Talk given at Unitarian Universalist Church,
Reading (From the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, "And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me. I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment."
While Jane & I were walking earlier this week I had a great idea for todays talk. But by the time I got home it was gone. The idea had vanished. Sorry to say I hadn’t shared my sudden idea with my wife. So I spent the next few days trying to recall it. No success.
Sometimes things aren’t meant to happen and something else is.
Acceptance.I had to practice acceptance- accept that this great idea was gone.
Let it go-stop trying to bring it back. Stop thinking about it!
But that’s no easy thing. Especially when it’s something you really want.
I wanted to remember -but couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried.
As a matter of fact the more I tried, the more it was gone.
This sort of thing happens sometimes when I try to recall someone’s name. The harder I try the more it eludes me.
Until at some later time-usually in the middle of the night- it wakes me up and there it is- I remember it!
I was hoping for that sort of thing with this idea I’d had.
Like, if I REALLY let it go it will finally come back. The Truth is Letting go has worked wonders for me in the past.
But this time it failed me. So I had to move on to my fall-back position, Acceptance.
The way that it is, is the way that it is. Period. But had to ask myself, Now what?
Sometimes the answer- that which you seek- is staring you right in the face!
My disappointment and my resistance had led me to what I was meant to speak about today.
Accepting the thing I cannot change and then admitting it to myself. It's only then that I am able to do the second part of what acceptance can bring me to, which is the question: what am I able to change? What do I have control over? What do I have the power to do?
I can change my attitude toward it-whatever it is. I can choose a different way to “be” with it. Acceptance can eventually even lead to gratitude. I know this to be true-it’s happened to me many times.
Let me tell you about Stanley. I met Stan when he was in his 90’s and living in a nursing home. He was blind and confined to a wheelchair due to a stroke.
Everybody at this place seemed to love Stan. Staff (who are normally in a hurry-overworked/underpaid) “slowed” down when they came into contact with him. He was always grateful and kind and you simply felt good being with him.
I learned from his family that Stan had been a prof. Musician but had to retire early due to arthritis. He then discovered art and became a painter and within a few years his work was in numerous galleries. Then macular degeneration came along and no more art.
Then his beloved wife died. Eventually a stroke put him in a wheelchair and then came a nursing home where I met him.
Yet he never seemed bitter or resentful or angry. I asked him about this.
He said that earlier in his life he realized there were a lot of things he had no control over: what people did, or said; lots of things that happened in the world-and at times, even the things that happened in his own life.
But what he did have control over was how he could act or react. He said he realized he could choose to be miserable or content. And miserable didn’t seem to make things better so he chose contentment. That required acceptance first- AND from that place he decided to be content- to look for good things and to recall good things he was grateful for having had.
I saw the effect this man had on others in the nursing home. I felt the effect he had on me when I visited him. I always looked forward to seeing him, even if he didn’t say much. It just felt good to sit with him.
When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change - our inner world, the outer world responds in kind.
I’d even go as far as to say that we have the power to affect others.
Stan certainly did.
Life is an inside job. We have more power than we realize.
Unfortunately we often give this power away(unaware we have it). We get caught up in reactions to things that in truth may be awful, or that cause us to feel powerless because we cannot change them.
Life is not fair- bad things do happen. It is easy to become overwhelmed.
Truthfully in my earlier life I looked at the world and felt pretty hopeless. I wanted to do something but didn’t know what because it seemed to me that the problems were just TOO BIG- so I felt overwhelmed, which led to a kind of paralysis. So I looked for all the things that supported my negative view- why it wouldn’t matter what I did- there was no problem finding lots of evidence. I became cynical. I also became pretty unhappy and that went on for years. I had no idea there was a choice. I was a member of the "Life sucks/then you die" club.
But then I met someone who let me in on the secret hidden in plain sight:
Life is an inside job. We have more power than we realize.
Kindness, compassion, happiness, seeing the good— because despite the bad, the good is always there (Fred Rogers tells the story of being a young boy and asking his mother about the bad things that happen. She told him to look for the helpers because they will always be there, and that's the good that gets shown to us in the bad))- all of these things will pay benefits when they are cultivated.
I believe this is what Jesus was speaking of when he said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you”- in other words you have choice- it can be heaven or hell- depending on how you choose to respond and what you cultivate or pay attention to. This understanding-this awareness- can change everything.
Heaven is not some far off destination, it can be right here/right now.
The heaven in your heart will spread out from you and others will respond. Same is true of the hell….
We all know people who it feels good to be around (like Stan) they lift our mood and our heart. We also know others who seem to do the opposite.
We are contagious- we can help light up a room or dim it down.
Wherever we put our attention, expands in our experience and we reflect this out to the world.
Ghandi said it so well: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”
As a person Thinks so they become.
Life is an inside job …and you truly do have a choice there.
This is your super-power - use it wisely.