The essence of this practice is to learn to accept “what is” instead of thinking “what if?”
Many people turn to spirituality following some kind of loss such as bereavement, redundancy, divorce or some other traumatic experience which prompts them to want to find meaning in their lives and to make sense of what they have experienced. Because the feeling of loss is the kind of feeling we typically do not enjoy, our natural tendency is to want to change the way we feel and to find a way to feel better. We may feel drawn to a kind of spiritual practice which involves asking some external being for help – for example God, angels, or healers – or we may feel more drawn to a form of spiritual development practice which would make us feel more empowered and help us to feel like we are able to change the way we feel through our own efforts rather than through some kind of grace or energy bestowed by a deity or healer. But whatever form of spirituality most appeals to us, the most important point to realise is that we can only truly begin to feel better once we have completely accepted how we already feel. If we feel a sense of loss we will only be able to move on from that feeling when we fully accept that feeling of loss which already exists.
Acceptance is all about not resisting and not fighting. Whatever has happened and however we feel about it, we serve ourselves best when we accept life as it is, cease resisting and stop fighting. This is not to say that acceptance is some form of disempowerment – in fact it is quite the opposite – because true acceptance is the most empowering process we can engage in.
A great deal of confusion arises when people talk about acceptance because we often believe that acceptance must mean not having a say, not wanting to make a situation better and generally not making any kind of effort to improve our life or how we feel.
The truth is that, when we fully enter into acceptance of “what is”, we become much more capable of influencing our lives, improving situations and changing our feelings for the better. When we are faced with a crisis, if we start to panic we will limit our ability to create positive outcomes. If we do not resist what is happening, stay calm and relaxed, we will be more able to find positive solutions to our predicament. This is how acceptance works: when we stop resisting and relax into the truth of “what is” we find that ideas, solutions and opportunities for improvement present themselves quite naturally.
What is, is
“Ifness” draws a veil over “Isness” and prevents direct perception.
Acceptance means to be fully present to the truth of “what is”. If we are busy feeling regret and thinking “what if?” we are not being truly present in our own lives.
What has come to pass has come to pass. That “which is” has come about because of that which has passed. You cannot change the past so it is better to live in the present which is the only moment in time that you can affect.
It is better to deal with “what is” and not with “what if”. Many people think “What if I had done such and such?” or “What if I had done things differently?” These are regrets and do nothing but waste our energy.
Life is a process of constant refinement. We can always do things better. It is perfectly natural to look back and think that we could have handled a situation better. But the truth is that we do the best we can in any given moment and then later we learn how to do things better, so then we can look back and say “If the same thing happens to me again I will handle it better”. This is good. This is learning.
The person you were no longer exists. You are who you are NOW. If you are prone to self-criticism, ask yourself if you think it would be kind to criticise someone else in the same way you criticise yourself. Would it be an act of love? Would it help that person? Does it help you?
We do not need to lose something in the physical sense to feel a sense of loss. Lack of energy, lack of self-belief and feeling like our lives have no purpose or meaning can give rise to similar feelings. Negative self-beliefs are fuelled by repeating thoughts which we have about ourselves and this is why many self-help systems work on the basis that the way to change these limiting beliefs is to create new beliefs which accurately reflect how we would like to be. So if we feel useless the teachings tell us we need to start telling ourselves how useful we are. When we feel bad and want to feel good, a great transformational shift is possible when we recognise the limiting thought patterns which give rise to our bad feelings and consciously focus our attention on creating good feeling thoughts. But there is one very important point to be aware of: we first have to fully accept the truth of the bad feeling thoughts before we can accept a new set of mental instructions which will create better feelings. If we feel useless we need to totally accept the truth of the thought “I am useless” before we can begin to accept the thought “I am useful”.
Acceptance removes the power from the very thing we had previously resisted. If we feel like a failure we need to fully accept “I am a failure” before we can begin to realise “I am successful”. In reality no-one is ever completely good or bad and no-one is ever always a failure or always a success. We are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. We live in a world of duality and opposites so ups and downs are normal. Although I advocate consciously creating thoughts which make you feel good and consciously focussing your energy on what you do want your life to be like, whenever thoughts arise which make you feel bad, it is important to accept them as they are. If you are trying to improve your confidence and you have a day when you feel bad, don’t fight it. Let it be. If you feel useless simply allow yourself to be in the energy of feeling useless and see where it takes you.
The very act of allowing our feelings to come to the surface has enormous transformational potential – through accepting “what is” we allow it to be, as it is, in our conscious awareness. If we do not accept how we feel we are effectively judging those feelings and showing our disapproval for ourselves. If we disapprove of ourselves we will always seek approval from others. If we judge ourselves we will never be able to move on.
The reason that people often get stuck in feeling bad is because they do not allow the bad feelings to pass. If we are scared of moving on in our lives, feeling bad can become like a safety blanket – as bad as it feels, it’s a safe place to be. If we know that life is crap and that people are selfish, we won’t be disappointed. If we start to believe that life is good and that people are kind, we open ourselves up to the possibility of being hurt. The answer is to accept that life is a mixture of good and bad and that people can sometimes seem selfish and at other times they can seem kind. Once we have entered fully into acceptance we can begin to see that the badness and goodness we previously saw are largely in the eye of the beholder – it is up to us to see the good in people, not because we fool ourselves into believing that everyone is good all of the time, but because we know that everyone has the capacity for goodness and that the more we focus on goodness in others, the more we help them to realise that goodness and lead happier, more fulfilling lives.
This leads on to what I call conscious optimism. As opposed to blind optimism in which we selectively ignore anything we don’t like and pretend that everything will always work out well, conscious optimism recognises that life contains both light and dark, yet also recognises that energy goes where attention flows – the conscious optimist lives in full acceptance that life has its ups and downs and resides in the knowledge that his best chance of being happy is to focus his attention on the light. When darkness comes the conscious optimist yields to it and says “This is OK. I know that life has its ups and downs. I also know that my best chance of experiencing more ups more quickly is to fully accept the downs and allow them to be”. In conscious optimism we do not flee from pain – instead we allow it to be and ask what it can teach us. We know it hurts but we also know that complaining or resisting will not help the pain to go away. We understand that pain can come as a sign that we need to give an area of our lives more attention and as a way of helping us to learn.
*** This chapter is taken from my book The Light Within ***