Forgiveness and acceptance often go hand in hand. When faced with difficult situations from our past or present lives, holding on to the energy patterns caused by hurtful actions can keep us stuck in unaware cycles and keep us from the power and freedom that can be found through acceptance and forgiveness. We might not be sure which comes first, but if we start with one, we will eventually find our way to the other.
When we resist fully claiming that something is the way it is, we hold a resistant energy to it. Acceptance gives us more space to know what's truly in our own hearts and gives us clearer direction on how we want to proceed. We may decide to take action and try to change it, or we may decide to do nothing. We might decide to see what other people have already done and are doing and find some comfort in their efforts, even though we have decided not to do anything directly. When we fully accept something, it's much easier to let go of any guilt, shame or blame we may feel as a result of it.
Many of us beat ourselves up for not doing anything about something that we feel is wrong in the world. Being hard on ourselves about it is actually kind of a distraction from fully facing what's happening and what part we could take to change it. It keeps us stuck in feeling badly rather than deciding what we could actually do or not do. It can be difficult, understandably, to accept the hurt and suffering that happens in the world. It can be disheartening, to say the least, to see things happening that we feel like we have no control over. There are very big, very real problems that most people feel they just can't do anything about. It might be true that in our lives at this time we can't directly do anything to change a specific action that's being taken by another person, by a corporation, or even by someone close to us. In accepting a situation fully, we might have to feel how we really feel about it first - ie: angry, sad, frustrated, hopeless, confused, depressed - let those feelings move through us and be released, in order to make enough space to find a different perspective, see a new solution, or decide on a course of action. For example: We might not decide to be like Greta Thunberg and make it our life's mission to speak out in worldwide forums about the climate crisis. But this doesn't mean that we aren't or can't do something to affect change. We might instead decide to support her in her efforts, take our own responsibility at home for environmental preservation, find like-minded groups to volunteer with, or any number of things that are possible when we accept where we're at in our own lives and then decide what we want to do. It is perfectly fine to do nothing, but accepting it fully and then making a decision about it is a much more powerful and hopeful stance than just doing nothing and feeling badly about "doing nothing". We might even have to accept how badly we feel as the first step of moving forward. It's important to remember that even when we don't take an action, there is a decision made whether we're consciously or unconsciously making that decision. Owning it as something we actually did decide keeps our energy flowing so we can continue to make decisions, rather than getting stuck in avoidance patterns.
It's hard to accept that someone close to us could hurt us in any way. It can often be the most difficult thing to forgive someone, especially when we weren't expecting that behavior from them. When someone close to us acts in a hurtful way towards us it can be confusing, difficult to process, and even sometimes feel like it was our fault. We may even end up feeling like maybe we are somehow destined to be treated badly. Part of the acceptance to be found in these situations is realizing that what that person did or how they acted is actually a part of who they are (at least in this moment), and that ultimately it really has nothing to do with us. They might have done it on purpose, OR they might not have even realized that they acted in a particular way or in a way that affected us negatively. How we react to their behavior is what we have control over. Deeply hurtful situations can through us off quite a bit and we often resist acceptance or forgiveness in an attempt to protect ourselves from the same kind of hurt in the future or to preserve our false picture of reality in order to stay in our comfort zone. Taking time for self-reflection and acceptance of what we know to be true in our hearts can actually have a freeing affect on the situation as a whole. It may help us to realize that although someone acted in a surprising or hurtful way, it's not the whole of who they are and if we think they didn't even realize they hurt us, we could decide to let them know and help them bring awareness to their own behavior. They might even feel grateful that we were able to point it out so they can self-reflect, accept that part of themselves and take whatever action they decide to take about it.
Whether it's someone close to us or someone else in the world we might see causing harm, we often think, "How could they be so...(whatever quality they're being)". We might feel "triggered" by them, and when that's the case, it usually means there is some blocked energy inside us that has not been fully accepted or reflected upon. The bigger the trigger, the more likely it has something to do with an underlying quality in ourselves that we haven't yet been able to face and integrate into our being. This concept is referred to as our "shadow". Based on Carl Jung's theory of analytical psychology..."Jung stated the shadow to be the unknown dark side of the personality. According to Jung, the shadow, in being instinctive and irrational is prone to psychological projection in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. Debbie Ford is someone who explored shadow work even further and recognized that we have not only dark shadows, but light shadows as well. Her book, "The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams" is like an instruction manual for pursuing the work of accepting and integrating our shadows in a deep and profound way.
This brings us to the other side of the coin, which is recognizing places in ourselves that we might awarely or unawarely cause harm to others. We all have energetic patterns that have developed within us as part of surviving the circumstances of our lives. None of those ways of being are our fault, and although it can take some time and effort to unwind that stagnant energy, the first step is to simply take responsibility for who we are, "warts and all", and accept ourselves as is. Self acceptance, self love, without judgment can be one of the most difficult things for many of us to do, whether it's accepting our darker side or the light that shines inside each of us. Both are inherently present and both can be integrated into our awareness. Complete acceptance of ourselves may require forgiving ourselves for any actions we may have carried out that we are holding on to. Actions that we swore we'd never do again because we actually did realize they hurt someone else. Or actions that were frowned upon by a misguided soul who couldn't see us fully, but led us to believe that we couldn't actually show our true selves in the world. We get to explore the inner workings of our minds, hearts, and souls. We get to take responsibility for ourselves and come out freer on the other side. We get to forgive ourselves for any mistakes or unaware actions we may have taken against someone else and know that we are completely deserving of loving ourselves and accepting ourselves fully, right now, just as we are.
In our yoga classes, we hear the teacher often say something about being where we are at in this moment and on this day and letting that be just as it is. It can sometimes be difficult for us to fully accept where we're at on any given day, especially if we were feeling more flexible yesterday or last week, but today we feel tight and stiff. Learning to bring awareness to how we are actually doing each moment and then honoring and accepting it is a practice in and of itself. Our daily or weekly yoga practice or even our meditation practice can be the perfect place to explore self acceptance and trusting that what's happening is not only ok, but could be informing us of something about ourselves as well. Maybe our body is letting us know that we're doing too much this week and that's why it's not feeling as free or limber as it usually does. Or maybe there's an emotional issue going on that we've been pushing through or avoiding and it needs our loving attention. Whatever it is that needs our attention, awareness, and acceptance, we can use our practice to tune in and then reflect on it.
Is there something in your heart you need to forgive, a hurtful action by someone else or your own mistake? What shadows, light or dark can you notice might be lingering in the background of your awareness? I invite you to spend some time this week reflecting on what full self acceptance might look like for you and considering any forgiveness that might need to be explored. You GET TO, and you may even WANT TO, even if it feels a little hard to get started. Remember, the Universe is holding space for you no matter what. Trust that it has your back and that it truly is ok to let go.