By David Jones
Is the world making you feel uneasy, scared, angry, or hopeless? May I suggest trying Mindful Acceptance?
Not mere acceptance, of course. Merely accepting the way things are is to admit defeat, throw in the towel, decide that nothing will change, shrug and walk away. Mindful Acceptance is another animal entirely. It’s not the end but the beginning of a process which helps folks see past illusion, expectation and bias to see the world as it really is. It has helped me a lot.
- Look at the world and the suffering going on in it. Pick one issue and begin.
- Look at the issue in simple terms. Even the most complicated issues can be broken down into basic concepts. This group is suffering. That person is suffering. There are a billion other factors, but start off basic.
- Understand why they’re suffering. The moment we start framing matters in terms of blame, judgment, worthiness, fault, or adding any other commentary to it, we need to step back and try again.
- Accept that things really are this way. The moment we start adding conspiracy theories, looking for rationalizations, pretending the issue is really something else, or embracing denial, we need to step back and try again.
- This is probably the most surprising step in this practice: ask yourself “Now, what am I going to do about it?” This takes some work, and we’ll talk more about it in a moment.
If you’re feeling angry, sad, numb, or whatever else, be authentic and feel every bit of it. Don’t pretend feelings don’t matter because they absolutely do. One thing to remember: use those feelings as fuel for your action and not as guidance. Emotions are the gasoline, not the steering wheel.
A few things to be aware of as you step through this process:
Mindful Acceptance frees you from expectations of yourself or others. What or how much they do or don’t do is entirely on them; your only obligation is on what you actually can and will do.
You can’t solve everything so don’t try. Start with what you know you can do on your tiny corner of the issue and proceed from there. You’re not the only person trying to create change.
There will be people who oppose you with contrary effort, ridicule, persecution, and judgment. It will happen. Keep your eye on the prize. Seriously, their judgment of you doesn’t matter at all when you are doing what’s right.
The world will try to distract you, provoke you, trick you into serving the ego and expending all of your mental and emotional fuel in pointless arguments, debates, and many other things. I promise you that you don’t need to jump off the path and engage every barking dog along the way. Engaging them does not help because now it’s not about making things better but only about winning arguments.
Dude, get off Facebook once in a while! I understand FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but saturating one’s mind with all the arguments and proof zinging around out there demanding, “Our side is right! If you’ll just read this meme or news item you’ll finally understand!” will generate impotent anger, and outrage without direction or benefit.
There’s a lot you could do. Will it help? Do it. Will it not help? Don’t bother then.
So now back to #5—figuring out what we can do.
The beginning and ending of the matter is that it’s up to you. Asking the suffering person or group what they need is a perfect place to start, but it may be beyond your circumstances or ability. See if there’s anything a little closer to your resources you could do or give.
Would it be making a donation or contribution, in time, money, materials, or in some other way? Could you volunteer to support folks at a demonstration (whether it’s a protest over racial injustice, a picket line demanding better wages or working conditions, or whatever else you feel a need to help at)? Offer bottled water, medical support if you can, a box lunch, or even just show up with encouragement.
Can you write your congressperson, local politician, or even the nation’s leaders about the issue instead of just your social circle online? Maybe set up an appointment to discuss these concerns in person the way lobbyists do. There is so much we can do.
Here’s the big one: what if all you personally can do—regardless of what anyone else claims—is pray or embrace metta meditation? Do it. People make a big deal about how prayers and meditation aren’t what they need, as if they were a waste of time or (worse) an excuse to pretend you’re helping when in reality you’re doing nothing. That’s not correct.
Of course some folks probably do use prayers, warm wishes, positive energy, or meditation as a way to appear like they care to others. Remember, that’s not your fight. That’s all on them. And honestly it’s going to take more than well-wishing to remedy a suffering world.
But be authentic about it. If a regular offer of prayer or meditation or chanting or whatever else is all you’ve got to offer the cause, then do that. Some may think it doesn’t help, but it certainly isn’t making things worse when so much else is.
We all suffer at some point, we all reach out for help or guidance at points in life. Why not be there to grasp the outstretched hand of those who suffer?
As REM sang about, sometimes everything is wrong, and everybody hurts sometimes
Editor: Dana Gornall
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