The elusive quality of ACCEPTANCE

I am really glad to say sayonara to 2011.  It was a heck of a year.

I don’t have any traditions or rituals in place for the coming of a New Year, but this year I wanted to acknowledge the big changes that have come into my life and to accept, and even appreciate, the challenges of 2011 for what they have become: opportunities for growth and opportunities to be more connected to and clear about who I am.

So what did I do to welcome in the New Year?

I seriously considered drunken-reflection time, and I also considered inducing a yoga-trance through 2,012 sun salutations, but luckily, before either of those thoughts took hold, I made the choice to do some lucid reflection and some writing. Now, before I get personal, can we agree that we all know someone out there who is able to take what comes his or her way without the that-couldn’t-happen-to-me-feeling to work through?  They are amazing, maybe annoying, maybe unbelievable, maybe saintly people, but they really do have a spirituality and a peace about them that allows them to accept what comes their way.  I am not exactly saintly and I don’t accept things that I don’t like without a few curse words, but I’m not stunned by the ups and downs of my life that often.  For a long time, I credited this to my “realistic-side” (some might say negative or even pessimistic) as I have a habit of considering and anticipating the many ways that something great could go really wrong.   But life teaches us all sorts of things about ourselves and we are continually offered opportunities to grow and change.  For example, in 2011, my husband and I split.   I learned that indeed I did have some that-couldn’t-happen-to-me-thinking at work.  I know the divorce rate.  I know how things go down in this world, I know that people can be better off apart than together, but then it happened to me and it felt like epic failure. WHY couldn’t I make it work and HOW did I let it come to this?   The that-couldn’t-happen-to-me-feeling struck, big-time, and it was based in this idea that I have way more control and power over the things that happen in my life than I really do.

I have never said, “Amanda, you have complete control over your life and you couldn’t possibly end up divorced and single-parenting,” but I kind-a believed it.  I had this idea, or feeling really, that because I am willing to work hard and I’m reasonably intelligent, because I have often had the experience of getting what I want, then when there is something that I want to do, I can make it happen.  That’s a lot of responsibility.  I was living my life and trying to control people and things that just aren’t within my control and I found it to be joy-sucking, frustrating and ultimately, in my marriage, devastating.

“How do we come to know and take responsibility for the things that are within our control and accept the things that aren’t?”  That is one way of thinking about it, but I don’t think this is the question, really. This question is about control and control doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the beautiful human-experiences of acceptance, serenity and surrender.  Maybe the question should be, “How do we embrace the work of coming to know our own heart and accept that work in others?” Patanjali’s sutras 1.2 and 1.3 describe yoga as the process of directing the mind toward an object without any distractions.  Once we have that ability we can come to understand the object fully and correctly.  Maybe the work isn’t to understand what we have control over and what we don’t, but to understand our Self and the relationship of our Self to the people, things and world around us.  If we can clearly see the things that are our own to manage then we can more easily accept and surrender to the decisions other people make and to the changes that come our way.

In twenty-eleven, I began the work of truly practicing yoga: directing my attention—staying with those really difficult feelings and emotions of failure, fear, anger, and loneliness, in hopes that I will better understand who I am and who I am in relation to the changing circumstances and relationships in my life.  I’m so happy that there are all these wonderful yogis of the past and present, therapists, wizened friends and family members in my life that have pondered these questions and offer their support. With the little bit of clarity that I’ve gained from seeing and accepting the difference between my Self and all the other stuff, I’ve experienced moments of acceptance, serenity and surrender and I like it a whole lot more than the lens of control.


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7 thoughts on “The elusive quality of ACCEPTANCE

  1. Hi Amanda, well I started reading the blog for synchronicity reasons that I describe below, I was expecting to read an essay on ‘awareness’, then bang I got hit by the raw act of a fellow human being baring their soul. And might I say how eloquently and dignified is your account of the shock of separation and your subsequent soul searching.

    Each separation is like a star that burns in the Universe, there are so many of them, and yet each one is a unique experience for all those in its orbit.

    I think the underlying emotion of separation, whether we are aware of it or not, is of loss, and the accompanying grief, anger, guilt, and despair. When we experience these powerful emotions which hit us like the waves of an ocean storm we need to reach for a lifeboat.

