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Acceptance gives you true freedom

Acceptance of your situation can feel like the opposite of what you want but its power lies in it being a paradox

We can encounter situations in life where our customary response is to dig our heels in, fight like mad for what we want and think we can by our efforts triumph in the end – and yet frustratingly get nowhere. Acceptance of the situation can feel like surrender, giving up, “giving in”, and somehow losing in another of life’s struggles. Nobody wants to be a “loser”: feel the shame of that! Yet true acceptance is not about this. It is about letting go, embracing what is, and allowing the universe to bring you what you truly need.

I was recently talking with someone about the physical pain they were in, a result of a severe back problem that seemingly wouldn’t go away. Rather the reverse, it looked it was there permanently and they might have to face living the rest of their life in pain, discomfort and restriction. This can be seriously hard to contemplate, especially if you have lived a lot of your life thinking the world’s your oyster and you can have anything you want. You can come down with a really hard bump if you suddenly realise that that isn’t so and that things are much more finite and limited than that. We think we’re immortal, and it can hurt when we discover that, in the material sense at least, we aren’t.

Acceptance of the situation

In this conversation, as I heard all the efforts that were being fruitlessly made to tackle the problem, I was suddenly struck that maybe what this person needed to do was accept the situation.

Now, you might think that this would have meant “giving in” and no longer working to bring about change. Surely what people should do is get into a positive mindset, challenge the situation and harness mind, body and spirit in the healing process? There is of course merit in this: look for example at how people have recovered at some level from back injuries that might otherwise have left them permanently disabled. However, one difficulty with focusing on the problem is that one can create more of the problem. According to the Law of Attraction, you draw to you more of what you focus on. So it depends on your approach. Getting the balance right is crucial.

To accept your situation is to embrace it and let go of it. It’s a paradox, almost like a contradiction. In accepting and letting go, we release ourselves of any attachment to the problem. It just is, like life.

It might be hard of course. Back pain can be pure hell. There could be lots to let go of, and grieving to be done for what we’re letting go of. When we let go and accept, we’re no longer resisting. “What we resist, persists”. Now, we truly allow it to be.

Here lies freedom. All sorts of possibilities can now come in.

In the case of our back problem, we might for example relax. With the release of tension the body can more easily re-adjust and potentially more easily allow the healing that’s needed. Some new possibility for a way of being can now come in that was being kept away by the resistance, for example by living life in a calmer, more stress-free way. Maybe there’s a learning there that was needed and can now be completed, for example allowing oneself to receive support from others rather than thinking one has to do it all oneself. Thus life can henceforth be lived at a new level of contentment that was previously excluded.

What do you need to accept that you are currently resisting?

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Letting go can be the hardest thing to do

Do you find you get so caught up in something that you don’t see that what you really need to do is let go? We can get so attached to something that hanging on to the direction we’re taking seems the only option and we thus lack choices about alternatives. Letting go of “it” can seem a weakness, giving up.

It can seem obvious to an outsider but to us in the middle of “it”, whatever that is, “it” is all that matters. You want something to happen but “it” won’t oblige! The frustration builds up and we work all the harder to try to make “it” happen, with a resulting log-jam in the universal delivery service. So, what’s to be done, if anything?

For those of us caught in today’s rat-race, trying to bring in the cash, trying to square all sorts of competing demands on our time, trying to stay on course, we get locked into a way of thinking and thus deprive ourselves of the ability to see the bigger picture. For some it’s not till they get sick or some other event happens that compels them to pause and assess what’s going on.

With mindfulness, what happens is that we step back from the content of our lives, bring our minds away from what we’re caught up in, or whatever our mind is doing, come into the moment and can see what’s going on. Being able to take this perspective means we can see what is happening while it’s happening. You learn to witness yourself in action. You learn that these thoughts are not who you are. This awareness is just a breath away.

To let go is part of the process. Once you take your awareness away from being caught up in “it”, you let go. With this approach we are also non-judgemental and accepting. Thus it gives us freedom. So when we let go, we allow all sorts of possibilities to be present, we “allow” the universe to do what is needed, which could be what you really want – except that you are no longer driven by it, attached to it, and equally you are open to other possibilities. It’s a paradox. To get what you want you have to let go of it.

