Last night, I was sitting with my best friend (who also happens to be a mindfulness teacher) and we were talking about some of the conflict in our lives. In other words, we were having a bit of a moan. ?
She looked at me and said,
“I know that ‘they’ say and that ‘we’ teach that we are the ones responsible for how we relate to our experience, but surely it’s not entirely our responsibility if the other person in the experience is such an ass!”
We looked at each other for a moment and laughed. It was such a delicious thought:
“It’s their fault, not mine. It’s their issue, not mine. I wish that they would just go away and my life would be easier”.
And perhaps it would. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone else will come along and invoke the same feelings in you and all of a sudden you are back to square one.
This has certainly been true for us. Both my friend and I have had difficulties with one person in particular. So much so, that we feel anxiety arise whenever they are around (thankfully, it is not that often anymore). So it can be easy to buy into the idea that it must not entirely be our responsibility if this person is evoking these feelings in both of us.
However, at that moment of looking at one another and laughing, we knew that this line of thinking was just making excuses or colluding with the idea that we do not have to mind how we relate to our experience, rather it’s simply someone else’s fault. Instead, we knew that it is the ‘how’ we meet our anxiety and our fear, that will determine the level of our discomfort. Still, it’s a delicious thought to wipe our hands clean of any responsibility.
This is not exclusive to difficult relationships, but also pertains to situations. I have been experiencing a lot of fear this past year or so and it’s no wonder as I have been financially supporting myself and my three kids with one salary (for the first time in my adult life) and my father is terminally ill with cancer. Fear feels like a constant visitor in my guesthouse of emotions.
There have been so many times I have used these circumstances to justify my feelings of victimhood. However, it was when I started shifting my perspective to finding the good in these situations, that victimhood eased away, and I started to feel joy. What a delightful surprise! I took responsibility for how I relate and I was able to experience freedom. (For those of you attending the Joyful Club membership weekend, I will be delivering a session on Taking in the Good- don’t miss it! Not a member? Sign up here and come join us at the Joyful Club!)
And then most recently, I was in a mindfulness teacher supervision session where my supervisor and I did a practice that had me thank my fear for trying to take care of me. I envisioned the fear, I allowed it to be present and I held it in my arms as I would any of my children. This is what Tara Brach calls radical acceptance and this was all I had to do to soften and to relate to my experience in a way that transformed my fear into something that needn’t be feared itself (which creates a fear double whammy!). It felt liberating- and again joyful!
Now, I just have to remember to meet my fears, whether they be people or situations, with the same loving arms. If I can remember to do this, there is nothing else I need to do. The transformation happens on its own- it happens within the allowing.
There will always be discomfort in life, there will always be difficult relationships, situations, memories, past traumas. This is inevitable. I can’t control this. The one thing I can do is meet them with acceptance, allowing and compassion.
So this week’s challenge is to see if we can move towards this radical acceptance. Can we move towards accepting our difficulties with loving arms? This can be hard, so maybe beginning with a small difficulty- like not wanting to attend to a tricky meeting or not wanting to make an uncomfortable phone call.
If you had to envision the resistance, the anxiety- what does it look like? What does it feel like? Can you welcome it as part of your experience? Is there an emotional response?
Can you find freedom in this radical acceptance? Can you find some small nugget of joy?
Let me know how you get on!
Working with acceptance is part of both our Level 1: Being Present course and our Level 2: Responding with Compassion course. If you would like to explore acceptance more, find a course near you! Or online!