There are two things we often hear from most spiritual teachers about pain and suffering. I am talking about the psychological pain and suffering due to stress — related to factors like job and money insecurities, relationship issues, or anxiety related to some possible health issues of self or loved ones. The two pointers or pieces of advice we usually hear from most teachers today are:
1) Suffering is not ‘real’, or
2) Suffering must be accepted.
Unfortunately both these pointers, no matter how pure and well-intended, fail because they are not part of our experience. So, if someone says suffering is only an illusion or belief or idea, and that it is not real, such a pointer, no matter how lofty, is meaningless because we don’t feel it is so. Our suffering feels very real, and that advice seems absurd to hear. We are sitting on a fiery pyre, and some teacher is saying the flames are not real. Such words like “suffering is an idea, concept or belief” are far removed from our personal reality.
The same thing is true with acceptance. If it were easy to accept, why would we be here in the first place? I mean, we know we are in pain and are suffering. We may even believe that suffering is the doorway to bliss and to God because we have heard this over and over again.
We all know that we need to accept pain and suffering. But how do we get ourselves to accept it?
Intellectually we understand, but can’t grasp what message is being delivered to us energetically or realistically. We don’t see ourselves connecting to this teaching, no matter how good the intentions are.
That is why the first thing we have to do is trace the reason why we can’t accept “acceptance”. For that we will have to go to the origin of the issue. Have you ever noticed when it is that we usually use the word “acceptance”? We use it when there is some form of failure, tragedy, loss, misfortune, disappointment, rejection, abandonment, or whatever the “associated” issue.
From childhood, we have encountered the word “acceptance” innumerable times. We were always told to “accept” things.
Our parents said, “You won’t get this toy you want; I will buy you the other one.”
“I won’t give you a bike, but if you wait five years, I will buy you a car.”
“Didn’t get the grades you wanted? OK. Accept it. Don’t sulk too much, and try harder next time.”
Friends said, “Didn’t get the boy or girl you wanted to date? Don’t sulk. Chill man. Accept it. You will get a better one.”
Colleagues said, “Didn’t get the job or promotion you wanted? Accept it. You are talented. You will get one soon.”
“Acceptance” is a dreadful word. It is associated with failure or disappointment.
So you see, whenever we hear the word “acceptance,” we also feel loss, disappointment, tragedy and failure underneath the word — the undercurrent. These feelings are all linked.
Another factor is that nobody around us wants to see us be a loser, or an emotional wreck, with the unpleasantness, mourning, chaos, and disorder that follow. So they are quick to provide us with a remedy. People around us are always in a hurry to shake us out of our pain, and so offer us a solution. And that “solution” is what prevents us from connecting with our reality from the very beginning.
Acceptance can therefore feel like it’s been thrust or forced upon us. Acceptance can be such a filthy word.
Due to these two reasons, there is a subconscious, inbuilt resistance to the word “acceptance.” No matter how beautiful and remarkable acceptance is, it comes with a curse. Acceptance is never purely alone. I wish it were. Then there would be no problem. But it comes already with a resistance to it. And as I begin to sit and process my emotions or feelings, I can actually feel the resistance and non-acceptance.
Resistance and non-acceptance are a more powerful force than the thought or feeling of acceptance. This situation is more painful because at first you were dealing with something that was disturbing you on the outside, and now you are fighting an additional war within.
Probably the most important reason for resistance is the motive behind “acceptance.” Everybody, including ourselves, wants to accept because we want relief from what is going on with us. But how is that really acceptance? It’s not; it is manipulation.
Trying to accept a problem in order to fix it can’t be real acceptance. Accepting something to get rid of the associated feeling is already non-acceptance of “what is”. The motive and intention behind acceptance is fabricated and dishonest. We are being manipulative, not real and honest. How can acceptance help us then? The intention is not really one of acceptance. We are only accepting because in reality we don’t want to accept it. From the moment we manipulate ourselves to accept something to get rid of it, we have already moved out of acceptance.
Now the solution is this — it is better to begin with embracing non-acceptance and resistance. It’s more real and honest than acceptance.
Then at least we are not fighting within to accept. In short, we accept that we can’t accept this story, feeling, emotion, or person. Now we apply our mind to understanding what is realistically taking place within us. We get involved with the process of knowing what is intimately taking place within us. We just watch what is taking place within us.
The first thing we become aware of is that there is not one voice, but many voices talking and screaming at us — like a thousand dogs barking inside of us, and wanting our attention. They are constantly drowning out each other in an effort to get your attention. The more you try to silence them, the more loudly the voices bark — one voice is of anger, one of hatred, another of fear, and other voices of jealousy, revenge, spite, resentment, victimization, manipulation, disgust, self-pity. There are many, many different voices, all speaking different languages.
The challenge is getting the voices to speak in one language. We can do that by carefully listening to each of them patiently, and by attending to and observing them.
When we do that, all these voices are brought together and merged into one language — a language we will eventually learn by listening to the many voices again and again. This will be a new language, and maybe one that is hard to learn at first. But slowly we will begin to understand the one inner language.
This is what I call the “accumulation” stage. As we start to accumulate the voices together, and we get clarity about the innermost language of ourselves, another interesting thing begins to happen. This new “single voice” will contradict every spiritual word or knowingness we have ever heard of. It will tell us, “You are nothing but a pile of shit, a heap of garbage. You are layers and layers of shit, garbage and filth!”
The sheer immensity of this realization will shake us totally. We will get a whiff of what exactly we are, and will no longer be able to pretend to be anything other than what we can see ourselves to be. It won’t be a pleasant sight.
There is a lot of spiritual talk and many concepts around acceptance. “It is all fake light and love here (words pouring from the lips), and all black, dark and dense there (words circulating within).” What I am talking about here is no ordinary spiritual knowingness.
The knowingness that we all are shit, garbage, crap, filth can only be acknowledged with the deepest honesty.
We can observe how so much crap and shit keeps getting added and piled on. Yet we continue to expect so much, even perfection, from others and from ourselves. We never acknowledge what we already are blessed with. We never feel grateful for how very fortunate and lucky we are.
When this reality sinks in, real acceptance sets in. We are humbled, and no longer capable of judging life… or anyone. We can forgive everyone easily and have compassion because we understand how it feels carrying all this “stuff” inside. We are incapable of complaining, and no longer feel like a victim. Rather, we feel only appreciation and gratitude. Then, and then alone, true acceptance happens.
When there is this deepest acknowledgement of life, the ego is gone.
And isn’t Self-realization the end of ego? How can we have ego when we are such a pile of shit? Ego about what!?
And when we acknowledge that, the ego drops. In that moment, the door of the Heart opens up to our bliss and joy. We enter the Heart, and then we no longer need to carry our “stuff.” Then, and only then, acceptance happens. Without this process, acceptance cannot happen.
We might now ask ourselves what happens, after acceptance, to the pile of shit, the heap of garbage that lies outside the door of the Heart, but is still inside us? Do we need to clean it up? No, we don’t.
When we return from the Heart after having truly accepted, have seen through our ego, and are humble, there will be a sweet fragrance permeating us.
The shit that we thought we were will have decomposed and been transformed into compost — spiritual fertilizer.
And for the first time, our Consciousness will become fertile, and from it…
The seeds of wisdom will sprout into beautiful flowers and sweet fruits that bless and nourish others.