Acceptance: The Key to Living a Joyful Life
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” — Dr. Seuss
I woke up this morning, put on “The Today Show” and heard the story of a woman, named, Susan Spencer-Wendel who became paralyzed from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She typed her memoir about the beauty of living, letter by letter on her iPhone, using just her right thumb; all of her other fingers had stopped working by then. She knows she is dying and had decided to spend one of her last years doing the things on her to-do-list, including writing a book. “I am writing about accepting, about living with joy and dying with joy and laughing a helluva lot in the process.”
So what’s on your bucket list, your to-do-list before you die? Why do we wait until we are dying to do the things we really long to do? Why do we get so caught up in our everyday stuff that we forget what our real purpose is?
I think the first step in all of our life situations is acceptance. This is the beauty I found in that woman’s story, the part that gives us hope and makes us smile. Acceptance deepens the union between mind and body, because we are not fighting, we are relaxing into it, going with the ebb and flow of our lives. Acceptance in our yoga practice, means accepting where we are, and relaxing into it, creating more space and openness in our body. When we are in acceptance, we are telling the universe, god, our higher self, that we trust and have faith that we are here for a reason. It is part of our evolutionary growth.
So why do we wait until something happens, for us to make the necessary changes to live our lives to our fullest potential? I often ask myself the question, what am I waiting for? It’s as if every challenging experiencewe have leaves some kind of residue, a story for our suitcases. I think the key is to let go of our baggage and metaphorically empty our suitcases and feel the lightness of being. Stop allowing your past mistakes or experiences to dictate the present.
In the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Jim Carrey wants to have his painful memories of a relationship cleared from his mind, but they go too far and remove all the beautiful memories of his life. We need to have our memories and experiences and feel happy and grateful for them. They were given to us as gifts to help us become better versions of ourselves, not to ruminate over and affect our present. It is the story that we carry around that causes more damage than the actual event.
Why do we get caught up in our everyday stuff and forget what our real purpose is?
From my own experience and the experiences of the thousands of wonderful clients I have seen over the years, it is easier to focus on everything else, creating dramas, then to have to focus on the common denominator in all those situations, you.
Years ago, I was seeing a client every two weeks and after about six months I couldn’t stop the words from flowing out of me, and I said, “You don’t have an eating disorder, you have a shitty marriage.” I am sorry for my choice of words but it was a wake up call for her. As much as I enjoyed our sessions, I had to be honest with her, so she could be honest with herself. It is important to focus on your purpose in life, and oftentimes you will find it in what you feel passionate about, the things that you want to dive into head first? For me, it’s a vegan chocolate cake. But really, what is it that makes you feel alive and makes the time fly by because you are so engaged, (and I don’t mean television or the internet).
What comes naturally to you? What gifts have you been given? We can contribute while spending our days doing what we love, not doing what we automatically feel we have to. This is the difference between making a living and making a life. You will bring more to your relationships if you are busy doing what you love, having less time to think, or over think, things in your life. Don’t wait until it’s too late, having to look back on your life wishing you had done what you really wanted, but let fear get in the way. Wayne Dyer once said, “You don’t want to die with your music still in you.”
Let go of all your doubts, fears and perceived mistakes from your past. End the negative self-talk and find the freedom in your everyday existence. Even the extra weight you are carrying around on your body will dissolve away a lot faster, once you let go of your baggage.
That woman’s inspiring story has reminded me to be grateful for having the ability to get dressed in the morning, do yoga, create and eat healthy food and to be in love with life!
Push Away Nothing: The Art of Receptivity
I received the weekly newsletter from UPAYA Zen Centre via email. It opened with a quote from Frank Ostaseski:
“The First Precept: Welcome everything. Push away nothing… At the deepest level, we are being asked to cultivate a kind of fearless receptivity.”
There is more to the quote and I encourage you to source the rest of it. “Push away nothing.” There was something freeing about that statement. It felt almost paradoxical. We tend to protect ourselves from the experiences and situations we deem bad, harmful, stressful, discouraging. There was a sense of liberation in his statement. I felt as though it contained a secret key. I have found over my years of spiritual seeking, that when I stumble across a paradox or a deeply contrary belief, I am usually stumbling onto something great.
“Welcome everything.” It wasn’t to say that I welcomed awful things. It was when I found myself fighting against what was happening, that I stopped and repeated the words, “Welcome everything.”
Fear keeps us from welcoming everything. There was a time I lived by the phrase, “The garbage you know is better than the garbage you don’t.” (Well, maybe I didn’t use the word garbage). What do we think is going to happen? And why do we assume it is less than what we have now? Perhaps it will be greater than we can imagine.
“Push away nothing.” I was starting a new venture with a dear friend and the timing of this new mantra was perfect. I took it into every challenge and situation that arose in the early stages of creating our vision and bringing our project to life. When conflict came, I welcomed it. When the workload grew, even though it was summer holidays and I had planned to be loafing around doing yoga in the garden and playing with the kids, I welcomed it. When I had to wait for others in order to move forward, I welcomed it. I pushed away nothing but something fell away all on its own. As I welcomed each and every circumstance, feeling and thought, struggle fell away. As I welcomed everything, everything became easier.
The new venture emerged with much work and little struggle. Finally, I made the time to enjoy an end of summer yoga class. The summer work and activity schedule had gotten the best of my back. I altered the poses. Rather than flow from up dog to down, I took an extra plank, reducing the movement in my spine. I lay on my back in a tense version of setu bhandasana, or bridge pose, mitigating back pain by squeezing my glutes tighter. I wondered why my back was in such a state after a long period pain-free. I wished the pain would go away so I could enjoy my practice.
“Push away nothing.” The mantra found me on my mat. I released my glutes and my tension. “Welcome everything.” I breathed deeply into my back and the discomfort. I moved through the remaining practice with breath and mantra, welcoming the state of my body and the opportunity to gently back off from the full expression of the poses. I took seated twist and simply allowed myself to back off. In backing off, I discovered deeper release and the ability to move further into the pose with greater ease. In welcoming the condition of my body and allowing it to guide my practice, I found more freedom and flexibility.
I woke the next morning with more mobility in my spine and my mind. Seemingly counter-intuitive, there is great freedom in Frank Ostaseski’s words. I am grateful he shared them and I adopt them with fearless receptivity.