    If I was only allowed to give one piece of advise following my own separation, it would be to be careful in the choice of your own personal lifeboat to ride out these storms. In terms of psychology, our escape mechanism.

    I know that my own personal lifeboat that immediately whisked me away from experiencing the raging storm of emotions was effective in the short term, but negative in the long term.

    Your life has changed now permanently in many ways, ultimately I expect it will lead to a richer and more profound experience of life, and believe it or not, happier!

    For the time being, choose a good lifeboat for when the storms hit!

    Now to the reason, why I was drawn to this blog. I wrote the below comment when I was sitting in the library and then the wi fi connection went down, so I couldn’t post. As a result I was able to have a good read of your post, before I commented. (Not sure if you’ll be so pleased to read such an intense comment, but hey whatever)

    “Was that synchronicity? Or did I just look at your blog post as you subscribed to mine. Not to mention the fact that I have been writing about awareness in developing a new website for my new business. Whatever it was I thought it was worth saying hello and wishing you a wonderful and successful 2012. My newest blogs are http://www.itsallbouthabits.com and I’m trying to set up a new business on http://www.nascaim.com. I’m not sure how I’m going to integrate the blogs, but I’m just rambling now. Namaste”

    1. Jerry, I love the lifeboat metaphor and I started this blog because for me, yoga has been that lifeboat. It has provided a system and a very constructive way to process, grieve, stay in and connected to my body and to answer many of the very difficult questions that have arisen with this big shake-up. Good luck with your blogging and business endeavors!

  2. Great post, Amanda. Thoughtful and thought provoking. If I may, I’ll share an observation from my own experience that, I think, follows your post nicely. When I find myself upset or frustrated by the behavior of others, I wonder why. I actually think that the main reason is that these individuals, whether family, friends, acquaintances, or total strangers, have provoked a strong negative response from me because they did not fulfill MY expectations for their behavior. As a result, I wonder if my reaction is not more the result of feeling duped, or feeling upset at my poor judgment, my misguided expectations. Am I not really upset more at myself? Why should others do as I expect them to do? The only part I can truly expect to control is my own reaction when life dishes out it’s surprises. And perhaps learning not to place too many of my own expectations on the behavior of others. Knowing that this is my path to follow and following it, however, are two entirely different problems…

    1. Hi Gary. Your last line leaves me a-chuckling and your observations about your attachments to others’ behavior are quite astute. I can really relate to this: “As a result, I wonder if my reaction is not more the result of feeling duped, or feeling upset at my poor judgment, my misguided expectations. Am I not really upset more at myself?” Thanks for your comment.

  3. Amanda,
    Rules of life: You have no control over anyone in this life other than yourself. Life does not always give you what you want. Accept others as they are. Tell the truth, Face life openly, Say what you mean. Accept yourself as you are. Know and accept your weaknesses, Do not try to prove yourself ( not that you do but this is one of those “to do” things). Also let go of the past, which you all ready seem to have done. That does not mean you forget what has happened. It merely means you have moved on and now look forward to the next day with happiness and tranquility. Give up false expectations and take responsibility for your life. ( You have.) Also remember that sometimes in life we have to see how things play out before we can see a solution. You also appear to be going forward through life now and not looking back in your “rear view mirror.” Also note that no matter how hard we all try, we cannot make everyone love or like us. The odds are not in our favor to have that happen as there are always people out there who will not no matter what. The above “truths” are what I now lead my life with. I owe all of this to Dr. David Viscott. It is he who helped change my life in so many positive ways. I now give many problems to God and just see what He can do with them or how things turn out. Usually an answer springs forward.
    God Bless you and all that you do. Love, Barbie I love you!

    1. Hi Barbie!
      Good rules, for sure…thanks for sharing. The beauty comes in practicing and integrating them into our lives in meaningful ways. I particularly appreciate this reminder, “Also remember that sometimes in life we have to see how things play out before we can see a solution.” Sometimes we have to sit with discomfort and uncertainty and that’s part of life, not to be avoided. Big Hug!

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