the more they strive to change things in their life the more things get done and the better life goes; whereas if they simply accept themselves and life’s situation then nothing gets accomplished.
Although acceptance may seem counterintuitive it has the potential to transform those things around you. I appreciate this quote from an Buddhadharma teacher named Ajahn Chah:
“Try to do everything with a mind that lets go.
If you let go a little you will have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom.
Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.”
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to change someone else? Even your own child can not be changed unless they choose to do so. A little acceptance goes a long ways towards transforming relationships. And by relationships I mean relationships with our own lives and those around us.
By learning to cultivate self-acceptance, and tolerance towards others and their differences, I have become far more understanding, patient, empathic, balanced, and open-minded. All things we could use more of in the world.
A Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna once said:
“Contentment is the greatest form of wealth.”
Contentment and acceptance should never be confused with complacence or indifference. Cultivating contentment means learning to appreciate what is given rather than focusing on what may be missing. Acceptance implies the kind of openness that allows us to meet life as it is – Stoicism.
Acceptance does not mean condoning undesirable deeds, injustices and inequalities in life. It means to see more clearly what is, just as it is, and how and why such things work the way they do, before we try to engage. When we calmly observe and investigate the causes of such situations, and understand that nothing happens by accident the truth reveals itself, whether we like it or not.
By cultivating patience and acceptance we will have the mental clarity to examine inputs before responding in the habitual unconscious stimulus-reaction loop which runs our lives most of the time. This is what I like to refer to as running on auto-pilot or sleep walking through life. We allow our habitual responses to dictate and direct our lives without even knowing it.
Practice taking a moment, which the late Master Buddhadasa called “temporary nirvana.” Breathe once and relax, enjoying a moment of mindfulness and reflection before responding; observe without judging. If emotions are high there is a likely chance you will say something in a way you might regret later. Instead take that time to calm the mind and develop Wisdom in your approach. Remember it is during these moments we are afforded the opportunity to grow into more balanced and self directed human beings. I often find that I really enjoy this time between action-reaction.
Being able to apologizing later for a lack of self control has in it a form of wisdom; however without a fundamental change it simply becomes an excuse and has little to no meaning. When there is a lack of wisdom or understanding and a response will only further an unproductive situation I prefer to simply sit with the situation; doing and saying nothing. It’s important to remember that by doing nothing we are doing something.
Acceptance is not becoming static to life rather it’s becoming ecstatic and engaged in reality. Seeing past our own prejudgments and the realization we are responsible for our own lives. Through acceptance we can dive into life in a much more balanced state of being.