Total Acceptance is such a powerful practice that its regular utilization in everyday life can profoundly and irreversibly transform our individual reality.
What is Total Acceptance? (I’m writing these words in capital letters to point to the specific meaning of this term.) It’s a state of the complete openness to any experience. It means to fully embrace all arising impressions, without a slightest inner resistance. Here, the word “Total” is maybe even redundant, but I have added it just to emphasize the absence of any resistance.
We can say that Total Acceptance is Pure Awareness and, at the same time, the state of Not-Knowing, which signifies an absolute openness to the Unknown. It is a temporary absence of mind and its habitual thoughts. In other words, it is the state of Presence.
However, Total Acceptance is not a dry, cold indifference. Somehow, it’s filled with deep love, as it requires not only the stillness of the mind but also the openness of the Heart.
Here is an excellent quote from A Practical Guide to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Steven C. Hayes and Kirk D. Strosahl: “Acceptance should not be confused with tolerance or resignation, both of which are passive and fatalistic. Acceptance involves taking a stance of non-judgmental awareness and actively embracing the experience of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations as they occur.
Total Acceptance is not a dry, cold indifference. Somehow, it’s filled with deep love, as it requires not only the stillness of the mind but also the openness of the Heart.
Another important aspect of acceptance is the strong inclination to cope with all experiences, to face everything, either pleasant or unpleasant: “Acceptance refers to an attitude of nonjudging or openness about experience, and refraining from attempts to avoid or escape it.” - Fabrizio Didonna, Clinical Handbook of Mindfulness
Everything we resist, persists. Even more, it’ll grow up over time. Therefore, the remedy for any unpleasant state or content of the mind is to accept it completely. Whenever we entirely and honestly accept any thought, emotion or sensation, we become free of it. It will not bother us anymore. It will disappear from our individual universe, as we have learned that lesson.
Total Acceptance has a transformative power virtually in every field of our existence – spiritual, mental, emotional and even our physical life. For example, its strength is fully harnessed in one of the most effective methods for overcoming physical pain, “Accepting and Dwelling in Pain,” described in this article: 5 Powerful Pain Relief Techniques.
The bottom line is: whatever you Totally Accept, it disappears from your field of consciousness. You become free from it.
What’s also important is that this practice will not take you into passivity and non-action. On the contrary, the fruit of a regular practice of Total Acceptance will be your perfect action, whenever needed, just at a right moment. It will also yield a great deal of creativity.
Nevertheless, the balance between action and non-action will be naturally achieved.
Whatever you Totally Accept, it disappears from your field of consciousness. You become free from it.
Could It Be Dangerous?
When we Totally Accept something, we have embraced it wholeheartedly. But there is a troubling question that naturally arises: Is it dangerous to embrace negative, or harmful things? Can accepting an aggressive person’s behavior, ugly gossips or our friend’s problems jeopardize our security?
It cannot. If it does, that only means we haven’t accepted it completely.
By accepting the negativity, we are removing the negative burden on our mind and heart which has been attracting those circumstances. Moreover, the very fact that our heart is open and our being is filled with peace and love, deeply ennobles and transforms everything we do and anything we embrace. That indeed makes us safe and leaves us unharmed.
By accepting the apparent negativity, you are actually accepting the Greater Good within you that is trying to emerge in your life through apparently harsh experiences. Tell yourself: “I totally accept that which is trying to emerge through me,” or “I totally accept Greater Good that is emerging through this situation.”
The very fact that our heart is open and our being is filled with peace and love, deeply ennobles and transforms everything we do and anything we embrace. That indeed makes us safe and leaves us unharmed.
Yes, for the beginning, you can accept apparently evil, harmful or dangerous things and situations with your mind only, without opening your heart. You can say something like “OK, that’s it, I don’t care.” That means you can simply become indifferent and neutral toward the experience. No repulsion, and no attraction. No warmness, no embracing, no “risk.” It is an entirely disinterested position which blocks the experience to reoccur in your personal reality. But that’s only temporary. Without opening your heart completely, you cannot fully face the experience. Therefore, it may come back to you one day.
Remember, your Essence, or True Self, cannot be hurt or endangered. Ever.
Without opening your heart completely, you cannot fully face the experience. Therefore, it may come back to you one day.
Ultimately, you will have to open both your mind and heart to all experiences. It’s similar to the state of Not-Knowing – total openness to the Unknown is also a genuinely transformative attitude.
