On acceptance and its benefits

I was recently listening to one of my teacher’s lectures on his YouTube channel called 10 ways to live effortlessly through Yoga where the first point is acceptance.

Have you ever experienced investing effort and time into something with a feeling that you are pushing, fighting, getting exhausted and after a while realise that you are still standing at the same point? I have experienced it in many times and every time I try to remember one of my first experiences as a mum.

When our first child was born, I wanted to be ‘ready’, so I read books about pregnancy and birth. Then, when our son was born, I read books about the “normal” development of a baby and a toddler. When our son was maybe a year or a year and a half old, according to what I read and advice from others, it was time to start potty training. I bought a pot and tried different ways to get my son to sit on it and do his job. After some days of trial, we realised he wasn’t interested at all. Swallowing our frustration, we understood he wasn’t ready yet and that we would do things worse if we chose to push him. We waited despite what the books, parenting forums and some opinions from experts or experienced parents had. When he was a bit over two, we tried again, and in a week or so, he was nappy-free during daytime and some months later in the night also. I was so amazed over how easy this was! There weren’t any tears, and there were very few accidents. This taught me a big lesson that I have tried to apply throughout my children’s upbringing. There are some milestones they have to go through to develop, but there is no point on pushing them. I think acceptance is key here. I accepted that my son wasn’t ready, but I didn’t necessarily give up, I just needed to back off, and try a bit later.

Sometimes, we have a goal, an idea, but it is so big, so overwhelming that we don’t even know where to start. This applies also to challenges and problems. Acceptance can also be a good tool in this cases. We need to accept first the situation and then see which small steps we can take to achieve the goal or to improve the situation that eventually will help us solve the problem. We accept that we have to take small steps.

The example that comes to my mind is the challenge we face today with pollution. I have long had bad conscience because I wanted to do something big for the environment, but it felt overwhelming until I decided to take small steps. The first step was to observe my lifestyle and accept that I have some habits that aren’t healthy for the environment. I have made some changes that have demanded changes in attitudes and perceptions and still felt achievable, while other changes are so big that I have to wait a bit. This doesn’t mean that I will settle for doing the minimum but I have to take it step by step to not overwhelm myself or my family. This might not be the way for everyone, but for me, it is either small steps or no steps at all.

The other day, I was talking with a yoga teacher that works also as a life coach. She was telling me about how, for people that experience chronic pain, it can be helpful to learn to accept the pain. Pain is something that scares us, it is part of our survival instinct, but sometimes we need to accept it to tolerate it. I have done the experiment sometimes when I experience a sharp pain, to relax the rest of my body and focus my breath into the pain. It doesn’t take the pain away, but it does help me deal with it better. If I reject the pain, if I start to make a thousand stories in my mind about the pain, I just get more stressed and my experience of the pain is more intense.

It is almost needless to say that acceptance is also a very powerful took when it comes to relationships. All kind of relationships. Accepting others as they are is the obvious one, but also accepting that sometimes things between us and others get stuck, and remembering that nothing lasts forever. We benefit from giving us some space to let things cool down, and then try again. Accepting also that sometimes, there is no solution, things are as they are and we have to learn to live around them.

Lastly, I have already written about strong emotions and how acceptance can help deal with them. Often, we have a tendency of rejecting, hiding or pushing away emotions such as anger or sadness. We don’t want to feel angry or sad because we should constantly feel happy and satisfied. Unfortunately, the emotion doesn’t disappear just because we don’t want it, and we end up with a pile of emotions such as frustration and regret on top of the ‘original’ emotion. Accepting the emotion without feeding into it can take us a step further. When I am sad, I can accept that I am sad and even give myself the space to feel the sadness, slow down, be kind to myself without making a thousand stories in my mind on why I have the ‘right to be sad’. Let the emotion be what it is, and when the sensation is less strong, try to understand where it comes from and see if there is anything I can do to help myself.

Acceptance is not resignation, but it is a tool that can help us save energy that we can canalise in a more constructive way than when we use it to reject, run away from or fight blindly.

