So often, for those of us committed to spiritual growth and cultural healing, the question beneath so many other questions seems to be this:
Is this a situation I can change, or one I must learn to accept?
I hear it asked in one form or another nearly every day by my clients:
Can I change these sleepless nights or must I accept them?
Can I change the tantruming and defiance, or must I learn to accept it?
Can I change my relationship with my partner or must I learn to accept it?
Can I do something about the political state of affairs or must I come to accept things the way they are?
A dozen years ago I would have scoffed at acceptance as a viable response to most any dilemma. It felt like a sellout. Like giving up on all-important ideals and values and dreams and, worst of all, people I loved.
Today, in most every situation that doesn’t require immediate, instinctual change (say, stopping a child who’s running toward a road), my answer is…ACCEPTANCE FIRST.
Acceptance of what life looks and feels like right now.
Acceptance of the challenges and hardships I’m facing.
Acceptance that I don’t yet know the best way forward.
Acceptance of my loved ones’ pain, the hurt in the world, and the very fact of injustice.
I’ve learned that if I can first accept whatever it is I’m experiencing, I can then assess the potential need for change more clearly, more calmly, and more soulfully.
For me, a big part of this process involves inviting hard feelings to draw nearer. Sometimes I even give the particularly uncomfortable ones a seat on my lap or encourage them to cuddle up beside me, so that they’ll know that they’re safe and welcome in my presence.
Acceptance first isn’t a sellout. It’s a way of slowing our reactivity and giving time for wisdom to emerge. Tara Brach calls this the “sacred pause.” I call it essential to an empowered, joy-filled life.
We may or may not be able to change our sleepless nights, our struggling marriages, and the political state of affairs, but by first moving into an accepting spirit, we reduce unnecessary suffering and tap into wells of wisdom that are only available to the softened heart.
Big love to you,