Accaptance by Eckhardt Tolle
In his book, A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle introduces us to three concepts for every situation in life. They are Acceptance, Enjoyment and Enthusiasm. I’m going to talk about the first stage, Acceptance, and my experiences with it.
Firstly, what does acceptance mean? When the situation is “good” acceptance is easy. But what about when it isn’t? Eckhart Tolle explains that it isn’t a passive state, of just letting life happen to you. Instead it is a very active, yet peaceful state. Acceptance can also be described as non-resistance and surrender. To fully accept something, you have to be in the present. You have to acknowledge that this is what is, you don’t immediately try to change it by reacting, becoming defensive, getting angry or upset. To surrender doesn’t mean to give in. There is a phrase, “It is what it is”. That phrase is pure acceptance. In this moment, this is happening. There is no judgement, you don’t ask “Why is this happening to me?” or think “I don’t deserve this,” or “This is wrong, it shouldn’t be happening.” You just accept that right now, in this moment it is happening. Because everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t know what that reason is yet. The Universe is compassionate, it teaches us and gives us only as much as we are ready to handle.
That was something I sure didn’t believe before coming to the ranch. But it’s a concept I’ve learned to be true. The most recent example I have of that is a story about a bell and a horse called Apache. Ben and I set out on a day ride with our guests. Ten minutes in, I realized Apache was still wearing his bell, we always take them off when we’re riding. I asked Ben to take it off but he said it was OK with the bell on and we kept riding.
Two hours later after our lunch break, Apache, grazing loose with the other horses decided he didn’t want to be caught. After we tried to catch him on foot and on horse, he started to run and then we knew we needed to get serious. While Ben rode with the guests back to camp, I gave chase and tried to catch Apache. I was riding Tatla who had been slow and stubborn all the trip so far. But I know that Tatla has a deeper connection to her rider and the needs of the Universe than can be explained on a five sensory level. Tatla has an instinct that tells her when things are serious, when she’s needed. Now she was fast, trotting and galloping after Apache. He made the first right turn towards camp but at the second he kept going straight, back to the ranch. Several times I lost sight of him in the trees, but always knew where he was because of the bell. That was the reason we’d left it on him. When he passed that second turn, he was heading back to the ranch. I knew he would keep running along the trail and Tatla and I would never catch him. Our only hope was that the gate was closed. If someone had come through and left it open, Apache would run all the way back to the ranch. Tatla didn’t need to run all the way back to the ranch, I didn’t have time for that. The gate seemed impossibly far away.
The Universe gave us all we were ready for and the gate was closed. I jumped off Tatla and grabbed Apache’s rope. As soon as I caught him and got back on Tatla he followed like a lamb, knowing he was caught. Tatla, knowing the serious stuff was over couldn’t be persuaded to trot to camp. The Universe had given us as much as we were ready for and we learned our lesson. The next day at lunch we staked Apache.
When an emergency situation such as Apache running away comes up, there is only acceptance and total presence in the moment. I could only think about what was happening right in front of me. If I couldn’t keep Tatla close enough to Apache, he might have freaked out because he was alone and got hurt. If I’d hesitated in my decision to give chase, we might have been packing our gear back to the ranch on a riding saddle with one of us walking our horse. When you’re in nature, it is black and white. Nature makes no judgement, it doesn’t criticize you on your mistakes or congratulate you on your successes, that is up to you. And you have to deal with the consequences of your actions. It only gives you a situation and you have to choose to respond instead of getting caught in reacting.
In nature, acceptance of the moment is mandatory. But when the situation isn’t life or death, you have more time to think. And often, over-thinking is the antithesis of acceptance. Your emotions of happy, angry or confused start working. You mind starts racing with thoughts about all that could go wrong. Your conscience gets in the way, you feel guilty about letting others down, you think “This is wrong” and put up barriers to acceptance.
So how do we bridge that gap between mandatory acceptance in nature and avoiding the trap of over-thinking away from life and death situations? One place we can start is with our horses. Take Tatla, she knew when she needed to go fast and she did, she didn’t think “I’ve just eaten and I don’t really feel like running now”, she just got on with it. When our horses are carrying us through the mountains, they don’t think about how far it is to camp or how long they’ve already been walking. They think only about the current step. One foot at a time they get to camp. When it is time to rest, they stop and take that time. And when break time is over, on they go.
Once you’ve accepted the situation, you can then determine if you need to act consciously to change it or if you can continue as you are. Once you’ve removed all judgement from a situation and accepted that it is you might find that it’s not actually a bad situation. As Shakespeare said, “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” You might not enjoy the task, but it is necessary and doesn’t cause anyone harm. Then you can apply a line from a Guns N Roses song, “When you got a job to do, you gotta do it well.”
This is where we can apply the concept of contribution. The situation you are faced with might be unpleasant, boring, challenging or seemingly unimportant. Maybe you even have thoughts of superiority and think the task is below you. But when you apply the concept of contribution, you know this is part of the bigger picture. A compassionate Universe ensures that in the long run, the tables are balanced. Everyone will contribute and will receive the benefits.
But what if it is a genuinely intolerable situation? What if you or someone else is being or might be hurt? What if allowing events to continue as they are will create negative consequences? This is when you can respond to change the situation. Because you have already accepted it, you aren’t caught up in judgement or other negative thoughts. You are accepting one step further. You’ve accepted what is. Now you are accepting what you need to do to make the situation right. From this point of response instead of reaction, you are much more likely to create positive change and positive consequences instead of trying to force change from fear, anger or denial of what is.