Human interactions

“The reality comes into being through interaction” Emilie Levine 2018

I recently watched a TED talk with Emilie Levine called “How I made friends with reality”. This talk is beautiful in many ways, but this quote moved me the most.

I reflect often about human interactions. I observe how important they are for us, and how difficult they can be at times. I must confess that I am not very good at them in general. I expect too much from the people that are close to me, I am bad at small talk, and patience hasn’t been my strongest skill.

Ever since I was in high school, I have been quite reserved socially. I am friendly, and I actually like to interact with people, but I don’t like to come too close because I know I often end up making a mess. I can maybe say that I don’t trust myself much when it comes to human interactions. I have few close friends, and those that I have, I am so grateful for because I know that they have taken the time to know me, accept and understand my weirdness.

I also work as a teacher, so I am in constant contact with people. My students and my colleagues. As a teacher, I have an idea of what my role is, and of course, everyday, this idea is challenged by my students. It is getting better, but I also feel I use a lot of energy avoiding getting into negative situations with my students.

I can honestly say that part of my dedication in the study and practice of yoga is with the intention of improving my way to interact with others because it came to a point where I understood that the change needed to come from me. I have spent too much energy being frustrated, sad, angry and then regretting because of the gap between my perception of things and reality.

I liked this quote particularly good because I feel that it is so true. We create our reality by interacting with the world around us, not only with other humans but with everything that surrounds us. This is a powerful quote because it means that we can always choose what kind of reality we want to create by interacting with others.

It is not always that easy because most of us are used to the idea that we need to get something in return for what we give. When we have the impression that we only give, we get frustrated or loose interest.

In Spanish we have a say cada cabeza es un mundo: “Every head is a world” or “There is a whole world in each head”, and I believe this is true. What if we keep this in mind when we interact with others? We don’t know what kind of impressions they have in their minds, we don’t know what their expectations are, nor do we know how they perceive the world.

One of the most known and general definitions of yoga is that it is a science for self-liberation. In addition different traditions can have different definitions. I recently read a definition that I think is very nice to apply in our interactions with others: “Yoga is to create space”. I believe this was said in the context of pranayama, but if we think about the basic principles of yoga: detachment and practice, space is an important aspect too.

I have been wondering a lot lately, am I able to live in love? Can I, at every situation, choose to interact from a selfless space? Can I, give space to the people around me to be and at the same time allow myself to be too? I must confess that it seems quite difficult to achieve, but I think it is worth a try. Not only in my close relationships but everywhere. 

If we create reality by interacting with others, wouldn’t we want to create a reality where we all thrive? Are we able to show unconditional understanding, compassion give each other space to grow? Can we meet others with humbleness? Nobody’s perfect, and nobody will ever be perfect in this world, but we need each other.

My daily practice

The mind spreads like a big blanket throughout the day
Covering all the areas of our life that require our attention
Once a day, morning or evening, I unroll my mat
My mat is my space where I can slowly fold the blanket
My mat is the place where I can get a taste of my inner strength
My mat is the place where I create the space to see
That everything I need is inside me
My mat is the place where I pray to God to give me the courage
To meet the world with the right attitude
Allow me to be brave
Allow me to be kind
Allow me to be curious
Remind me to be and let be

We all live in the practical world where quite a lot is expected from us, both by those around us and mostly by ourselves. We often feel we need to be better, stronger, improve is the mantra we all go around repeating in our heads.

The yoga practice – asana and/or meditation- can be a vacation from this. The yoga practice can be the time of the day where we are more curious than expecting. We observe our body, we observe our breath, and with care and patience, we move for our general well-being. We can strengthen, we can stretch, we can refine, but for the health of the body and mind.

We can learn to be kind to ourselves on the yoga mat, we can learn to see our weaknesses and our strengths. We can practice acceptance of the weaknesses, and patience to refine our strengths.

We can learn to calm our minds, and to connect with our inner love. We can touch the inner peace. With practice, with awareness, and with patience we will little by little take with us small pieces of these states of mind to our practical life. From the yoga mat can all good things grow inside ourselves, and like a tree spreading its branches to give shadow, shelter and its fruits, we will also be able to share in the practical world.