"This one is very easily misunderstood. People might think that it means that whatever happens they should just accept it. No one is saying just accept it. Ultimately it means realizing how things are and finding ways to be in a wise relationship with them and then act out of that clarity of vision." ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Acceptance and surrender are often difficult for people because they feel that they are “giving in.” But you are not giving in; you are not saying that what happened was okay. What you are doing is acknowledging that the situation happened, you are accepting that this is the way things are at this moment. From that level of acceptance, you get to choose how to respond to the situation. You accept and release the struggle and suffering that we tend to dwell in for too long.
I accept that my house was burglarized. It doesn’t mean that I liked it. However, I get to choose my reaction and how I will live my life. I will not live in fear daily that the burglars will come back. If my house is every burglarized again, I will deal with it then, but I will not waste energy worrying. I did things to protect my house. I got an alarm and a more secure door. I acted from a place of wisdom and moved on.
Think of a situation in your life that you are still hanging on to. How can you practice acceptance of what happened and move on?
“When you’re catastrophizing, you magnify the importance of something that’s happening or something that didn’t go the way you wanted it to. It’s as if you’re looking at the experience through binoculars, which blows it all out of proportion.” ~ Toni Bernhard J.D.
The phone rings, it’s your husband’s ring tone. He never calls during the day. And the first things that pop into your head are all bad – he’s been in an accident, he’s at the hospital, he’s had a heart attack. You have jumped to all sort of negative conclusions before you even answered the phone. Then you answer it and he’s actually calling for something good, he wants to take you out for dinner. This is what happens to many of us, we catastrophize. We take a current situation, the phone is ringing, and we give it a truly negative spin.
Many years ago, a friend at work called me out on the fact that I was catastrophizing about some situation at work. I was totally unaware that I was doing that with so many things in my life. It was a terrible way to approach the world; my ego was trying to protect me so that when bad things didn’t happen, I was relieved, but it was not a good way to live. I was seeing the glass as half empty.
Brene Brown tells us, “the problem is, worrying about things that haven't happened doesn't protect us from pain. Ask anyone who has experienced a tragedy; they'll tell you there is no way to prepare.” We must be mindful that we are magnifying the situation out of proportion and imaging that a catastrophe is upon us.
Mindfulness is the key, now when I notice that I am catastrophizing, I stop and evaluate what is truly happening in this moment, not what might happen, but what is really happening. I stop the process and don’t jump to any conclusions. As in the case above, I answer the phone. If something “bad” did happen, I will deal with it then, but I will stop putting negative thoughts in my head, because as we all know “thoughts become things.” I live in the present moment.
Do you ever Catastrophize? If yes, what steps can you take stop jumping to conclusions and lessen the worry in your life?
"Sometimes when you're in a dark place you think you've been buried, but actually you've been planted." ~ Christine Caine
In the last blog, we talked about “problems” and the need to look at “problems” as opportunities for growth. When I look back at my life, many of the things that I viewed as “problems” or “bad” situations were actually the places that I had the most growth in my life. When I was immersed in these times I labeled as “dark” I was not fully present, I got sucked into the troubles and drama.
Now, I see the abuses of my childhood as places that transformed me. As I dealt with the issues of abuse as an adult, I found art as a way to release my anger. Art balanced me and I loved putting paint to paper as a way to release the dark place in my life. The seed for art was planted and so I took formal classes in art to learn how to effectively use this raw talent I was discovering. I wouldn’t wish abuse on anyone, but I see that I am a more resilient person because of the experience and now I am an artist.
Are there any dark places from your life that have been the seeds to transformation?
How can you stay present when you start to feel you are in a "dark place" and see this in a different frame of light?
"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem." -- Theodore Rubin
How we think about “problems” is really critical to how we view life and the amount of time we struggle and suffer. We will all have “problems” in our life; it is part of the human experience. I share with people that meditation does not eliminate stress, but it changes how you react to stress; with a daily meditation practice you are reflective and you view “problems” or “challenges” as opportunities for growth.
When we surrender to the flow of life and we are living in the present moment, we can accept that this is how life is at this moment. It may not be what you planned, but you can look at the current situation as a problem and waste your energy and time complaining about it, or you can recognize that it happened and ask, “How can I learn and grow from this?”
Acceptance of the present moment doesn't mean that you have passive resignation towards the “problem.” It provides you the opportunity to be conscious, get grounded, and take appropriate action for how you want your highest self to respond to this situation.
