By: Danielle Wilson
Acceptance is a concept most of us know well in the world of yoga and yogic living: accepting where you land in a given pose, accepting your mental or emotional state in a given moment, and most importantly, accepting the elements or circumstances of life that lie beyond your control. Accepting your reality, as is, is meant to mark a step towards soulful freedom and nonattachment as you release any false sense of control from your ego, and really, release your ego’s desires all together. I’ve spoken to and encouraged the idea of simplistic and mindful acceptance quite a bit as both a yoga teacher and mindfulness writer because I’ve watched how this surrender to what already is has minimized my own suffering, leaving space for balance of spirit and peace of mind, but I can’t say it’s been as easy as it may sound.
You see, the word acceptance can feel heavy and burdensome depending on the situation in which it’s applied. It’s easy to accept conditions, experiences, thoughts, and emotions that are validating, comfortable, or otherwise neutral in their importance to us. Anyone would be happy to accept the news that they’re receiving a raise at work or cultivate acceptance in the wake of balancing in a perfectly aligned handstand. It’s the moments when our ego feels life is not working in our favor, or when fears and insecurities are triggered, that acceptance begins to take on its shadowed form. I’ve watched, first hand, as a daunted grimace falls across the faces of students struggling with discomfort in half-pigeon pose, while I standby saying, “accept wherever you land in this highly sensational posture with compassion and without judgement.” I can imagine being the yogi wincing and fidgeting in the face of a challenging hip-opener, internally rolling my eyes as my ridiculously flexible and experienced instructor speaks to accepting a pose that makes me feel like the tin man. It can almost seem condescending if you allow your thoughts to sink to that bleak of a mindset.
I’ve always considered this “flaw,” or more accurately, this challenge, in the practice of acceptance to be nothing other than a bump in the road on the path towards an enlightened, awakened state of mind and being. I remain sure of this nature, but an alternative was brought to my attention which I find quite interesting, as it takes a fool-proof positive twist on the mindful choice of acceptance.
I’m a book lover, specifically books that focus on spirituality, awakening, and the infinite topics and perspectives that fall under that umbrella. My most recent book of choice, “Tamed by a Bear,” by Priscilla Stuckey, is a personal account of Stuckey’s experience with shamanic journeying, and her spirit animal, Bear, whom she visits during these soulful travels to other realms. Bear serves as a voice of enlightened reason, and Priscilla shares, in great detail, the endless lessons she’s learned while building her relationship with him. Bear’s take on acceptance struck me to the point of shifting my perspective on the practice, completely. Stuckey explains her interaction with Bear on the matter:
“’There will always be things amiss,’ Bear said. ‘Finding enjoyment is not a matter of finding what’s right in the world when one feels that something is out of balance—and you will feel that, over and over—and it’s a good idea to return to the inner state of enjoyment.’ I kept wanting to use the word acceptance, but Bear wanted enjoyment instead.”“Tamed by a Bear” -Priscilla Stuckey
Showering life—the mind, the body, the soul—with the rains of acceptance can begin to feel like an uninvited thunderstorm on what was supposed to be a sunny day. The potential negative connotations of the word seem to fall over us with ease, as putting its essence into action becomes increasingly difficult. But a simple swap of the word enjoyment for acceptance is a game changer! Words mean something, not in the terms of their definition, but more so the way in which we frame them in context and in culture; they can manipulate our reality in ways that make it unrecognizable, whether for better or for worse. Telling yourself, even in the name of mindfulness, that you must accept your situation in order to free yourself of suffering can often catalyze the exact opposite in the heat of the moment. I, myself, have felt arrested to the practice of acceptance—shackled to my commitment to it as if my Mom was saying, “just deal with it, sweetheart!” (*insert teenage eyeroll*) Intentional enjoyment, however, brings drastically different emotions to a slew of unfavorable circumstances.
When we recognize our suffering and intentionally funnel a sense of enjoyment into the experience, not only do we, by default, accept it, but we travel beyond this into a higher vibrational frequency of noticing the many aspects of our situation that could, will, and hopefully are bringing us joy. Choosing enjoyment means actively allowing ourselves to see beyond the suffering at hand—it is an understanding that reality is malleable and will change or evolve as joyful energy opens our hearts, minds, and souls to the favorable experiences and sensations which await our time, effort, energy, and awareness!
Next time you’re faced with “accepting things as they are,” maybe try enjoying things as they are, instead. Watch how the word “enjoyment,” with all of the high vibe-loving it carries, instantaneously begins to shift your perspective—including your self-talk, emotional state, and overall balance of mind, body, and soul. For when we cultivate enjoyment, we open the door for gratitude to seep into our lives, and when we live with this appreciation flowing through our veins, love is born. And love, well, love is the most powerful, life-altering force of them all.