So often in the self-help world people are so ready and eager to make a change in their lives that they want to just fast forward into that place of what’s the next thing to do, how do I do it, how can I get there faster, etc. We can’t make at least the appropriate changes, if any changes, if we’re not yet honest with ourselves about where we are right now in this moment.
Accepting where we are at the start, before we go anywhere else, is a step that is often glossed over. The reason for that is because where we are now isn’t always pretty. We wouldn’t want to change it if everything were perfect. This is why I believe many New Year’s resolutions fail, many diets fail. That’s because people don’t always take the time to look at themselves in the present moment at the start and say, “Well, where am I really?”, “What’s a realistic goal for me – that’s a bit of a stretch – but is realistic for where I am right now”.
If your income goal is a million dollars this year but you’ve only made a hundred dollars in previous years, you might need to think about where you’re actually starting from and what you would need to do to get to that goal, and is that realistic right now? Maybe a more realistic goal would be a thousand dollars. Maybe you decide that you want to wake up and start practicing yoga six days a week, but you’ve never even tried yoga before, so maybe a more appropriate goal would be start with two or three days a week and make the attempt in a way that you can measure and in a goal that is reachable because if you reach that little goal, you’re going to feel confident. When you set a goal that’s too outlandish and you don’t reach it, you just keep feeling like a failure.
So first, get clear. Ask yourself, “Where am I in this moment?” – this requires us to practice Satya, the practice of truthfulness and honesty. Are we living in integrity with who we are right now? Are we getting what we need in this present moment? Are we taking appropriate action in this present moment? Who are we, really, right now? Not what other people want us to be, not what we thought we should be, but who are we, in this moment?
Finding acceptance also really helps us with some important life skills, like being able to forgive. If we can take a look at our role and accept how we have contributed to a challenge or a disagreement, it will be easier for us to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. If we can do that, we will be able to apologize when we make a mistake. We won’t be so caught up in what we wanted to happen and instead will be really connected to where we are in the present moment and the things that maybe we could have done differently.
Finding acceptance really deals with, at first, the self. Accept the things about yourself that you feel good about. Change the things that you don’t feel good about. It starts with you. The first step with any of this, if we want to make an attempt, is to be present in the now. You can’t practice acceptance of the now if you’re ignoring it, or if you’re going a thousand miles an hour. So do your practice, get on your mat, meditate, chant, do whatever is needed for you to pull back enough that you have clarity in this moment.
This might mean getting uncomfortable, being okay with discomfort – mental discomfort especially – if you’re not who you want to be in this moment. But getting honest is required in order to go where you want to go. Even if the present is a little bit of a squirmy feeling – if it’s not what you’re proud of, let yourself feel it anyway. It will provide more motivation to change if you accept who you are, right now.
The next thing you must do if you want to practice acceptance is to practice is Svadhyaya, self-study, as it is discussed in the Niyama. It’s the second limb of the eight limbs of yoga. Take an honest inventory of yourself and your strengths, your weaknesses, your positive points, and your negative qualities, and really use that as a jumping off point. Where do you want to go and what do you want to do – starting with who you are right now?
This is why yoga deals with the self, because we can’t control anyone else. We can’t control anyone else any more than we can control the weather, but we can learn to accept them. This is sometimes really hard, especially if you’re living with somebody who has qualities that you don’t like, maybe they’re late all the time, or they’re messy and you’re the opposite, but can you accept who they are and instead of trying to change who they are, free up that energy for changing yourself for the better, maybe they will follow, but notice that difference. Yoga does not deal with fixing other people because you can’t. Yoga deals with connecting and fixing you.
So take that honest inventory, Svadhyaya, evaluate yourself and where you are in this moment. Evaluate the things about yourself that you want to change. Really connect to the things that you can’t change about other people and let them go, practice non-attachment. I always think of the Serenity Prayer, and whether you’re Christian or not, it doesn’t matter, the first few lines are really poignant, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” When we have clarity and our mind is quiet, we can see the difference and put our energy where it will be productive.
In practicing acceptance, where do you start? Start with you. Make a list today of all the things that you are going to accept about yourself. Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds and you haven’t lost it yet – accept yourself anyway, just as you are today. Maybe you had a terrible job interview and crashed and burned, can you love and accept yourself anyway? After you do it for yourself, make a list of your spouse or your child or your parent and note all the things about this person that you cannot change, that maybe you don’t like, but you can choose to love and accept regardless. This is what yoga is for. If life were perfect all the time, we wouldn’t need these ancient practices to help us keep our composure and live a better life. Yet, that’s exactly what we’re here to do.
So, get on your mat, get out your journal, do your work today. If you’re putting all your energy into focusing on other people, know that it’s a distraction, it’s taking you away from your path. Let that go, accept them as they are, focus on what you can control, you. Don’t worry about what you can’t. Thank you for tuning in today. Have a beautiful day. Namaste.