Meditation looks at acceptance as a recurring theme. In attempting to define acceptance, Merriam Webster uses the word acceptable in the defintion. This is, in itself, unacceptable. Acceptance, as explained by a presenter of a retreat I recently attended is the process of deep understanding of what is. I raised my hand at the end of the nine hour silent retreat and asked her about this word acceptance. I asked her if the word acknowledge would be a synonym for acceptance. Swiftly she shot back that the term acknowledge was too shallow and missed the mark. Even my Headspace app has presented this theme and Andy Puddicombe leads his listeners to ask “Who, or what are you resisting?” This perhaps brings me closest I suppose to an understanding of what it is to accept.
Acceptance is a broad acknowledgement of that which we avoid or directly deny or push against. Puddicombe discusses this and explains that in order to accept we must be aware of that which we push away, or fight against. He urges the student to have an awareness of those people or issues that chafe and irritate them and sense that resistance within when it occurs. This instruction brings a bit of clarity but doesn’t fully elucidate the issue for me.
If the understanding of the issue was all that was required, that awareness would be the end. Acknowledgement would be very close to a definition of acceptance, but as the facilitator of the retreat stated, there is deeper meaning. This eludes me. I can acknowledge an irritation. I can sense and be aware of what triggers me, but accepting is the act of letting go of the resistance without losing any part of my own ground. It is seeing, acknowledging, and holding ground while the irritation moves through and past. This is what I struggle to know. How does one hold one’s ground when the rub of the issue slices or chafes? How does one not react?
The jellyfish floating in the brackish water, being carried along by the tide draws its stinging tentacles across the raw, exposed flesh of the unwary swimmer. If the swimmer were aware and alert as those same nettles brushed over his skin, would he not have the same burning sensation? So then can he choose to accept? Is acceptance a cessation of that sting or merely a knowing acknowledgement and allowance?
I see! In the jellyfish scenario there is a physical reality. Acceptance is psychological in nature. If the jellyfish were a concept I could indeed choose to let it pass through me without it causing a sting. I can choose to accept anything at all psychologically without it causing pain or damage. My mind was stuck on the psychological stings as if they were a physical entity but they are not. I can let them wash through me if I sense them and they will do me no harm.
Acceptance requires we sense and recognize what stings and irritates us and then let it pass over or right through us with the understanding that we do not lose ground as it does so. I get it. I accept that answer.