I tried to edit this so that it would be short(er) and it seems it needs to be about 2k words. It was 3.5k. I hope that you can get through this and that it can offer you some food for thought….I was talking last night about the concept of ego death with a friend and how misleading the term is….but what lies at the core of that term is itself something that can help people a great deal, which has to do with HOW the ego is used or resides within the self. Unfortunately the term ego death also does not help anyone who has not yet gone through this to understand what on earth it could be. What I feel is important is learning how to let ego sit at the back of the bus. Ego is still there, though, because ego death is itself a misnomer.
I also want to make it clear that acceptance is something that you use for entirely productive pursuits, right? What is the line between simply accepting someone’s bad behavior and not? Obviously, you do not let someone roll right over you. That would not be healthy. However, you also don’t put yourself in harms way by getting involved in a situation where its pretty clear that the person or event that is problematic for you is going to cause you problems or hurt or injury. In both cases, you have to exercise discernment.
Acceptance. It seems so simple, so straightforward, right? You are right, it is. Things that are this simple and uncomplicated are most often won through a very simple and straightforward process. It is so simple, in fact, that it eludes people. It eludes us when we are upset because we are stuck in an emotion that wont allow us to feel what we need to feel in order to accept. That and being upset is the antithesis of acceptance. The advantages that acceptance offers are huge and are like a bank that offers ever-increasing interest over time simply because you grow better and better at it as you go along if you remain focused on acceptance. Acceptance is something that is learned and that you respond to in an ever-increasing way in your life as you pay it heed. What things do you need to aid in acceptance?
The first thing I am going to tell you is that acceptance is a choice. If you understand anything, understand this. Your seeking to change how you feel about a given situation that has had you tied up in knots is going to be a choice that you will make.
I am going to offer some suggestions that are all part of my own practice that have led me to success in the past. Some of it is even rooted in older traditions (whether I knew it at the time or not). So consider acceptance a practice that you grow into incrementally. It might not be reasonable to expect perfect results within a given period of time. Be patient with yourself and grow into it at your own pace.
Let The Ego Go
Acceptance requires that you allow ego to drift into the background. To do this, identifying too much with a position or feeling that you feel you are entitled to that serves to keep you upset is obviously doing you no good. Ego does this! One very good way to let your grip on ego (or its grip on you) go is to simply become an observer in the moment. Step back for a second and forget what you were so upset over and just WATCH. Don’t judge. Just watch and observe. As you do this, you will probably find that you are already becoming more relaxed and calm. It isn’t that what you thought or felt isn’t important, you just aren’t worrying about it as you begin to become an Observer. There is a very good background in meditation practice for observation of ones thoughts and feelings and surroundings for the simple reason that it works. Being the Observer allows you to drop your investment in a harsh feeling and shift from emotional investment to something more neutral. It is also a capacity that we all as humans have because of our primate brain. Using it can be very positive and could be key in unlocking how you respond to things that keep you upset.
Its All About You
The really great thing about acceptance is that you don’t have to get into a heated exchange with someone in order to learn acceptance. In fact, you can start small and build your way up. Buddha spoke about suffering and he was clear that the suffering he was talking about was small suffering that found its way into our daily lives. Of course there is larger scale suffering, such as the loss of a loved one, but what happens when the store is all out of the sour cream you need in order to make the dish tonight for company? I know it may sound a trifle, but these are the very things that create within us a low level form of suffering….
Observe and Shift through Breath
The next time you are in a situation where you wind up not getting what you want, say, not getting the sour cream or bread at the market that you need, step back for a moment as you feel yourself feeling upset and pause for a moment. Not getting the sour cream is perfect because its less likely to overwhelm you and you can use your training wheels more and observe without knocking over the apple cart as might be the case with harder issues. If you don’t know how to observe yourself, do what my third grade teacher told us to do when we were upset; hold our breath to the count of ten. What this does and other things like it is it breaks the chain of obsessive thought or recursive thinking so you have a better chance of returning to stasis or greater normality in your thoughts and feelings. Until you can master observing your feelings maybe holding your breath or having a time out will work for now.
One very good way to calm yourself emotionally is to use breath. One very good way to relax is to use single nostril breathing. It works! Simply plug up one nostril and breath deeply in and out through each nostril for a count of four to five breaths, alternating between each nostril until you begin to feel yourself relaxing. Keep doing it if you want, since the benefits will continue. You can also use deep steady and slow breath as well, but it does not work quite as well as single nostril breathing. Once you have done this, observe how it has made you feel. Build into your mind and awareness the shift that has taken place as it will likely be easier next time when you are looking for that elusive state of calm!
Change Your Mind
This is the hard part….which is where your own choice comes into play and is also the part that makes acceptance so hard for some people. You have to WANT to accept something that just moments ago had you upset. You literally have to CHANGE YOUR MIND. To do this means you have to decide to actually change the character of your thoughts and your feelings. You have to be willing to take the yellow brick road and pave it over in, say, purple brick instead. The entire landscape of your feeling self has to change. This is why I have mentioned observation as a key player in helping you edge closer to acceptance because most often acceptance requires a change in your mind.
To change your mind one very useful means to this end is to reach a state of grace. Now grace might sound like an almost esoteric thing to you, and I say that it need not be. I have observed grace quite a bit and I can tell you that there are some very clear alternative routes to grace that do not require you to carry a Rosary or bow down in saffron robes.
