Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Practice of Acceptance


All was going just fine yesterday morning - just as I had planned it. As usual, we began our day walking our dogs, blue skies, perfect temperatures, when suddenly our one big dog decided to go after another little dog along the trail. Suffice it to say that this didn't go well. As he lurched out at the tiny pooch I was pulled down and I hit the ground hard - so hard, in fact that I broke my right arm. In that one unexpected and unanticipated instance everything changed. It was off to the Emergency room, lots of pain, and now learning how to write this post with one hand.

I've been spending lots of time thinking about living with the frustration and the pain of a broken arm. For one thing it is teaching me to be grateful for all the stuff I take for granted in my life - it's amazing how much a "right-handed" person uses his right arm in the course of ordinary, everyday living.

The other thing I have been learning is a lesson in empathy. So many people struggle through life with so many disabilities, most far greater than a broken arm.  I have a new awareness of their plight and a greater sense of solidarity with them.

But I think that the most important lesson taught to me by what happened yesterday morning is a lesson in accepting what is. I think about the famous Serenity Prayer so often associated with various "12-Step" programs:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Yesterday as I sat in an Emergency Room I wanted things to be different -all my plans had been shattered; there is a bunch of stuff I will need to cancel over the next few weeks,  eating a meal  is complicated, taking a shower is a major task. Who knew that a broken arm could be so painful? But no matter how much I would like to wish it all away, it is what it is.  My right arm- the arm I depend upon for my ordinary living is out of commission; and for the next few weeks, I just need to live with this realty, to find serenity in accepting the things that I cannot change.

In his teaching about learning to live in the "moment" on the spiritual path, Eckhart Tolle makes this seemingly paradoxical observation:

Whatever you fight, you strengthen,
and what you resist, persists.

I find great wisdom in this. How foolish to resist life as it comes to you. 

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