We have all heard and experienced for ourselves time and again that acceptance is the key to abiding as conscious awareness, as “awakeness”. Yet acceptance, both of the small and larger events and circumstances in life, so often eludes us, and we find ourselves mired in a place of resistance, of egoic malaise.
Acceptance, and especially the deepest level of acceptance – the willingness and ability to love what is – goes against years of habit and conditioning. It even goes against eons of such, if we consider the message and behavior patterns assimilated from our heritage and culture.
So abiding as awakeness takes regular practice. And practice requires a method, or tools. You probably already have a few go-to strategies to help you release resistance (once suffering reaches a critical point). But old tools can grow blunt; they just don’t seem to work as they once did. So here is an overview of some various approaches to take when your usual tried-and-true methods fail to deliver. The more tools we have at our disposal, after all, the more likely we’ll have the right one for any given situation.
Acceptance does not necessarily imply endorsement. In essence, it means recognition. Clear vision. It means seeing what is before us, and acknowledging that it is as it is. Action or inaction then follows, in line with our best judgment. The clearer the view, the more appropriate and skillful tends to be our response. So acceptance is not merely a spiritual exercise for soothing the mind. It is also of great practical value, smoothing life’s journey. A quiet mind and skillful action support and reinforce each other, and increasingly hold us steady in serenity, in the state of “great okayness.”
Basic inquiry: This is always a good place to start. Examine the evidence. Is it true that things should be other than the way they are? By whose evaluation? By whose dictate? Is there any evidence that things should be other than as they are in this moment, right here and now? Can I truly claim that I fully understand exactly what’s going on? And if not, then how can I say what should be going on?
Gratitude: Gratitude and acceptance go hand in hand. We humans have a natural negative bias, focusing on what needs fixing rather than on what is fine. Taking a few minutes to reflect upon what is going well reveals a universe with great good in it. This more balanced perspective then predisposes us toward acceptance of our present situation, whatever it may be.
Lack of alternatives: Understand that this current experience and set of circumstances is inevitable. There are are no other options. See the truth of this moment. If it is here, it’s been pre-approved; it has already been accepted. This is how consciousness chooses to manifest in this moment. And this moment is none other than you.
No self: There is no self. Can you find a center to this entity you consider yourself to be? As there is no one home, we see that there is no one to resist, no one to object to this moment. It’s not happening to you, or for you, or through you. It’s not happening to anyone, or for them, or through them. It’s just happening.
Faith: Trust in the benevolence of cosmic consciousness, of awareness. If I trust that the essential nature of reality is love, then I can release fear of this moment, of this experience. Free of fear, I open the door to acceptance and love – loving what is. All movement is love in action. All stillness is love at rest.
High Self-esteem: You are the vastness. You really are all that. Let the character be humble, but never sell your true Self short. Don’t project your sense of being small onto the supreme, the absolute. As such, you are secure and safe, perfect and always loved. You are the unborn, unbound and untouched.
Presume perfection: Work from the premise that all this before you is perfection. If it doesn’t feel that way, look more carefully, look more deeply. Notice the little things that are perfect: the trees, the sunshine, the one you love. Then notice that these microcosms of perfection are intertwined with the greater whole. It all locks together; each detail enhances and supports the full mosaic. Contemplate the perfection of details, and you will soon perceive the perfection of the whole.
Your will: This that is happening is Your will. The character has trouble seeing this because it only perceives a tiny fraction of the picture. But you can zoom out. Visualize the planet from space. And then from the infinite perspective of the absolute. This world and all it entails is your will because it is all one will. Trust that this is all a manifestation of love – unconditional, infinite love.
This moment only: Acceptance is only of this moment. Regret of the past and fear of the future create suffering in the now. Resting in the present moment helps us to see that all is well. If it does happen to be an especially difficult time – if you are in pain, hungry, homeless, etc. – it is still easier if the challenge is met moment by moment, without remorse for the past or fear of the future. Do not add a layer of unneeded psychological suffering onto already trying circumstances.
The zoom lens: Zoom out and view the picture from afar. Up close and personal, reality often looks far from pretty. But it’s always pretty from afar. We find things wrong when we evaluate the world from the narrow perspective of one human life, one human mind. Zoom out, and see how all the pieces click together. Every microcosmic entity – a mote of dust, a plant, a person – folds perfectly into the greater whole.
Set an example: You are always on display. The witness is watching. Whether you conceptualize the witness as other people, spirits, God, awareness, or your higher self, the fact is that you (as the character) are never alone. You are always broadcasting. The energy you put out reverberates near and far. Set a good example. Make yourself and others proud. Be an inspiration in how you deal with daily life. This bestows a sense of purpose to the present challenges and a sense of personal duty to rise to the occasion. You are accountable. And you are worthy of the task.
Start small: Practice acceptance with the little things. The spilled cup of coffee? Notice how its rivulets flow exactly where they must. Perhaps the counter, or floor, needed a good wipe down. Notice the perfection of a rainy day. An argument with someone you love? Perhaps the issue needed airing, or one or both of you is receiving a lesson in restraint or tact. Physical aches and pains? The body is healing, or aging, or just expressing itself as best it can. Accepting daily aggravations with grace teaches us to welcome the fiercer challenges that will inevitably eventually arise.
Humility: We don’t necessarily know what’s best, either for ourselves, for others or the world. Perhaps failing to get the job will lead to something better. Perhaps unrequited love, if reciprocated, would have led to years of discord. Perhaps bug bites inoculate against a worse disease. Holding our preferences lightly and being humble enough to admit that we don’t always know what’s best for us – or anyone else – eases acceptance of whatever arises.
Time: Acceptance of a significant loss, such as the loss of a loved one, or a physical illness or financial downturn, requires time. The tools for acceptance can smooth the way and expedite the process, but with major blows, a certain passage of time may be needed to assimilate and adjust to the new situation. In such cases, we may need to practice accepting nonacceptance. Continue to work the tools, and trust that acceptance will come in due course.
There are many ways to gently corral these unruly egos into acceptance. Use the tools. We may think that we want to run wild with our beliefs, opinions, positions. Contrary notions reinforce our independence, our sense of separate self. The ego seeks this, but over and over we learn that this only leads to or reinforces suffering. Teach and condition the ego to stay within the peaceful realm of surrender to what is. This doesn’t mean we don’t work for change when warranted. We rise to challenges, but simultaneously relax and enjoy taking action, leaving the outcome to manifest as it will.
Acceptance is the key to clarity. Clear vision brings wisdom, peace, compassion. Abide in this state, and you will find you are truly living the dream. Accept this arising, whatever it is. All moments are equally sacred. All moments deserve your attention and love. All moments are You.
Kathleen Sutherland is a student of The Living Method and editor of ACN. She lives in Iowa.