Practicing acceptance

In the spirit of happiness and a life of authenticity, the practice of acceptance is paramount.  Navigating self-acceptance is one of the more challenging aspects of my own well-being and I suspect for others as well.  The conflict arises when we are unable to accept where we are with emotional and spiritual development while simultaneously accepting there is potential to continue to grow and be better.

Acceptance is about acknowledging that we are complex beings full of emotions, experiences, and feelings that create our sense of self.  It is about understanding those instances of insecurity, uncertainty, fear, and separation in addition to experiences of joy, love, and hopefulness.  It’s about accepting the reality of all those things without judgement or blame.  Often we think that when we react a certain way or have a certain response, we must launch into the “why?”

The moment we start adding qualifying statements about who we are or what causes us to respond a certain way…we are trying to explain, rationalize, and perhaps even justify ourselves.  When we add these types of disclaimers to our interactions and experiences, we unknowingly add a stamp of rejection to our being which creates the conflict.  We create internal chatter that who we are, what we are experiencing, and our feelings/emotions are not okay.

Accepting the reality of any given circumstance, situation, or interaction initiates a true perspective and shifts the entire experience.  It is no longer about judging, blaming, or punishing.  It is about gaining understanding and empowering ourselves with knowledge and deciding how we are either going to stay in that moment or act on a potential.

As the practice of acceptance becomes more fluid, other practices will harmonize in a beautiful symphony of love, understanding, compassion and kindness.  And when we experience these things deep within our being, the abundance will flow through our lives and help saturate all of our surroundings.

Afternoon by the river

Afternoon by the river

 

How do you experience happiness?

 

If we all can agree that one thing we want is to be happy, then the next question to ask is “How do you want to experience that happiness?”  Often we get caught up in this idea of things that will make us happy.  And most of the time those things are tied to money in some way whether it’s a better paying job, ability to go on vacation, a bigger house, a new car, and so on.

But if you can put all those material things aside and think about how you truly experience happiness, what does that look like for you?  There may be a material component but if you start examining the experience and impact of that experience; the material things will become less significant and ultimately less powerful.

Another pitfall that happens when it comes to discussion of happiness is the one related to circumstances. This happens when we think certain people make us happy or we are only happy in specific environments or even only on certain days (insert TGIF).  We also get caught up in constant comparison of other people and their circumstances.  When we deny our own successes and potential under the umbrella of criticisms and insecurity, we reinforce a life of separation and fear.

The question is simply stated but the answer, I suspect, is as complex as we are individuals.  How we experience happiness is not something that can be manufactured, prescribed, or taught.  It cannot be purchased, bartered, withheld or stolen. It’s not about denying pain or heartache. It is about using our positive experiences to create a natural state of resiliency that sustains us through that pain and heartache.

Happiness is about presence, perception, and engagement.  It’s about being able to recognize blissful moments and understand their significance.  It is about accepting a reality of possibilities that include an infinite source of love and kindness.  It’s about being intentional with your interactions every day.

When we start perceiving our happiness as an experience that we create versus something that is done to us or given to us, we become more confident that it can be sustained even in the face of sorrow, grief, or heartache.  And even more importantly, when we are able to perceive the reality of what generates happiness within our life, we begin to experience that reality in more abundance than we could have ever imagined.

River Edge

 

 

 

Apples and Oranges

“Comparison is the thief of joy”—Theodore Roosevelt.

You know the saying “that’s like comparing apples to oranges”?  When I was younger, it would always baffle me because I couldn’t understand why you would need to compare such similar objects.  But as a culture, that’s what we like to do…compare identical things and circumstances and then participate in an exercise in identifying as many differences as you can.

The problem is that when we do this with ourselves and with people in our life, then we start attaching value or worth to those differences.  Suddenly the apple is better than the orange, or the orange is more vibrant than the apple.  We must determine the hierarchy of differences and assume the most valued object.

Brene’ Brown talks about this phenomenon in her book The Gifts of Imperfection.  She refers to this idea of robbing ourselves from joy the second we start comparing to another person’s circumstances.  We get so caught up in this idea of who has what and who did what that we minimize, and sometimes even negate value to everything we have ever known.

The skill is not about training your brain to stop comparing.  After all, some comparisons can be incredibly useful and lead to great insights.  The skill is increasing your awareness of how those comparison’s impact your overall sense of well-being.  Here are examples of defeating comparison statements:

  •  “I could do X if only I had Y like my friend so and so.”
  •  “Oh, I’m having a bad day, but it’s nothing like what you’re going through…..”
  • “Yes, I’ve lost 10 pounds, but I still need to lose 5 more.”
  • “If I was making that much money, life would be so much better.”
  • “Things are not going so well, but I know they can always be worse.”

In each of the examples the actual situation is discounted through the act of comparison.  It’s a vehicle to find ways to account for something that is lacking or a desire for change without accountability.  It’s also a method to devalue something painful or uncomfortable.  They allow a rationale to escape the full experience of whatever is happening at that moment.

If we begin increasing our awareness of how often we get lost in this act of comparison then eventually it will lead to us to recognizing that we are enough exactly as we are at this moment.  There is still room to improve upon something or create space for change, but first embrace acceptance for the being that you are in this very moment.

