Sunday, March 13, 2011

Acceptance Part 2

I feel I must revisit my thoughts about Acceptance, as written about in that post. Mostly I stand by what I said, but I feel I glossed over the most important issue: how can you accept clearly negative things? Didn't really deal with the issue. So I'm going to hash it out here, and see what I can come up with. Your thoughts and ideas, as always, are welcome.

For me, right now the best example is silence. As I wrote in that original post, while reading One Square Inch of Silence a part of me kept feeling annoyed at all the bitching about the noise the author experienced. Like, the Zen side of me saying, hey, the air traffic is part of the landscape you're trying to get a recording of, it's not an intrusion, it just is. The problem is your preconcieved notions of what it should be. But of course, then the environmentalist, asthetic, and Wild Man sides of me come out and I'm right there with him, arguing against human created noise.

So as I sit out on the patio evenings after work, I can accept the endless jet traffic roaring over me; but will I ever really like it, will it ever sound beautiful, and will I ever be able to relax in its context? Perhaps on a deep Zen level, all existence is beautiful... but I kind of doubt this will ever happen.

But now, as I write, an idea occurs to me. I suppose, if I'm really accepting the experience, I also have to accept the thought and feeling within me that the sound is ugly. Acceptance doesn't delete all the old feelings, does it?

So I no longer fight my experience... but the experience is inherently disharmonious. Accepting that the noise is there, but also accepting that I hate it. This must be the motive for action, right? Not asthetics, but this, a more primal urge: the move towards harmony between the inner and outer experience?

Or does this disharmony mean I haven't really accepted the noise? Does working to change a thing equate to non-acceptance of a situation or condition?


  1. "Acceptance" isn't the same as "liking" something.

    I got really pissed when my condo association cut down some big old trees in front of my lanai. I'm still not happy about it but I have come to accept it (and that there may have been a perfectly good reason to do it, though the alternatives weren't explored.)

    In the material world, as long as you care about things, you like things, are attached to things to call them ugly or beautiful, you will always be uneasy. If you look at the "irritations I'm trying to overcome" listed on my Yin blog, you'll see noise and a few other things. The only way to overcome these is through my reaction to them.

    A story: a man was trying to meditate, but couldn't because of the noise. If only the noise would stop, then he could meditate. But the idea of meditation is to be able to go deep inside to not notice or care about the noise. (That may be poorly expressed.) My teacher has apparently done meditation at busy street intersections, though I'm sure he prefers quietude.

    True acceptance is neither loving nor hating the thing. But not fighting the experience is part of getting to that true acceptance.

    However, working to reduce noise pollution (where you can) is not an unworthy effort. In fact, maybe if you learn to "accept" it, the effort will be easier, not fueled by anger or some other negative emotion.

  2. An interesting link for you:

  3. Another link for you:

  4. I have a similar problem with noise where I live, live near a busy road and under a major flight path. I used to live near Lake Michigan, and would regularly hear the sounds of waves breaking along the shore, so I have tried to visualize the traffic noise as being ocean waves. Works a little bit, but not really. So I've just gotten used to it by focusing on whatever pleasant sounds I can hear, like birds singing, or just focusing on other things.

    Either way, if you don't like it there is really nothing you can do about other go somewhere else, and if you can't do that you just make the best it. No sense attempting to resist the irresistible. That I think is a essential lesson in acceptance. If you CAN change it, do so, otherwise you change your response to it; instead of fighting it, accepting it.

    Although I find it much easier to "accept" noise pollution than air pollution. Even if I don't like it, can't change it, or escape it, it still makes me physically sick regardless. Smells I think can be much more powerful than sounds in disturbing ones peace of mind, at least that has been my experience. Harder to accept the putrid lung burning odor of car exhaust and freshly poured asphalt. Yes?

  5. I dunno, my sense of smell... isn't.

    I feel you're right. I'm just saying, if we were all to practice acceptance, there'd still have to be some motive for action, or we'd all just sit around until we starved (accepting our hunger). I'm just trying to understand the ins and outs of this acceptance thing.

    Thanks for the links, baroness.

  6. Acceptance is not exactly the same as apathy, or non-action. If there is something to be done, by all means do it. It all depends on what you intend, what you need, and the circumstances you find yourself in.

    If your hungry, find food. If food is only to be found at the top of a mountain, then you accept the fact that you must climb the mountain to get it. Otherwise if there is no food to be found, than you remain hungry, and you accept that too.

    To accept a state of hunger doesn't imply that you should go hungry when there is food available, but if there is no food available, what is the use striving for something that isn't there?

    I think that to accept something means to not resist the reality of the situation. Doesn't mean doing nothing, unless there is truly nothing to be done.

    Accept what is. Accept what you CANNOT change. Doesn't mean that you should do nothing, if there is something that can be done you do it, otherwise you you accept the situation as it is.

    No sense in fighting an unwinnable war, no sense in resisting the irresistible. Doing so is like trying to swim against the current.

    If you are bothered by the noise, try to find someplace less noisy, or else you accept the noise. You really have no other choice, you can either accept the noise, be bothered by the noise, or go someplace else that is free from the noise.

    And going some place else may mean remaining where you are, but recreating the conditions that you desire within your mind, tuning out the noise, finding peace within. That's probably what the Zen master is doing, who is able to meditate on a busy street. They create their own silence.