Personal Growth - Adjust Please
by Suma Varughese
When we accept what-is, we learn to adapt, expand and grow.
When we really accept people and situations as they are, what does it do to us? We grow. The more latitude we give to others and to life, the more we need to stretch and expand ourselves. Once we accept circumstances as a given, we use the energy we invested in resisting them to resourcefully and creatively overcome or bypass them. And in the process we become more loving, giving, patient, accepting, flexible, strong, capable and creative. When we accept the what-is, we find ourselves taking the growth option in all situations.
Imagine, for instance, that you are required to go on a diet. Instead of resisting the food your diet permits, accepting it fully frees you to explore the possibilities in the situation. You could scout around for recipes that could bring variety and taste to the diet. You could even invent your own. You can use the situation to develop a preference for plain and simple food. The more fully you pour yourself into the situation the more possibilities spring out and lead you onward. You might even end up as a diet consultant, author of cookery books or goodness knows what. When you cooperate with life, it rewards you extravagantly.
Or imagine that you have just married into a joint family system with all its elaborate role-playing and codes of conduct. Instead of seeing it as a fearful imposition on your freedom, you can look at it as a great opportunity to develop all the qualities you need to handle human relationships with harmony and self-respect. The scenario is rich with potential - the ability to create your own space without ruffling feathers, the ability to let go of inessentials, the ability to genuinely put the happiness of others ahead of your own. If you allow it to, it has the potential to be a growth path that will lead you all the way to enlightenment. I am confident that many an unknown woman must indeed have tasted the nectar of the unitive taste through the householder's path.
In the same manner, your boss's surly temperament, once accepted, becomes a springboard for the development of your own powers of acceptance and calm; and even the ability to create your own boundaries non-reactively. If you really use the potential inherent in the situation, you will not only become a tyro of inner strength and self-control, but in all probability you will have transformed your boss, for there is no better space for introspection and change than acceptance. And to provide space for inner change is the highest service we can offer people. There is no greater. Even the very gods will smile upon you. They might even sprinkle flowers upon you like they did upon Bhishma when he uttered his mighty oath of celibacy.
Once we get familiar with rising to the challenge and see growth potential in a situation, it becomes almost like a game, a joyful enterprise. No matter how adverse the situation, we see it as something to be learnt from and used for growth.
What does such an attitude depend upon? It arises from our ability to go beyond the circumstances of our life. Instead of resigning ourselves to the inevitable, and allowing circumstances to shape and mold us, we rise splendidly to the occasion and curb and bridle the presumptuous situation. We permit nobody and nothing to have power over us or make us less than we are. We insist upon the freedom to determine our own responses and design our own life. As the celebrated poem, Invictus, goes: we are the captains of our fate and masters of our soul. Above all, though, it is a triumph over our own ego. The ego that insists on resisting, holding grudges, being insecure, is swept aside or vaulted over. It has no power to determine our actions, for we are fully on the side of life.
The more extreme the situation, the more its potential. Successfully exploiting this potential is what gives rise to heroism and greatness. Mata Amritanandamayi, for instance, suffered enormous privations in her childhood and was relegated to the position of an unpaid servant in her family. However, by using these painful and potentially damaging circumstances as instruments of her growth, she became a great spiritual teacher, redolent with love and wisdom.
Accepting what-is equally applies to our own inner states, words and action. Instead of resisting, we embrace them with relish for they give us the opportunity to consciously go beyond them. We don't need to writhe over our anger or guilt trips or self-indulgence. Like everything else, they too simply are and in being so, they are our window of opportunity to outgrow them. When we cease to war with our thoughts and feelings and give them the space to be, our weaknesses become our strength, for in overcoming them we grow in strength and wisdom. Inner peace and silence are wondrous offshoots.
Accepting situations and people enables us to see them as a whole. We no longer excise portions that we don't like or cannot handle. We no longer hold someone at arm's length because she is a bore, a liar or a bully. We factor it into our knowledge of that person and adjust and adapt to them accordingly. No longer do we need to be angry with people for being who they are. When we accept the what-is, we expand ourselves in order to create the space to accept them as they are. We observe their good qualities as also their human frailties and weaknesses, perhaps vanity, greed or frivolity. With perfect balance we learn to contain both sides of the picture, tilting neither to this side nor that, able to see all the shades and shadows that create the complex human being. Judgments and resistance simply vanish in the light of this perfect seeing. Compassion wells up and so does love.
What is not possible when we reach this zone of power and potency?
Totally free from the need for anything to be other than it is, our awesome stores of energy, fueled by the love and compassion within, is capable of setting the very world aflame with life and inspiration. It is little wonder that the great ones - sages, yogis and other awakened beings - are such an inexhaustible store of goodness and love. In this state of what-is, we are protean.