Yesterday, my morning mindfulness practice focused on acceptance. I left the practice feeling ready to embrace the present reality. Then, the governor of Virginia announced that in response to the rapid rise of coronavirus, mandatory stay-at-home orders would last through June 10. Although we had already been practicing stay-at-home for more than two weeks, a date eleven weeks into the future was a new tsunami wave of reality. My newly planted sapling of acceptance was uprooted.
My mother tells me that my first complete sentence was “I don’t want it.” I was sick and my poor mom was doing her best to cajole me to take the pungent cough medicine the doctor had prescribed. If there is any stronger resistance than that of a toddler, I have yet to see it. Yesterday, my reaction to new realities was exactly that of my two-year-old self: No. I don’t want it. This is unacceptable. I cannot do this. I listed all of the ways that it would be impossible. It’s too long, too hard, too unmanageable. I felt my chest and muscles tighten as if I was preparing to literally push something away. And yet, my rejection of the present did not—could not—change the reality of the present. The only thing my resistance did was amplify my suffering.
As my energy narrowed around the word “no” in response to the thing I cannot control, I was less able to be expansive, open, or creative around what I actually can control. Acceptance, as my trial-by-fire crash course is teaching me, is not about surrendering our self-efficacy. Acceptance does not ask us to lie down and give up. Acceptance says to us, “This is where you are right now. If you can embrace the present with honesty and compassion, you can find new ways to live and thrive.”
I’m not there yet. The edges of the picture of what I could make this look like are just beginning to develop. Sometimes my resistance pushes its way forward and the picture blurs again. That’s ok, I tell myself. This is hard. I allow myself to feel the resistance in my body, thank it for its desire to protect me, and then give myself permission to release it. I invite acceptance into the space that resistance tried to claim. Resistance is a limiting and small clinched fist. It cannot provide us with what we need. Acceptance is an expansive and abundant open palm. It provides us space to create anew what we need.
“My resistance amplifies my suffering. My acceptance amplifies my enlightenment.”