Acceptance: The Hardest Path To Travel
Updated: Jan 4, 2020
How do we accept the things we don’t want to accept in order to create space for the yet to be?
How do we take steps forward when our head and heart aren’t yet ready to move?
How do we begin again while prepping our bodies for the waves we know will continue to come?
How do we
When all we want to do is stay, in memory?
When holding on hurts
But releasing is even harder?
Accepting is, what I would argue to be, one of the, if not THE hardest things for human beings to do. Acceptance is a loaded concept. From cold hard facts, to things we don’t believe to be right, to things we believe to be right yet at the same time still don’t want to believe. Life is full of things and experiences that we just do not want to accept. Yet even so, we have to somehow learn to do it, to accept, or we will forever be living with tension and struggle in our own heart, mind and body. So how do we begin to unravel the knot that is acceptance and then proceed to let the rope go?
I wish there was a magic button.
I think what makes acceptance so difficult is that nobody else can accept things for you- nobody can just give you acceptance. Love, care, knowledge, honesty- these are all things that people can give us when we need them and when we feel like we don’t have the courage or strength to give them to ourselves. But acceptance, well, you’re on your own. The only person who can accept circumstance or reality, is you. And that is scary as hell.
My own personal list of things that are hardest to accept are as follows:
Accepting not being in control of circumstance
Accepting your own faults and flaws
Accepting circumstances that could have gone differently, if you had done something differently (and not being able to time travel)
There is a Buddhist teaching by Shantideva that says “If something can be done about the situation, what need is there for being dejected? And if nothing can be done about it, what use is there for being dejected?”
I have found immense relief in this teaching. I can honestly say that this teaching has changed the way I interact with the world on a daily basis, and I make a concerted effort in the situations I find myself in, to practice it. Whether it's being stuck in highway traffic, losing $20, or a cancelled flight, I remind myself that there is no use holding onto unnecessary dejection. However, I seem to have found a tricky loophole in this ancient Buddhist wisdom, which I have been struggling with. This loophole, or rather, knot in need of unraveling, has to do with #3 on my above list.
Although we may not be able to do anything about the present circumstance, in many instances, we were able to do something differently in previous circumstances that led to the present one. But didn’t. We were able to change things, but we didn’t. We know we could have changed things, but we didn’t. A part of us still thinks we could change things if given the opportunity to do so, but that opportunity does not currently exist anymore. Therefore, somehow we need to still be able to accept things, knowing we could have done something about it. This is overwhelmingly dejecting.
As I sit in frustration and discomfort with this, all I want is Shantideva to give me some follow-up wisdom on how exactly to accept what I could have in fact done something about. But, in all its irony, I have to accept that the 18th century Shantideva will not appear in front of me with new wisdom, and that I instead have to figure it out for myself.
In reflecting inward, I realize that frustration, sadness, anger, and guilt will not soften the knot that sits inside of us. The only thing that can begin to soften and loosen the knot is love- love for ourselves, for our faults, and for our past mistakes.
Even though we are humans that are capable of incredible feats of enduring pain, overcoming loss, and accepting what we don’t want to accept, we are still also humans who stumble in our imperfection.
We are only human. I am only human. In acknowledging this, acceptance doesn’t necessarily become any easier, but the tension begins to lessen- just a little- as I am more tender and caring to the person I know I am, even among the faults.
In learning to love yourself unconditionally, you very slowly begin to untie and let go.