Acceptance and tolerance
The other day, as I was running by the sea, I noticed that I was holding my arms tightly. That is, they were not moving with my body. On noticing, I experimented with letting them go. Suddenly I felt very ‘active’ – there was a lot going on, and I was a bit uncomfortable with that. I persevered and as I ran faster (briefly – I am no Steve Cram) I again noticed this disconnect. If I had not got so much tension in my shoulders, they would be merrily pounding away giving my upper body a workout too. I had wanted subconsciously to ‘separate out’ my body, for whatever reason.
Later, I reflected on something Christina Feldman, my meditation teacher, said to me once. We were talking about the process of sitting in meditation and ‘trying’ to achieve calm. She said that if the something – some repetitive thought or idea – came up again and again, to let it go. And if that wasn’t possible, was it possible to let it be? Was it possible to be ‘in the same room’ as this repetitive thought or feeling? For me, this is a question about accepting and tolerating.
It feels to me that what she was talking about was a gradation; ideally, it would be good to accept something and, if necessary, let go of it or the resistance to it. This can then lead to calm, to internal harmony. If that was too difficult, she was saying, do not create more stress for yourself, try at least to tolerate the existence of this mind event or process that you actually want to push away.
The word tolerance sometimes has a bad press, but within ourselves, our families and our communities, it can ‘allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference.’ (dictionary definition).Tolerance is a virtue. Coupled with empathetic understanding, this can lead to acceptance.
I would emphasise at this point that I am in no way condoning unacceptable things and situations. I am referring to meditation practice with the end result of becoming more unified, whole and calm. I am inquiring into my own habits of body and mind. If I don’t make an attempt to accept or tolerate, then I become slightly more fractured. There seems to be only two directions of change; the way through to letting go and letting be, or the solidifying of non-acceptance.
So to Khalil Gibran’s super poem, On Children, from The Prophet, the first two verses of which are sung by Sweet Honey In the Rock. This poem and the lovely rendition of it speaks to me of the practice of acceptance of my child as she is. ‘Though they are with you, they belong not to you’, and ‘you can strive to be like them, but you cannot make them just like you’. As I accept my daughter for who she is, I have the opportunity to be a bigger, less attached person.