Living with what is, easier than it seems

During the book tour visit to the East West Bookshop in Seattle, (a fantastic place, where you just feel more peaceful by walking in the door), a gentleman from the audience asked this question:

Can you be accepting of what is and still take action in life?

In other words, isn’t every action a result of some judgment, some assessment? We notice something that we don’t like and we take action to end it. We notice something we do like and do more of it. But in every case the movement is prompted by some judgment, evaluation, or assessment. If we are constantly evaluating things then, can we ever really be living with acceptance which calls for a non-judgmental approach to life.

Good Question.

The other members of the group and I discussed this and debated this. It was an engaging, inspiring conversation.

I don’t have all the answers to these things, but here is what I do know: so much of the stress we experience in life is a result of the stories we create around the moments of our lives. For example, we get laid off at work and we create a story that we are unemployable, or not smart enough, or will never work again.

We notice our spouse hasn’t folded the laundry and we create a story that he doesn’t respect us, or never helps, or isn’t a good partner.

We step on the scale and see that we weigh 200 pounds and ratchet up the drama with a story that we are unworthy, undisciplined, unattractive, unlovable.

Shoot, people, none of those things are true. You simply lost your job, have unfolded laundry, or weigh 200 pounds. Nothing more. When we can disconnect from the stories in our lives to see what is without judgment, we are able to accept what is. We can look at the moments of our lives as situations without labeling them as bad or good, right or wrong. This diffuses the stress.

But then, if we do accept those things like violence in the world, and poverty and hunger are we stuck with it? If we don’t judge them as bad, are we ever going to be able to change them? How can we watch bad things happen, without stepping in, and if we do step in aren’t you judging the situation as bad to begin with?

I’m still exploring these questions. I do know that when we accept things we are able to get a clear-eyed, almost serene view of circumstances without one loaded with an emotional charge. When we see what is, we become clear on what we can do next and that may involve action or change or movement. Acceptance for me isn’t about giving up. It isn’t resignation. It’s seeing the truth in a new way. You can accept that there are still people who mistreat others. You can see clearly where and how that occurs and once you do that you are in a better position to respond in a more effective way.

This requires some discernment, as a woman at the reading mentioned. We can be more selective in how we engage in the world. Not everything requires our judgment or our intellectual participation. It is not necessary for us to have an opinion on everything.

Us hating violence, isn’t enough to end it. But, when we accept that there is violence and get a clear look at the conditions that lead to violence, we have a better idea of what we can do about it.

I know too, that when I’m living with greater acceptance, I also tend to me more loving and compassionate and I am also attracting more of those things into my life and I’m still getting plenty done. Acceptance does not render me stagnant or stuck. Instead, I expand into greater possibilities.

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