Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Accept Everything

If I had a New Year’s resolution, it would be this, acceptance.

I would wager that 99% of the suffering people experience is because of one thing. Not accepting what is. I know mine is.

Not accepting the person in front of you. Wanting them to act a certain way. Be a certain way. Talk a certain way.

Not accepting the situation in front you. Wanting traffic to be a certain way. Wanting the yoga class to be a certain way. Wanting the world to be a certain way.

Not accepting your self. Wanting your body to look a certain way. Wanting your practice to be a certain way.

Think about it. Think about the problems you are having. Be truthful. Is it because you want things to be something other then what they are?

There is a fear that comes with acceptance. The fear is that people will feel that we are okay with their behaviors. The fear is that our life will remain the same. Stuck in suffering. The idea is that people who accept are also inactive. They are doormats.

I know what you are thinking. You are not going to accept bad things. Right? Well you should. Let me explain.

To put out a fire, a fireman must first accept that there is a fire.  They don’t put it out by wishing it was something else, by hoping the fire acts differently, by ignoring it, by writing a blog post about it or by posting a picture of it on FaceBook and talking about how bad the fire is for what it is doing. They accept the fire and then they act to put it out.

Acceptance is the most effective way to change the world. It is action based on the present moment. It is action based on what is in front of us.

I am an introverted extrovert. I was not born that way. I wager it happened because of painful human interactions. I totally remember being an extrovert during my formative years. Introversion was my way of running from acceptance.  If I cannot change someone to be what I want them to be, I will just tap out. Done. However, I want to try acceptance.  I want to see if meeting someone where they are and striving to understand their view point can open doors to new understanding.

The Yoga Sutras tell us to be happy for the happy. If someone is happy with their life choices, even if they are different from yours, even if they are not what you would have done, even if they are not what you would have liked for them to do, can you be happy for them?

This is very hard. I recently had a family situation where members of my family felt I should be unhappy about something going on in another family members life. They kept asking me over and over and over, “aren’t you upset?” I answered, “I was but what can I do? Being upset will not change anything. I just have to accept it.” They would agree and then the next phone call would be the same question, “why aren’t you upset right now?”

The feeling of being okay was inside of me. I fought it for awhile because, well, I shouldn’t be okay, right? That is what society says. This is not cool. It is not acceptable. However, acceptance was inside of me and I wish I would have let go and followed the feeling sooner. I was not able to really be there for my family member as much as I could have been. Acceptance allows us to really be present. Lack of acceptance kept me in my feelings. I was not present.

The Yoga Sutras also says we should have compassion for the unhappy. If someone’s choices or the state of the world makes you feel unhappy, can you have compassion for yourself? I struggled with having compassion for myself. I was not supposed to be feeling this way. What was wrong with me? No compassion whatsoever because I was not totally accepting the situation. Not really. I told myself I was. But there was a part of me that had not moved on. There was apart of me holding on to what should have been.  This part blocked grace.

I want to accept even when the world thinks I shouldn’t. I want to be present for every moment. I no longer want to stick my head in the sand and run. I want to face all the feelings I encounter with compassion and love. Through this practice, I will be emotionally free.  Everyone around me will be emotionally free. They can feel what they feel without my judgement or disdain. We can communicate freely because I will not listen with the idea of changing them but of pure communication. I will have compassion for myself. I will listen to myself with the attitude of pure communication and allow myself to be free. Who is up for trying this? Let me know in the comments below.







Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@shannasmallyoga.com.