Let Grace Flow
Grace is itself the act of opening ones self. Grace flows when you are receptive, not when you are rigid angry and shut down emotionally. To know grace you need to first be calm and neutral. remember the Observer? That, or hold your breath tot he count of ten. Once calmer, you REMAIN calm and then allow this receptivity to move through you and change how you feel. It is this receptivity that is Grace that will lead you to a place of acceptance. I will tell you that when you are creative, Grace is there. IN fact, what we call Grace is actually a form of cognitive function that involves a broader brain being put to use. Creativity is itself connected to Grace. In order to be creative, you must be willing to PLAY. You must be willing to set aside whatever you were thinking and feeling in order to throw yourself into the imaginary world of that play, whatever it happens to be. For children, this might mean being in an imaginary realm. For adults, it might mean solving a problem using creativity. It also means being open to the possibility that things could change.Ask yourself over and over “whats the greatest and highest good for this?” By doing this, you train your mind to consider that there are options you may not have considered. It also keeps you more pliable. And just so you know, feeling as though you want to “give up” is itself NOT a bad thing! This is itself most often letting go of an outcome and letting go your attachment to a position your own ego self may have held. This is part of what I am writing about….which is a form of surrender. You can still surrender while you are wrestling a 600 pound gorilla. You just quit. You give up (ego).
It is also coincidental that when you are receptive in this way creatively, that you are much more likely to have those inspired moments and visions that saints and seers talk so much about having. I can tell you that a religious experience or spiritual experience only happens when we let go and allow our imaginations to be free enough to bear the information necessary for the experience to unfold. Yes. You heard it right; you have to imagine. But what is so different is that once you have met the spiritual half-way, it then takes on a life of its own. It is more than what you alone could have probably come up with. Einstein did the exact same thing when he discovered Relativity; he let his mind wander and he let his imagination out for a walk and that was when he and the universe smacked into one another in a rather marvelous sort of way and changed our world and the world of physics forever. This same state of mind or being can help in any number of pursuits or problem solving. it can also lead you to a solution beyond the problem you are having, which has to do with acceptance.
Some other things to bear in mind that may be helpful to you is to learn to be present in the moment. When we direct our attention away from the present moment several things happen, but one really big thing can happen, which results in string of challenges for all of us. When you leave the present moment you are suddenly dealing with what is not yet known. That is a very uncertain space. On the one hand, this type of thinking allows us to do some planning in our lives, but it can also get entirely out of hand. We can plan so much into the future that we are simply not living in the present anymore. The reason why this is so undersirable is that it is a misuse of your energy. It also can lead to fear and uncertainty….and while I wont call this sort of thinking a high level form of fear (fear of the car going off the road or the sky falling) but smaller and thus more insidious sorts of worrying and edginess. Like small particles of sand, they infiltrate into the substrata of our emotional lives and help to create a low level form of dis-ease. Small things can grow into big things over time and this can all turn into neurosis. I have observed people first hand in my life and how this can take over your life in ways that can entirely blind you to the fact that it is even happening. After all, what harm could a small grain of sand do? So be present! The more you wander, the more what-ifs you will be dealing with and these just can’t be answered properly except in the present. SO do what you can do in the moment and let the future be the future and you will have to deal with it when it becomes the present. it isn’t even that you don’t care about the future, its just that you cannot change it except by what you do NOW. Don’t get caught up in the what if of the future. DO what you can do NOW so that as each moment passes, you will live it in as calm and happy way as you can.
For full disclosure I will say that I have had to deal with some pretty tough forms of acceptance in my life. I have. I had to accept the death of a parent and move on. I had to deal with the loss of a child. I am still dealing with these things and I have found that all of this work goes in layers. There is a lot that I have let go but there is more I have yet to dig down into and decide its no longer worth holding onto. I know that the things I have passed on to you do work because they have helped me a great deal in doing the work I have done in my life. I wish I could just drop things entirely, but it seems that our feelings and souls are built the way we dress, which is in layers. But layer by layer, these things fall away. Big things often go first and there is great relief from letting them go, which builds enough momentum for me to be very hungry for the next layer to go, too. Just don’t get discouraged if you find that there is more material beneath the layers you have shed. Be easy on yourself and be kind. The deeper you go in this kind of work, the more interesting it can become, but it can also seem kind of endless. Well, perhaps it is, but isn’t it worth it?
So be present. Be grateful. Check your ego at the door and keep expectations down. This doesn’t mean that you scale back hopes and dreams, you simply do not focus on them at this point in time. And then have at it. See if this results in your having a bland life or one that is quite unexpectedly exciting and wonderful. You might be surprised. Go at life with wonder and let grace filter in as part of the transformative mix that aids you in your work. Let the glass be half full and it will be. You can do this by simply learning acceptance. It soften ego, it makes your mind more pliable, and your emotions far more fluid and accommodating. When you do this, you wind up being closer to your authentic self, which is at peace and filled with bliss. Suddenly all the problems of a moment ago begin to fade and the angst does too. And you will begin to uncover your native natural self if you are lucky. You will feel this very delicious feeling….almost like you are falling or floating. Energetically, this buoyancy points to your being more free. And that is a very good thing!