To a certain degree all people wrestle with what is. We have an intolerance for things the way they are and so we want to change it. This tendency is a beautiful thing because it makes our lives and our world improve. If we tolerated the fact that we could not fly, we would never have invented the airplane for example. However, some of us don’t simply wrestle with what is. We are warriors. We fight what is as if our survival depends on it. Our unwillingness to accept what is, is a great source of suffering, especially when we can’t change certain things about what is. And in fact, it prevents us from getting what we need and want.
In a universe based on the law of mirroring (otherwise known as the law of attraction) whatever we resist, persists because in resisting something, we are focused directly upon it. And the primary form that resistance takes is the unwillingness to accept ‘what is’ as reality. For example, lets say that someone you love dies. The reality is that they are dead. The reality is that you are heartbroken and grieving. But instead of accepting what is so, you go immediately into resistance to what is. You spend your energy focusing on how it could have been prevented. You spend your energy on who is to blame for it. You spend your time on how it isn’t ok to grieve so you have to find a way to feel better as fast as possible. You spend your energy focusing on what it means about you and your future. None of this brings the person you love back to life. None of this changes the fact that you are heartbroken and grieving. All of this is simply a fight with what is. The tension you feel while trying to change what has happened instead of accepting it, is resistance.
Having said that, we need to have a serious amount of compassion for the fact that stopping our fight with reality is much easier said than done, especially if we are in a situation where nothing we do in the current moment will change something into what we want. For example, if someone you love dies, nothing you do will bring them back to life. The absolute helpless horror of that reality is too much to accept and so it is only natural that the only place your energy can go in that situation is into fighting that it even happened in the first place and panicking about the future. Eventually, none of this will bring them back to life, so the reality that they are dead and that nothing can change that, will be accepted. But know that releasing resistance by accepting what is in many situations, (including this one I’ve just described) is the hardest thing you will ever do and we should never act as if it is as easy as flipping a switch because it isn’t.
Acceptance is the opposite of denial and avoidance. What does it mean to accept something? To accept is to recognize something as valid or correct. Doing this makes your being consent to receiving it and digesting it as truth instead of fighting to not acknowledge it and not take it in. Acceptance has nothing to do with condoning something or condemning something. It has nothing to do with whether you want to change something or not. It is simply about being able to acknowledge something as valid enough to let that acknowledgement in instead of fight to keep it out.
If you want to experience your own resistance, think of something you can’t stand in your life and stripping away the resistant thoughts about it, see if you can find “What is so?” about this situation. It will feel like finding the deep, painful facts. Once you have done that, ask yourself: Can that be ok?
For example, if one of my friends and I are now on such bad terms that we hate each other, I may be desperately trying to find a way to make it better. I may be telling myself all kinds of stories about why I can’t ever seem to have long lasting good relationships. I may be thinking about how it could have been prevented. I maybe telling myself all the reasons it is right to be so damn angry at her because its her fault. All of this is a fight with what is. All of this suggests that it is not ok for me to accept what is so. What is so is that my friend and I who were once really good friends, now hate each other. What is so is that I am heartbroken about it. What is so, is that I have no idea how to make it better. Can I accept that? Just that? In truth it has to be ok that this is the reality, because it is the current reality. Regardless of whether or not I want what is to be different and regardless of whether I may do something to try to change what is, the reality is that this is what is right now.
We have to accept what is before we do anything else. Here is another example, if we are lost on a hike; we have to accept where we on the map are vs. where we want to be in order to get anywhere different. If I got lost and realized I was 50 miles away from where I wanted to be, I would need to accept that and let that sink in and only then would any real solution or answer about how to get somewhere different be accessible to me. If I spent my time and energy thinking about how it happened and how I should have avoided it and how it could have gone differently and about what this means about me as a person and about how this will impact the future etc. All I am doing is avoiding accepting what is. What is, is that I am 50 miles off course and that doesn’t feel good.
When things happen that we do not want to accept happened, we get super angry about it and obsess about how it shouldn’t have happened. That doesn’t change the fact that it did happen and that you now have to deal with the reality that it happened. You are not going to be able to change the outcome of something that already happened. Holding this kind of resistance simply makes you powerless and nothing will improve. By getting angry and blaming the situation at hand, you are trying to change what already happened. And you are trying to change the way you feel. But you can’t. It happened and now you feel the way you feel. Can you accept that? Once you accept that, you will see whole new possibilities that you never had access to before.
If you are really struggling to accept what is because you are judging that it is so not ok that what is… is, challenge yourself to finding approval for what is. This can actually help you accept it. I am aware that this practice is super hard. But imagine that your car breaks down. Don’t fall into the trap of criticizing yourself for not taking the car in to get the check engine light looked at or panicking about what it will mean if you don’t get where you are going on time, or blaming someone else. None of this does anything to change the reality that the car has broken down. All this is, is resistance. Instead, take out a pen and paper (if you don’t want to do it in your head) and start listing all the things that are good about the car breaking down and or the situation at hand. For example, perhaps it broke down right next to a restaurant, so you can wait for a tow truck indoors. Perhaps you are grateful there is such a thing as a tow truck service in this day and age. Perhaps a positive is that taxis or Uber exists so you can actually get where you were going on time regardless. Perhaps someone nice stopped to help out and that made you feel better about humanity. Write down anything that makes you feel more ok or softer about it having happened.
Commit to accepting what is so. You don’t have to like something to acknowledge that something is what is so. Spend as much time on this step as it takes to feel your mind and emotions and body softening to swallow what is so. Only then can you refocus your attention on what you can do NOW. It is a waste of time and energy fighting what has already occurred. And you will be blown away at how fast situations remedy and solutions come to you out of the blue when you release the resistance you are holding against what is so.
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