September 18-November 7, 2022
“Acceptance of reality is what we mean by the word love. Love is just accepting reality.” -Amrit Desai, quoted in Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope, p. 101
The teachings in classes a couple months ago included (again) the above quote. Many questions arose—as usual, and as we would hope—about this, specifically in regard to how this applies personally but also how it applies in our world. Though I’ve written a bit about this and always responded in class to these questions, this writing is hopefully to clarify “once and for all”—Good luck on that, Ti!—what is meant.
To be clear about definitions, as you may already know, I view Love as the foundational Energy of Creation and as something that we feel. I do not interpret it in a more common way as an emotion, though it does, of course, sometimes show up on an emotional level. It just isn’t limited to that. Acceptance is the state of mind that is occurring while the energy of Love is being experienced.
Though I subscribe to the quote above, we still need to know that in some contexts, accepting what is could, for example, have us just stay stuck to the couch, endlessly scrolling, instead of getting up to do yoga or take a walk or whatever else that would be better for us. Or worse, it could have us stay in a situation that is actually harmful to us, whether physically, emotionally or mentally. “Acceptance” in the wrong situations and applied in the wrong way is actually just laziness or self-indulgence in some cases; in others, it could be fear and avoidance. Bottomline is that though I think Desai’s quote above is true, we need to look—and look deeply—at the Big Picture when applying it.
One question that arose in this regard was about how to know if it’s “real” acceptance or just laziness, on a personal level but also in regard to the world. On the personal side, just having the knowledge that incorrect application of “acceptance” is possible can help us steer clear of it. We can keep in mind a question like, “Is this real and helpful acceptance or just laziness or indulgence?” Doing that will often help more than having some clear, rigid statement in answer to it. Having the question in mind will be like a magnifying and clarifying lens that can help us to have more accurate self-reflection and inner awareness, which are key to avoiding the trap. Also, seriously, we know, or at least some part of us knows, if it’s just laziness, or fear and avoidance; the “trick” is to be honest with ourselves. (Right?)
In regard to the “outside” world, it’s much more simple than it is for us personally: if we see pain or suffering or injustice occurring, we must do whatever we can to alleviate that pain, suffering or injustice. (And given the timing of this, that doing something includes voting—which does matter as past elections should have made abundantly clear. This means voting even if you wish there were better options, which I generally do, too.)
The paradox in this guidance to alleviate suffering, etc., is that it’s also true that it’s not our job to solve everyone else’s problems. However, we still must be at least compassionate and clear about what is our’s to deal with and what we can do. Being “accepting” of anyone else’s pain or suffering or of any instance of injustice is really just our own indifference and lack of compassion. Acceptance in the right contexts can be mentally and spiritually beneficial; indifference and lack of compassion never help us personally and obviously don’t serve to make the world a better place in any way. These attitudes and lack of action are actually spiritually—as well as mentally and emotionally—damaging to us.
An obvious exception to this statement is that parents (or if you are police person or other “enforcer”) will sometimes be in the role of apparently causing another—possibly small, but maybe older and bigger—person to be in pain. Parenting is a role, along with some other roles, that demands that we set reasonable and firm boundaries. Humans apparently, and especially Americans, don’t like boundaries, but anyone experiencing pain—at any age—as the result of encountering reasonable and meaningful boundaries, that’s their “tough luck.” Welcome to Life. We still can be loving and compassionate as that person gets to go through the pain they are experiencing at that moment.
When our kids were younger, at times, I had to make choices and steer events for them. Sometimes there had to be non-acceptance of specific behavior but never non-acceptance of them as people. If I had been accepting of things that were better not accepted, that would have been using “acceptance” in inappropriate ways or contexts. It would have been more harmful to these people and to humanity as a whole than the pain they experienced encountering a limit.
The quote from Amrit Desai really applies primarily to us personally and internally. Its main function is to create inner healing. In my experience, when I am rejecting any part of my internal reality, I am only hurting myself. Said another way, when I am not loving any part of my internal reality, I am only creating more (unnecessary) pain for myself. I value all the voices and perspectives in here. I don’t necessarily let them all have leadership roles, but I am willing to meet with and hear them all because they all have something valuable to contribute to the totality of Me.