If you are still concerned that Total Acceptance of negativities could open your inner door to those things to happen to you, the solution is to Totally Accept its opposite, too. But first accept that very concern, your fear of any negative reperccusions. Then accept the negative thing itself. Finally, accept its opposite – a normal state, or a wanted, positive thing.
If you cannot accept any of these, you might be dealing with a complex subconscious structure. Those structures should be thoroughly reflected and processed with some of the main Reintegration techniques (preferably the Inner Triangle), or with some other psychological or spiritual method.
Finally, with both polarities Totally Accepted, while being free from the ingrained fear, we’ll be able to act from Presence genuinely.
How to Totally Accept
The skill of Total Acceptance should be learned progressively. It is always easy to accept something you like, or you are being neutral to, but accepting unpleasant or painful experiences is a completely different story. Therefore, we should start learning acceptance on neutral things first (because you have no intimate relationship with them), then on positive ones (although you have a positive relation toward them, it is still a kind of attachment), and lastly on the negatives.
Here is an exercise for learning this skill thoroughly:
Who is the real boss in your mind?
Almost since the day you were born, you have been the victim of unconscious programming from internal and external processes. It is funny how those with the strongest minds and most forceful personalities will insist that hypnosis doesn’t work on them, that they are not influenced by others and that they are masters of their own world. Sadly, this is simply not true. It is a fiction.
We come into the world like a boxed computer; there’s an operating system in place but the software is yet to come. Language, culture, religion, attitudes and experiences all follow. The external programming that takes place is easy to see - parents, peers, family, teachers, religious representatives, media, art, dramas...the list, quite literally, is endless.
Voices from within
The internal programming is slightly more subtle and yet even more powerful. This is where we collaborate with our own growth...or downfall. Every experience is compared and contrasted with past experiences and measured against hopes, dreams and expectations. All these concepts are interdependent which means the sense of self and its level of contentment is governed by a boatload of phenomena that are mainly unconscious. Put simply, the unconscious chatter that goes on in our minds is also affecting our sense of who we are, the world we live in and our place within it.
Awakening: the first step
Realising that we have an internal world of barely audible mental chatter, thoughts, reflections, memories, feelings and emotions that are governing how we engage with people, situations and our environment is the first step to liberating ourselves from our programming.
But that is a scary thought. That means accepting that our religion isn’t the absolute truth, that our customs and beliefs have been inherited. What? How dare he say this! I am a [insert faith denomination here] because I genuinely believe it to be true and I choose it every day. Sorry. That is simply not true. I am not dismissing religion and culture and I mean no offence to those who value tradition. These are positive software packages that have been installed into our operating systems, but software packages nevertheless.
If you don’t accept the programming is happening, if you don’t acknowledge that many aspects of your attitude and approach to life have been determined by birth because of the influences you have been exposed to, then there will be large parts of your psychological landscape that you have no hope of unravelling. Your mind will read like a classified government document with large swathes of text and images blacked out.
I’ve been programmed: now what?
Just like the software on your phone, mental programming can be updated or overwritten. Even the entire operating system can be changed. The operating system is a different kettle of fish and not the focus of this article however, for clarity, you can think of it as the physical status of the person - how their brains are hardwired, physical health etc. If you suffer a stroke, you may have to start again from scratch with an entirely different operating system than you had before.
Let’s look at the programming process and how we can take control of it. There are a number of ways that we can consciously program our minds. Some or all of these will be familiar to you but you may not have thought of them as programming techniques. These are:
Prayer as a mental programming technique
Let’s look at the Christian’s “Lord’s Prayer” or “Our Father” as an example. This is just an example and I am not singling out Christians from any other religion. The prayer reads like this:
“Our father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
When a Christian recites this prayer, they believe they are speaking directly to the almighty, one God, that God will hear this prayer from them personally and that God can choose to respond to it. Regardless of whether what they believe is true or not, while they believe it to be true (faith can move mountains), there is a mechanism that will bring about internal peace and contentment - and better outcomes for the person in their everyday life. When we break the prayer down, we see that it contains several principles that are vital to growth and mental health:
When a person makes a conscious choice to be mindful of these things in their day-to-day life, the results can be transformative. In my mind, it is no coincidence that practitioners of the faith feel as though they are experiencing a genuine relationship with the living Christ and/or with God. These principles allow us to engage with reality more effectively. The result, a much more charismatic person. Note the root of the word, “charisma” - Krishna and Christ both share that root. We see the word in Russian as well - “Xarasho” (pronounced Ch-ah-rosh-oh where “ch” sounds similar to the “ch” in the Scottish “loch”).
