Acceptance - Cave In or Lean In?
Updated: Aug 3
"When you argue with reality you lose - but only 100% of the time."
I love Katie's words because they speak to the simple truth - we can't change reality. Yet there are times in our lives when we don't like or want the reality we are faced with - we lose our job, our partner walks out on us, we are diagnosed with an illness, a trusted partner lets us down, the government is corrupt, we lose someone we love... We suffer because we think we can change something that is unchangeable.
This truth is something I have recently had to grapple with myself...
January 2020 began with enthusiasm and purpose! In my first public email I pledged that in 2020 I would slow down and "smell the roses". I compared our stressful, striving lives to a marathon - loads of preparation, lots of pressure to perform and before you know it, the race is over. (Only to start preparing for the next one).
I had declared that... "It's going to be a year of turning the volume of the "doing" button down and increasing the volume of the "being" button."
You should be careful what you wish for!
It's as if someone "up there" was listening and decided to grant me my wish in the form of a virus. (Had I known I would have pledged that this would be the year of winning the lottery!)
The very next day I developed a temperature and my body was filled with aches and pains. I have spent the best part of the past 3 weeks on my back, unable to muster enough energy to stand up straight and get on with the day. At first I strongly rejected this "forced" go slow. I had just returned from holiday and had so many plans to put into place and deadlines to meet. I couldn't afford to take time out! Byron Katie's words rang in my ears, "When you argue with reality you lose - but only 100% of the time".
I realised that it was out of my hands. The reality was I had a virus which was taking time to burn itself out. I couldn't change it, I could only accept it and do whatever was in my control to regain my health. As soon as I shifted from resistance to acceptance, I felt completely free. I stopped worrying about my deadlines, I accepted that some of the projects I had planned for would have to be put on hold and trusted that my brain fog would eventually lift. It was such a wonderfully freeing feeling to let go and trust in the process.
So the past 3 weeks have been about "being" and not "doing". I've spent time watching busy weaver birds build nests in one of the trees outside my window. Recently there was a mass migration of white butterflies to Mozambique and I observed these magnificent creatures fill the sky fluttering and dancing to an internal beat. I've spent a couple of beautiful long, hot summer afternoons watching my sons play cricket. What a privilege! I'm still not back to my "normal", however, when I wake up feeling energetic I am filled with so much joy and gratitude. It's amazing how acceptance can reframe things - last month I took this level of energy for granted, now it's a gift!
Are you in a situation you're finding hard to accept?
Is your current reality unbearable?
Are there aspects of yourself that you reject?
These famous words by Rienhold Niebuhr have been famously used as the Serenity Prayer for Alcoholics Anonymous for many years: "G-d, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Does accepting reality mean we become passive or apathetic?
Are we caving in?
Will we lose the desire to act?
Are we condoning something that isn't right?
Of course not. It doesn't mean you want to be ill, choose to feel anxious or condone an injustice, it means you are simply allowing it to be there because you can't change it. We know that a big part of healing and repairing from painful things in our lives is accepting what's happened. In no way does it mean you're not going to work on changing things. Acceptance and action can be practised together.
Acceptance is an active process and therefore requires conscious work. Byron Katie (best selling author, creator of The Work & Spiritual teacher) uses 4 Questions and a Turnaround to help people clear their minds of thoughts about the circumstances that are causing stress. She believes it is what we are thinking about our reality that causes suffering, not the reality itself.
The 4 Questions are:
1. Is it true? (Yes or No)
2. Can you absolutely know it's true?
3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?
Then, try and find turnarounds (opposites) of the original statement that could be as true, if not truer.
A thought that was particularly stressful for me during this time was, "I'm going to lose business if I'm sick"
1. Is it true I'm going to lose business if I'm sick?
Yes 2. Can I absolutely know it's true? If I really think about it my answer is NO, it's not true. I can't know for sure if I am going to lose business.
3. How do I react when I believe "I'm going to lose business if I'm sick?" I panic, get stressed, frustrated and feel sorry for myself. I feel the tension in my stomach. Memories of losing business in the past when I was sick flash through my mind and then I begin to imagine my future self even more sick with no work at all (images from past and future). I have no compassion for myself only blame and frustration...
4. Who would I be without this though? At peace and in acceptance of where I am now, lying in bed and taking it easy. Fully in the moment.
Turnarounds: "I'm going to lose business if I'm sick"
I'm not going to..
I'm going to lose business if I'm healthy (There is as much a chance of losing business when I am healthy as when I am sick)
Using Inquiry is not about "caving" in but rather "leaning" in because it allows us to connect with our higher, wiser selves We get to feel our emotions and free our minds of any thoughts that would argue with reality.
Every moment we get to chose how we are going to experience our lives, when we know our minds and are aware of our thoughts we can create a life of joy and peace. It's available to us all.
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