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Mindful : December 2017
3 Acceptance Is Not Passive Resignation Clyde was involved in the protests that erupted in 2014 following the deaths of a number of unarmed black men by police officers. He said to us, “If we all just go around accepting that this stuff happens, nothing will ever change. I don’t agree with ‘acceptance.’” Clyde had acceptance confused with what Eckhart Tolle calls passive resignation, a com- mon point of confusion. Acceptance has nothing to do with giving up. Acceptance is never about going along with or being resigned to brutal- ity or injustice of any kind. Rather, acceptance means that you acknowledge the reality of the injustice and then act with wisdom to effec- tively promote change. In fact, acceptance, seeing what is true, is essential to effective advocacy. Acceptance may allow you to see reality with greater clarity in order to develop more effective solutions. It might guide you to change your approach to a particular battle by helping you see that it is not the best way to win the war, but it doesn’t mean that you give up on working for social justice. If you are stuck in the mud, passive resigna- tion leads to Oh no, I’m stuck. Guess I’ll be here forever. Acceptance leads to OK, I don’t like it, but I am stuck. Now what am I going to do about it? 4 Acceptance Is Not a Decision You don’t decide to accept a situation. Accep- tance is an action. It is the action of bringing your awareness in to the present and acknowl- edging what is true in this moment. As soon as you pull your attention to the present and are willing to see what is true, you are practicing acceptance. When you acknowledge the reality of any moment, letting go of ideas about how things “should” be or how you wish they were, you are practicing acceptance. Acceptance is the action that lifts you out of being stuck in I don’t like it or It’s not fair and into What is the most sensible move in this moment? Getting to Acceptance Maxine told us she finally understood “that whole acceptance-reduces-suffering thing ” after her computer crashed just as she was finishing a complicated project that was due the next day. She lost her entire report and could not recover it. She said: → Would just ignoring the problem create resent- ment that would damage the friendship? Any of these explorations and options could produce a helpful resolution to Santiago’s prob- lem; none of them involve his liking it. 2 Acceptance Is Not Agreeing Harathi told us, “My mom and I argue all the time about dating. She believes I should only date Indian guys. I’m just never going to accept that.” The kind of acceptance I’m talking about has nothing to do with Harathi agreeing to only date Indian men. What might make Harathi’s situ- ation better, though, would be to stop arguing with her mother about it. The first step in that direction would be for Harathi to accept that her mother is probably not going to change her mind about this. Also, she will have to accept that she doesn’t like how it feels when her mother disapproves of her. Then Harathi can decide: Is she willing to tolerate the discomfort of her mother’s disapproval in order to have the freedom to date whomever she chooses? It’s entirely up to her. Acceptance lets Harathi see that she can best put her energy into managing her own reactions to her mother’s disapproval rather than trying to change her mother’s mind about cross-cultural dating. Harathi doesn’t have to agree with her mother; she can accept that they have different perspectives. She also doesn’t have to hate her. You can learn to calmly, kindly, and firmly dis- agree with someone you love if you can accept her for who she is, rather than being mad at her for not being the person you wish she was. PRACTICE TIP If during meditation you notice thoughts coming up that are fighting or resisting something difficult, practice saying silently to yourself, It is what it is, and with patience and compassion bring your attention back to your anchor in the present, whether that is your breath while you are sitting or your feet as you are walking. PHOTOGRAPHBYKIRSTINMCKEE/STOCKSY → 74 mindful December 2017 insight