Today I want to talk to you about going from resistance to radical acceptance. And why is that?
You’ve probably noticed in your life that when something happens that you don’t want to happen, you resist it – you actively resist the fact that it is happening. You resist the fact that it’s happening while it is happening, or when it has already happened. So the reality of existence – the reality of life at that moment – is that whatever you didn’t want to happen has happened or is now happening. The very fact that you keep saying ‘no’ to it is actually what brings you into suffering. If you can realize that, while it has happened, or it’s happening, realize that you don’t have a choice about it. It’s the way it is. You have a choice in the moment, or for the future. But for what has happened in the past, you don’t have a choice. So as long as you keep resisting what is in the moment, you start to create suffering. Usually when that happens, we make up stories about it. We make up stories about ourselves. We try in our mind, to re-write what has happened so that we can have a different outcome. But it’s only possible in our mind because in reality, it’s not possible. The very fact of going back and seeing that it should have been different, or it could have been different or ‘if only I had this’ or ‘if only they had this’ is actually what creates suffering.
So today, I want to invite you to open up to the perspective that resisting life – saying no to what’s happening – is what creates your suffering. And that radical acceptance – which is really saying yes to what is – it just means realizing that it has happened. Yes, that’s true. So what we do now will actually open up something different for you – the possibility of a new solution, a new perspective, and a new action that will change things. So what I mean by that, to make it clear and try to make it as practical as it can be for you I will give you an example. So you probably already know, (except if this is the first show of mine you have listened to), that I lost my son in 2001. I for sure didn’t want that. You can imagine that. It was the most terrible experience I ever went through and I wish that to no one. But it happened. So can I resist it and say, No, I don’t want it to happen. This is not possible. Why did this happen? How can I change it?
You have to stop saying that because it’s not possible and you cannot change it right? And if, for example, you were speaking with me directly, you’ve got to be very practical with me if I go towards that road of questioning why and how – and just say, you cannot change it. You can also say ‘I understand that you are angry about it, and that you would like it to be different, but you cannot change it. So what do you want to do about it now?’
So that’s exactly what I want to tell you about that this can apply to anything in your life. Whatever the event was, how painful it was, or how terrible or traumatic it was. Or however you feared that it would actually happen, and then suddenly it happened. So the very fact of accepting that it happened would make you feel like you created it and there’s guilt, and shame and it’s even making you feel worse – therefore you resist it even more. Can you see that? If you were at my place right now talking to me, and I’m resisting the death of my son, you would tell me what I’m telling you: You cannot change the past. You can only do with what is here now. You cannot fight reality. You cannot change what’s happening, but you can make a decision about the way you’re going to live with it. Right now.
Radical acceptance is actually saying it has happened and I cannot change it. What do I do with it now?
Radical acceptance is opening a door to a new way of looking at life and to a new possibility for happiness for you right now.
If you don’t fight life, whatever is happening in your life is making the difference in the happiness and peace that you encounter in each and every moment. As long as you want to resist what’s happening, you’re going to suffer; it’s inevitable. There is no other way. No other possibility. Your resistance to life is creating your suffering. Your resistance to life is creating the stories that are going on in your mind. It’s reinforcing the false belief that you have about yourself and about life. It’s actually strengthening all the defense mechanisms you have put in place subconsciously from childhood and that are still in place and making you live the life that you have today.
So if you want to change anything, you can’t keep resisting what’s happening. You have to open up to accept what is, in a radical way.
Why radical? Because as for my son dying, for example, sometimes what’s happening is awful. And you really don’t want that to be. Maybe it’s making us sick and maybe hurting, and you have belly pain and you feel destroyed inside and you feel like your heart is completely broken…and you don’t know if you’re going to be able to get back up from this. So it’s radical to say ‘Yes, okay. This is what’s happening. This is my reality. Okay, I get it. I’m going to go through it.’
I can change it. I can make a difference. The way I will live it.
It’s not that you have to make a difference right now. It is painful. So the first thing in radical acceptance is actually living what is. So if you are angry about it, if you have pain, terrible sadness or feeling of incredible loss or emptiness or loss of meaning, or loss of identity or rage towards someone or something or God. Well, that’s what is real – so live that, feel it to your core. As you have heard maybe in my episode about how to encounter and release your emotion, breathe into it, and if you didn’t hear it and listen to it yet, I’ve very much recommended to you, for you to know how to encounter release whatever is there. The first step is being with exactly what is going on. That is the most gentle thing you can do for yourself.
That’s radical acceptance.
In the midst of the horrible things that can happen, I stand here, tall, and I encounter whatever’s there. And I rest and I breathe as much as I can breathe as the storm is going on all around and inside me. And I breathe because I know that by breathing into it and actually giving it space and actually allowing it to move and to continue its course is the best thing for me.
So, radical acceptance is the first step for change. Yes, that’s what’s happening now and I can accept it.
Can I have enough love for myself? Can I meet myself where I’m at without forcing myself to be somewhere else, without pushing myself to be somewhere else or to feel any other way? Can I just meet myself exactly where I’m at emotionally?
