NOT BEING ATTACHED TO THE RESULTS
We have already discussed the concept of acceptance. There are only two ways to deal with something: acceptance or resistance. There is no other way. The fundamental wisdom of this fourth principle, not being attached to the results, means realizing you can choose to resist what is, or accept what is. Acceptance is the key to less suffering and a more soul-led life.
Most people have a hard time with this principle. You might think it means not caring about what happens, or that you should never try to change anything. Caring about what happens is important, but accepting what happens is critical if you want to remain free from needless suffering. This means letting go of what has already happened in the past, and accepting what is true in the present moment. It does not mean you can’t do anything to change a situation that is ongoing. For example, if you have a broken foot you have to accept it, not be in resistance to the fact that it is broken. Resistance might manifest as anger, blame, swearing, or being in denial. Acceptance does not mean you say, Oh well, I accept my foot is broken now and there’s nothing I can do. Acceptance means you accept that it is broken and that negative resistant behaviors are counterproductive, but you can focus on the best way to treat the break, so you can heal quickly. (In Key 5, we discussed accepting your weight in this same way.)
Not being attached means accepting the things you cannot change, or that are not worth the energy, money, or effort to change. Nonattachment is learning how to live a life of acceptance, as opposed to resistance.
Accepting the present moment means accepting every thought, sensation, feeling, and perception that comes all of it, even stuff you find unacceptable. We know this is a difficult concept, and not easy to do, but once you get the hang of it, you will be surprised at how much easier it is than suffering with resistance to everything that is already happening anyway. Suffering is often seen as something that just happens to you and you have no control over the coming or going of it in your life. Feeling like a victim, you try to escape or avoid it, but it still seems to find you. You have forgotten your true nature and become a separate self who is at war with the present. Suffering is really a signal. It is your guide telling you to come back to the present, to acceptance, to wholeness. When you stop resisting your experience in the moment, you are able to respond to life as it is now, rather than as you want it to be.
Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, writes, Accept the present moment as if you had chosen it. Again, (because we know from experience how difficult this will seem at first), acceptance does not mean giving up any attempts to change a situation or prevent bad things from happening. It means admitting and accepting the truth of the moment, however much you would like it to be different. See the following example of how one client learned to use this concept.
After months offighting, my girlfriend broke up with me and I was in a lot of pain. At first I started getting angry at her, wanting to battle it out, talk her into staying, even berating her. Then I realized I was attached to having things my way, and to the way we used to be, instead of accepting the obvious: We no longer get along. Yes it was very hard to accept, but it was the truth. Then I remembered something I learned in therapy and I asked, myself, What if I accept this as if I had chosen it? It is such a simple but profound question to ask that allows you to really look at your lessons . I realized that in a way, of course, I had chosen it. All my actions up to that point, all our fighting, all the things I said, all ended up with the break -up. It hit me that I can be in pain over something but accept it, learn my lessons from it and move on.
ACCEPTANCE VS. RESISTANCE
1. List something that you are having a hard time accepting.
2. Write your feelings about why you are resisting rather than accepting what is.
3. How long are you willing to stay in resistance, nonacceptance, or attached to the outcome you desired?
4. What do you think would help you get to acceptance?
(Tip: Read the rest of this Key and then come back to this assignment and see if you can write from a place of not being attached to the results. Include why you decided to let go rather than resist, and how you helped yourself come to and accept this view.)
The principle of nonattachment can be applied to every area of your life. You do what you can to change things that can be changed, but then you let go. This principle is discussed in the Serenity Prayer, used at Alcoholic Anonymous.
LET GO OR BE DRAGGED Personal Reflection: GWEN
One of my favorite sayings is, Let go or be dragged. I have no idea who said it, but I love it so much I have it on a magnet and say it to myself and to others whenever it fits, which is often. Recently I was having a party at my house, and I wanted everything to be ready and perfect before any guests arrived. As the time neared, I realized I forgot about the outside heaters, feeding my animals, cleaning off the patio furniture, and several other things. I could feel myself tense up, my anxiety started soaring, and I started barking at my son, who was helping me. I was running around trying to do everything before anyone showed up. I suddenly realized how crazy I was acting and how horrible I felt. Let go or be dragged popped into my head and immediately stopped my self-inflicted suffering. Who cares if I was lighting the heaters or feeding my animals when people were there? People actually love watching my potbelly pig, Wilma, eat her dinner. There was no reason I had to do everything before guests arrived. I had become attached to that plan and was making myself, and everyone around me, miserable. I had to let go and accept the present situation or be dragged down in discontent and disappointment.
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