The practice of acceptance and how it may bring effortless ease and comfort into your life.
In this article, we’ll explore the law of impermanence and how it relates to the practice of acceptance. More specifically, how acceptance in the changing flow of the universe will result in sustained levels of inner peace. This teaching is inspired by the work of Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now.
Coming from the teachings of the Buddha, the law of impermanence states everything in nature is subject to change. In other words, the nature of things and situations are not sustainable or consistent because every condition in one’s life is at the mercy of change.
With this in mind, if one reflects this truth into their life, it may explain why one’s emotions are always ebbing and flowing. One may ask, “why can’t I feel this good all the time?” Or “why can’t I withstand a constant state of enjoyment daily?” If the mind is relying on circumstances for its happiness, then its happiness will be dependent on the situation being present. Therefore, one can’t expect their state of well-being to be consistent because once the forms that the mind has identified with for happiness disappear, their contentment will follow.
According to this principle, if you’re relying on conditions outside of you for pleasure and happiness, if those were to be removed, so would your joy. Once again, this means you’ll ride the waves of emotion and be at the will (praying) for those external factors to be there in your life. When those circumstances change, because they’re reliant to, so will your state of happiness because you’ve identified your well-being with them. Thus in terms of one’s emotional sustainability, it will always be inconsistent. Common examples of things people rely on for happiness include possessions, weather, physical appearance, relationship, social role, place, etc.
Under the law of impermanence, the same condition which made you happy then makes you unhappy. Or a condition disappears, so its absence makes you unhappy. As Eckhart Tolle says, “when a condition or situation that the mind has attached itself to and identified with changes or disappears, the mind cannot accept it. It will cling to the disappearing condition and resist change. It is almost as if a limb were being torn off your body.”
How does the practice of acceptance get around this dilemma? While happiness and unhappiness may be perceived as positive or negative, inner peace does not. Inner peace is reliant on nothing outside of itself for joy and tranquility.
In Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book, Introduction to Buddhism, he explains how the Buddha taught that all our problems stem from confused and negative states of mind. Our happiness and good fortune arise from peaceful and positive states of mind. He taught methods for gradually overcoming our negative minds such as anger, jealousy, and ignorance, and developing our positive minds such as love, compassion, and wisdom. Through this, we’ll come to experience lasting peace and happiness.
A method to attain lasting or inner peace is through the practice of acceptance. In acceptance, every situation is neither good nor bad because they are as they are. Seen from a higher perspective, conditions are then always positive because even the negative ones will serve a purpose. Whenever something negative occurs in your life, if you accept it, one can then turn it into something valuable such as a lesson. For instance failure, loss, illness, can serve as our greatest teacher for enlightenment. Tolle states if you get sick, lose a relationship, or get into an accident, “it can show you what is real or unreal in your life, what ultimately matters and what doesn’t.”
This doesn’t entail that everything will be happy because if someone close to you were to die, it would naturally make you sad and downhearted that you may not see them again. Yet in acceptance of that what is, you may find inner peace in cherishing what you learned from them and be able to surrender more gracefully to the reality of death; a law of nature we’re all at the mercy of.
This isn’t implying one can’t pursue happiness or pleasure, but don’t seek something through them that they cannot give-an identity. Identifying with pleasure and happiness as your state of being is a road of suffering and frustration in the eyes of the Buddha. Another way of putting it is going with the flow of what is allows no resistance or stagnation in life.
Accepting the impermanence of all things brings a sense of peace, ease, and grace to life because when good or bad comes into your life, you’ll be able to surrender to the change. You’ll take what the moment is presenting with no resistance. Instead of swimming against the tide, you’ll ride it effortlessly into shore.