How many times have you been told that inner work, spiritual practice and a baseline sense of contentment boils down to “accepting what is?”
On an intuitive level, I think most of us feel a truth in that sentiment.
There are, however, multiple ways that “accepting what is” can be interpreted. Some of these interpretations can cause a large amount of confusion, frustration, and suffering. Unfortunately, they seem to be quite common.
What has worked best for myself and when facilitating others boils down to this:
Accept your actual internal reaction in the moment, even if it feels like massive resistance, because it is whatever it is.
“I hate this, I don’t want it to be real, and it’s too painful to even go near right now.”
If that’s your reaction, you accept THAT. Welcome that you feel that way, don’t pretend it is anything other than what it is.
If you interpret “acceptance” as somehow trying to pretend to be OK with, or even embrace a situation in a moment when every perceptible part of your being is screaming “NO,” you are going to be in for a bumpy ride.
Essentially, you’ll be denying your true internal response. Perhaps unconsciously, you may be trying to turn your reaction into something other than what it is.
For many, an additional layer of self-judgement for not properly accepting the situation comes into play.
It’s a lose-lose-lose situation when you try to ‘do’ acceptance this way.
The internal FEELING that your mind may assign phrases to, such as “I can’t accept this,” is what is arising in the moment.
Accept that this is your actual feeling in the moment and go from there. That is real. Without giving space for that, we continue to suppress our experience – often in the name of a spiritual practice, which is brutally ironic.
Painful, tragic, even horrific things happen in human life. Yes there are high states of consciousness that transcend this perspective, but practically speaking, everyone knows what I mean when I refer to the ‘bad’ things that happen.
Most of us are going to have reactions, perhaps very intense reactions, to these experiences.
It’s an obvious reality that “life happens,” constantly, often out of nowhere, to people of all walks of life. No matter how spiritually advanced they are or how much LOA they practice, things happen. If Buddha died of a disease, Lester Levenson died of cancer, Adyashanti has faced great pain and illness, then something I have had to ACCEPT is that this seems to be the nature of relative human life.
I first had to ACCEPT my initial reaction to this, which is that it is actually very confronting and frankly, difficult to accept.
Jeff Foster, a very kind and well respected spiritual teacher had a very raw and honest post recently saying how even though he has taught acceptance for years, he was not able to ‘accept’ the brutally debilitating Lyme disease he has recently been dealing with.
In doing so, at least to me, he modeled the raw realness of accepting our genuine response to something instead of trying to pretend to be spiritually advanced and unaffected.
Interestingly, while we may be able to observe or learn about the external circumstances of others, we have no idea how gracefully and peacefully they may be handling it internally.
Trust me, no matter how well it LOOKS like someone handles something, you never know the amount of internal war that is or is not present behind that exterior.
It does appear that we can minimize the amount of war we wage with reality, and this starts with first acknowledging and accepting whatever is happening within us.
Accept the honest reaction to what is happening. From that place, you can explore more deeply what is actually at the core behind your reaction. You may even find liberation there.
For those of you who resonate with EFT (emotional freedom technique) Tapping, here is a process on the feeling of “I Can’t Accept This.”
As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.
The pursuit of truth is a spiritual practice. If that truth leads to an inability (at least in the moment) to accept something harsh and brutal, then we need to throw away our Hollywood interpretations of being somehow transported “above the fray.” As you so adeptly indicated, there are layers of how and when we accept what’s in front of us. It reminds me of Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief, which is still a cornerstone of how we mortals deal with the unacceptable. The conventional LOA crowd will point the finger back and say how we somehow “attracted it,” which only… Read more »
Thanks Mark, I’ll have to revisit those stages of grief in more detail.
It is a relief to read about your take on ‘Accepting’ the feeling in the moment. I am of view that any feeling that is not positive should be discouraged. I am currently struggling with stopping a feeling of anxiety that keeps coming up every now and then. From what you’re saying, am I right to think that I should allow the feeling to come to the surface and in doing so I get to explore what is actually going on. It may be a warning /symptom to something… Otherwise, I might miss an opportunity to resolve it. Not accepting… Read more »
Great realization. I would say yes, you are accepting the fact that it is here — because it is ALREADY here. It certainly could be something calling for your attention that needs resolution, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Some things simply come up and release themselves when given the opportunity. Suppression and forms of distraction are really what we are ‘doing’ in that they are more proactive, but they are so instant and automatic that they generally don’t feel like it. So it feels like a conscious action to accept things at first, but it is more that… Read more »