Acceptance is my nature. Yet, how quickly I forget and how quickly I want to be having a different experience.

Really loving and accepting myself as I am, someone as they are, and life as it is, is a very challenging practice for me.

It’s still quite a mystery to me. All day long, hour after hour are practice opportunities.

In new age spiritual circles “acceptance” and love get talked about a lot and supposedly practiced, but it my judgment often not embodied. This is true for me. This is where we can bypass true acceptance. In other words, I can accept intellectually, but not really be experiencing it in all of me.

So, I’m playing with the term embodied acceptance. This means acceptance in the here and now with all of me.

When I accept I send a message that communicates “I trust.”

To trust is to accept things as they are unfolding in each moment.


Really accepting what is so can be very painful, challenging, and intense. Especially when I apply it to some of the big topics such as rape, genocide, war, murder and violence.

Seriously, how do I really “accept” rape, war, murder?

My answer is “I don’t know.”

But I do know that acceptance doesn’t mean I condone certain behaviors that are unjust, violent, or traumatic. I’m learning how to accept while balancing “right action.”

For example, I start with accepting my experience in the face of those real, raw, truths that are occurring in the world. By accepting what is true and real in the world, I can feel my experience and allow myself to be impacted.  I can stare devastating loss in the face and communicate “I’m here.”

I also don’t get overwhelmed in the global sphere. I stay local, starting with my own being, then my family, then I work outward. In other words, I zero in on whatever is going on in my life. Practicing accepting what is in front of me all day long is plenty for me.

What I’m learning is that when I accept my experience as it is, things naturally change.  Why? Perhaps because they feel accepted and they are being trusted to move organically.

When I genuinely accept, I am fundamentally changing my inner landscape to include more. My body feels different.

For example, I can now tolerate more of my crying daughter at three in the morning. Because she is responding to her environment on many subtle levels, she then gets the message that her upset is okay with me and she has room to go there. No need for her to shut herself down to worry about me. My whole being communicates to her “I accept you as you are right now honey. Whatever you are going through is okay with me.” By me shifting into a place of genuine acceptance, something “out there” has an invitation to do the same.

Sending her a genuine message of “I accept you” while she screams, rages, and cries is incredibly challenging. Her “noise” provokes every cell inside my body. So, to accept her, I first have to accept my experience (in my body) of being with her. In other words, acceptance starts with ME.

Another example. If I am in an intimate relationship with you, chances are I won’t accept all of you. I’ll complain and want you to be different. In the face of this reality however, can I practice accepting all of you? Can I learn to love you as you are?

We all long to be loved and accepted as we are. When we are accepted as we are, we feel loved. When our nervous system finally relaxes and gets the message that it is held and loved, just as it is, it can let go, release its grip and soften.

Since a large part of our culture (and the world) is in fight or flight, it’s no surprise we struggle to get along and love each other. As children, most of us got the message that we are not okay as we are. Thus we were, and remain, perpetually on guard and hide it because we don’t want anyone to know that.

When I meet your nervous system with the message of ‘you are NOT okay as you are,’ it keeps your nervous system (and mine) on alert, stuck, and defensive. On the other hand, when I embrace you as you are, no matter how different you are from me, your nervous system (and your body) will feel more welcome and it can relax. The great thing about our nervous system is that it can’t be fooled. I can’t fake my compassion for you. Some part of you won’t trust me.

Acceptance allows for greater connection.

Lastly, when I don’t accept my experience in each moment, I notice how I add on layers of suffering that don’t need to be there.  I call that “filler.” When I’m not accepting my reality as it is in each moment, I maintain a separate stance. I’m over here suffering (i.e. victim stance) and then there’s everything else against me. As Byron Katie reminds me, “Why are you arguing with reality?”

Thus acceptance can be a doorway for greater trust in one’s life (and reality) and greater connection. Sounds great to me. Bring it.

Learning how to accept is ongoing for me. Learning how to trust is ongoing for me.

So where does action come into play? Can I really just sit here and trust things as they are? What about boundaries and stopping violence? Can I act while accepting what is? Where does “right action” or will power come in to play? Hmmmm. Your thoughts?

This post is about one side of the coin. The follow up post will be about the other side—agency.


  • Stacey Bellem

    Reply Reply June 29, 2012

    Jay, outstanding blog on learning or ’embodying’ acceptance. I’ve enjoyed your articles on Good Men Project as well (such as the recent one “Transcending the ManBox”). Thank you for sharing your stories, thoughts and insights about manhood. Wonderful!

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