Acceptance helps you face Life and cope with it.
Last evening Vaani and I stopped by the roadside to buy fruits from a pavement shop. The lady who owned the shop must have been in her late 40s. She helped us along with the purchase. Next to her cash box was the garlanded picture of a young man, maybe in his early 20s. It appeared to me that the man may well have been the lady’s son, as a red kumkumam mark adorned the picture.
Perhaps sensing my curiosity, the lady remarked: “Ayya, that’s my son. He hanged himself last year in January.”
Vaani was shocked. She asked her: “What happened amma?”
The lady replied, her eyes welling up: “I have no idea. One day he was there. And the next day he was gone. My daughter is married and lives in Pondicherry. She does not bother much about me. This boy was my hope. But he too has deserted me. I live alone, earning a meagre livelihood selling fruits.”
Overhearing the conversation, another customer, who was picking up apples, asked the lady, “How are you coping?”
Her answer to his question surprised me. She was very grounded: “I have just accepted what has happened as my destiny and go on with my Life. I have to carry on living, as long as I am here.”
After the purchase, as we boarded our autorickshaw to head home, I noticed the lady was engaged in a cheerful banter with her neighbor, a vegetable-seller. She looked beaten but there was an air of acceptance and equanimity about her. Her line – “I have just accepted what has happened as my destiny and go on with my Life. I have to carry on living, as long as I am here.” – stayed with me all evening yesterday and I reflected on it this morning.
Interestingly, just the other day, over the Pongal weekend, we met a friend. She is a single parent and heads a large pan-Indian corporation. Her young son had tragically died in a road accident some months ago. We were meeting her for the first time after the incident. I told her that we were sorry to hear of her loss. Her reply was awakening too: “People expect me to look sad and struck by grief. But this is the way I am. I see no point in either hiding my pain or drowning in it. I am just being me – realizing that my son not being around is my new normal. I am acutely aware that my circumstances in Life have changed, but I remain who I was.”
Isn’t it beautiful to be enriched by such sensitive, spiritual perspectives to Life? Both women represent diverse ends of a spectrum. One is a fruit-seller and another is a CEO. Yet, their maturity, their evolution, connects them – and offers us an unputdownable insight into intelligent living.
Whatever be the context or situation we are placed in, the simplest – non-suffering – way to live Life is to accept what is. It is only when we resist what is happening to us that we suffer. I am sure the fruit-seller is enduring a lot of pain – of having lost her only son, of having to eke out a living, of having to live alone. And I am sure the CEO is in the throes of pain too. She may not have material, existential, challenges, but her pain is not small by any measure. Even so, it did not appear to me that either woman was in grief or was moping and mourning or that she was suffering. This is what acceptance of any situation, of your Life for what it is, helps you with. Acceptance of a problem or a situation cannot immediately help you solve it or change it. But acceptance is a great device that helps you face Life, that helps you cope, that leads you to carry on living.
Two practical, spiritually evolved women – one learning: “The key to intelligent living is accepting what is”!
Only when you accept a situation can you go to work on it with clarity and focus.
“How do you learn to accept Life for what it is? Isn’t it very difficult,” asked a young man from the audience the other day, ahead of my Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk at the Madras Literary Society. Interestingly, after hearing my Talk, he didn’t have that question anymore!
It is not just him, a lot of people out there struggle to accept Life for what it is. As I reveal in my Talk, I too have struggled with acceptance. The fundamental reason for resisting Life is that we think we can fight, we can out-think, we can out-smart Life. We think just because we are educated and think logically, rationally, we believe we can solve all the problems we are faced with. But there are some Life situations that are beyond our control. And those cannot be solved no matter how strong our intent may be or how capable we really may be. In such instances, acceptance is the key to avoid suffering and helps immensely with keeping the focus on what needs to get done and in keeping the faith that it will get done.
Consider some instances to understand the value in acceptance. What do you do in Chennai, and most parts of Tamil Nadu and South India, that are struck by drought? The day temperatures are closer to 40 degrees and there’s no respite from the merciless heat – with no signs of rain. Is there any point in fighting Nature? Or take the case of the Malaysian Airlines plane MH 370 – that went missing over 3 years ago. All the world’s forces and resources, technologies and experts, cannot trace the plane. Is there any point in resisting that situation? Is it worth at all to fight it? Or what do you do when you have a rare health condition that no doctor can really put their finger on it? Is there any point in fighting this situation?
So, when a situation is beyond your control, when you know you can’t solve it, the best way to deal with it is to go with the flow. This does not mean inaction or resignation. It means you must accept the situation, you must keep making your efforts to solve it if you believe it can still be resolved, but you must remain non-frustrated if the results don’t add up. So, acceptance is not failure. Acceptance is not defeat. Acceptance is employing common-sense in the wake of an inscrutable Life situation and trusting Life to sort itself out over time. Only acceptance can help you to be non-suffering. And only when you don’t suffer can you get down to working calmly on a situation that requires to be changed.