May 5, 2012

On Non-Acceptance

In Indian philosophy, there is a well known trick: Neti, Neti (Not this, Not this). Path of exclusion. When you have explained what Spirit is NOT, whatever is left is BOUND to be Spirit; When you have decided what all you DONT want to do on a particular evening- you are left with very clear and fewer options, minimizing scope for confusion and dilly-dallying! So let me discuss what is non-acceptance in general and a specific context. Hopefully, this will lead us to a better understanding of what Acceptance could mean for us.

Plainly put- it is being in conflict with “what is”. It is a -often subconscious- resistance to the the present moment. You want it to be different. You want to be somewhere else- with different people- doing something different. You are convinced that other ways of arranging the present moment would certainly be better- than as it is now. So, when you are in office, you are dreaming of what you will do in the evening. And when you are with friends in the evening, you wish, you were in the office finishing off that important piece of work!

Every moment of life is a constant struggle, a running away - never at peace with the present moment. This leads to “absentee landlord syndrome”. You go through life but are not actually living it. You stammer- but when the therapist asks you to describe your difficulties, you are at a loss. You may have stammered for years but have never stammered consciously and therefore, dont understand as to what happens in those moments. You have never truly accepted your “issue” and therefore you are unable to find a solution for it.

So, where does non-acceptance come from? What does it do to us? To situations? How does it manifest? Let us take a common scenario : I hate going to market. I know it has to be done as a very practical necessity of life. I know that it is even GOOD for me- socially and physically. But...there is a feeling that if I could postpone it, it might just go away and leave me alone. The need for marketing itself might disappear. But why dont I want to do it?

May be, I find it beneath my dignity to haggle with shop-keepers; and haggle you must in this country! May be, marketing involves decision making and in the process you make some “less than good” (may be even “rotten”) decisions, which can be criticized by family members:
Didn't you look at the banana while buying it? Half of the dozen are bad!
Why did you buy milk powder? We already have two unused packs in the cupboard!
What? you paid Rs 120 for that silly salt seller!

In other words, we dont want to make mistakes- or SEEN to be making mistakes. It does not go well with our self-image of an intelligent adult. But I am not aware of these subtle psychological reasons; All I am aware of is- I dont care for marketing. Let it go away from me and leave me alone. If I postpone it, find excuses (today is weekly off – market will be closed!), delay it, do it badly- may be family will stop asking me to go and do marketing. Who knows! At the same time, I feel bad when I am playing all these little “waiting games” unconsciously. So, this kind of resistance does not work in the long run; it leaves no one happy finally.

So there are two forces operating in me: Awareness that something needs to be done and a Resistance to it. This resistance stops me from accepting that something needs to be done and that this something is inherently not difficult or distasteful. Under different circumstances, I could even enjoy and excel at marketing (Suppose I was the “Purchase Officer” for my organization..?).

Now, it is quite possible for me to spend many sullen evenings over the years, exactly in this frame of mind- unhappy, resisting, waiting, postponing, fearful, suspicious. Can such a mind, on its own, do a 180* turn? Unlikely. Why? The principle of entropy says, that things left on their own, simply move from order to disorder. If you stop caring for a building, it changes into a rubble, without any effort on your part. But the obverse does not happen, however much time you give it!

Second reason is: We are deeply identified with our minds. We ARE our minds. So, we are never able to stand apart and see these moods, these negative downward spirals, objectively. Eye sees the world but cant see itself. So these moods may be quite obvious to our family & colleagues - but never to us. It is like a man with a drinking problem: he is never able to see that he has a problem; More the friends and family talk about it, greater is his denial, his resistance.

Remember the child ? Whenever anyone asked- do you stammer?- he worked very hard to hide it and say at least some sentences fluently.. When he was teased, he would be very angry and try harder to fight his stammering? We all know what happens when we try to fight our stammering! This is a downward spiral. More we resist, worse it becomes. And we know NO OTHER way of responding to it. So, in a nutshell, we are STUCK. Yes really stuck – like a coalition government. :-(

This is Non-acceptance and its reason is- lack of consciousness in our day to day life. We have learned to live and respond in a highly absent-minded, mechanical “auto-mode”. If we could see all this, we certainly would try out other options. One way to do this is- getting in touch with others, since it is obvious that, on our own, we will keep on repeating the old patterns of thinking, feeling and reacting. But there is a big obstacle here: Our ego will not let us meet other stammerers:
They are bunch of losers- I am not a loser. What can they teach me? Why should I go and sit in a room full of stammerers?
We will also not approach a therapist. Why? Because in our mind: I dont stammer. Therapist is only for those stammerers. I just hesitate a little bit- that too on just a few words.
I remember sometime back a young man phoned me and said: I want to come over just for one day. Just teach me how to say my name. That is all.

So, it is quite possible for a pws to spend an entire life in denial, running away from this moment as it is and continue to endure “low grade” suffering for a long long time. It reminds me an Urdu couplet: This life neither burns up in a clear flame, nor does it dissipate away in smoke! (or something to that effect..Zindagi jalti hai, na jal ke dhuan hoti hai.. if I remember correctly?)

So, now, do you get some idea about acceptance? Acceptance is accepting this moment as it is – and people in this moment, as they are. No struggle, no resentment, no resistance. This calmness (not sad resignation) becomes the basis for enduring change. Actually change happens on its own. We just allow it to happen rather than struggle against it. Our inner spontaneity and creativity takes over: some one starts to dance, someone sings and some one starts writing prolifically; some one starts a self-help group, someone starts a new enterprise, some turn to other human beings with great interest.. No, life does not become easy, comfortable - but it becomes full of possibilities and joy. Please share your experiences with acceptance.


J P Sunda said...

Very rightly said Sachin sir. For me it was not that I was solving problems with my mental business but was creating more problems. I think I was always looking for complex solutions/understanding hence it was very hard to see that peace was accessible right NOW by just letting the present moment to BE and it was really SIMPLE. Also I act more effectively when I just let the present moment to be as it is; sometimes that includes even allowing the resistance to the present moment.

Rajesh V said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rajesh V said...

Sachin ji you have given very valuable information on "Acceptance" by saying about "Non-Acceptance".
The approach you followed is very good, if we are told what are importance of Acceptance we listen, clap and implement less :)
If we are told what are disadvantages of "Non-Acceptance" concept goes very well :)and we try at least :)
Thanks for good article.
With Regards

Dinesh said...

Sachin sir,
its been a very long time I read such a thought provoking piece of work laid out in such a simple manner..

I lead most part of my life in frustation, sometimes blaming my parents and most of the time blaming GOD.

Finally, I discovered that there was none to blame, not even myself.
This made me appreciate that after-all I had an ABLE-mind and an ABLE-body which made me accomplish my tasks inspite of my so-called limitations (Limitation are created by us, by they way they do not exist by themselves)

Ever since, the change has been slow and gradual and mostly due to wonderful articles that I read like the current one..

Thank you for such a exquisite article.

sachin said...

Dear Dinesh, Rajesh and JP- thanks a lot- for appreciating the effort and getting back..
I too enjoyed writing it!