Hold this thought….”You have everything you need.”  This isn’t some profound discovery.  It has always been true. Sure, go ahead, argue the fact.  I invite you to reflect on the purpose of trying to disprove it first.  I expect some people would go to the nth degree of literal here and say, “Wait, you need food…you need water, shelter..and so on.”  I will save the trouble and whole heartedly agree, and I will gently follow-up with the statement that the spirit of this concept is not to cause some great controversy.  It is to invite you to think about the purpose of comparison.  Is it to motivate you to do something greater with your life?  It is to inspire you to be better?  Or is it simply to give a louder voice to an inner critic that is often questioning your own value?  Because if we start comparing ourselves and highlighting some differences that lend to an illusion of value and worth; we become separate from others.  And when we spend more of our life in a state of being separate…we spend more time feeling disconnected, lonely, and ultimately less valued.

Here is a practice in the spirit of unity and well-being:  the next time you hear or experience a remarkable accomplishment, stroke of luck, or encounter a challenge or barrier to something; instead of going to that place of comparison simply experience the feeling that arises and emotions that follow and detach from the impulse to immediately file that away as better/worse/luckier/scarier/or any other ‘er’ word for your own life.  When we can be completely present in our lives without needing a comparison for ourselves or another person, it becomes a true way of honoring each other and maintain a connection without the expense of someone’s worth, especially our own.

It’s not about agreeing that an apple and an orange are different or even how they are similar…it’s about appreciating the apple just as it is and the orange for everything it has to offer.  When we can appreciate things and ourselves exactly as we are, something beautiful happens…we begin to feel more connected to others and ultimately more loved and valued.

If you’re going through a tough time, experiencing grievances, or simply having a bad day, own it.  If you’re doing well and enjoying success, own that.  If someone else succeeds, enjoy their happiness with them.  If they fail, support them.   Be accountable for your own situation without having to add some sort of disclaimer as to how it could be better or it could be worse.  Realize that everyone is on their own journey with their own obstacles, worries, and triumphs.  We are human.  We are all beautiful and complex.  And most of all, we are perfectly imperfect.

Summer vacation

va-ca-tion: Noun.  1: a respite or a time of respite from something: intermission. 2 a:  scheduled period during which activity (as of court or school) is suspended b:  a period of exemption from work granted to an employee 3: a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation (Webster’s Dictionary).

I will never forget  a conversation with a boss about vacations.  I was experiencing a particularly stressful time at work with some of the most mentally taxing cases that I had encountered and the idea of ‘burn-out’ seemed like a step up from where I was in that moment.  Feeling full of despair, I remarked that I desperately needed a vacation.  His response was “You have to realize that vacation will not solve your problems of how you are feeling.  Escaping only provides temporary relief.  The real issue is for you to find a way to achieve peace and inner calm without having to physically leave and go somewhere.”  Granted, I know he had positive intent when he provided me that insight but all I heard was “blah, blah, blah, buck up and keep going.”  Needless to say, I didn’t receive the wisdom very well and rationalized his advice as ‘fluff’ that can only come from people who get 6 weeks of vacation a year.  Therefore, I rejected his advice and the equally insightful guidance that followed and proceeded to wallow in self-pity instead of figuring out how to navigate the enormity of my emotional and physical state of exhaustion.

Eventually, I managed to explore some options and restore my spirit, and now I can truly appreciate what he was getting at with his statements.  Here’s the deal.  We have a right to enjoy vacations, but it can’t be the answer to life’s complex and exhausting challenges.  It can provide us with relaxation, adventure, and a pause of our daily chores, but if we look at it with great expectations of erasing stress and wiping our memories of pain, heartache, and turmoil; we will only set ourselves up for deeper disappointment when we return to the reality of our everyday lives.

There is something magical that can happen on a vacation; we tend to notice nature more, not be in such a hurry, be more open to love and hope, and generally allow ourselves to take good care.  And the most amazing phenomenon that happens (sometimes), is that we realize everything we need is within us no matter where we go.

Vacations can help us reconnect with our spirits but we don’t have to travel a great distance to achieve an inner state of calm. I mean, it’s not like we become different people on vacation.  We are always there.  We convince ourselves into thinking that vacation helps us be calmer, happier, and more content. But let’s get real, we don’t turn into ideal human beings just because we don’t have to worry about laundry for a few days or sit in bumper to bumper traffic.  The core of who we are is always present, unfortunately we are just too dang busy to notice while we are working all day, managing our personal life, and keeping up with endless tasks that create our ‘daily grind’.

I wish we all were guaranteed weeks of vacation every year to the destination of our choice, but the reality is that most of us simply don’t have that type of luxury. However, nobody says we can’t take a mini-vacation of our own without ever having to pack a bag.  Here are some ideas that can give us an ‘intermission’ from the daily grind and encourage us to take in some of the awesome things that surround us each day.

  1. Lose yourself in a good book for a couple of hours
  2. Take a class in something you have always wanted to try
  3. Visit a museum
  4. Explore a park or take a walk outside
  5. Drive a totally different way to work one day or drive in silence for a while
  6. Prepare a dinner that you have never eaten before (or go to a brand new restaurant)
  7. Get up and watch the sun rise tomorrow (or watch the sun set tonight)
  8. Lay out and watch the stars for an hour ( I hear there will be awesome meteor showers in mid August!   http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteors )
  9. Give yourself permission to do absolutely no household chores for a few days
  10. Go to bed early or sleep in late

Yes, summer vacation can be a magical time, but so can today.  We just have to decide if we want to use our senses to take in the beauty and awe that exists in abundance everywhere or simply ‘save’ it for those elusive vacation days.

My suggestion is to embrace today.  Listen to your spirit.  Hear what it needs and explore your options to appease it.  Then, just maybe, the idea of vacation (in any season) will take on a whole new meaning. 🙂

vacation pic