Accept life’s situations as presented to us

Mindful Living

The Power of Acceptance

No one is immune to troubles or trying times. Anything can happen to anyone. Even though we have a vague idea or perspective about the unfolding of events in our life, but life often tests one and all in one way or another.

For example, we can meet with a serious accident or lose one of our loved ones or incur a heavy financial loss. Despite our best efforts, we simply cannot avoid eventualities in life. However, the real challenge comes later, when we try to recuperate from such happenings/incidents.

Accept life’s situations as presented to us

Often the situation leaves us no choice but to accept the situation as it is. It helps to remember the adage, “What we resist, persists.”  Suppose someone’s leg is amputated after a severe accident, then the only option is to wholeheartedly accept the situation.

In most situations, the options are to either resist or accept the unfortunate event or experience. Take the very simple situation of, say, expecting to be late for an important engagement due to a traffic jam. The choices before us are clear: Either we start cursing the traffic chaos or criticizing the local traffic police for not making adequate provisions. But we can’t do much about the situation, then it’s better to accept it as it is beyond anyone’s control. No point in wasting our energy in reacting to persons and/or circumstances, thereby perpetuating them, or we see things from a bigger perspective and accept what’s presented. Clearly, the choice lies with us.

Now let’s take another example: a middle-level executive is working in a company where his boss frequently puts him down, irrespective of his performance, in front of his colleagues. In such delicate circumstances, when one’s job is on the line, it’s a difficult choice whether to accept the situation as it is, or not. If that executive confronts his boss, then he may lose his job; otherwise, he will have to compromise his self-respect. It’s therefore important that we shouldn’t accept a distressing situation in all cases. 

“Acceptance” of the unacceptable can’t be practised. On such occasions, it helps to remember the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  Here, beauty lies in our ability to be receptive and flexible in adapting ourselves to changed circumstances. We should accept challenges wholeheartedly and learn from these experiences when our plans fall through. 

Reluctant to accept our own failures or mistakes, we generally try to rationalize or justify them. That’s just human nature. Besides, sometimes it looks as if it’s a sign of resignation or weakness. This is because of the fact that it’s the ego which is interpreting the event. Ego may prompt us to react rather than to accept the event as it has happened. Buddhism also encourages acceptance. Buddhism teaches us that there shouldn’t be any resistance to the moment to moment experience, we should observe non-judgmentally and accept the moment. 

Acceptance is quite difficult on many occasions.  However, the fact is, no mistake or failure is without a hidden lesson. We must accept responsibility unconditionally for any outcome/result of our actions. Receptivity and acceptance of changing circumstances is the key to success. Looking at case studies of many extremely successful personalities, we realize that their initial journey was not free from failures. Such people had the ability to accept their failures, came back fast from setbacks, and then keep on moving ahead.  

Acceptance means we can turn our distressing and angry ruminations into equanimity and progressive thoughts. On such occasions, it helps to embrace thoughts like: Whatever I could do, I did; now I can’t do anything further or whatever has happened, has happened; now I must move on. An attitude of acceptance can neutralize unpleasant experiences. Otherwise, there is no limit to the tail-chasing ruminations over the events that have taken place. There is a movement in psychology known as positive psychology that stresses the power of acceptance. Based on this, some therapies, including an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), have been introduced. ACT is commonly used in reducing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and psychoses. It also helps in tackling chronic stress.

Through ACT, patients are taught to practice mindfulness, to be aware and observe present moments in a non-judgmental way so that they can observe and accept negative thoughts and feelings. In most of these abnormal mental conditions, sufferers are badly trapped in negative and distressing thoughts. People fail to control the incessant stream of harmful thoughts. If we are able to practice acceptance and mindfulness through ACT, we can overcome the problem of negativity associated with stress and mental illnesses.

Mindfulness is a powerful technique to overcome mental health problems arising out of the uncontrollable stream of distressing thoughts.

With meditation, we gradually develop a far greater control over our emotions. Meditation prompts changes in the emotion-processing part of the brain, the amygdala. Through this practice, depressing, distressing, and other negative thoughts can be brought under check. Under stressful and unpleasant conditions, regular practitioners can lead a peaceful life. Even when disturbed by upsetting events, they recover very fast, and with greater self-control.  

Power of Mindfulness and Acceptance

With the power of mindfulness and acceptance, we can overcome almost every challenge. What really matters in life is the wisdom and resilient that we bring to bear on difficult situations. Resilience impels us forward during tough times. If we don’t accept the situation as it is, we may get energetically stuck in those circumstances, and that may jeopardise our journey. Most of the time, rigid mind-set and attitude lock us into those trying times. Therefore, to undertake our life’s journey smoothly, we need to inculcate the habit of acceptance through self-awareness and mindfulness.     

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