Also if I am not accepting the fact any part of the bigger reality of Life in any moment, I’m causing myself more suffering. I’m also cutting myself off to some part of the necessary information that I would need to make any kind of meaningful positive change. In the best possible scenario, I would first accept the fact that what is is this way. Then I would act in the most appropriate way possible, which may be in a way that has future moments be different than the current one (as they will inevitably be anyway, but in this case I can actually choose).
In these cases above, we are dealing with the temporary “reality” as I’m experiencing it moment to moment. However, if you want to investigate your personal experience in a deeper and more esoteric way, you may be able to notice how you are in a continual state of denial of and war against the Total Reality, or call it the Divine Reality if you prefer. If we weren’t constantly keeping that Bigger Reality at bay, we would realize Its eminence and profound obviousness instantly. With some deep insight and with a good bit of Grace, we may be able to see this internal battle that is ultimately of our own creation.
Parallel to this idea of accepting Life, if I’m not accepting another person, if I’m withholding my love from any other, I’m also hurting myself. Amma, my Teacher, says that no one would say they won’t breathe in the presence of their enemy, but love is as crucial to life as our breath is. She has even said that life and love are one; where there is life, there is love, and vice versa. I can disagree with another’s viewpoint, but if I’m unwilling to even hear it, I’ll never know how to intelligently respond, and I’ll never be able to hear what that person is indirectly saying that they need to feel safe. That’s the same situation happening as in the inner world.
In my life, I’m in relation with other people who are responsible for their own choices, some of which I may not agree with or understand. Though I am not a saint, I still think that Amrit Desai’s statement is true. If I’m loving another person, my experience is that I’m also accepting them as they are, as they are NOW, even if it doesn’t match what I think they should be doing or how I think they should be. If I’m not accepting that person as s/he is at this moment, I’m not actually loving that one. I don’t have to love the behavior, so it’s good to remember MLK Jr’s insight: “I’m God didn’t tell me I had to like my enemies!”
In some cases, my act of loving people—family members especially—means that I accept and acknowledge them and what they are capable of hearing and talking about without expectation or desire that it be different. It means that I have to acknowledge that where they are at internally is different from where I am at internally, and so we have to meet on a level that they are capable and accepting of. If I expect that they should be responding differently than they are or if I even wish that they were, especially if I have ample historic evidence that it’s not going to happen, I’m simply not accepting them—not loving them—for who and what they are. I’m loving my (ego) self and what that wants more than I’m loving them at that moment.
This particular Amrit Desai quote often provokes resistance due to the fact that I (ego) want to view myself as a loving person (as in my last blog on Sacred Concepts) even when reality in some moments is trying to reveal to me that I’m actually not being loving and that I have limits and conditions on my love. At those times, the Universe and Life are kindly trying to show me the obvious truth that I haven’t chosen the “Universal Love option” yet.
Desai’s quote also meets with difficulty because we want to think of our parents as having loved us—or as loving us now—even though in some people’s experience, they didn’t ever really accept us, and thus, I’ll argue, they never really loved us. Certainly they did the best they could and they loved us as well as they were able, and for the majority of us, we still have the obligation to be grateful for what they did give us. However, for many of us, they loved themselves, their career, their social status, their beliefs, or others viewpoints more than they loved the actuality of their children. (Parents! Warning! Don’t fall into doing that!)
I really do think that the quote is worth a good hard look and a very real attempt—even clunky attempt—to practice it or just to consider it, even for a short, predetermined length of time. How about a week? Or a month? Nothing lost by the experiment. If you’ve read this far, I think it’s worth investigating what practicing it would mean for you and your life, and I feel confident you’ll find the exploration valuable, even if in the end, you decide to reject the idea.
I had thought when I started writing that I could clarify all this once and for all. Now at the end, I’d call it a worthwhile effort though it obviously fails to clarify these issues completely for all time. To recap: For myself personally, acceptance of reality is love…except when it’s not. In the world, acceptance of the reality of others suffering is indifference…but I’m not responsible for everyone else’s problems; I need to accept but not accept. Clear?