Every moment of every day, life happens. We are constantly faced with situations: some that we perceive as pleasant, others that we perceive as painful, and many that we feel neutral towards. In each moment, we are given the opportunity to either open up to life as it is, or to contract away from it in fear or anger or disappointment. Whichever path we choose, life goes on, and the situation at hand is what it is. We can choose to accept and be at peace, or we can choose to reject and suffer. Either way, life does not stop to accommodate our feelings.
A great deal of our suffering arises from a misguided belief that we are in control of everything. We continue to operate on this conviction even though, time and again, things do not turn out as planned. As a result, we are left feeling upset, vulnerable, and disillusioned. Yogic philosophy teaches us that everything is part of our path, even the things that we didn’t plan or expect or want. As many a wise person have noted, we cannot control what life will present us with, but we can control our attitude towards it and the manner in which we react. Yoga is life training. It is a practice through which we learn to notice what is: sometimes pleasant, sometimes painful, sometimes boring. Through practice, we can learn to open ourselves to whatever is there, at this moment, completely. This is the practice of radical acceptance, or vairagya. When situations that we perceive as negative arise, we can still learn to be at peace within ourselves.
There is a vipassana meditation technique that teaches us how to allow everything in with complete acceptance. As we sit in stillness during meditation and watch each fear, each concern, each drama rise up within us, we are advised to continue silently reminding ourselves, “Even this; even this.” In essence, we are recognizing that even this is part of the path. If we hope ever to be fully at peace, we must learn to accept all things, even this.
Selected passage from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras:
vitarkabādhane pratipaksabhāvanam, II.33
Unwholesome thoughts can be countered by cultivating the opposite.
This passage very simply states the practice of creating inner peace and releasing inner turmoil by transforming our focal point from something that is painful towards something that is positive. This is not avoiding what is present, but rather choosing to focus on what is positive in this moment rather than what is negative.
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