Great peace is possible when you can stay in the present moment and accept what is.
But it’s not easy, especially when you face challenges. Buddhist teachings focus a lot on acceptance as part of the path to enlightenment.
One of the Buddhist principles I learned about at my recent Vipassana meditation course is the concept of “anicca” which refers to the impermanence of all things. All things in life are impermanent and constantly changing, including ourselves as constantly changing beings from birth through death.
Acceptance of this truth (accepting impermanence) opens the door to accepting things in the present moment…accepting what is.
The Only Thing Constant is Change
The problem is that most of us don’t like change. [Click HERE for more on Why we fear change and what we can do to calm that fear…]
In other words, we get attached to things the way they are. Whether we judge things the way they are at the moment as “good” or “bad,” at least we know how they are. And sometimes that feels safer than change because we don’t know what future change will bring.
So we get attached to things the way they are (and therefore want to need them to stay the same in order to feel comfortable, safe, or happy, or peaceful).
What if the attachment itself is actually the problem? What if anxiety is caused by the attachment to things the way they are?
Attachment = Suffering
The second of the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism teaches that the origin of suffering is attachment to transient things (and all things are transient, changing). We create our own suffering in our minds by getting attached to things that by definition are constantly going to change.
We also get attached to having things turn out a certain way – wanting to control the outcomes of situations in our lives (and that always creates more anxiety).
Does it make sense to get attached to something that always changes?
Winter in Wisconsin
This time of year provides a great example of how attachment creates a problem. Mother Nature always changes. Every year four seasons come and go.
Many people in Wisconsin get attached to summer and start getting upset when the seasons change. A lot of us get upset when the snow hits or the freezing cold temperatures hit. Negative thinking, unhappiness and sometimes even depression can follow. All of those things bring suffering.
You know the seasons change. You know winter includes snow and frigid cold. You also know the truth of the impermanence of the weather! (Wait awhile and it will change!) Accepting that with less resistance could really make life a lot easier and happier.
Accepting What Is = Peace
Peace can be found in accepting the truth that all things are impermanent and always changing…Accepting things the way they are…Accepting what is.
Think about it… Everything really does change. Every moment every molecule in the world is in a state of change.
In fact, all of our emotions constantly change. Emotions come and go all day long like waves.
Anxiety Itself Always Changes
Anxiety always comes and goes in waves. It begins and then builds up to a peak, where is stays for some time, and then it subsides.
Let’s say a period of anxiety lasts for a week. During that whole time, it is not the same every second, every minute, every hour, every day. It changes.
When you realize the truth that anxiety comes and goes in waves, it is actually easier to tolerate the waves. You can learn to allow thoughts to come and go without struggling with them.
If you believe that anxiety will come and never change or never go away, you have forgotten the truth that all things are impermanent.
The Paradox: Acceptance of Anxiety
Anxiety is uncomfortable and unwanted. Therefore, anxiety is resisted. However, the irony is that as soon as you recognize and accept that it always comes and goes in waves, and realize that this wave will pass, then there is actually less anxiety! This is the basis of one of the effective anxiety treatments I use called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
The more you get attached to getting rid of the anxiety, the longer it will actually take for the wave of anxiety to subside.
The more you accept that all things will change, including a wave of anxiety, the less anxiety you will experience and the more peace you will enjoy.