Acceptance is the releasing of the need to control. I accept that I have little, if any, control over the initial thought or the instinctive reaction to that thought. Meditation teaches me that the act of keeping all thoughts from coming is damn near impossible! I don’t endeavour to keep the thoughts from coming. My only goal is to slow down the mechanism to a point where I can see more clearly what is happening in my mind and body. The discipline is to let the thoughts pass by and not attach anything to them.
It’s the same when I’m faced with a hurtful comment from someone or I see or hear something that causes me discomfort. My initial reaction feels like a tightening in the stomach. In Tibetan this is called shenpa, a hook that triggers our habitual tendency to shut down, close off. I cannot prevent that initial tightening, as it seems to happen automatically. What I can control is what comes next.
I notice the lurch or hooked feeling, I then use it as a path to awareness of what is actually happening. The truth being that my ego has been hit with sniper fire. I can choose to let it pass through, causing no lasting damage. Or I can hold it inside me, letting it become inflamed and infected, causing all kinds of trauma.
There was a time when I would always choose to hold onto it. I would place all my attention on it until it became debilitating, a form of self-punishment I believed I so richly deserved for all my failures. Today I know better and I choose to let it go. It really is the easier, softer way.