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Posts from — October 2012

The Power of Acceptance

The Power of Acceptance

As a practice, even as a principle, acceptance is not part of our national psyche. In fact, it is far more likely to be regarded as a failing, as passivity and a lack of gumption than it is to be recognized as a tremendously creative and healing force. In our preoccupation with being the greatest and the best, with winning at all costs, with harnessing the power of technology to tame nature down to the level of the electron, with globalization and nation building, we have as a culture wandered into the dense jungles of willfulness and hubris, and in this, we have lost more than we ever could win even if every military adventure, every market expansion, every thoughtless exploitation of the earth achieved its goals. There is in all of this, of course, application at the level of personal life, which is where real change always begins.

Throughout the various programs developed by PhilosophyCenter, and certainly at the heart of our approach to philosophical coaching, is the principle that willfulness is a method that leads to failure and worse. Resistance, the use of force to “make things happen,” hubris and its variants—these lead to the same unwanted consequences. All we need do is look over the headlines any day of the week to see how individuals, corporations, and governments are paying the price. Indeed, there is not a single problem we’re facing, apart from those caused by natural disasters, that could not have been avoided through the skillful and steady application of willingness.

Willingness involves first of all refraining from exerting the will, from pushing against, from forcing an agenda, through a stepping back followed by a considered approach that accepts things as they are and goes from there. So much of the stress of modern life—stress that has been linked to physiological factors that lead eventually to disease—could be avoided through this practice of stopping, stepping back, and accepting things as they are for now, from which place we can begin to look at creative options.

Ultimately we have no control over outcomes. Events unfold according to the secret workings of chaotic factors that are far too subtle and indirect for us to recognize let alone manage or control. In the film, The Kingdom of Heaven, the character Sybilla asks her beloved, Balian of Ibelin, “What becomes of us?” Balian replies: “The world will decide. The world always decides.” This enlightened view allows us to go forward and meet the world undistracted, and to use our creative resources to change what we can change rather than to struggle against what we cannot.

Willingness is not complacency. It is not passivity. It is not resignation. It does not imply a willful refusal to act. On the contrary, willingness keeps us ready and steady, alert, responsive, and engaged in workable ways. It frees us to move with events, perhaps around them, to surprising and creative solutions rather than trying to move against or run over them. Willingness saves us from rushing headlong into error, even when those around us are telling us that such error is demanded by honor and glory and the like.

Willingness calls us to accept things as they are, but not only outer things, not only events and facts and conditions. Deep within each of us, the truth of who we are abides. It cannot be denied, and it will not be ignored, trivialized, dismissed, or distorted forever. Willingness, then, guides us to accept the inner reality—the “yes” and “no” of who we are—as well as the outer one, and in this willingness to accept things as they are, we discover something of the secret to happiness.

October 24, 2012   Comments Off on The Power of Acceptance