If there’s an ounce (or gram!) of attachment, then it doesn’t work. You need to find a way to totally let go. Then the log-jam can clear and things can flow again. When we are caught up, we can’t see this, or don’t want to.

So, have a think: what are you at this moment attached to that you need to let go of? Often this is uncomfortable, because what we don’t include in this are the very things we need to let go of most. So your list would need to include your strongest attachments. And in your struggle over this, you can use mindfulness to witness the part of you that is attached and see what that might be about too.

This is where peace lies.

We are running a series of mindfulness courses this year to train people in this vital ability. To learn more, click here

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Acceptance frees us from attachment to desire

In an age accustomed to change, improvement and betterment, it can seem unfashionable in the extreme to accept what you have and where you are. But it is an option not to be neglected. A way round being dissatisfied with what is, is to accept it. Thus we can loosen the bonds keeping us attached to wanting and needing, to desire.

Think of something you aren’t happy about and want to be different. I’ll give you one. I’ve been feeling indignant about the recent revelations about alleged spying and intrusions on internet privacy by spooks from all sorts of nationalities, as I was before by Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper’s alleged hacking of phones. Now instead I could just accept it. Well, it happens, and surveillance of citizenry by the state is as old as the hills, well before the internet. So, just let go and accept it. Breathe in deeply, and when you breathe out let it and accept it. Be aware of whatever bugs you about it, and let it go. Accept it.

You can take this further. Whatever goes on in your life that you tend to get hung up about, accept it. It happens. It is. So accept it.

When you notice yourself thinking, “Now hang on, I’m not going to give up like that. That’s being weak and feeble.” And accept it. Notice the judgement you have, and let it go. Accept it.

Acceptance is the gentle art of letting go applied to the areas of your life that seem at odds with what you want. It’s where the ego function of desire gets engaged, wanting or not wanting something. We can get all tense and wound up about all sorts of issues. So, relax, let it go and accept it.

Now, this might mean you need to find some other way of living with what’s happening. And that might mean managing the part of you that objects to doing this. And then you might also find that your relationship with the issue changes in some way. For example, by letting go and accepting it, you might be giving the universe freedom to bring you what you really need, which might be just perfect. It could be for example that the outcome will suit both you and lets say others whom you are at odds with. By letting go and accepting, you’ve allowed other possibilities to emerge. When we are attached to something, we limit our options and we shut down on creativity and on the Law of Attraction from bringing us what we really need.

Acceptance also gives you peace. When you really let go, the conflict and tension goes, and all is easy again. Which is more how things really work at the higher level. They say, we always get what we need. There is always enough. You just have to believe it! Now, that’s a good one for another post!

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Opening to what’s possible when we let go

Recently I was reading a piece in Moments of Grace by Neale Donald Walsch about a woman who had recently given birth to a child with blood that was O-positive to her O-negative and was fighting for his life. At one point she was so anguished about what might happen to her child, the first she had been able to carry through pregnancy, that she ended up writing a letter to express how she felt. At first it was a letter to a friend but it turned into a letter to God, and into one that weren’t her words but said that if it was God’s plan to take her son back then so be it, “Not my will but thine.”

After sleeping a while she was woken to be told her son was to have a blood transfusion and she thought he might now die. Suddenly she was gripped by a terrible pain in her groin and slipped into unconsciousness. Then she came round to find a beautiful woman standing next to her, who smiled with great love and said, in words that seemed to come from within her own head, that she could go home now to the Father if she wished. Her son would live however and although she had had a hard time since her own childhood, there was much to learn and she could then be of service to others. The woman decided to stay. Then the angel vanished. Then the nurse came in to give her her son.

What was crucial was that the woman had let go and accepted whatever might happen. She surrendered. And she made her own choice for herself.

When we hold on and fight what is happening, or as Walsch puts it, we resist, then what occurs persists. The hardest thing it seems is to let go. But that is what is needed. In this situation the woman accepted what was happening.

