All of the frustration, anxiety and nervous tension that I feel is when I want reality to be different from what it is.
Reality is here and my expectations are over there. In between lies all of the undesirable emotions that sometimes makes it difficult for me to sleep at night, to be present in conversation or to feel relaxed and calm.
A teacher once said to me, “Learn to see reality as it is, not as you wish it to be”. This advice is a continuous work in progress for me. Thankfully I have plenty of opportunities to practice it daily. When I look at myself in the mirror in the morning, hoping that I had a little more hair. When I take a stroll outside in the evening, hoping that it would be a little warmer. When I check my investment portfolio, hoping that it would be a little higher.
It can feel that in every moment, and in every direction, there are opportunities for me to hope that reality is just a little different than what it is.
Much of the meditation practice and yoga philosophy that I have studied encourages an equanimity, a detachment, a surrender to what is. Modern mindfulness is often marketed as making peace with the present. The ideas that “we have not where to go, we are already here”, or that “everything is always in balance” both draw me in and repel me away. While poetic and beautiful to reflect on while journaling, while taking a walk in nature or while reading at night, there has often been an inner conflict between these ideas and the ideas of progress, growth and evolution for me.
This inner conflict has been my biggest struggle intellectually over the past many years as a yogi and business leader. After much reflection, mixed in with life experiences, I have finally started to make some sense of this for me, if only temporarily, as everything changes.
Acceptance is not apathy.
Apathy is to resign to reality. It is to blindly accept things as they are, in a way that can justify injustice, hardship, loss and suffering as part of reality. To give up. To not care. To be indifferent. This is what a practice of apathy looks like.
Acceptance on the other hand is different. Acceptance requires a deep understanding of what is or has happened, to ultimately understand why. I may not agree with it but I can choose to understand it. Once I understand, then only can I accept.
In this light, acceptance requires a sensitivity to reality.
The prerequisites are an openness and a curiosity to what is, even if I do not like what is. The first and foremost example of this for me is to be open and curious about my own thoughts, emotional state and mental conditioning. The practice of meditation is an invitation for me to get cosy with my mind, to observe and listen, without judgement, without a desire to control and without unintentionally suppressing or dismissing what arises.
Acceptance is the bridge from awareness to action.
Acceptance requires awareness. Awareness is a skill that can be nurtured and strengthened. Ultimately I have a desire to take action and the benefits are clear to me when that action is grounded in an acceptance of reality, versus not.
When I become aware of an opportunity or an obstacle, if I choose to accept it first, which is to choose to really understand it, then the action that I take will be grounded in reality. It will feel a little more effortless and most importantly, be a lot more effective.
For example, in our working world there is a conditioning to want to improve productivity, which is often blindly measured as working more hours. My curiosity on productivity has been different. It has been to focus on how to increase effectiveness. With greater effectiveness, we work less, not more, and create more for each other and for ourselves. This path requires a deeper understanding of the reality of how we work.
I believe that reflection in business, relationships, habits and more is really valuable and under appreciated today.
With reflection comes a greater understanding, from which comes an acceptance of reality. From this grounding in reality, the actions that we take will be far more effective. If we really wish to see change in our world or the world, we owe it to ourselves and to each other to take the time to really understand and accept first, and then act.
Reaching out to a friend that we miss, pursuing a career growth opportunity that we are excited by or adapting our lifestyles to reflect the current needs of our collective society are all opportunities to be grounded in reality first, and then act.
Acceptance is the bridge from awareness to action. Without it, I am standing on one side of the river bank, wondering why I’m not on the other side.