One of the teachings that has been emphasized by many teachers is that of acceptance. Accepting what is. What exactly does that mean? Does it mean accepting the way things are? Well, yes it does, but it doesn't stop there.
Acceptance is in a sense acknowledging how things are -- without judgment, without negativity, without anger and blame. It is an impartial observation: I see how this is, I acknowledge that this is so. Yet, does it mean that nothing can change? No. It is said that the only constant is change -- in other words, everything is always is a state of change, either growing or disintegrating. There is no such thing as stability -- everything is always moving, changing.
So when we accept things as they are, we are simply noticing them, acknowledging that they exist. For example, let's say that your house is dirty. In order to clean it, you first have to accept, acknowledge, admit, that it is dirty. From that observation, you then decide to clean it (or not). In order for things to change, one must first accept, or acknowledge them as they are.
Accepting or Noticing Without Judgment
The important part of acceptance is to accept or notice without judgment, criticism, blame, or anger. We seem to have a tendency to attach emotions to our observations, as in, My house is dirty, I'm such a slob or I just can't seem to keep this house clean. It's overwhelming.
These statements are charged with judgment and criticism. Acceptance on the other hand simply says, The house is dirty. The next step then becomes simply another step in the observation process, asking what I can do about it -- and then doing it without having beaten myself up about it. Yet, so many times, we get angry when we notice behaviors that we have, or that others have.
Awareness is Impartial
Noticing in itself is impartial -- we simply notice, we are aware of something. But the next step is the one that gets us in trouble -- the part where we attach a judgment to the observation. We look at something and then get into criticizing it, blaming someone, heaping anger upon it. Then we get caught up in focusing on "the problem" and noticing all the things we don't like about it, everything that is "wrong with it".
Acceptance, or non-judgment, on the other hand also notices these things but without the added charge of anger, blame, self-righteousness, etc. Acceptance sees what is, and then goes on to ask if there is anything that can be done. If the answer is yes, then we can move forward. The choice of direction or attitude comes immediately after noticing something -- that's when we have a choice. We can launch into criticism, anger, etc., or we can say, I can do something about this.
To go back to the example of the dirty house. Once I observe that the house is dirty, I can choose the self-recriminating path (bad girl, blaming someone else, etc.) or I can say, what can I do about it now? Maybe I can only do a very small step now -- like deciding that I will pick up one thing now and put it away, I can make a decision to do that each time I walk through the room, or I can "make an appointment" with myself to clean it up after work, or I can stop and clean it up now.
Whatever decision you make is irrelevant. The important thing is to make a decision to move forward and change the situation -- a decision that is not based on blame, criticism, anger, blame, etc.
Awareness & Acceptance Precede Change
First I accept the fact that the house is dirty -- after all if I don't accept that fact, then I get caught up in either pretending it is clean, or simply trying to ignore it. We do this a lot with other situations in our life. We ignore (or criticize) things that we really need to accept (or be aware of), so that we can then go on and make a change.
If we are unhappy in our job, we first need to accept that (acknowledge it), then we can ask ourselves what we can do about it. If we feel stressed, we first must notice the stress, and then we can see what has to be done. If we are ill, we must first accept that this is our situation, and then make choices as to what we can do to experience wellness again.
Without self-examination, or self-observation, we may not see the way out. Yet, many times, we are afraid to look closely, because we fear that there is no solution. Yet, there is always a solution, there is always an alternative. If at first the solution or alternative that appears before you seems undoable, then you have choices. You can keep looking for another alternative, you can examine the one that you see and decide which part is workable and which part is not, or of course, you can choose to do nothing about it at the moment. That is what is called free will.
The important part of any decision we make is to accept the choice we are making, and realize that we can always make a different choice later on. For example, let's say that we are dealing with an addiction (either substance abuse, relationship addiction, behavior or habit, etc.). First we acknowledge (accept) that there is a problem. Then we ask ourselves if we want to change this behavior. If the answer is yes, then we go from there. If the answer is no, then we need to accept the choice we have made -- which doesn't mean we can't make a different choice later. We always have other chances to make another decision.
Stop The World, I Want to Change It
There are many things in the world that we can look at and judge and criticize and seek to lay blame. However, where does that get us? Simply deeper in the mire of judgment, negativity, and anger.
If we apply the concept of acceptance to "the outside world", we accept what is -- in other words we notice it, we become aware of it without getting all worked up about it. We notice the corruption in business, in government, in human behavior. We notice the problems in our educational system. We notice that the environment has been polluted, and damaged. We notice these things without getting into a rage about them. We accept that these things are currently a reality.
However, accepting that they are a reality, doesn't mean lying down and "taking it". In other words, seeing that "something is" doesn't mean that we can't change it. Once we notice these things (whether in ourselves or in the outside world), the next step is to ask ourselves what we can do about it. There is always something we can do -- usually there are many things we can do. This is where our choices lay -- we can see the ways things are and ignore them; we can see the way things are and get angry and rant and rave and do nothing constructive; or we can see the way things are and choose to make a difference.
The only way our world will change (our personal interior world and the world outside) is for us to take action, in whichever way we feel appropriate. However, it behooves us to realize that acting from acceptance means letting go of the energies of anger, blame, criticism, revenge, self-pity, etc. We can much more efficiently affect change by doing so with an impartial energy -- one that seeks to improve, to heal, to "make better" -- rather than one that wants to prove the "other behavior" wrong.
Whether we focus on cleaning our living room or the planet itself, we will get much better results if we do so from love instead of anger and impatience. We can decide to make a difference because we want to live in harmony, beauty, and peace. We can decide to make changes in our lives because we desire to live in a more harmonious and loving environment. We can decide to make a difference in the world because we have a vision of a better world.
We first accept that changes are needed, then we take the steps to create those changes. It is our life, it is our energy, it is our world. We can choose to live in heaven on earth, or in hell on earth. It is our choice because we decide which direction we go from here -- each and every moment of our day. If not us, then who?
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About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com