We need to find a space inside and say “Yes” to life, and not fight it. When it seems to be getting really tough, then it can powerfully help to look for where we can let go and accept. Unconditionally.

We fear we’ll get a bad outcome. But we relax and feel a totally new freedom. And it opens the door for all sorts of new and unexpected but desired things to come into our life, ones we’d previously being holding up or not seen.

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Accepting yourself for who you are

Someone who is driven by a desire to have things be perfect, a dislike of imperfection, may benefit from learning to give themselves permission to be less than perfect. There’s something in here about acceptance of what is.

I remember how I used to like to have everything very well-planned, down to the last detail, my lessons, the teaching schedules of my team, the supply of learning materials, the management of the budget, the arrangements for assessments, homework coming in on time, the behaviour of the pupils, etc., etc. A lot of energy used to go into this planning, and woe betide anybody who disrupted it. Control, of others and of myself, and an utter fear of things getting out of control. It took a massive amount of energy, until I decided the stress involved in maintaining it wasn’t worth it. I was worth more than that. It required me to learn about acceptance, that whatever is, is OK, and I am OK. It was a great relief, and opened the door to experiencing inner peace.

What is, is OK. That’s a hard one, especially when we seem to live in an imperfect world, chaotic even. And we’re taught that we must “try hard”, “do better”, and not accept the status quo. Humanity seems to need to seek constantly to create order out of chaos. To accept imperfection seems to continue to describe what is as “not perfect”. Yet, this is the paradox of personal growth. To find perfection, we need to embrace imperfection, to accept it. After all the real shift is in ourselves. While we see things as a polarity, in this case imperfection as against perfection, we continue to create separation. Then God appears as our imperfection. Yet the divine is in everything, including what we see as imperfect. To surrender and accept is to let go of our ego, of our judgements, our comparisons, our guilt and whatever else holds the whole edifice in place. Then we transcend the so-called imperfection and find in everything and everyone Who we really Are.

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Theres always something more to do

I’ve often noticed that in the work environment there’s a frequent underlying belief that there’s always something more to do. No doubt that may be helpful when you’re looking at things like continuous improvement or the desire to do always one more to be successful. What might be worth looking at however is where the belief has become compulsive and addictive rather than useful. It’s like what you’ve got is somehow “not good enough”. The word “more” from a personal development perspective is suggestive of a non-acceptance of now and of the presence of desire.

It can feel like what is going on right now is “not enough”. We’ve somehow “got” to look for what we’ve missed, what we might have “got wrong”, where there might be a mistake. Or we might feel a nagging sense that we should now be looking for something else to do. Remember the old saying, “the devil makes work for idle hands?” We can feel really guilty about the current situation. Guilt, the sense of being wrong, of having done something wrong, of being at fault, even a sinner, even unworthy, is very strong in certain cultural traditions where there is a strong teaching about right and wrong, judgement and punishment. Then we have an inner critic, telling us off, judging us, blaming us, finding fault. It can be very powerful.

The power of desire also comes in here, as a powerful underlying driver. “What is at present isn’t enough and I must find something else.” There’s also a nagging sense of things always being incomplete, like I haven’t done everything that’s needed. You have probably heard the expression, “a woman’s work is never done.”

It’s heavy stuff. No wonder so many of us feel under pressure and carrying burdens. You might check if you get back-ache, neck ache or shoulder ache. It might be connected to this.

From a divine perspective, we’re fine just as we are. All is OK. All this stuff is so totally not being in the Now. So, let’s breathe….deeply….and as we breathe out long, let go….breathe in deeply…breathe long and let go…let go of burdens…let go of judgement…let go of pressure…let go of tension…breathe out tension…breathe in peace and calm…and now allow yourself to be very aware of the Now.

We train people on our program to learn how to do this, and to know more and more their own space of Inner Peace.

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Do you look forward with hope?

Do you look forward to your weekend with pleasure, like anticipating the arrival of something better? Is the weekend better than what happens during the week? Or are they the lesser of two evils. Or is none of it any good?

