This week I'd like to carry on a little further from last week's contemplation of the Second Arrow (if you haven't read that you can find it here). I find the understanding of the Second Arrow, and specifically the ability to recognize when we are creating another arrow for ourselves, to be extremely helpful in these times.
When things are difficult or painful we can cultivate acceptance of the reality of how things are while avoiding the additional self-inflicted emotional pain that we get from denial and resistance. As the teacher Tara Brach says in her wonderful book 'Radical Acceptance':
“Pain is not wrong. Reacting to pain as wrong initiates the trance of unworthiness. The moment we believe something is wrong, our world shrinks and we lose ourselves in the effort to combat the pain.”
I find this especially relevant as we navigate our current situation. Having experienced a year where we have all had to make changes and sacrifices, and when some have experienced loss of livelihood, health or loved-ones, we now find ourselves in a strange period where things may be opening up. Like many of you I am waiting for my own second shot (the irony not being lost on me), and while part of me is excited to be able to return to some level of normalcy another part of me is more than aware that as a society we still have a way to go.
It is easy in this transition period to fall into one of two extremes. We are seeing a lot of people throwing caution to the wind and acting as if everything was now fine - and we are seeing the effect of that in the statistics. The other extreme some fall into is to loose all hope and to give up. It's easy to see how each of these groups feeds off of each other, and we are seeing this play out in the media right now.
As always it is the path in-between that will move us forward, and that is the path of acceptance. Not capitulation, but accepting the reality of where we are - and that includes both the positive and the painful. Recognizing and being grateful for where progress has been made, while knowing that progress is fragile and unpredictable. And taking positive action based on that acceptance. This isn't being passive and powerless, but rather full empowerment through accepting the reality - what Tara Brach calls 'Radical Acceptance.'
In our practice we can work on this empowering acceptance. One of the meditation forms I love for this is the 'Soft belly' form popularized by the late Stephen Levine. He developed this technique while working with terminally ill patients. I will probably write more about the approach in the future, but if you want you can listen to the fully guided meditation below. A few of us have committed to press 'play' together on this at 7pm PT on Sunday May 2nd, but of course you can listen at any time.
However you choose to cultivate acceptance I hope that you can experience this during this week. Beyond aversion, beyond denial, beyond false hope we can truly be empowered.
Photo by Andrew Moca on Unsplash