This is not intended to be a religious post however, for those that feel I am chipping away at their faith, let me reframe it in a different way. My assertion that prayer is a form of mental programming does not have to mean there is no God but it does require a different way of thinking about God. Some believe that we are all part of the one living God, sharing a universal consciousness. By the same token, by tuning into our “bigger mind”, we have the power to completely reset our software.
Arguably, most people identify with their software, their ego identity, which means they spend their lives experiencing an identity crisis as one version of self after another is corrupted, becomes obsolete or ineffective, or completely collapses (mental illness, neurosis, breakdown).
The problem with prayer
If you have ever met a devoutly religious person who has encountered a crisis in their faith, there lies the problem. They have to keep the faith. Faith really does move mountains. If the faith is not there, the conviction is not there in the prayers. They become ineffective. Negative thinking sets in. This affects how the person interacts with their world and that behaviour affects their outcomes. It is a vicious circle. Prayer works well until we lose our most precious loved ones or some other dreadful event takes place.
That said, even when people lose faith or experience doubt, prayer still has some effect. Evidence has suggested that when we say something with our physical or internal voice, the subconscious believes it - even if our conscious self doesn’t.
What about hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a collaborative game played by two or more people. The person to be hypnotised agrees to allow the hypnotist access to their minds. The hypnotist acts a facilitator really to help the subject reframe their thinking but it is a collaboration. The hypnotist cannot make the other person do anything that person would not want to do. Does that mean the person has to give permission to be hypnotised?
We do not have to give permission to be hypnotised. We do not even need to believe that hypnosis is possible. If a hypnotist wanted to get you to run around the street naked, this is not likely to happen. You would see them coming from a mile away and you would resist the attempts to be programmed. The gate would be closed.
Hypnosis is happening all around us
One only has to look at how drastically fashion trends can change or other ways that people allow themselves to be influenced by advertising, celebrity culture or slick copywriting to see how much our mindsets are subtly being worked on by external forces.
When we agree to be hypnotised and we cooperate with the hypnotist’s instructions, it is possible for us to enter a very deep trance-like state, where ideas can be placed using affirmations, storytelling and visualisation techniques. The effect can be intense and powerful.
What’s the problem with hypnosis?
Imagine the least tech-savvy person in the office. They spend all day on a computer, opening window after window without ever shutting one down, never clearing their temporary internet files or their emails.
Every few months, they hit a critical point when their computers can’t function due to a shortage of working memory (for example). So they give a call to the IT person. The IT person logs on to their machine remotely and identifies the problem or fixes it. The problem is solved but it is temporary.
The hypnotist gives you fish but doesn’t show you how to fish
The IT person may give a lecture on best practice but if it doesn’t sink in or is not understood, they are given another call three months later.
So it is with hypnosis. When we agree to be hypnotised, we allow the hypnotist to help us fix a particular problem - smoking, chocolate addiction, aversion to exercise - but we are not necessarily any wiser in terms of how our own mind works.
What is auto-hypnosis or self-talk?
Once you understand the mechanisms at work, you can hypnotise yourself. Even by saying positive things to yourself on the way to a date (“I look great. They will love me.”), the mindset can be affected. This is why it is so important to be mindful of the words that come out of our mouths and the thoughts that we allow ourselves to dwell on.
Those who study a little more can learn how to take themselves into a deeper trance or they use music to achieve the same objective. Then they will repeat carefully crafted affirmations or listen to a well-written visualisation script, to reset their thinking.
What’s not to love here? Nothing it all. It is all good. However, just like hypnosis, what we are doing is going in and fixing specific issues that we have identified. We are not gaining a greater understanding of our mind. There are many blind spots.
Meditation as a route to mental programming
Let me first of all start by spelling out what I mean by meditation and differentiating it from mindfulness. This is a subtle, yet important point.
If we choose to focus all our attention on this moment, every physical sensation, every aspect of our perception etc., then that is mindfulness and yes, it is meditation as well. Meditation, in the strictest sense, is not something that is done. It is how other things are done!
Mindfulness will only go so far in helping us grow because if I am being mindful while I eat my favourite food or mindful while I practise tai chi, the focus is on the activity of eating or the feeling of movement through the tai chi forms. That is great but won’t necessarily deliver increased self-knowledge, wisdom or the meaning of life.
If I decide to practise mindfulness while I am lying down or sitting still in a quiet place, as my awareness “realises” that there is nothing to see in the outside world, it has to focus its attention inwards - to the mind, to the internal world. This is what I mean by meditation.
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