Creating the Better, Accepting the Real

Acceptance and Resistance, part 1

Acceptance AND resistance? Well, consider the Buddhists. We Buddhists are big on acceptance -- and lately many of us have been orienting toward social engagement and resistance to unjust structures and policies. Consider, for starters, this passage from David Brazier, The New Buddhism:
"Buddhist training has always to be seen in the context of the wider purpose. The Buddha's message has the potential to transform the world. The world today is in the grip of an orgy of greed. The rich become richer and the poor get poorer, and this is not new. The scale of it is new, however....[T]he gap between rich and poor has never been so great in the whole of history. Reforms of international commercial and trading arrangements are having the effect of transforming the whole world into a single market. In this situation, the scope for disparities of wealth have never been remotely so great as they are now, and the process is still accelerating. Buddhism predicts that greed and hate follow one another. The periods of greed are long and the periods of hate are short, sharp and vicious. The current surge of greed contains within it the makings of war. The greater the greed, the more devastating the war to follow. It is ironic that the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the demise of communism has created in the world precisely the conditions ... in which the inherent contradictions of the world greed system would become ever more glaringly apparent. If we do not want the world to be destroyed in a blood-letting orgiastic enough to compensate for the era of greed, then we need another way forward. The Buddhist solution to this is the creation and growth of Sukhavati [the Pure Land] in our midst. To create a country without territory, however, means to create a community of values. To hold a community of values together requires steadfastness on the part of those who participate. The pressure to rejoin the greed system is considerable....As times grow more difficult and dangerous, the need for courage and steadiness become greater. Such times will come. A Buddhist needs to be prepared so that the purpose will not be lost when the going gets tough. The citizens of the Buddhist community of values ... need to be steadfast and that means that our training has to be thorough. The purpose of Buddhist training is not a kind of 'I'm all right and never mind the rest' salvation. The purpose of Buddhist training is to make Sukhavati a reality."

First, let's look at the need for acceptance in our lives -- then we'll look at how resistance fits into that. For Unitarian Universalists, the third principle which we covenant to affirm and promote is:
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
Does that seem a little at odds with itself? If we truly accept one another exactly as we are, then how come we’re also encouraging each other to change and grow? Of course, one might point out that, when it comes to spiritual growth, it’s not about becoming other than what you are. It’s about becoming more and more yourself. Even apart from that, what you are is dynamic – an ongoing process rather than a static thing. Accepting that process isn’t at odds with encouraging that process to continue.

Besides, that’s just how it works. When we feel accepted for who we are, only then can we be encouraged to growth.

Accepting our fellow congregants is a part of the process toward accepting...well, everything. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation or complacency. It means we stop denying reality.

Let me tell you something about Byron Katie. Byron Katie was in personal crisis in 1986. She was suffering from depression and was in a halfway house for women with eating disorders. Suddenly she had an experience of awakening. These things sometimes just come out of nowhere. For her it came as what she called a discovery. She writes:
"I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment."
She has written a book called Loving What Is. She explains,
“I am a lover of what is, not because I'm a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality.”
Her point is that our thoughts are so often judgmental. Our thoughts are all about what’s wrong with reality. This shouldn’t be that way, we think. This should be different; that should be different. Even when we have an approving thought – a thought judging something good – it typically comes bundled with a thought about how there really needs to be more of that something, and it needs to last longer. Even when we like things, our thoughts tend to go to its limitations.

That kind of thought is going to pop up: that is, thoughts that spring from the premise that you are a separated, isolated self filled with interests and desires. Most of our thoughts presuppose that the self is cut off from others and the world except insofar as others and the world function to satisfy or thwart those interests or desires.

We don’t make such thoughts appear. We don’t decide what to think before we think it – we just find those thoughts buzzing about in our heads. There are certain situations where you can make yourself think about a certain topic or problem to solve. You aren’t choosing the specific thoughts themselves; you are only putting yourself in a position to invite a certain subject matter of thought. Large portions of our day, however, we aren’t even intentionally selecting the topic.

Don't Believe What You Think

Things simply arise in our experience, and thoughts arise to meet them. In fact, the thoughts themselves just are one more thing that arises in our experience. Your thoughts are just something that happens to you, like the weather, like finding yourself stuck in traffic, like a telemarketer calling on the phone – or, for that matter, like a friend calling on the phone. Things just happen. Thoughts are one of them. But you don’t have to believe the thought. Don’t believe what you think. As Byron Katie put it:
“Thoughts are like the breeze or the leaves on the trees or the raindrops falling. Raindrops aren’t personal, and neither are thoughts.”
When we believe the thoughts, we are likely to suffer.

Next: Accepting reality is the path to enjoying life.

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This is part 1 of 3 of "Acceptance and Resistance"
See also
Part 2: Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional
Part 3: What Will Save Us

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