To be on any kind of path of transformation, personal growth, healing or spiritual awakening, inevitably involves acceptance of all the dark, murky stuff that we straight up don’t like; the things we have a hard time facing. Acceptance is so counter intuitive – I mean, why would we accept something that we strongly dislike, feel ashamed of, want desperately to change?
Because acceptance precedes change.
And because in truth, it’s not the thing itself, but our own resistance to it and expectation that it be different that’s at the root of our pain. When we accept something, we release the grip of suffering and free ourselves from the tightness that needing it to be different creates.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that we like something, it just means that we are no longer willing to cause ourselves suffering by resisting it.
I was in the middle of a yoga session at home last night, and as I’d been exercising before, I was just in a sports bra and undies. At one point in a bend, I was up close and personal with my belly. My big, wobbly, expansive belly. The belly that I’ve resisted and hated for so much of my life, the one that I’ve forever cursed and despised and wanted so badly for it to not exist.
Out of nowhere, the overwhelming feeling of compassion and loving acceptance swept through me. In a flash, I saw everything that went into creating that mound of fatty flesh; I saw the anxious child flooded with worry and stressful thoughts. I saw my genes, my ancestor’s pain that had been passed on to predispose me to particular fatty deposits. I saw the years of stress hormones rushing through my body repeatedly, from school bullying to living in fear of the emotional turbulence around me. I saw the break ups, the losses. I saw the shell shocked and sleep deprived new Mama, gorging on sugary carbs through the endless lonely days and glasses of wine through the empty evenings, feeling the deep ache of isolation and unworthiness, like she was fucking it all up. I saw the comfort eating and emotional numbing. I saw all the mind made worry and anxiety that repeatedly strained the body and set it into a state of high reactivity, injecting itself with sugar in an effort to flee a perceived threat.
And I felt so much love. Compassion. Forgiveness. And yes, acceptance. Absolutely, acceptance.
This is my body as it is right now. It doesn’t mean I can’t work to change it, it just means being ok with where I am. By refusing to accept ourselves as we are right now, we create suffering. By accepting ourselves without resistance, we loosen the grip, we’re free to move forward to make conscious change. We don’t always have to arrive at that place of love to be able to accept something, but we do have to be willing to release the choke hold of resistance that it has over us.
And this capacity to accept things as they are spills over into every single facet of our lives. It’s a moment by moment choice to either accept what is, or fight with it. To accept the heavy traffic and bills and looming deadlines, or to work ourselves into a state of stressed resistance about them. To accept people for who they are or feel the repeated sting of disappointment when they fall short of how we want them to be. To accept that the apology we deserve may never come. To simply allow all the shittiness and ugliness and things we hate just to be, as they are.
We don’t have to like them, we just have to stop fighting with them.
“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it….this will miraculously transform your whole life” ~Eckhart Tolle