On Acceptance by Anna Aysea

The third article, in our feature on Acceptance, is a reflection, by Anna Ayse, on the true reality of painful situations and how to transcend them.

Ball of Light Mandala
Ball of Light Mandala by Dennis Smith. Light painting photography with an open shutter to capture the path of a circling light source.

Looking up the etymology of the word “acceptance”, amongst the definitions I found, what stuck out for me was: to get without effort, to assent to the reality of a situation.

Some years ago I wrote an article called “Dealings with Pain” on dealing with excessive physical pain. The article is in fact about the process of how to assent to the reality of a situation. The keyword here is, I think, “reality”.

When we find ourselves in a situation that feels unbearable, unacceptable, we feel that we, that is “I”, the self, is in that situation and limited by it. That is a very narrow perspective of reality, of the self, a belief that warrants closer examination.

Taking direct experience as the starting point, all experience consists of thoughts, feelings, sense perceptions and bodily sensations, arising and passing within the space of awareness as the wider self. The space of awareness is the lasting aspect of reality, which contains the transient aspect of reality within it. Right here, the idea that “I” is in the situation, does not align with direct experience. There is nothing outside of the space of awareness as the wider self. Whatever is arising within that space is made out of that space, is a manifestation of it and not something coming from outside. The experience we label as “pain”, as “unbearable”, as “unacceptable”, when broken down to its raw components, consists of thoughts, feelings, sense perceptions and bodily sensations, arising and passing within the space of awareness. When we, as awareness, believe “I am this arising thought, feeling, sense perception, bodily sensation”, in that instance the wider self contracts into a name and form, and becomes the limited self, finding itself in an unacceptable situation that appears dense and opaque. Resistance is an added layer of thoughts, feelings, sense perceptions and bodily sensations, and further identification with that layer results in the familiar inner conflict and inability to “assent to the reality of a situation”. The conflict is the erroneous belief that the limited self is reality.

From the above perspective based on direct experience, acceptance is not an add-on to the limited self, it is not some advanced level of spiritual practice, some extraordinary achievement which the sage has acquired through arduous effort and which the ignorant lacks. Acceptance is the natural result, not of an add-on but of a removal, that is the removal of the belief that the self is limited to thoughts, feelings, perceptions and sensations. The true self as the space of awareness is so much bigger than whatever is arising within it, it illuminates all experience. Whatever the circumstances, that is the reality we can always assent to effortlessly.

Links to “Dealings with Pain”:

Dealings With Pain – Guest Post

Part 2 -Dealings With Pain – Republish of Guest Post

 

Coming to Rest

‘Acceptance’, it turns out, is a trigger word for me, bringing with it some strong emotions, which have made writing this blog difficult, despite several attempts to do so.

Mostly, it has brought into sharp focus, remnants of non-acceptance and feelings of grief, through remembrances of the breakup of my parent’s marriage, some sixty years ago, and also the feelings of loss that I feel for my own marriage, not through abandonment, but through the illness and decline of a spouse.

All attempts to push myself, to get the writing done, have ended in a feeling of utter misery. So, I stopped. Instead, I have brought you four things, which I have stumbled across during this time and which have helped me to accept my present state.

The first is the photograph of a tree stump that I observed over several seasons. I photographed it in various stages of erosion. but can now only find the above picture, which was probably the second one that I took. Over a period of years, the stump broke down and eventually became just a scrap of wood, upended and black from dampness. Yet, at each stage of decay, it had a beauty about it that the camera did not do justice to. I found this demonstration of dignity, in decline, quite wonderful.

The second, is “The Guest House” poem, by Rumi, which I was recently reminded of and thought appropriate, here. Rumi describes painful thoughts and feelings as the arrival of guests, to be greeted hospitably.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi

The third is a quotation by the writer, Anne Lamott, which echoes Rumi’s sentiments of welcoming all states of being, equally. In it, she accepts her own non-productiveness, as a writer, seeing it as an opportunity for renewal.

“The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given- that you are not in a productive creative period- you free yourself to begin filling up again.” Anne Lamott

Finally, I share with you this YouTube video of the Great Bell Chant, featuring the late Thich Nath Hanh, for the reason that it had the effect of making me feel like a leaf, coming to rest, after a great storm.

Credits:

Read by Thich Nath Hanh, chanted by brother Phap Niem. The creators of this audio track were Gary Malkin, the composer/arranger, producer, and collaborator Michael Stillwater. The work came from a CD/book called Graceful Passages: A Companion for Living and Dying, and it could be purchased by going to wisdomoftheworld.com. The creator of this video is R Smittenaar. This video can be downloaded at: https://vimeo.com/6518109 Visuals taken from HOME, Earth and Baraka

Winter Wild Swimming by Chris Yeomans

This month, Dew on the Grass is featuring articles, poetry, photographs and art, on the theme of “Acceptance”. Our first post, entitled “Winter Wild Swimming” is from Chris Yeomans. If you would like to contribute, in any of the above categories, on this theme, just get in touch, using the contact form.

I step into the water. The riverbed slopes gently and I walk forward, slowly and deliberately, into the deeper water. At waist level, I pause, giving my body time to adjust. I have to remember to put my hands into the water. My instinct is to hold them high. I bend my knees and the water rises inch by inch up to my shoulders. The trick is to do everything gradually.

I have chosen to do this, so it seems to me that there is no point in screaming and protesting and fighting the cold as some others do and clearly find comforting. I stay still and quiet. This is a brilliant group. Called the Crazy Ladies, we meet up in random numbers, to swim together and keep each other company. There is no sense of competition. Each woman swims within her own comfort zone and we are totally accepting of each other. Some will swim for 20 minutes or more in this very cold water. Others, like me, accept five minutes to be their limit. Some stay within their depth.  Others strike out into the deeper water.

The water in winter is clear and inviting. Swans, not mating, not nesting, not guarding cygnets, ignore us and sail past in the opposite direction, white shapes reflected in the dazzling water. I push off and swim. It’s impossible not to gasp. Heads up breast-stroke. The water is far too cold to put your face in. We wear boots and gloves, to protect our extremities.

For that first stroke or two, the water is like tiny darts and pinpricks on the skin. I breathe slowly, inhaling deeply and puffing the breath out until the body settles and that first shock reflex wears off. The river accepts me and I accept the river. We are one. The water is both cold and not cold and certainly not unpleasant. Nothing like as unpleasant as the one minute cold shower that I make myself have as an alternative.

I check my watch. I could stay longer but it is sensible to get out. I swim into the shallow water and stand up, walk up the bank, pick up a towel and get as dry as I can as quickly as I can. I strip off wet things, pull a towelling poncho over my head. Cold skin stays damp and thermal layers, fleeces, wind-proof fleece-lined coats, even hot water bottles are all part of the kit. I like to get out before there is any danger of the shiver reflex, which can set in about fifteen minutes after you get out, as the body temperature continues to drop.

Layered up, with hat, gloves and boots, I pour hot tea into my mug. The sky is blue behind a lattice of bare winter branches. The river flows on. Today we haven’t seen the kingfisher. And that’s fine too.