Ah, acceptance. A concept to which I return, over and over, just as reliably (and maybe as often) as Old Faithful. And, what’s funny to me about it is that each time I find myself in a non-accepting place, and I remember to practice acceptance, it always surprises me! Every. Time. I get quasi-hysterical, up in arms, shaking my fists at the sky, and then it dawns on me – acceptance, stupid.
Perhaps the seeming novelty of the concept, when it occurs to me, is part of its power. The minute I get there, I feel relief. I can literally feel my shoulders relax, my forehead unwrinkle, and, almost always, a smile comes to my face. Oh, right, I have to accept this, because I cannot change it. What an excellent idea! Just last night, I was in such a willful place. There is a person who was once in my life for whom I can always, with just the thought of her, summon intense rage. She so utterly infuriates me that even as I write this, sipping green tea and having been in a perfectly good mood, I feel the knots in my stomach. I feel the heat rising in my face. I feel the tightness in my shoulders. The urge to fight is strong. Then, a moment of wisdom. I cannot change her. I cannot change the past. The only thing over which I have any control at all is my reaction to her. Acceptance. And now, relief.
Why do we (Buddha, originally, then Tara Brach and Marsha Linehan) call it radical acceptance? Well, I guess I can’t speak for Tara or Marsha, and certainly not the Buddha. I can only speak to the meaning of radical to me. The things we have to accept radically are the things about which acceptance seems like a radical idea. Forgive her?! Why?! After all she did to me? Why should I have to accept? Why can’t she accept me? Why doesn’t she treat me with loving kindness? Surely she knows how wrong she is. I need to tell her. I need to tell her how wrong she is, how she’s hurt me and everyone else; maybe if I say it in just the right way, using just the right words….I don’t accept. I don’t. I won’t.
And now my back hurts. Just like that.
When it finally occurs to me, I have to laugh. Here I am, a therapist who spends all day talking about mindfulness, acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness….and then it’s some kind of news flash – acceptance. I have to accept. Not for her. For me. The acceptance is for me.
I’m compelled to ask you: what are you not accepting in your life right now? What gets your shoulders all in a knot? Is there room to problem solve? If yes, by all means, problem solve. If not, then accept. Over and over, again and again, accept, accept, accept.