HOW NATURALLY A PERSON tends to equate accepting something with liking it. It’s easier to see this in the negation: If I dislike the thing that’s occurred, of course I reject it. It’s natural to rebel against any idea of accepting it.
As if acceptance weren’t possible without approval.
The inability to tease the two apart is the heart of untold needless pain. Even to recognize how tightly yoked they tend to be (accept, like) is the beginning of a revelation. The recognition of an alternate possibility opens the door a crack — the door that’s been closed on the restful room where peace lives, like soothing warm water patiently awaiting our arrival. In that hidden room, where resistance no longer operates, all is felt to be profoundly well (no matter the particulars of momentary life).
If the possibility has never dawned that acceptance can quite naturally occur even in the presence of an unwelcome or startling development, then in the face of something challenging, resistance will seal the door tightly shut. Resistance will be a constant (and exhausting) companion, causing the inevitable inner turmoil. Because life will continue serving up one meal after another of something unpalatable, maybe something even sickening. And we will keep blaming life itself for the upset interior of our dear selves.
Nobody wants to know that it’s not actually life causing the ceaseless inner disturbance. To see the role I play in holding peace away — to let my body register my complicity in my own suffering — asks a certain courage. To inquire into the apparently inevitable gesture of holding at arm’s length anything unwelcome, as if there were no other option! Might it be possible to fully accept what-is, however far it departs from the thing I expected, or wished would be? To simply allow that question into the body is what subtly turns the knob on the door. It’s the dawning of awareness of the existence of the room (so surprising a space!) where peace has been waiting. It’s a place whose existence had never been imagined, during all the preoccupied hours and years of blaming life for one episode after another of acute suffering.
When the door has swung all the way open (through whatever miraculous means), when acceptance has blessedly become the norm, with no more enforced barrier between awareness and life, peace has become the default.
At some point the observation may be made that the question of approve-vs.-disapprove no longer is automatically posed to self. How to account for the disappearance of this life-long assessor? Is it because the primacy of reality has at last won out? Is it because acceptance occurs naturally and immediately, not waiting for the long-familiar sizing-up to occur first?
The conspicuous absence of the like/dislike assessor certainly is not because you’ve lost the ability to discern, or to care, or even to prefer. If you go looking inside yourself for the presence of such things, you will surely be able to find them: little pockets of tender gratitude, of concern, or rejoicing, in the face of one thing or another life has delivered. You do still care. You might well even proceed to take some kind of action in a certain direction. It’s just that whatever you do in response to a thing, or whatever you might pursue toward some end, is fueled by love, not (as before) by anger or fear or ferocious desire. And there is none of the familiar attachment to how-things-go. The yoking of the “right” outer circumstances with inner well-being has simply dissolved in the warm water of non-resistance. You finally see that your inner reality is not dependent on outer conditions.
You’re the same inside, no matter what comes along.
Copyright © 2017 Jan Frazier
Jan Frazier is a spiritual teacher and writer. She lives in Vermont.
Our main page on Jan Frazier. Bio, teachings, links, recommended books, etc.
“Imagine a life without suffering.”
When Fear Falls Away: The Story of a Sudden Awakening
By Jan Frazier
This book is probably the best description ever written of enlightenment and its effects on a person’s life. We know this is ridiculously high praise, but we mean it. At the age of 50, Jan Frazier noticed that her habitual intense fear had stopped. Over the next eighteen months she recorded additional changes in her feelings, mental state, and relationships with other people. Jan’s awakening turned out to be permanent. Jan writes extremely well, and her prose sometimes reaches sublime heights. We give this book our highest recommendation.
This page was published on December 15, 2018 and last revised on January 25, 2019.