“When we accept life as it is, we can have more gratitude.” (Daniel Gutierrez)
This phrase caused quite an animated discussion at the Catalina Retreat Center last weekend. Here’s why:
I thought of it as being the other way around. My perspective said: “When we have more gratitude, we can accept life as it is.” This perspective is based on my understanding that a single thought completely and evenly fills the human consciousness and soul, regardless of whether that thought is large or small. (Viktor Frankl)
Another thought leader at the retreat expressed the unwillingness to accept life as it is. To not accept the things she cannot change, but to change the things she cannot accept. (Angela Davis)
The very popular and well known “serenity prayer” goes like this: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Interesting to me that the original (Reinhold Niebuhr) verse goes like this: Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped and the insight to know the one from the other.
My Dad used to say “No matter where you go, there you are” (Confucius) I realized at some point that Dad wasn’t just trying to be funny, and that what he, and I reckon, Conficius, were really saying was something like “Where you are is where you really are. Not where you would have been if you had made a different decision, or if someone else had behaved differently. By understanding this, I’ve since come to understand that when we can accept the perfection of where we are, we open up limitless possibilities for the future.
After Daniel’s Catalina Retreat I was talking about the ideas with Sherry and she reminded me of the idea she calls Radical Acceptance. “Acceptance is just the starting line” she said (Sherry Johnson)
You know, I’m always asking the question “What if it were possible…?” And here, I reckon there are two things needed to get everyone on the same wavelength. First, the understanding that we cannot change the past. Second, an understanding that acceptance is not the same thing as affirmation.
In the end, I have to agree with Daniel’s premise that “When we accept life as it is, we can have more gratitude.” And I still can believe that “When we have more gratitude, we can accept life as it is”. What if it were possible that gratitude and acceptance are a cycle? What if it were possible to have the wisdom to accept that we cannot change the past, and to have the wisdom to know that with courage we can change the things we do not affirm.
On your marks, get set, GO!
As a bonus, here is the meditation from Daniel that got it all started! (3 minutes)