Life becomes a much simpler journey when you realize that there are only two directions to take at any given moment, a fact that is often more apparent when you are confronted by a problem or crisis. One direction is rejection and the other is acceptance. People who appear to be involved in unconscious living tend to consistently opt for rejection, while those who seem to be waking up or growing up emotionally lean toward acceptance.
Rejection leads to suffering, while acceptance leads to rather pleasant experiences of peace and joy. But when you’re at that fork, you can easily be deceived into thinking that rejection offers you the chance for freedom, while acceptance is an apparent prison sentence. That’s because people think that rejection brings about change, whereas acceptance leaves you forever burdened with a situation you don’t want.
In the early stages of my life, acceptance was a word that I really didn’t understand, believing it to carry the connotation of resignation, rather than the peaceful and joyous feelings it actually produces. It began for me with the realization that I spent most of my life rejecting where I was, what I was doing, and what was happening to or around me. I didn’t see it as rejection immediately; I thought it was simply that my preferences were different from what was going on at the time.
When I was bored at work I wanted to be doing something more fun. When I was standing in a restaurant line I was impatiently wanting to be at my table placing my order. After I placed my order I became frustrated with how slow the service was. I could easily become annoyed with the slow-moving traffic in which I found myself stuck, and critical of other drivers’ habits.
I spent most of my life rejecting almost every moment, not realizing how much I was suffering. Impatience, boredom, daydreaming, frustration, criticism… they were all expressions of my rejection of whatever situation in which I found myself. Even the pleasant distraction of daydreaming was due to the fact that I did not see anything fulfilling in the present moment and so escaped to an alternate reality where I could feel good.
When problems arose, I didn’t immediately notice that my rejection of them caused physical and emotional stress to build up inside me. I just thought I was getting angry at this adversarial situation that was threatening to hurt me or take something from me. I didn’t realize it was my own fear that caused me to see the situation as an enemy, and that same fear that was causing me to judge, blame, criticize, and attack it. If that is not a great recipe for suffering, I don’t know what is.
When you dislike, fear, or reject something, you are judging it to be wrong. Once you judge it you effectively hold it in place and are unable to see it in any other light. Accepting that same thing allows you to see that the perceived threat is simply an illusion.
True freedom is experienced in accepting the unacceptable.
The fact is, if you don’t accept whatever is before you, you are rejecting it. People resist acceptance because we have conditioned ourselves to believe that if we accept what we do not like, it will always be there. Only by rejecting what is before us, we believe, will we ever be able to change it.
Slogans such as “Don’t settle for less than the best!”; “You deserve more!”; “You can have it all!” and “Conquer your fears and weaknesses!” are reflections of our beliefs that: (1) we have the personal power to change—if not everything, then at least a percentage of—what we decide is wrong, and (2) we should not accept what we do not like or we’ll be stuck with it.
I have discovered that the opposite is true. Your self-concept (or ego) has no power to change what it doesn’t like; and accepting what is, exactly as it is, creates the experience of true freedom from what you don’t like. Not by changing, fixing, or destroying it, but simply by outgrowing it!
Growth occurs like this:
- You face a situation which you judge to be a problem.
- You accept the situation exactly as you see it.
- You accept the uncomfortable feelings that arise and simply observe them
- You recognize that all the feelings are familiar, in that you have felt them before, maybe a long, long time ago.
- You become aware of one key feeling that seems more significant to you at this time
- You remind yourself that this is not your feeling—it is the same one every human being has; you just thought that it was yours.
- You watch the feeling and where you tend to feel it in your body.
- You will either be drawn to relax into the center of the feeling and discover a more neutral yet pleasant energy there,
- You will peacefully watch the feeling pass through, like a helium balloon, floating away.
- You have either begun to outgrow or have fully outgrown the situation and have an expanded sense of awareness, power, and peace – all aspects of what you truly are.