Accept What's Happening, Change the World (Really!)

By WITHIN Cofounder Hannah Knapp

Here's an idea to try out: rather than resisting the reality of whatever you're facing, completely accept that it's happening. The energy you gain by dropping your resistance puts you in a much better place to respond to the situation.

I discovered this again over the weekend, on my way home from a day-long meditation retreat at beautiful Green Gulch Farm. After a day of total silence and deep presence, I made my way back towards civilization along Highway 1. It was 4:30 on a Saturday, and within a mile of Green Gulch I came face-to-face with wall-to-wall traffic. Everyone and their mother, it seemed, was driving back from the beach. There's only one road from the coast to the freeway, and we were all on it.

My first thought was, "What a way to emerge from a retreat!" But as that thought crossed my mind, I remembered what had carried me through the day of sitting in silence: completely accepting whatever was happening. Sure, I could put my energy into being frustrated or impatient, or angry with all the other drivers for being where I needed to be, but what would I gain by responding that way? The short-lived solace of seeing myself as the victim of circumstances was hardly worth the amount of energy I'd expend winding myself up.

Instead, I took a breath, and completely accepted that I was stuck in traffic, and it would take me twice as long to get home as it had taken me to drive to Green Gulch that morning. I could feel my muscles relaxing as I gave up resistance to the situation. It suddenly became much easier to engage in conversation with the people in my carpool, redirecting my energy into curiosity about them and our experiences on the retreat. I now had twice as long to talk with them as I had thought. In this simple acceptance of what was, that time became a gift, rather than a burden.

When I sit in meditation, I practice over and over again accepting whatever is happening - in my body, my mind, or my emotions (or all three at once!). I notice what's going on; accept it for what it is; and let go of needing it to change or not change. As much as I appreciate the stability that practice gives me in meditation, I appreciate even more the way it enables me to participate in my life when I'm off the cushion. It frees me to show up fully and engage with whatever is happening.

Whether I'm facing wall-to-wall traffic, the news, or my partner, I start by completely accepting that this is what's happening right now.  Then, I choose how I want to respond. As my resistance dissolves, I discover a wealth of energy I didn't realize I have, and pour it into the response I've chosen to make. Showing up completely for the situation is the first step in taking action to change it.