Habit of Happiness 5 – Acceptance

From our e-book “Filling our Life with Celebration”


It’s the holiday season again and Tim will be going on a holiday for the whole of next week. He has been excited about this the whole week and it is now Friday. His excitement is at its peak. His work went on smoothly and he managed to clear all the tasks that he set out to do.

Tim enjoyed his holiday but it passed too quickly. He has to get back to work tomorrow and he is dreads it. He is overwhelmed by the thought of the work that has piled up and is waiting for him at his office. The thought caused him to start complaining to himself about all the various problems at work; some of which may just be a fiction of his own imagination.

Like Tim, we want the good things in life but refuse to accept the bad things. We welcome the pre-holiday excitement but refuse to accept the post-holiday blues. Both must come together and to want one, we must accept the other. This is how our world of duality works.  An economic boom will be followed by a recession. Expensive jewelries will bring us pride when we wear them but they will also bring us the fear of being robbed.

Accepting this law of duality removes the unnecessary mental suffering of complaining to ourselves when the good times pass and the bad times come. Taking the holiday example, Tim can tell himself that he has enjoyed the pre-holiday excitement and now he shall accept the post-holiday blues. With this acceptance, there is a feeling of letting go. He has learnt to appreciate that it is his work that created the pre-holiday excitement at the first place.

Acceptance and courage comes together. We cannot have one without the other. Only with acceptance do we have the courage to meet our negative thoughts and emotions head on. Whenever faced with negative thoughts and emotions, many of us tend to look for activities to distract ourselves. One may turn towards intoxicants and get temporary relief only to have the negative thoughts and emotions come back stronger the next day due to one’s weakened physical state.

My own experience has taught me that it is better to face the negative thoughts and emotions whenever they arise. We should set aside time to be alone and just experience and ‘feel’ the negative emotions and work out the negative thoughts. By doing this, we withdraw our energy from these negative thoughts and emotions and enable us to conquer them.

The habit of acceptance also removes the problem of unmet expectations that often hurt the relationship between parent and child. I will illustrate this with a story. A mother duck was happily observing her ducklings playing in a pond. She felt so proud of their ability to swim so fast and with agility.

Then, on the other side of the pond, a puppy caught her attention. The puppy was chasing a butterfly and was running all over the place. The mother duck was impressed. She turned her attention to her ducklings again but this time, her pride was gone. She started to see her ducklings’ inability to run fast and this filled her with disappointed. She started to nag her ducklings about learning to run faster but her ducklings could never meet her expectations and this makes them feel inadequate.

Many of us are unable to accept our children’s weaknesses. We tend to set unnecessary expectations and when we focus on these unmet expectations, we are unable to see their strengths. It is better to accept them as they are and allow them to flourish on their own. Eventually, their natural talent will shine through.

When I was young, I had a friend that did not perform well academically and he received hell from his parents for many years. When he graduated from high school, he had an interest in fashion and decided to pursue a degree in fashion designing. Fortunately, he had the courage to tell his parents this. They tried to talk him out of the idea but he was adamant. It was either fashion design or he would not study. His parents gave in and now he is a successful fashion designer and businessman. Had his parents accepted his ‘perceived’ weakness when he was young, they would have save many years of heartaches and arguments.

When we accept the weaknesses of others, we will also learn to accept our weaknesses. The management gurus today talk about zero-error tolerance. Not a single mistake is acceptable. A mistake shows that one does not take pride in one’s job. These management
gurus probably have never looked into the mirror. Unfortunately, this conditioning has become so entrenched in our society that we do not accept our own imperfections and do not allow ourselves to make mistakes.

We need to accept that we make mistakes. We are not perfect. Only then, can we learn to laugh at ourselves. When we do not accept our imperfections, we will spend unnecessary mental energy trying to defend ourselves and assign blame to others. This is counter-productive and will only give the impression that we are irresponsible. When we accept that we can make mistake and allow ourselves to make mistakes, we can then focus our thoughts on learning from the mistake and improving on the current processes.

Imagine if everyone was perfect with no weaknesses; then everyone would be ‘normal’ or equal. The world would be rather boring. Everyone has his strengths and weaknesses. When we accept our weaknesses, we withdraw our attention and energy from them and
redirect them to our strengths. We begin to think of ways to leverage on our strengths to bring more happiness into our life. It is better to focus on what we have than what we lack.

The law of duality applies to the choices we make in our lives. A high-flying corporate executive may earn a lot of money and travel the world but by choosing that sort of life, he has sacrificed the time for himself and his family. It is not that he has made the wrong choice. Perhaps he needs to work out some past karmic desires and experience this kind of life to see if it really brings him the kind of happiness he expects. Mahavatar Babaji conjured up a huge palace bedecked with jewels when he first initiated Lahiri Mahasaya into Kriya Yoga. The Master explained to Lahiri that he did this because Lahiri had some past karmic desires connected with beautiful palaces and he is helping him to release that karmic desire.

Acceptance means that everything is as it should be. Many of us complain about the state of the world and feel inadequate because we are not able to change the world. The world is in its current state because humanity has something to learn from it. The law of duality means that everything bad has a good side to it; for instance, we do not like traffic jams but we fail to see that traffic jams are a result of prosperity and development of the country. When we let go of trying to change the world and accept the world as it is, we begin to see the beauty that exist in the world today.

Most of us cannot accept suffering. When something negative happens, we ask God, “why me”? My experience has showed me that the fastest path to self-realisation is through a combination of suffering and meditation on oneself. This way, we can truly experience the teachings of the masters. When Yogananda, the author of ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’, met another Yogi during a Kumbha Mehla celebration, he listened intently to what the other master had to say and then asked if he is speaking from knowledge gained through reading of scriptures or through his own experience. Clearly, to Yogananda, a person who can speak about spiritual truths from his own experience is the mark of a true master.

I know a lady who lost her husband and only child to an accident. She grieved for a while but did not allow herself to become a victim of circumstances. Later, she managed to use her suffering to evolve spiritually. She developed her own form of Karma Yoga by baking cakes and pies, and donating the profits to an orphanage. There was a lot of love in her and she channeled the love to the children in the orphanage. Her suffering changed her into a being of light.

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