Joseph Goldstein, the great mindfulness teacher, tells the story of dealing with a recurring fear. Being trained in mindfulness, rather than giving in to the instinct of pushing his fear away, hiding from it, or running away from it, he practiced getting closer to it, looking at it, and investigating it with curiosity, which, most of the time, made its intensity subside.
According to him, this went on for many years until the day when he had an epiphany and understood that he was using the technique of befriending the fear with the hope for it to go away forever. With this realization came an insight, a moment when he was able to say to himself, “Even if this fear stays with me to the end of my days, that will be OK.” And that was the moment of total acceptance, when his relationship with fear changed, the load became lighter, and he felt that the fear released the powerful grip it had on him. He realized that until that moment he had been watching the fear in order for it to go away, but now he could accept that perhaps the fear would never go away, and even that would be OK. He understood that his resistance to accept, and his struggle against the unwanted was making things worse, not better. He was able to frame this event not as resignation, but as acceptance, and he continued doing what was necessary to get better, but now in a much calmer and less afflicted way.
I guess that this is what we are called to do: Practice equanimity, wise understanding, and serene acceptance of what we dislike, what is uncomfortable, what is annoying, what we would like to be different but are unable to change.
We are called to accept our lives and what we were given: the uncertainty, the anxiety, the fear, and the pain. We are called to accept everything and everyone, even the difficult people. We are called to ponder on the fact that everything that arises also passes away, that everybody dies, that no one is exempt from death, that we will die too, and that there’s no right time to die. We are called to cultivate serenity and wise acceptance now.
Acceptance, for me, begins with wise assessment, with seeing things clearly, beyond the veil of delusion. We must “start where we are.” Empathy can be wise or not. We should wisely choose what we are going to give our attention to and where we will put effort, remembering that the right effort is gentle, calm, joyful, pleasurable, and light, while the wrong effort hurts and produces pain and suffering.
Acceptance is not resignation. Acceptance is a process of transformation that involves:
- accepting the situation
- not wasting energy futilely fighting ‘what is’
- remembering that everything that arises also passes away
- bringing to mind that what you resist, persists
- choosing to take time to make a wise assessment of the situation
- seeing clearly, beyond the veil of delusion
- knowing where you are
- starting the process of change from where you are
- using wise discernment, sorting what we can from what we cannot change
- responding wisely rather than reacting impulsively
- choosing wise action
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
Wisdom to know the difference.
“I find I am more effective when I can listen accepantly to myself, and can be myself. I feel that over the years I have learned to become more adequate in listening to myself; so that I know, somewhat more adequately than I used to, what I am feeling in any given moment … One way of putting this is that I feel I have become more adequate in letting myself be what I am. It becomes easier for me to accept myself as a decidedly imperfect person, who by no means functions at all times in the way in which I would like to function. This must seem to some like a very strange direction in which to move. It seems to me to have value because the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change.”
~ Carl Rogers, “On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy.”
Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect, and write, and who not only strives to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches mindfulness meditation, mindful living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He organizes Silent Peace Walks.
Take a look at these books at the Peaceful Ways online store
– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”
– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”
– “Silent Peace Walk”