The guy in front of me is driving 20 miles per hour on a 40 mile per hour road. His behavior is totally unacceptable! I have a choice to make.
I can sigh in exasperation. I can bang my hands on the steering wheel and curse. Lots of expletives! I can flash my high beams. I can lay on my horn. Honk! Honk! Hoooonnnnkk! (That would also frustrate everyone else that might be in the car with me.)
Or I can accept the fact that he is driving 20 mph. I can accept the fact that I am, indeed, behind him. I can accept the fact that I cannot, in fact, drive through him. I can accept the fact that I am not, in any way, in control of his behavior, although it may seem unacceptable to me. I can choose to accept the entire situation.
It’s not really the situation that annoys me, it’s my resistance to the situation. I don’t want this situation to exist. I don’t want this guy driving in front of me anymore. I want to be in front of him. I want wide open road. (In New Jersey? Huh!) My own resistance is my own aggravation. In almost every situation that is tense or irritating or bothersome or worrisome, there is some sort of resistance at work. And we make our own resistance.
On Saturday I went on a retreat. The day was completely silent except for instructions at the beginning and a dharma talk at the end. I sat still and silent for 45 minutes at a time. And even just sitting there, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, still, I met (made) resistance.
At the first seating my monkey mind kept telling me I couldn’t sit that long. You’ll never do it. You’ll fidget. You’ll scratch that itch. You’ll yawn. You’ll open your eyes and look for a clock. Halfway through the monkey started asking questions. Why are you doing this? What is the point? And then he answered. This is nonsense. This is self-absorbed-new-age-nonsense. You’re being ridiculous.
But I made it through the first sitting and gladly stood when the bell rang for walking meditation. The monkey walked with me. Ridiculous. It’s like the Ministry of Silly Walks In here. Look at these people. I can’t believe you signed us up for this crap.
Some time during the second sitting though, the monkey realized he had no choice but to accept what I was doing. He got quiet. He got still. And the rest of the day was peaceful, in my head. So peaceful.
During the dharma talk the teacher told us a story about some zen guy who was always smiling. He was happy all the time. And someone asked him ‘Why are you always so happy? What’s your secret?’ And he answered ‘I accept.’
To accept means simply, to receive. We receive everything that comes at us, everything that is put before us, everything that arises. We receive it, and we then we accept it.
That doesn’t necessarily mean we approve of it. It doesn’t mean we agree with it. It doesn’t even mean we will allow it to continue. It just means that we accept it, we have received it, and we don’t deny it. We won’t resist it. We will accept it.
And then we have a choice. We choose how we will react to it. Receive. Accept. Move on from there. Mindfully and purposefully. (At the speed that traffic will allow.)