Cat From The Mat

Should-ing All Over Myself

  |akˈseptəns| noun

1 the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered 

2 recognition or belief in an idea, opinion, or explanation as valid or correct

3 approval or favorable regard, or willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation

The term Acceptance implies a YES to what is.  It’s easy to accept the things, people, and situations that we like and want.  We must also accept that which is unpalatable, unforeseen, and at times unbearable. This is perhaps why we might feel as if we are submitting ourselves to a NO, when having to accept.  So, how do we unpack this full spectrum process of affirmation and gain wisdom from it all?  

Acceptance can be seen as either an active or a passive endeavor.  Inaction is an action.  Both are choices.  In the past, I have viewed acceptance as a kind of resignation, as if I'm giving in.   "It shouldn't be this way" has often been muttered from my lips.  This approach reflects disappointment that my expectations are not being fulfilled.  And if I assume that this pattern will continue to extend into the future, then why would I acquiesce to such a letdown?  Could this unacceptable situation be an opportunity for growth disguised as a loss?

I am now viewing acceptance as a presence to the state of what is.  It involves being actively receptive, without the typical critique that I normally apply.  We are all raised in a world of ethical judgment, with good versus bad, right and wrong, and "should/shouldn't" thinking.  "Shoulds" are based on assumptions, and I am constantly should-ing all over myself.  It is as natural and as unconscious as breathing.   It sets up unspoken expectations about how things ought to be, with no room for them to be another way.  Navigating outside of this binary of "should/shouldn't" takes constant practice and has helped broaden my narrow slice of thought.  As simple as it is to shift one’s perspective, it is a hard task to tackle. 

I am continuing to hone my conflict resolution skills with NVC (Non-Violent Communication) training.  I am learning to relate in a new language called EMPATHY.  Empathy is not sympathy, nor is it the act of fixing, analyzing, comparing, defending, discounting, educating, or even giving advice.   Empathy is about understanding another person’s experience, outside the realm of judgment.  As a yoga teacher who is used to giving, I find it easier to offer empathy to others than to myself.  But in order to hold an empty presence in which to be empathetic, I must put my oxygen mask on first, before helping others.  The practice of self-empathy is like a self-cleaning oven.  I find it difficult to apply, not unlike trying to give myself a haircut.

The learning curve is steep when consciously communicating in a new way.  My deeply engrained "shoulds" are vocal, and they are not going away.  I can give them less volume and/or listen more.  My "shoulds" are actually quite helpful, if I am able to hear the golden message embedded within my thoughts.  Rather than negating my judgments, I am learning to excavate valuable information from what each "should" is sharing with me and often shouting.  A declaration that "I should be better at this" can be highly motivating, when striving to strengthen my empathy muscles.  This is the mental and emotional asana practice, with all relationships as my yoga mat.

The mantra of NVC is simply "everything we do, we do to meet a need."  Emotions become the loud sign posts of met or unmet needs.  When we can identify the need tied to an emotion, there is a relationship.  Strategies (to get needs met) can conflict, while our universal needs do not.  If the connection between feelings and needs is severed, then confusion can arise.  By recognizing each other on a needs basis, we become more relatable as humans.  Yoga is often defined as skill in action.  It's a practice of curiosity, self-inquiry, and awareness, in connecting our inner and outer worlds.  But we must first start at home, comfortable in our own skin.  It's an inside job.  Once we have more compassion for our shoulding-selves, we can begin to understand from a spacious seat of empathy.

It's harvest season…a time to reap the need found in every "should/shouldn't" thought, in any criticism, in all conflict.  What if you could translate all of your "negative judgments" into nourishing food for thought?  Take your deep, dark, unvisited places out to lunch and ask them to tell you more.  This can yield potent information.  You might start to hear the yes inside every no.  You might even find your inner narrative so entertaining, that you no longer wish to pay for cable TV.  If acceptance means being amused by my self-imposed limits while living beyond the outskirts of Shouldville, then I can make room for continuous expansion, writing my script as I go.  It's helpful to remind myself that I am doing the best that I can. That I can accept!

Happy Harvesting,



Cat From The Mat

November 2014