Empowered Acceptance

“Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have tranquil flow of life.”

Not accepting conditions as they are may bring us hurt, frustration, anger, impatience and depression. Yet progress often comes from not accepting conditions as they are. When we find ourselves irked by something and think, “There has to be a better way,” we may seek a solution. If enough of us focus our irkedness, we can change our culture, laws, political structure, and the world around us. When we come to the painful realization that not all is well in our psyche, we may be stimulated to make changes in our thinking and behavior. We don’t grow by accepting our flaws and deciding “That’s just how I am and there is nothing I can do about it.” So in order to be fully alive we need to sort out what deserves our efforts to change and what we would be wise to accept. Frustration arises from not accepting the inevitable.

Acceptance in the form of powerless resignation breeds unhappiness. When we nurture thoughts that we are puny victims of circumstances, we grow weaker. Acceptance of abuse or other forms of evil diminish our humanity.

Another mode of acceptance though, one of empowerment, allows us to settle deeper into stillness and equanimity. When we sit in meditation we may be practicing this empowered acceptance. If we don’t scratch the itch, but accept it as a sensation to be observed, we gain power over it and we may find that it goes away on its own. When we don’t swat the fly that persists in landing on us, we may come to recognize an aspect of the power that our aversions hold over us. When we stop resisting pain, but relax into it, we may find our energy restored and flowing. As we become aware of ourselves breathing in, breathing out, sitting, being where we are connected to the whole of the universe, and we sense that the universe is breathing us as much as we are breathing, we may experience the gift of deep acceptance.

As we explore our way of acceptance, we may find that when we stop trying to change our loved ones against their wills, they are more open to our suggestions. When we accept our unchangeable personal traits, we can allow ourselves to enjoy being who we are. We can be more authentic and alive. What we can change is most often our response to circumstances.

The Serenity Prayer sums up the challenge of sorting what to change and what to accept.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can and
The wisdom to know the difference.
Many people find their serenity using that prayer, and not a few others are put off by prayers to a deity. For them perhaps a simple set off affirmations could serve the same purpose.
I accept what I cannot change.
I change what I can and ought to change.
I draw on wisdom to know the difference.

We could also remind ourselves of our intention to embrace acceptance with a mantra repeated over and over such as:
I accept this moment.
I accept this pain.
I accept this emotion.
I accept this decision.
I accept this condition I cannot change.

Acceptance of what is does not require complacency or mere resignation, for what is in this moment may not be what is in the next.

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© 2003 Tom Barrett