By Mary Boutieller
Observe the lens through which you view the world, and consider making room for others’ points of view.
Last month, I wrote about tolerance (or the lack thereof) and how it was affecting my life, making me feel quite curmudgeonly. Since that time, I have become more aware of my immediate reaction to things versus my more thoughtful response. As I question the validity of those reactions, I’m finding that I am able to relax a bit more and let things be —slowly but surely a work in progress!
Tolerance and acceptance seem to be two peas in the proverbial pod—different, yet somehow linked. Psychologist Nathaniel Branden said, “The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” First I have to become aware of my behavior; I have to actually notice it! How many of our behaviors are so ingrained or habitual that we don’t even realize we are doing them? Once aware, however, I then get to choose what to do about them.
What’s interesting to me is that we don’t know what we don’t know. Recently I attended a panel discussion on “Black Suffragists in America.” Wow, talk about not knowing what I didn’t know! Three brilliant women on stage, shining the light of knowledge for all of us to see. It was both inspiring and humbling.
What we don’t see, what we don’t feel, what we don’t know, create an ignorance of understanding. How many times in our lives has a loved one told us that we hurt their feelings when we were totally unaware? And with that information, how many of us defended ourselves instead of inquiring within or asking more questions? Is the information true? Can we see how our behavior might have been interpreted? Is there something we could have done differently?
Yet, often, fear stops us from such inquiry. If I look too closely, I might realize that I was wrong, that I might need to apologize, that my communication was misunderstood. Maybe, instead of acknowledging the role I have played, I go into protect mode or righteous mode. We’ve all heard the saying, “Would you rather be right or be kind?” Of course I’d much rather be kind, but sometimes I just want to be right. I want to dig in my heels and ignore what may be true. And sometimes I just don’t want to be wrong…because “wrong” is not “perfect”…and perfect is what I always thought I needed to be before I knew better.
The truth is that during the course of our lives, we bring all kinds of lovely and not so lovely baggage with us. Battle scars, familial history, trauma. One of the women who spoke during the Black Suffragists event talked about her family’s history and stories of her childhood being like suits of armor—histories that many of us could not imagine— those of slavery, discrimination and segregation. Those suits of armor that we all carry can strengthen our resolve to reach out and find understanding, or they can close off our hearts so that we don’t experience any more trauma. The problem with closing off our hearts to pain is that we also close them off to love and joy and hopefulness.
I think it starts with awareness and acceptance. When we become aware of the patterns and habits we have armored on that sever our ties to others and ourselves, we are given the opportunity to choose another way. We know that these traits are malleable, just waiting to be kneaded with our own sweet hands. Be willing to stand strong in your truth, as you currently know it, and also be willing to listen for other truths. Observe the lens through which you view the world, and consider making room for others’ points of view.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you meet it with the best you have to give.” It seems that this is the only real thing we can ask of ourselves. To love and accept ourselves; to love and accept others; and to meet whatever comes with the best we have to give. Acceptance is not resignation; it is simply a stepping off point to something more.
I will leave you with this lovely quote by Eckhart Tolle: “Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness.”
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.