How we anticipate the future, such as looking forward to things optimistically, is a useful test of our outlook on life. It raises some fundamental questions, such as our belief that things will get better, that life has some good bits to it, that all is OK. People have often told me they remember when they used to look forward to life, with a “glass half-full” attitude, but that various events in life have knocked the shine off that. So they might say that each day for them is an effort, that they have nothing to look forward to, or that when they looked ahead they didn’t see any hope.

Of course that may in part depend on your circumstances; you might even say “a lot.” One might think that if you are alone, having a partner would make a difference, or if your finances are dire or if you are out of work then some improvement in those areas would make a difference. Then you might feel better about life if you are ill or have had a sudden change in circumstances or many of the other things that happen that can suddenly alter your perspective on life.

The Buddha taught that circumstances in life were impermanent, that nothing stays the same. In Gestalt, we say that the self is always in process, things move on. People say that the one constant in life is change. Yogic philosophy teaches that the circumstances of life are illusory. It is our efforts to keep things as we want them, to resist change, that gives us trouble.

So it can help to think about having an approach to life that accepts what occurs, that does not look back with regret or resentment to the past or is fearful of the future, and accepts that present as it is. So often we want things to be different, which is paradoxical given the above. One way forward is to learn to know our core, Who we really Are, since that doesn’t change. It’s to see through the flux, change and upheaval to the constancy of the Self within. In that space, there’s a sense of constancy based on an inner stillness and “centredness”, a kind of inner knowing that all is OK. And you find that by doing your inner work. Then you can know the true meaning of non-attachment to the fear of and resistance to change.

So, maybe spend some time this weekend reflecting on what is going for you, what you have that endures and has value despite the seeming change at the superficial level. If you meditate, look within to that core within you that is still, aware, and constant. Mediate on That. You might even find you are looking forward to it.

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Nothing in excess

I was watching a great BBC programme about the ancient oracle at Delphi in Greece. It provided what I thought was a superb overview of the history and the functioning of the oracle and its influence on the ancient world.

Many people probably know the famous inscription over the entrance, “Know thyself”. We probably hear less of the other one, “nothing in excess”. The two go together rather well.

Think of all those people going there to learn their fate! Let’s imagine it: “What is going to happen to me? Will I be OK? Am I OK? Will I conquer or will I be vanquished?” Etc. (probably expressed in varying degrees of grandiosity or inferiority-anxiety, say, if you were some patrician visitor).

The oracle was famous for giving sometimes ambiguous guidance to its visitors. It left the onus for interpretation on the recipients and hence the importance of self-knowledge, “Know thyself”. And whatever action you took, you then didn’t let your ego get the better of you and thus overreach yourself.

This is as relevant today as then. Think for a moment, as the programme pointed out at the end, of the boom and bust of the last few years, the credit crunch and the debt crisis. Retrospectively, many of us might be busy blaming the bankers, but who took out the mortgages and indulged in a spending boom thinking we’d cover it easily with rising asset prices? Egos went through the roof.

However, self-knowledge is every bit as relevant to personal development, as readers of this blog will know. To be able to see when your ego has you in its hold is to use the skill of self-knowledge, which is derived from the intentional cultivation of self-awareness. So we have within us a vital resource to help us gain wisdom.

With that though comes “nothing in excess”: the ability to exercise intentional self-restraint, to moderate our actions, to discipline our thoughts, to see when our egos have gotten hold, to manage our thoughts, to use the will to let go, and to keep the focus, as for example yogis do, on our connection with who we really are.

In moderation, there is also an excellent tool at hand, humility. This is where we can exercise discrimination, to distinguish when our ego is at work, to not let ourselves become over-inflated, for example, on our own self-importance, to not get carried away on flights of fancy about ourselves and our anxieties. Humility involves letting go and connecting with simplicity.

In reflecting on where we get carried away on an ego-attack, on letting it all go, there’s a relaxation, a settling back into a simple awareness of who we are as the Self, pure and simple, unjudging, accepting, loving, peaceful, nothing to “be”, nothing to pretend, just Being, in peace and contentment of I Am, just as I Am.