Find ways to accept the unacceptable

At times we accept what is a profound pointer, a suggestion, easily verbalized but yet difficult to apply in one's life. Let us be honest: Severe pain, constant debilitating symptoms or a death in the family is difficult to accept.

One can keep repeating affirmations that you accept whatever is happening in your life. But this is what I call a surface acceptance by our minds. Thinking or verbalizing these positive affirmations does not get at true acceptance.

A fundamental acceptance of these appearing unacceptable conditions requires us to be in conscious awareness. Of course, the question is how does one become conscious?

Someone once said, “An example is worth 10,000 words.”

One of the guiding lights in my life was the Alabama philosopher/sage Bill Samuel, who wrote about visiting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for 10 days. As he sat with the yogi for these 10 days, not one word was uttered; there was only silence.

He concluded that it was this silence or stillness that was his teacher. Conscious presence was the profound example without any need to speak or write about it.

We all have had experiences where we were struggling mightily with what appeared to be unacceptable, gut-wrenching travails.

Are you ready for the simple solution? It is to become very still or silent and become very attentive in a gentle watchfulness. Yes, your mind will keep chattering about how bad or unacceptable these conditions are that you are experiencing. Stay in the stillness and allow these thoughts without any attempt to deny them. When you catch yourself thinking, there will be a brief gap or pause of stillness.

As Eckhart Tolle says in his book "Stillness Speaks," “In each human being, there is a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It is the very essence of who you are. We may call it presence, awareness, the unconditioned mind. In the ancient teachings, it is the Christ within or your Buddha nature.”

Again, it is simple but as Eckhart says, “ If you can witness your own mental-emotional patterns (unacceptable conditions — my parenthesis) as they happen, then that dimension is already emerging in you as the awareness in which thoughts and emotions happen — the timeless inner space in which the content of your life unfolds.”

The learning to accept the unacceptable can be done by making a habit of being in the silence or stillness several time each day. No need to make this a struggle or striving process. Just become very attentive with focused watchfulness like a cat watching a bird or mouse hole.

As you catch yourself thinking about these appearing negative experiences; you will find yourself in a brief gap or pause where there is no thinking. As you practice this catching your thinking, these gaps of stillness or silence will lengthen. As the Buddha said, “No thinking, no self, no suffering.”

My wife and I have had six years of a host of very chaotic, gut-wrenching family experiences that ended up in a court battle and our losing thousands of dollars. We used affirmations, counseling, and pleaded with the family member to be reasonable.

In short, I was not able to accept these tragic unacceptable experiences. One morning’s peaceful, quiet stroll in the park was transformative. I found myself in an indescribable stillness where I felt a connectedness or oneness, and a beauty in every frosted leaf and each blade of grass. From this day forward, when I would begin to think about these negative experiences, I would turn to this silence or stillness and there were no longer as many or as intensely angry or agonizing mental analyses.

Am I always successful in getting beyond these recurring negative thoughts? No, but I have discovered that these thoughts are less intense and disappear more quickly as they are enveloped in this soothing stillness or silence.

— Jim Hawes, a retired Medford school teacher, has published "Ageless Child," Balboa Press, available through or Barnes and Nobles, and is working on a new book, "Ageless Living."


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