The First Step to Inner Fulfilment?
Acceptance is a funny old concept...
Would you believe me if I told you there was a simple way you could feel fulfilled, positive and at peace at any time? And best of all, this depth of feeling was available regardless of your external circumstances – so that you don’t need to achieve your goals, “become someone”, or be living your life purpose to tap into it?
My guess is you would probably think I was bluffing, or exaggerating at the least. Surely personal development is all about reaching targets and finding your sense of self in external achievements? Surely you need to be a high achiever before you can feel happy with yourself?
More and more I am finding that the answer to this conundrum is a resounding “no”. In fact, attempting to define your sense of self in purely external achievements is a fast-track way to depression, sadness and feeling a deep-rooted sense of separateness with the world.
In fact, the first key to day-to-day joy and inner peace is found in accepting the present moment simply as it is.
In short, if you can train yourself to fully accept everything that happens in your life (no matter how “bad” you may think it to be originally), you will embark on a deep-rooted spiritual transformation which will dramatically impact the satisfaction you derive from simply living. It doesn’t matter if you have achieved all your goals or are nowhere near achieving your dreams, you can feel brilliant about life – now.
Here’s how it works:
Most people consistently reject the present moment – which is what is going on in their lives right now.
How do you reject the present moment? Well, every time you moan, get angry, want to be somewhere else, wish time away or feel down about a situation, you are unconsciously rejecting what has already occurred.
Stuck in traffic and pissed off? Fussing around anxiously while waiting for the kettle to boil? Reacting with anger to an unexpected bill that hits your doormat? Catch yourself thinking “I’d rather be anywhere but here”?
All pointless I’m afraid, my friend. Completely pointless.
You see, these situations already are – i.e. they cannot (and will not) be changed by you stressing about them. In fact, all that happens when you do reject them is you needlessly create conflict in your own life by resisting what has already happened.
Can you see the utter madness in this? Something “bad” happens, and rather than accepting it and changing your actions accordingly, you instead get angry, frustrated or annoyed at the perceived injustice. Instead of accepting what has already happened, you resist internally by mentally labelling the situation “wrong”, and then create negative emotions and unhappiness inside to prove your point.
For example, who hasn’t woken up on a rainy, dark morning, and spent the entire journey into work beating them self up about what a “crappy day” it is, with the accompanying voice in the head repeatedly whining how “it is going to be a miserable day”. How often does that day actually turn out to be a great day? Probably not often – we humans are suckers for self-fulfilling prophecies.
What do you think would happen if you woke up and fully accepted the weather as it is, and didn’t allow it to influence your state of mind or wellbeing by resisting it internally? What would happen to you if the weather – or indeed any trivial incident out of your immediate control – didn’t have the power to control your life?
Acceptance and the Ego
Resisting the weather or other unchangeable circumstances is a classic case of non-acceptance to what is.
Although a little outside the scope of this article, the cause of this trouble is your ego – as it is your ego that perceives random or natural incidents as the work of a vendetta against it personally, and thus creates this totally pointless negative reaction inside you. In short, it makes every situation personal, and you pay the price.
Your ego is always talking to you, providing you with feedback as to why you are special and why you are justifiably upset with your current circumstances. The train is late? (“Bloody train – it’s always late for me”) ... Getting anxious waiting in line? (“I shouldn’t have to be here waiting like this... I have things to do”)... Food cold in a restaurant? (“Why does this always happen to me? It’s not fair”)
To transform these moments in your life, you first have to accept them. Acceptance of the present moment is a fantastic spiritual practice that will transform your sense of so-called “negative” events and change your levels of happiness dramatically.
How to Accept What Has Already Happened
With practice, it’s not that hard to change your mindset to one of acceptance. In short, the general rule is: if you cannot enjoy doing or experiencing something, simply try to accept it.
The great spiritual writer Eckhart Tolle suggests in the brilliant
A New Earth
that when something “goes wrong”, you should simply accept the situation by saying to yourself:
For now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires me to do, and so I do it willingly.
So, if you tyre bursts on your car in the pouring rain, rather than spending two miserable hours fighting it, accept it. Fix that tyre in a state of acceptance. Do it willingly. If you miss the bus, don’t spend the next half an hour beating yourself up, accept that you missed it. The time waiting for the next one will be happy and relaxed, rather than stressful and miserable. You have to wait – so it may as well be a peaceful experience for you. If you burn your dinner, accept it. You can eat charcoaled grub for one night – it won’t kill you. If you mess up at work or forget to do something important, accept it. Worst case, you get fired – and you probably don’t like working there too much anyway!
Can you imagine how living like this could transform dozens of your day-to-day moments that currently generate negativity and stress within you? What would be left if you simply dropped all the angry reactions and pointless frustration? After all, none of the negative reactions would have changed your tyre faster, got you on the bus quicker, made your dinner taste nicer or made you remember to do your work in the first place, would they? What happens if you just let the present moment be, without judging it?
For the next week, try this: whatever happens, try to accept it fully. That’s it. Don’t fight against what has already happened. See how this changes your life.
Acceptance isn’t passive – it is actually a reactive state. Acceptance isn’t rolling over to embrace everything bad that happens in your life – it’s merely letting the present be. If you want to change a situation, first accept that it has happened, and then take action if you can.
For example, the action from the above examples could be calling someone to help you with your tyre, getting a taxi instead of waiting for the bus, cooking a different meal or ordering a takeaway, or finally going to your boss to explain what went wrong. All action that comes from a state of acceptance is likely to be more powerful anyway. When you react out of stress and fear, it shows. When you react from a state of acceptance, it will be inspired action, with none of the stress and negativity.
When you accept what already is, you will feel a deep sense of peace within you which transforms your ability to enjoy life. Additionally, you will be far more resilient to the unpredictable nature of life itself.
If you catch yourself reacting disproportionately to a perceived injustice, that’s great too. Just try and watch your own reaction. See how your thoughts try to make every situation personal. Don’t judge yourself and argue internally about what the correct response should be – simply note your own overblown reaction, take a slow, deep breath, and then accept what has happened.
I find that saying to myself “it is as it is” works wonders. It’s quite a powerful sentence to say when you truly believe it. If it is as it is, then me reacting negatively will not change it. If it is as it is, I’m better off just accepting what has already happened.
With practice, acceptance will bring you not only peace of mind, but a sense of calm and a deep feeling of aliveness within. Strangely enough, when you stop resisting life, life tends to respond by making your external situations better anyway. It’s a funny old universe we live in.