I went for a run the other day and was enjoying my reward of standing and gazing out on the water and feeling that familiar sense of accomplishment and peace. As I was standing, I realized the sun was beating down on my face and hindering my view. My initial thought was “Damn, it’s too bright and hot now.” I immediately realized the ridiculousness of this thought. For a split second, I was totally agitated with the sun for shining on my face and disrupting my beautiful moment on the path. For that millisecond I thought that I was in control of everything around me and somehow responsible to change everything too. I mean, who is so ridiculous as to think they can change the sun and why would you want to even if you could?
When we adjust our perception and accept the reality of any given situation, we are able to become more free with each moment. It’s not about being passive. It’s about acknowledging our limitations and owning our responsibility. Through acceptance, we are able to recognize our options and navigate the experience based on how we want to feel. It’s this idea that we may not choose what happens in each moment, but we always have a choice on how we respond and how we feel. That is true power. When we focus on ourselves in that way, we save a tremendous amount of energy that would have been futile to waste on changing the other person/situation. Granted, it may be easier to conceptualize this with the idea of the sun’s beaming rays, but isn’t it just as applicable to think of the guy who cut you off in traffic, your co-worker who is incessantly negative, or the family member who seems to only call when they need something? You can’t stop those things from happening AND you are not responsible to change the way people talk/act/think. Just like it’s not up to you to get the sun to shine today.
Acceptance is not about being weak, resigning to the other person, or ignoring a real problem…it is simply about acknowledging the sun (aka current situation) exists as it is without trying to control it and remember that the only thing you are responsible for is deciding how you want to experience it. So go out, stand in the sun or move over to the shade. Just do what makes you happy and love doing it!
It is impossible to create immunity from the harmful, painful, and at times devastating statements and opinions at times, but I think there is a better way to insulate ourselves and promote hope than by making sweeping statements of separation or reacting with anger and fear. Be honest, when was the last time that you effectively persuaded someone to change their values or character by simply ‘telling them something”?
We do not need lessons to teach people, we need to be models of what we hope for. You don’t have to quit your job and become a full time activist, just be truly active in your life. If you are reading FB posts that hurt your heart, commit to posting something that lifts you up. If you see a negative news story that causes you to feel fear or uncertainty; acknowledge your fear and make a decision to move past that fear. If you find yourself feeling anxious and uncertain, empower yourself with knowledge and seek out your own answers. It’s not about avoiding pain it or pretending fear doesn’t exist, it’s about finding ways to appease it.
Make a commitment to express gratitude every single day, tell someone you love them, offer help to someone in need, be thoughtful about your communication with others, be open to the possibility of hope, and make a conscious decision to express compassion in every single interaction you have. If you think of the most powerful ‘lesson’ you ever learned, think about how that came to be….chances are that it was through your own action and decisions. If I had to ‘tell’ someone just one thing, I would simply share the wise words from Gandhi’s- “Be the change you wish to see in this world.”