In chapter 2 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he shares that the fourth cause of suffering is known as Dvesha, or aversion. It refers to the repulsion or avoidance of things you don’t want. Patanjali goes on to explain that aversion is essentially clinging to pain. Aversion can also take the form of resistance to what is and, as a consequence, resistance to the present moment.
Through refusal and opposition to the present moment, you cause yourself stress, anxiety, and strife, and generally make life more of a struggle. You operate out of a mindset that says, when outside situations or circumstances aren’t going my way, the answer is to change those circumstances through force and effort. While it’s true that this approach can sometimes be successful, more often than not it leaves you exhausted from going against the laws of nature and using your energy inefficiently. A much more productive approach is to cultivate the wisdom of acceptance.
Acceptance Is a Superpower
Acceptance is the ability to allow people, circumstances, and situations to be as they are. It is a conscious choice to not resist the experiences of your life, but rather to permit them to be as they are and flow with what is happening. It stems from the recognition that this moment, right now, is the result of all the previous moments that have come before. This moment is the expression of the entire universe, to fight it is to fight the evolutionary flow of the entire universe—a daunting task to say the least.
Consider these seven key insights into acceptance for cultivating the art of allowing.
1. Acceptance Is a Choice to Change Yourself
Acceptance is a choice to not force a change upon a situation (which often creates new problems), but to change yourself in the form of your perceptions and interpretations. As self-development expert Wayne Dyer puts it, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It doesn’t necessarily mean you like things as they are; you can certainly wish for things to be different. But in this moment, as the saying goes, it is what it is.
2. Resisting Acceptance Is Born from the Ego
Resistance to acceptance is rooted in the ego. The ego wants to control and have things its way at all times. It wants to be in charge of everything within its experience. Acceptance runs contrary to the ego’s agenda of imposing its will on the outside world.
Therefore, don’t be surprised when the ego tries to oppose your attempts to accept things as they are. It will kick and scream, but remember the ego is just one layer of life and doesn’t have the final say. When your awareness is established in your soul, the ego’s voice falls away, making acceptance more accessible.
3. Acceptance Is a Good Use of Your Energy
Acceptance is the most economical use of your energy. Fighting against the entire universe takes an enormous amount of psychological resources. Force and struggle are not efficient tools for transformation. You end up burned out in a futile effort to change what is external.
Acceptance harnesses the more subtle principles of timing and finesse to permit things to be as they are so you can expend your energy in other ways that will more effectively help you fulfill your desires. As is often said in the martial arts: never oppose force with force; when your opponent pushes, you pull; when he pulls, you push. In this way, acceptance helps you conserve your energy and affect change in the most efficient manner.
4. Acceptance Is Aligned with the Laws of Nature
In Taoist teachings, there exists a concept known as wu-wei, sometimes translated as non-doing or non-action. Wu-wei refers to a state in which you are aligned with an effortless “going with the flow” of life. It stems from a recognition that the universe is a field of constant change and impermanence.
You realize that true happiness comes from embracing the river of change and that in every moment you have the choice to either let go or be dragged down. By going with what life offers you in this moment, you flow down the river of life rather than trying to swim against the current.
5. Acceptance Implies Adaptability
As you practice acceptance and allowing, you conform to the ever-changing experiences of life. You become more flexible and resilient to meet each situation with grace and ease. As martial artist Bruce Lee so famously said, “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”
It is only when you accept people, events, and situations as they are that you can be totally adaptive and responsive to each moment as it occurs.
6. Acceptance Does Not Mean Passivity
Acceptance does not mean passivity. When you accept things as they are, it doesn’t mean you have to like it, or that you don’t want things to be different. It doesn’t mean that you are giving up. It does, however, imply a more skillful approach to getting your needs met and embracing the present moment fully.
A spiritual warrior cultivates the wisdom to know which battles are worth fighting. There may be instances in which you need to hold your ground and allowing is not the appropriate choice. But with practice, discernment, and wisdom, you are more likely to make the most appropriate choice.
7. Acceptance Is an Acquired and Perishable Skill
It takes work and regular practice to override your natural tendency to force changes on the outside world. Mindfulness and meditation are great tools to expand your awareness so you can recognize opportunities to practice acceptance on a regular basis. And once you become aware of these occasions, you can tap into the power of acceptance to live a life of expanding freedom and grace.
By accepting life as it is, you can align with the ever-changing currents and swells of life, and surf them with skill and ease.
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