there to come back
the past month, two long-term clients who are very dear to me have been in
touch because, in their assessment, they are in a state of crisis,
helpless in the circumstances that they find themselves.
is actually tackling the principal problem in their respective situations
and in their inertia they are acquiescing to the very things that they so
ardently wish to see changed. Both have a problem with taking iniatives:
one fears to fail, the other fears to upset other people. Although careful
of what they admit to, both are very resentful of others for setting them
up to be uncomfortable in the way that they are.
have contacted the Foundation in a state of bruised bemusement, listing
all the things that they have done in support of their plans and
expressing bewilderment at their lack of success and life’s harsh
treatment of them.
tells me he is trying to work on acceptance. He laughs about his
predicament but he feels cheated by life. The other has the passive
resignation of a rabbit caught in the glare of headlights and, bless her
heart, probably has not laughed at anything in twenty years
encourage them to list all the things they could have done and have not in
support of their plans, and then the things that they have done and should
not have done. If they do this, the situation will be such a mystery, life
will not seem so unfair and they will also understand why acceptance is
not the answer.
suspect these lists must be very long because both have gone very quiet
and this surely is not because they have been surprised by my response.
They both know me too well to know that I am going to give agreement to
the proposition that life is unfair or support to self-pity.
If we are prepared to seal people into limitation by this kind of
complicity, we might as well shut up shop at the Foundation and join the
pier end fortune tellers - preferably on the pier in Brighton that has
also given up and is now disintegrating into the sea.
is not unfair or problematic. We are happy to see it thus when we do not
play our cards well, but what is going on in our western lives is very
largely product of our own choices, including the choice not to see
options. What we have brought in
through choice we can sort out the same way. There is a responsibility
in this but here is also freedom, and much of the work done at the
Foundation is concerned with helping people access this freedom.
and making excuses are unkind tricks we play on ourselves to keep
ourselves little and powerless. If we will own the mess, there is major
opportunity in it because our messes bring our unhelpful tendencies into
is a rule at the Foundation that everyone clears up what they drop or
spill, not as a punishment but because it is an opportunity to
recapitulate on things up to that point. If we all did our own cleaning we
would live in saner societies, but instead, if we can afford it, we pay
other people to take away opportunities.
is a very important place for acceptance, in our lives but it is not
a response to specific circumstances acceptance may be a very desirable
way of acknowledging the requirements of conscience and honouring
responsibilities, or an alternative to corroding effects of grief,
disappointment or resentment. But as a spiritual path, acceptance is not
suitable for westerners who are brought up to be part of a changing,
responsive world. Show me a westerner espousing acceptance as a way of
life and, through astrology, I will uncover a person following the line of
least resistance for his personality type. In most cases what is being
achieved is not a state of acceptance at all but a state of muffled or
deferred resentment, or
erosion of will leading to impotence.
would not chose acceptance if we could get our way - because it is not the
way of the West. Our spirituality is not based upon surrender. We settle
for acceptance when it appears to be the less uncomfortable option.
Situations that make us uncomfortable settle into our psyches like fences.
Eventually, we stop seeing the fences; we just know not to go there. They
become features of our lives, the existence, purpose and consequence of
which we no longer question; we just know they denote no-go areas. They
are, of course, the defences of the separated self and the cause of our
limitations. The spaces in between, cramped, sterile and stony though they
often are in between are the comfort zone.
are made and unmade in our comfort zones and even our spirituality may not
order us out of it. If we want our life to be more than an uneasy
stand-off between what we want and what we think we can get away with, we
have to learn to deal with discomfort.
use feeling comfortable as a sign that things are all right. But it may
also be a sign that the life force is preparing to leave, of course. One
feels comfortable, we are told, shortly before one drowns or dies of
hypothermia. A progressive decision usually does involve a degree of
discomfort because; by definition it is breaking new ground for
lot of work has to go into encouraging people not to bolt or subside into
despair, but to stay with the discomfort long enough to get the measure of
it and decide whether it is informed by conscience, habit, or fear.
situation is not helped by the lack of humour and understanding that we
have about our own infelicitous choices and the awesomely effective
process we are all involved in. How else do we learn about ourselves and
how to interact with life of not by trial and error and screwing up? There
is no other way: if we are guided by the experiences of others there will
be no gris for individuality. It is of this process that we need to learn a greater acceptance. If we are
afraid of making mistakes we are afraid of life. And many disciples are
very afraid of that messy business that lies in wait for them outside the
meditation room where ordinary people have to do ordinary things.
could all do with more humour and less drama, but spirituality,
self-knowledge, and humour have never been comfortable bedfellows. The
problem is the self: it is too vain and important. It is more comfortable
to think that God has singled us out for misfortune. Believe me, none of
us merits it. And you may take that whichever way you like.
so many respects, whether we are a partner, parent and child it is a lot
less controversial to stay within our comfort zones and to see acceptance
as the responsible option. But it will not necessarily be easier. If it is
to be an act of true acceptance then there must be no complaints against
other people or life, no tolerance given to resentment, even the privacy
of our own hearts, and no energy sent into thinking about how things might
qualities make a distinction that the soul recognises, between conscious act of acceptance and missed opportunity.