Last time, I was talking about the concept of 'acceptance'. If we can accept whatever is happening in our lives in any one moment, instead of 'arguing with reality', we can save ourselves an awful lot of unnecessary stress. After all, what is happening is always what's happening, whether we like it or not. We can still take action to change what happens in the future, but just for the moment we have to accept what is.
If you think about it, this is the only sane attitude to have. 'Arguing with reality' isn't going to get you anywhere. But this sort of acceptance isn't always easy.
I got into an interesting discussion about acceptance over at Jon's Post-Christian Journey. A reader made the (perfectly reasonable) point that if his child was being tortured, he would find it very difficult to accept this. Indeed, he didn't even think that he should accept such a thing.
This appears to be a very powerful argument against 'acceptance'.
Two points occur to me however:
- This example is very extreme. In practice, fortunately, most of us don't have to deal with such extreme events very often, though terrible things do occur in most people's lifetimes from time to time. What's important to acknowledge is that many other much lesser 'bad' things happen in our lives on a frequent basis, and many of these we also class as 'terrible' simply out of habit. If we can 'accept' these - and save ourselves a lot of stress in the process - we are making a start.
- Acceptance does not entail inaction. It's not a prescription for apathy. If we can 'accept' that our child is being tortured one moment, we can still take action to prevent it the next. Perhaps the formula should be 'acceptance plus action'. The opposite of this would be 'lack of acceptance plus doing nothing', as in moaning about the state of the world while doing absolutely nothing to change it. This is a much more common state of being.
I suggested last time that 'acceptance' might be the cornerstone of enlightenment, of awakening to our true nature. Rather than traveling to cliff-top monasteries in distant lands to become enlightened, we simply need to accept ourselves and our lives the way they are.
We need to accept this from one moment to the next however. It is said that enlightenment, once reached, must be chosen in every instant. And perhaps there are times, when confronted with a tortured child for instance, when an 'enlightened' person might choose in that moment not to accept, might choose instead to enter into the drama of 'normal' human existence, and feel anger rather than acceptance before taking action. Jesus, after all, was reported as being angry when he threw the money-changers out of the temple. Perhaps, for a moment, he did indeed 'argue with reality'. Perhaps he did not fully 'accept' what was going on. But does that mean to say that he also got upset the following day when someone stood on his toe in the marketplace? Or the day after that when he found a dead fly in his wine? I doubt it.
In his book Awakening Into Oneness, Arjuna Ardagh interviews people who have become enlightened (or, to use the term he prefers, 'awakened') through Deeksha. One of them comments on how things have changed now that they are 'awakened':
"When (emotions) happen, I feel them so much deeper. There's no holding back. I think that might be the biggest difference of all. If I'm angry, I'm angry with every cell of my body. I'm not suppressing anything. And then it's over. And then this stillness and peace and joy come back rapidly."
This is how it may be then. Perhaps there are times when such people experience 'difficult' emotions instead of 'acceptance', but these are fully experienced instead of being suppressed. This allows the emotions to pass through, so that calm and acceptance can return. Most of the time such people accept what is. The occasional squalls are passing things only, like ripples on a sea of peace.
(There have been some interesting discussions on previous posts: See here for 'Making Plans' and here for 'How Does It Feel To Win A Million?' (the latter including what I humbly suggest is the world's best-ever spiritual budgerigar analogy). Also, largely thanks to Liara Covert of Dream Builders, there have been further discussions on earlier posts, such as How To Have It All , How To Deal With Difficult Emotions and How To Slow Down Time. Feel free to take a look, and join in if you wish!)
These may also be of interest: