Acceptance: this is one of the toughest yet most valuable attributes we can pursue in our lives. Sometimes, we are so attached to a thought or idea or vision that we cannot see beyond the very thing we seek. When this happens, we disallow others to contribute or share their ideas and solutions, leaving us essentially painted into a corner. I often ask, “Is it more important to be right or to be happy?” How many of us inadvertently choose the former, fighting tooth and nail for the chance to be right? How many choose to accept being wrong in an effort to promote happiness? Acceptance of others and their opinions and ideas play a huge part in this process. But in order to get there, we have to first learn to accept ourselves.
Self-acceptance means loving ourselves in spite of difficulties, in spite of imperfections, and really, in spite of the lies we tell ourselves. Acceptance of others means allowing them to be just who they are. Lessons for acceptance can be found in every pitfall, every success, every disappointment, every challenge, and every accomplishment: it is in our responses to those things where our acceptance or lack of acceptance is exposed. Accepting “things as they are” tends to give us us the most trouble—it’s human nature to want to change things to fit our needs and wants. But as an old work mate once told me, “You can’ t recarpet the world. Sometimes you just need to put on some fuzzy slippers.”
Acceptance is not a finite goal: it is a practice. There’s no magic bullet that makes someone who struggles with acceptance suddenly stop and become “enlightened.” We learn to accept others by accepting ourselves.
I practice a lot of yoga, in fact, I’m entering teacher training next week. A little over a year ago, I suffered an injury that shifted the way I practice. All of a sudden, I couldn’t do the hard-core power practice I was used to. I had to suddenly be gentle with myself and accept the fact that I needed to shift the way I was doing things. My first response was to just stop practicing. But that made me miserable. Then I had to really delve into what my practice was really about. Was ego there? If so, was it helpful or harmful? I had to ask myself, “Am I less of a yogi because I will never be able to do a handstand?” The truth is, I was gifted with the greatest opportunity to practice acceptance: Acceptance of my body and its injured state, the acceptance of my practice as a yogi, and the acceptance of others who are doing what I once wished I could do.
Every day is an opportunity to be in a state of acceptance, to act out of love and kindness rather than jealousy and hate. I find that being in a place of acceptance also requires that we have the courage to walk with an open heart.
““A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ” Pema Chödrön