Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Heart of Acceptance

Acceptance requires that I come to terms with facts - I need to face the truth no matter how bitter it is. Acceptance does not mean approval or agreement. When my heart rebels against what my head says is true, I help the heart see what my head knows. The heart can then look for alternatives in co-operation with the head.

Acceptance is not easy. It implies my being able to confront disappointments and sadness. Life is a series of experiences to be assimilated, not a tragedy to be borne. Suffering is one side of life. Joy is the other. I have to deal with the one and value the other. Suffering is to be managed and minimized - I certainly do not have to suffer for suffering's sake. Suffering should motivate me to find solutions - not make me feel helpless and miserable. I am invested with the power of choice - I can choose wisely or foolishly. I responsible for making the appropriate choice - my choice can make or break my life.

In a hopeless situation, acceptance means that I register the fact, cut my losses, and move on to rebuild my life. I need to assess my loss, to realize its full implication, to experience in-depth the feeling of grief, and to finally to let it free to go its way.

If however the situation is redeemable or reversible, I take heart and meet the situation squarely, letting go of blame and dejection. I may wish for miracles, but I keep my eyes wide open to see, and my hands all ready to act.Acceptance does not mean compliance or defeatism. Life is like a computer game that starts from the beginner's level and progresses to higher levels of skill and difficulty. The challenge in life is to move on to the to the more difficult levels once the elementary levels are mastered. But no matter how skilful, there is always a level where I am out of my depth - I have to strike a balance between hitting out pointlessly and surrendering too easily.

Acceptance is what is implied in the serenity prayer. Where I can, do; where I can't, let go. I can use the word "tolerance" in the same way in the broadest sense of the word. Both these words have a upside and downside. I use the word "acceptance" in a positive sense rather than in the negative. The positive reveals a healthy attitude towards a difficult situation. The negative indicates the defeatist attitude of a person who has thrown in the towel and passively bears the brunt of the situation without looking for answers. Tolerance has the additional meaning of live and let live. One can tolerate difference of opinion and idiosyncrasies without having to accept or subscribe to those beliefs.

In the short run, I may need to minimize my pain so that I can get on with my life. This I can do by putting pain on the backburner, while I attend to necessary urgent affairs. I do not have to be a victim, paralyzed by pain. However, over the long term, I need to attend to the pain and heal myself. Acceptance requires that I to take the time to process my sorrow, and to eventually emerge a winner. It requires courage to deal with unpleasant issues in my life. But in the long run, I can make my life happy and fulfilling.
Overlooking pain for the time being is not the same as denial of pain. Denial is based on inability to cope - I avoid pain because it is unpleasant. The problem of experiencing sorrow is that it seems paralyzing.. Denial seems easier because then I live my life as before - nothing has changed.

Acceptance involves courage, faith, patience, and sensitivity - all this calls for a lot of learning and hard work.. It is tempting to deny the pain and wish it away - hide it away from sight. But pain does not vanish - it only transforms into anger, remorse, bitterness, indifference, insensitivity, etc. There are many ways to become dead to pain, but these only make me less alive. The fuller I experience and accept my loss, the easier it becomes to find a lasting solution. The intensity of the emotion is reduced when I am willing to acknowledge and experience it. I become larger than pain and find place to accommodate it in my being.

Instead of fearing my feelings, I can take their help to find direction and harmony in my life. Emotions like fear, anger, sadness, etc. can tell me what is not OK in my life. Rather than fighting my emotions, I would do better to make friends with them. With the feedback, I could make my life work out better in the long run. I need not fear sorrow - I just need to deal with sorrow. Only when I care for myself do I gain the strength to experience the sorrow.

I need time to grieve over my sorrow. Only when I care for myself can I gain the strength to experience the sorrow to its fullest extent and to emerge from it as a better person, freed from sadness. The more I resist sorrow, or deny the loss, the more I tie myself down to it. The fuller I experience and accept my loss, the easier it becomes to find a lasting solution. I may wish all that I wish for, but I need to open my eyes to truth. Truth generally has the last laugh. It is not worth destroying my life over a tragic event. I grieve; yes, for my loss - cry my heart out. I pray for help and for strength.

Spirituality, good friends, fulfilling work, helping others, etc. can all be of help in my efforts to cope with sadness. At the end of it all, it is time for me to let it go and say "I have put it behind me. My destination lies ahead of me, not behind me." I can see light at the end of the tunnel - I thank my stars that I had the patience to wait, strength and faith to sustain me in my darkest hours.

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