Think of a recent “problem” or challenge. How did you react and spend your time and energy with this situation?
How can you deal with “problems in the future?
“The loudest arguments happen in your own head, and your greatest opponent, is yourself.” Mike Dooley – TUT
I used to beat myself up and criticize myself all of the time. I was my own worst enemy. At the end of the day where I had accomplished a lot and been of service to many, I could only remember the few things I did wrong and not the numerous things I had done right. And if I thought it was major, I could beat myself up for days or longer. If someone else beat me up as badly as I did to myself, I would have called him or her abusive and not tolerated their behavior, but it took me a long time to realize what I was doing to myself.
Mindfulness has really helped me to stop beating myself up. I have learned to accept and surrender. I was doing the best I could at the time. If at the end of the day, I was unhappy about something I did, I would accept that I had done it and come up with a plan for how to deal with that type of situation in the future. I would learn from the circumstance and let go.
Do you criticize yourself? If yes, how can you be less critical and more supportive?
“When guilt rears its ugly head confront it, discuss it and let it go. The past is over. ... Forgive yourself and move on.” ~ Bernie S. Siegel
Guilt is such a waste of time and energy, yet I have wasted many precious moments of my life seeped in guilt for things I did or didn’t do. The past is over, there is only now. When I feel guilt now, I look at the situation and face it head on. If I need to apologize, I apologize sincerely and move on. I cannot change the past or what I did, but I can accept responsibility for my actions. We are all doing the best we can at any given moment. We are human and we make mistakes. The important lesson is to learn and grow from our mistakes and if my actions hurt others then it is my responsibility to rectify the situation instead of dwelling in guilt.
I lived in a family that used guilt as a motivator. I was susceptible to the “guilt trips” my parents used to get me to do things and be a “good girl.” I have learned that no one can make me feel guilty. I get to choose how I respond to what is said to me. I have learned that at my core, I am good enough and I do not have to succumb to guilt as a manipulation tool to get me to do things.
How do you deal with guilt?
Are you still hanging on to guilt from your past? How can you confront it and release it?
"Love is total acceptance of what is.” ~Mastin Kipp
Today is Valentine’s Day, the day of love. Let's face it, I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Our “valentine” is not perfect, but if you accept the person for who they are, don’t try to change them, and love them unconditionally, your love is perfect. This moment is perfect, it is all there is, and we only have NOW. So on this Valentine’s Day, give the ones you love, your unconditional love, with total acceptance for who they are at this moment.
When we live out of fear, we are not accepting things as they are. We can wish things were different, but total acceptance means surrendering to this present moment. We can wish people were different or behaved differently, but we cannot change others. On this Valentine’s Day, and every day, open your heart, practice compassion and forgiveness. Celebrate your relationships with laughter and love. Revel in the bliss of the harmony of love.
Do you have total acceptance for your life as it is?
Do you give and receive unconditional love?
"Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines." ~Robert Schuller
We all have problems; it is part of the journey of life. It is how you view the problems in your life that makes all the difference in the world. If you view the problems as obstacles and stop signs, then you will forever live in the “poor me” mentality of blaming yourself or others for the misfortunes in your life.
If however, you look at problems as opportunities for growth, then you will live with more ease in your life. You will not waste time and energy being upset and angry, and be able to move ahead in a positive frame of mind. The problems in our life can be the guidelines to direct us on a new path or in a new direction if we are open to the infinite possibilities.
Viewing problems as opportunities is not always easy and is a new mindset for many of us. Whenever I encounter an obstacle, I ask myself “what am I supposed to learn from this?” I try to reframe the situation and find the path of least resistance to move ahead in my life. I surrender and go with the flow.
Do you view problems as stop signs or guidelines?
Can you think of a recent problem that provided an opportunity for growth?
We are busy; we rush from one activity to the next. I am retired and prior to retirement, I thought I would have lots of “free” time when I was retired. I am happy to say that I fill my hours now doing things I love, but I still find myself rushing from one activity to the next.
With a meditation and mindfulness practice, I pause between activities and appreciate what I have done or was able to experience. Anna Quindlen is right, we must be present in our lives to appreciate the precious moments that occur. We have to make time to be quiet and express gratitude for all we have. We must make time in our life each day to become aware of the “glittering mica” in our lives.
