I once read that our experience of suffering lay in direct proportion with our ability (or inability) to accept ‘what is’.
Yes, I know . . . what does that mean? I have pondered this simple, yet incredibly profound, statement for many years; none more so than in May 2004, August 2009 and again four years later in April 2013. Although I had always considered myself a spiritual person, I now found myself questioning ‘life’ on yet another level as these significant dates represented the numerous times I faced the physical, emotional and spiritual reality of being diagnosed with cancer.
I hesitate each time I offer up the statement “accept what is” as one of my core beliefs fearing that I may seem trite, profoundly ignorant or void of compassion, particularly when someone is in great suffering.
The intention of this statement is by no means to undervalue someone’s pain or to remove the value of experiencing the great and absolute necessity of expressing grief and sadness around tragedy or trauma . . . but once all is said and done, we really do have only two options – to accept what is happening or not. If something is happening then it simply is ‘what is’ and to deny ‘what is’ will ultimately only lead to greater conflict within you.
Should we get angry, sad, frustrated, experience denial around whatever is creating such pain? – You bet we should. Should we scream, cry, fall on the floor, and ask, “why?” – You bet we should.
But when we pick ourselves up off the floor, wipe our tears and stop the screaming, ultimately the experience of whatever tragedy or trauma we are facing will still be there, so what then?
In accepting ‘what is’, do we give up, throw in the towel? NO!
Does it mean that if something is not what we want, we should just accept the ‘status quo’? NO!
If we can change a situation then change it, if we can support a situation then support it, if we can learn from it, then do so.
But first, to move forward so we can make the changes, receive support and/or learn from it, I feel our primary goal (after the initial emotional expression) is to accept the situation. This doesn’t mean that you never revisit that place of resistance and again feel that suffering, but to continuously practice acceptance and reside as often as you can in that space, in my experience, was the only way to find solace at certain times in my life. And when we find the courage to truly embrace these moments of suffering, even if just for a brief period, we may find the clarity (and more importantly the courage) to say “OK, now that’s done, let’s get on with it shall we!”.