The wisdom teachings of old invite the practice of acceptance, unconditional acceptance. Two casual words that pack a wallop. They say that without question, without resistance, without reaction, without our interpretation or translation: THIS is how things are. The teachings don't suggest we have to like the present moment's situation. In fact, one might define it as unpleasant or even painful. When we place preference on something that we perceive as counter to our preference, suffering ensues. The suggestion is that the baseline acceptance of how things are is a practice that leads to the end of suffering. Wish we may, wish we might, it is how it is. In and of itself the thing or situation is not bad or good, it's our mind that makes it so. This realization of acceptance is said to open the hearts and minds of those who dedicate themselves to it. An equanimous state of being saturates their very core and they emanate peace, love and light! Sounds good to me! The simplicity of the teaching (accept things as they are) misrepresents the difficulty of its application. To clarify, unconditional acceptance is not synonymous with complacency. It's the clear space of seeing things just as they are that allows for a healthy perspective to make choices… clear choices of distinction without judgment. This is the foundation for informed discernment. This allows us to live and let live, so to speak.
In the spiritual community where I live we have chickens: eleven feathered friends with very low intelligence that provide us sustenance and whose care I have been tasked with. I am the chicken master. (In this Zen Center, everyone is a master.... kitchen master, house master, guest master....!) One evening I had to work and could not put them safely in their coop for protection from the night. Of all the other residents, only two were going to be present at the facility who could help out. One was tasked with that evening's practice, the Mok Tok Master. The other resident, who was also the Head Dharma Teacher (HDT) at the time, was very resistant to anyone altering the schedule or routine of practice for chickens. The reality is that if the chickens are not safely closed into their coop at sundown, the local wildlife (of which there's no shortage) will eat them. Between the two residents, one could hold down the practice requirements and the other could tend to our animals. The resistance of the HDT led to a slight heated discussion with me.
Me: "Beings who rely on our care and feed us are worth a slight disruption in practice one time!"
HDT: "THIS is why there should not be chickens at a Zen Center!"
The ultimate outcome: The HDT remained in her room while the other resident did all tasks, unsupported. My initial reaction was anger and judgment. As if expectations should be higher for the Head Dharma Teacher.
As if we should have expectations for anyone! Everyone on the planet is doing what they do, creating situations which we can unconditionally accept or resist. The former brings freedom the latter brings suffering. I would include leaders and teachers in this fold as well. In light of the recent fall from grace Anusara founder John Friend is experiencing, it brings up for me the notion that teachers should come under higher scrutiny. In spite of being a teacher myself, I ultimately say, "no". Unconditional acceptance has many forms. One can peacefully work for change, one can hold space for things to unfold as they will, one can ask for help, one can also remove themselves from a situation. We all have to make choices. As long as the heart remains open and harshness of judgment is avoided, we can live our life and make informed choices about how to do that, who to do it with, who to support and who to choose to support us. I believe everyone deserves another chance. This is not to say I will be the one to give it to them but another shot is always valid. Times change, people change, and we will all die! What can be that unforgivable? I'll make you a deal. I won't should on you, if you don't should on me. Om on....