How can you teach yourself to pay attention to the precious moments in your life?
How can you make time for yourself?
“To complain is always non-acceptance of what is” Eckhart Tolle
The other day, the blog was about the concept of “It is what it is” and complaining goes along with that concept. As Eckhart Tolle elegantly states above, when you are complaining you are not accepting life as it is. This is one of the areas that I am working on, accepting things as they are and not complaining. I am trying to catch myself before I start to complain. However, since this is a life-long habit that I am trying to break, it takes time. I don’t beat myself up if I have complained, I notice that I complained and work on accepting the situation as it is and ask myself what can I learn from this situation. Awareness is always the key. I am aware that I am complaining and I adjust my attitude and ways.
Recently, I was at the post office and the line was out the door. I was there to pick up a package and I learned that there was a much shorter line for just picking up packages, so I moved to that line. Our line only had one attendant and she was having difficulties. I realized I should have stayed in the original long line and I would have been finished in thirty minutes instead of the forty it took me. As the time ticked away, I started to get frustrated as I had other things to do and in my mind I was complaining (complaining with your thoughts is non-acceptance of what is too). The woman in front of me started to complain out loud as she had made it to the front of the line with her form from the mailman only to learn that she had to have a drivers license, so she was back in our line after going to her car to get her license. And then everyone started to join in the complaining. That was when I became aware that I was complaining and not accepting of what was happening and going with the flow. It changed my attitude and I took a few deep breaths and relaxed my shoulders that were tensing up and became amused. I smiled at the attendant as you could tell she was frustrated too because the hold up was that she was trying to help the man whose passport was not delivered to his house, yet the tracking sad it had been delivered somewhere else and I don’t think she knew what to do.
At that point, I asked myself, what am I supposed to learn and I came up with patience and acceptance of what is. This was another opportunity for me to practice acceptance and not complaining. I have learned that I keep getting lots of opportunities to practice a skill until I master it.
I know that complaining is negative energy. In the big scheme of things, this was nothing to get upset about or bring negative energy into my body. The attendant was doing the best job she could, I really don’t think she came to work today and said “I am going to make everyone’s lives miserable by going really slow.” So, I felt compassion for her. Maybe that delay caused me from getting in a car accident, I never know. This will not be the last long line I am in. I hope next time I practice acceptance from the beginning.
Select a day and see how often you complain in speech or thought.
"Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art" ~ Leonardo da Vinci
I am taking an abstract art class with Josh Goldberg at the Drawing Studio and he shared the quote above, which I find to be quite true about anything creative we do. If you love to paint, sing, write, photograph, dance, garden, quilt, cook, play music, make crafts, draw or something else creative, you must do it from a grounded state of awareness where you connect to your soul.
I am an artist and I could just dip a paintbrush into paint and apply it to the canvas, but it would not be art. I must release my ego and empty my mind and connect to my deepest self. Josh shared with us that “an empty mind creates creative opportunities.” This is why I like to meditate prior to painting; it clears my mind and I can be open to the infinite possibilities. I paint from my heart and soul and not my head.
Do you connect to spirit when you are in your creative mode?
How could you deepen your connect to spirit during creative endeavors?
“Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success or failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~ Lao-tzu
I am not in control. This has been a long and tough lesson for me and I am still working on it, but making progress. From early childhood on, I tried to do everything possible to control a situation so everything would go perfectly and everyone would be happy. Does that sound familiar to you? Did it work as well for you as it did for me? I have come to appreciate that I am not in control and life is so much easier when I go with the flow and accept things as they are in this moment.
I adopted the phrase, “It is what it is” as a way of life during a three-year period when I was dealing with a frozen shoulder. One day, the shoulder was making more popping noises than it usually did and I asked the doctor if that was good or bad. The amazing and insightful, Dr. Ron Andelora said, “It is what it is.” He said it isn’t a sign of anything good or bad, it is just what your shoulder is doing today. That phrase helped me to put all of life into perspective.
When I become aware that I am judging a situation as good or bad, I stop myself and say, “it is what it is” and accept that this is how things are right now. Then, I decide if I there is anything I can do about it, or just surrender and go with the flow. Lao-tzu is correct that we need to be content with what we have and rejoice. Nothing is lacking.
Do you try to control things in your life or go with the flow?
Are there areas in your life that you might adopt the “it is what it is” philosophy?
Are you content with your life? Are you lacking in any ways?
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
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