Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Critical Nature of Acceptance

Last week I quoted a passage from AA’s Big Book about the importance of acceptance. I received quite a few comments from readers – some outside the U.S. – that indicated some confusion between acceptance and approval, as well as the misunderstanding between “accepting life on life’s terms” and our use of “past experience” to figure out life, I will attempt to clarify these issues at least as I understand them.
I will reiterate the quote here:  The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous [page 417] discusses: “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.” [From the story entitled: Acceptance Was The Answer]
The key phrase for me in this quote is “… at this moment.” If I don’t accept the person, place, thing or situation, I will find no serenity. I will know no peace. I will continue to obscure whatever light and love there is within me. A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states that I am never upset for the reason I think. It also admonishes me to refrain from letting my past experience guide me in the present moment. When I bring up past experience, I am allowing myself to simply relive a perceived past failure or success. That is not dealing with what is in front of me NOW (… at this moment). That is only dealing with a perceived reality that exists in the universe that lives between my ears.
When confronted by a disturbing event or person, if I begin to ask myself “Why is this happening?” or begin commenting to myself about all the “shoulds,” “oughts,”or  “might-have-beens,” I am simply wasting my time and emotional energy – focusing on what is only my perception of the past. Thinking like this really damages my ability to deal with NOW – just as it is. I can discipline my mind to elect to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to enable me to see the situation or person in a way that will enable me to respond. But, I cannot get myself there if I am bogged down in the muck of “Why me?” or “Why now?” or “This isn’t fair.” or “This shouldn’t be happening.” Focusing on that only keeps me stuck in my problem and in my past, both of which are not my answer to the NOW.
This sounds rather simple and straightforward. But it is hard to break my knee-jerk reactions, especially when I watch ISIS/ISIL or follow the events in Ferguson, MO or listen to stories about Ebola. But that is exactly what’s required of me to achieve serenity (AA) or peace (ACIM). When I allow the Spirit to be in control and am focusing on the NOW without the filters of my past, the common response I receive from those around me is that I don’t really understand or I don’t really care about what’s going on. People around me are confusing my dealing with the NOW as an approval of the situation or person.
Dealing with life on life’s terms means dealing with the situation or person in front of me by focusing on myself and my attitudes. If I do that, just as in an AA meeting, I begin to see a little of myself in all the others. I begin to hear a little of myself in the words of others. Watching stories about ISIS/ISIL I begin to see what could very well occur if I allowed my sense of right-ness to consume me. Seeing the fears and frustrations of ALL the actors in Ferguson allows me to see the same common fears or frustrations inside me. My “outside” actions/behaviors may be very different – the FORM may be different – but the CONTENT is very, very similar.
My ego sees Form AS Content; the Holy Spirit sees only Content. Form is meaningless. Content is either a type of love or a type of fear. To the Holy Spirit the difference between a hateful thought and a beheading is negligible. To my ego the difference in Form is exceptionally significant. But the Spirit’s reality is that hate is hate, fear is fear, anger is anger. It is of my ego – regardless of Form.
It is the reality of that age-old AA adage: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Consequently, I find myself often saddened, not angry. I find myself often humbled, not fearful. As I mentioned earlier, the typical reaction to that response is I do not understand or I do not care or I approve of what happened or I have become a doormat. Not true! I simply am trying to be willing to accept and learning to see myself a little (or a lot!) in my acceptance.
As I’ve said to myself and in these messages over and over, it’s not what’s “out there” that bothers me. It is how I perceive what’s “out there.” Do I see the other as an attacker or as another version of me? Do I see the situation as an aggravation or as an opportunity to see inside me? “I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”
As it always is, it always is an inside job. I hope this helps.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
I do hope you had a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.
#5 November 2014
Copyright, 2014

PS: I am on assignment next week so there will be no message.

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