The pain, the emotion, whatever’s there. And can you imagine that from that place you will have the energy, the space, the inspiration, to do something else?
To be very practical, I want to give you another story, just for you to see another example.
Many years ago, I was giving a retreat in Brazil. I was traveling with my translator before the retreat. I wanted to go to the seaside to meditate and rest after having flown from Belgium. So we went for two days to the beach. I booked a hotel and we arrived in the morning, so the room was not ready yet. Instead of going to the hotel to put our stuff there, we actually decided to go directly to the beach. And then from there, go to the hotel. We left the car, took our stuff, changed some clothes and went to the beach. She saw a guy that was looking at us when we were, you know, putting our stuff into cars and messing with our bags and stuff like that. I saw that guy too and I found it strange that he was just standing there looking at us. But neither of us listened to that strange feeling. And we went to the beach. We spent the whole day there, and it’s around three or four, time to check-in, so we decided to leave the beach, go back to the car, and go to check-in at the hotel.
Well, there wasn’t anything to check-in anymore.
The car had been open. It was locked back. We couldn’t see anything that had been used to force into the car. So what she told me is that most likely maybe the guy or someone had a remote control that was actually interfering with the signal of the car, which made it impossible for the car to be locked. So they just had to open the door and take whatever stuff they wanted. I had my computer, I had my bag, my purse or my money, my bank card, my credit card, my passport. I had all my clothes. I just had absolutely everything in there. And she had the same. So we looked at that, and I was like, ‘oh my god, don’t tell me that happened.’ I was just startled. Then I noticed, they left for each of us a sweatshirt. So they took all of our stuff, except a sweatshirt, just to take care of us that we might have been cold after the day at the beach, and so we might need a sweatshirt. It was quite funny to see that. So neither of us went into guilt. We realized that there was this guy, we spoke about the feeling we had, but neither of us went into ‘Oh my God, I should have done this. I should have done that.’ We both were very still, realizing ‘Okay, that has happened. What do we do now?’..
So, I was like Okay, we need to go to the police station, I need to have something to say that my passport was stolen otherwise I will never be able to take my flight back. Maybe I will need to go to the embassy to get a new passport before I leave. We couldn’t go to the hotel, we had to cancel everything because we didn’t have any credit cards anymore. So we needed to go somewhere, and I didn’t have a phone so we couldn’t then make a call to actually stop my credit card or hers. They had my computer so they had all my passwords. Everything was open on my computer. So we went to the police station and we did a report there. Then when we left there was okay now next step is that actually we need to go to a web cafe and I need to close down all my accounts and change my password. And from there, I can go to Skype and call to block my credit cards. So the only thoughts that were going through my mind, were actually thoughts about what to do now, practical. When you don’t go into the story about why that happened, why it should n’t have happened or what does it mean about you or about anything or anyone – then you are just very practical and what I noticed as she was driving and we’re looking for a web cafe, I noticed that I was actually super deep, quiet, super, super quiet. And I just stayed there. And I had the thought, well, I think this guy probably needed everything more than me, because that’s what happens.
So I didn’t think that they were guilty. I just saw the innocence. If I didn’t have all the stuff that I had, for me that a mate might have even bought it for someone else. It’s when you stop thinking in terms of ‘it shouldn’t be’ that you realize that, well, maybe, maybe it should be. Maybe these people needed those things. Even if they were people who were only going to make money off it, well, most likely they believed they needed the money more than me. My lesson was actually to let go and share and give, instead of to hold on and suffer. So as I sank into those thoughts, I went into a very, very deep feeling of a soft joy within me. It was the first time in my life that even after the death of my son, I had absolutely no identity whatsoever. I had no credit card, no identity card, no passport, nothing to relate to myself as who I am. No clothes, nothing about the past. At that moment, all I had was my clothes and myself. And here I was in a country that’s not even mine where they don’t even speak my language. And I didn’t even have a passport to leave it. So in that moment, I sank deeper into that sense of being no one, no identity, and nothing, being out of place. And that opened up a very soft joy within me. And for the past few, two or three years, maybe I had been in huge joy, huge excitement every day. And there was something opening up for me something deeper, quieter, even more profound. And I told her, I cannot be anything but happy. I just feel so in love. And that wouldn’t be the feeling that you imagine someone can go through when they live such an event. That was what I was living.
That time actually opened up several months of that experience. I stayed in that for more than six months. So much so that I really also lost the desire to speak. And I went into a deeper and deeper silence. And it led me to the next book, and someone invited me to write with them.
So you never know what anything is for. That’s why I’m inviting you to consider here, by choosing to not resist life, and to see how radical acceptance is actually the way to true happiness. A happiness that doesn’t depend on circumstances to be a certain way, but that is within you from being connected to the ground, of being true to who you truly are, to that inner peace that’s always there in the background of any and every experience you can have.
Try it and see what does it change to your life.
I’m sure you will see something very different. And please comment, and tell me about it. Write to me to tell me how it changed your life and I very much look forward to being with you again next week for the next episode of Wake Up, Be Alive. A new possibility to go from despair to unlimited joy.