By Suma Varughese
When we accept others we offer them a space of transformation; and when we practice acceptance, we vault into the zone of creative possibilities and soul strength.
When I look back on life, I find that some of the most transforming moments occurred when someone was forbearing with me. In the face of my transgressions, they responded with kindness and compassion. One was my mother. For a whole year, probably the most traumatic one of my life, I barely corresponded and almost broke her heart.
Nevertheless, when I finally did go home, she offered me her love, whole and intact, and through that generosity, I was healed of my wrenching guilt and could resume our relationship.
Then there have been moments of parting in relationships that were laced with gentleness and acceptance. On each of these occasions, the person concerned rode above their reactions and responded from a high place of acceptance and selflessness. The choice to deflect their lance of accusation and bitterness and instead embalm me in acceptance, released a flood of creative energy in me. I overflowed with gratitude and love. I loved them for choosing not to hurt me and for taking the burden of their feelings upon themselves. Their response ennobled them and gave dignity to our relationship and its reflection ennobled me.
Carl Jung has said it perfectly. ‘We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.’
The best thing we can do for another is to accept them. In that space of unresisting acceptance, instead of recoiling from the other’s frailties, we expand ourselves to embrace them and thereby transform them. Something awesome happens when a person fearing rejection and condemnation finds acceptance instead. A shock is delivered to the whole system that changes and transfigures.
However, it is the practitioner of acceptance who is the greater beneficiary. When he lets go of resistance and utters a whole-hearted yes to the circumstance confronting him, a huge burden lifts. The weight of resistance rolls off and he experiences a surge of strength. This is the strength born of the soul. And when such strength waxes in him, he grows powerful, for he is free of circumstances and situations. He no longer holds back, awaiting more favorable situations. He wades into whatever situation he faces, peaceful and serene, taking life on an as-is-where-is basis.
Emerson put that state of mind beautifully when he rapturized: ‘All things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine; for the eye is fastened on the life and slights the circumstance.’
Through acceptance one acquires the key to creative possibilities and higher levels of being. One rises above being a victim of circumstance and becomes a victor instead. Acceptance is a powerful weapon that can grant us true success in life.
Take a relationship that has gone sour, for instance. Acceptance can give us the power to shift it to a higher and more fulfilling level rather than remain embroiled in fruitless wrangling. When we accept the relationship as it is and also the other person’s reactivity completely, we offer them the space to experience their feelings fully and to heal from them. Once this has been done, and it will take time, the relationship will not only resume but also do so at a far higher level than before. Think of the number of relationships that have fallen apart, that could have been revived with acceptance.
But acceptance releases not just relationships but any aspect of life. When we stop fretting about a certain situation and accept it fully instead, we open ourselves to remarkable creative possibilities. When life offers us a lemon, we lose no time in making lemonade, lemon pickle, lemon chutney, or in growing a lemon orchard. The opportunities embedded in problems flower out and ensnare our imagination. An acquaintance looking back at the last few years of her life as a widow, shares, ‘I am afraid of nothing any more. Nothing can shake me after what I have experienced. And as for company, I no longer seek it out. If it comes my way I welcome it but I am very content in myself.’
The very problems give us opportunities for creative adaptation. If your child has absolutely no interest in studies, instead of wringing your hands, you use her interest in poetry to get her to study by writing poems about history and geography. Resistance is like a block or a wall. In its presence we see nothing else. Acceptance brings down the wall and the vista of creative possibilities swims into our horizon.
Acceptance has an alchemical potency to it, for it can convert the existing negativity to positivity. It is a domain of power and strength and the source of creativity and transformation. In this zone, life takes on a magical quality, for life and you are co-creators and change happens smoothly, harmoniously and swiftly.
Because it is such an advanced stage, it takes a lot to make acceptance a state of mind. All acceptance eventually boils down to self-acceptance. Only when we accept ourselves, which includes our reactions and feelings, can we accept others and life. Self-acceptance, therefore, is mandatory.
When self-acceptance and self-reliance become habitual, we are no longer as vulnerable to others. We can take insolence, displays of anger and petulance or other emotional states calmly and imperturbably. We are not tainted or affected by it and therefore can deal with it in a restrained and dignified manner. At this stage, what others do or say or think has nothing to do with us. Simultaneously, we take full responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, words and deeds. Our anger, pain and impatience are our business and no one else’s.
When this insight becomes a state of mind, we swim out of the hold of others and also cease to manipulate. We no longer blame them for our issues nor do we wish to make them feel guilty. We release them of all obligations and sincerely seek their happiness. It is through this self-mastery that we spring into the transformatory space of acceptance.
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