This is going to be a tough one. The fourth pillar in the Book of Joy by Douglas Abrams, is Acceptance.
I really like this chapter, it makes you think a lot about life and it is a hard one to wrap your head around. It starts with this great quote often used by the Dalai Lama: “Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy if it cannot be remedied?” The author states that within this short teaching lies the profound essence of the Dalai Lama approach to life. This is a very heavy and deep statement. Why be unhappy if something can be fixed? Basically do not cry over spilled milk. And then what is the point of anger or resentment if something cannot be fixed. If it truly cannot be fixed why are you worrying about it? We need to learn to accept, or we put ourselves in danger of perpetual unhappiness.
I really like this next point they make: “once we see life in a wider perspective, once we are able to see our role in its drama with a degree of humility, and once we are able to laugh at ourselves, we then come to the fourth and final quality of mind, which is the ability to accept our life in all its pain, imperfection and beauty.” Chew on that for a moment…. Acceptance is the fourth quality because it is the hardest to achieve. We fight things and blame others because it protects us from the fact that we made a mistake. It is not easy to admit we were wrong and we develop these defense mechanism at an early age. I walked into the kitchen the other day and there was cup of juice on the floor, my 4 year old points at my 2 year old and says he did it, i look at the 2 year old and he has a full cup of juice sitting in front of him. Our instinct is to protect us from harm, in this case it took a disapproving look, a rag and some time wiping up a mess. We have to overcome our nature in order to have acceptance, but it is the only way to have true Joy in life.
The arch bishop chimes in and adds: “We are meant to live in joy. This does not mean that life will be easy or painless. It means that we can turn our face to the wind and accept that this is the storm we must pass through. We cannot succeed by denying what exists. The acceptance of reality is the only place from which change can begin.” He also said the question should not be how do we escape a hardship? The question is : How can we use this as something positive?
He says acceptance allows us to move into the fullness of joy. It allows us to engage with life on its own terms rather than rail against the fact that life is not as we would like. The Dalai Lama tells us that stress and anxiety come from OUR expectations of how life SHOULD be. So much of our suffering comes from our reactions to people, events and circumstances. They say acceptance allows us to relax, see clearly and respond appropriately, but we must respond.
This does not mean that we accept terrible things and try not to stop them. This is not pacifism, it is powerful. They don’t deny that we should take life seriously and work hard to change what needs changing. The Dalai Lama says “You must not hate those who do harmful things. The compassionate thing is to do what you can to stop them – for they are harming themselves as well as those who suffer for their actions.
Acceptance to me means standing up for what I believe in, working to change the world for the better but understanding that I cannot control other peoples actions, only my own thoughts and actions. It also means not holding grudges, because the weight of a grudge is heavy on your soul and prevents us from being happy.
So what do you need to accept in your life?
The next four pillars are pillars of the heart and the first one will be forgiveness.