Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Accept Everything

If I had a New Year’s resolution, it would be this, acceptance.

I would wager that 99% of the suffering people experience is because of one thing. Not accepting what is. I know mine is.

Not accepting the person in front of you. Wanting them to act a certain way. Be a certain way. Talk a certain way.

Not accepting the situation in front you. Wanting traffic to be a certain way. Wanting the yoga class to be a certain way. Wanting the world to be a certain way.

Not accepting your self. Wanting your body to look a certain way. Wanting your practice to be a certain way.

Think about it. Think about the problems you are having. Be truthful. Is it because you want things to be something other then what they are?

There is a fear that comes with acceptance. The fear is that people will feel that we are okay with their behaviors. The fear is that our life will remain the same. Stuck in suffering. The idea is that people who accept are also inactive. They are doormats.

I know what you are thinking. You are not going to accept bad things. Right? Well you should. Let me explain.

To put out a fire, a fireman must first accept that there is a fire.  They don’t put it out by wishing it was something else, by hoping the fire acts differently, by ignoring it, by writing a blog post about it or by posting a picture of it on FaceBook and talking about how bad the fire is for what it is doing. They accept the fire and then they act to put it out.

Acceptance is the most effective way to change the world. It is action based on the present moment. It is action based on what is in front of us.

I am an introverted extrovert. I was not born that way. I wager it happened because of painful human interactions. I totally remember being an extrovert during my formative years. Introversion was my way of running from acceptance.  If I cannot change someone to be what I want them to be, I will just tap out. Done. However, I want to try acceptance.  I want to see if meeting someone where they are and striving to understand their view point can open doors to new understanding.

The Yoga Sutras tell us to be happy for the happy. If someone is happy with their life choices, even if they are different from yours, even if they are not what you would have done, even if they are not what you would have liked for them to do, can you be happy for them?

This is very hard. I recently had a family situation where members of my family felt I should be unhappy about something going on in another family members life. They kept asking me over and over and over, “aren’t you upset?” I answered, “I was but what can I do? Being upset will not change anything. I just have to accept it.” They would agree and then the next phone call would be the same question, “why aren’t you upset right now?”

The feeling of being okay was inside of me. I fought it for awhile because, well, I shouldn’t be okay, right? That is what society says. This is not cool. It is not acceptable. However, acceptance was inside of me and I wish I would have let go and followed the feeling sooner. I was not able to really be there for my family member as much as I could have been. Acceptance allows us to really be present. Lack of acceptance kept me in my feelings. I was not present.

The Yoga Sutras also says we should have compassion for the unhappy. If someone’s choices or the state of the world makes you feel unhappy, can you have compassion for yourself? I struggled with having compassion for myself. I was not supposed to be feeling this way. What was wrong with me? No compassion whatsoever because I was not totally accepting the situation. Not really. I told myself I was. But there was a part of me that had not moved on. There was apart of me holding on to what should have been.  This part blocked grace.

I want to accept even when the world thinks I shouldn’t. I want to be present for every moment. I no longer want to stick my head in the sand and run. I want to face all the feelings I encounter with compassion and love. Through this practice, I will be emotionally free.  Everyone around me will be emotionally free. They can feel what they feel without my judgement or disdain. We can communicate freely because I will not listen with the idea of changing them but of pure communication. I will have compassion for myself. I will listen to myself with the attitude of pure communication and allow myself to be free. Who is up for trying this? Let me know in the comments below.







Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.


  • Robin F.

    After practicing and studying Ashtanga Yoga for over 17 years, I am finally trying to really let go of attachments and judgments, and to just “accept.” I am finding it’s quite easy compared to the effort of emotions and anxiety aroused by wishing that people, situations, etc. were different and feelinf powerless to change them. As it is said, “If you can’t change something you don’t like, change the way you think about it.” I also have a situation similar to yours where a certain close family member cannot understand why I’m not letting certain comments by others upset me as it does, him. I’m ok with whatever was said because that’s that person’s feelings. I told him if he wants to dwell in all that negativity, he’s on his own. Of course, he started to get annoyed with me because I wasn’t agreeing with him. But I was really totally fine! It does take work in the beginning, but as it becomes just the way I think about things, it’s getting easier!

  • Hilary Green

    On my mat I practice staying present.

    Left to itself, my mind will run away and hide (in the past, in fantasy) from “unpleasant” experience. It’s only unpleasant because I want something to be the way it used to be, the way it should be. So I practice staying present with my wobbly knee, that funny feeling in my shoulder, etc. I practice compassion for myself as I bring attention to the old injury, encouraging strength, gently stretching.

    What I practice on my mat eventually makes its way into the rest of my life, unlearning the unhelpful habits of anxiety and fear.

  • Janelle Bohey

    This came at exactly the right time. Thank you so much for sharing. I needed this lesson today and I will practice it everyday. Thank you for your wisdom and motivation to do and be better.

  • Adam

    I am on this path now as well, and have found that the key comes in simply understanding that everything is always exactly as it must be, at all times. There are no exceptions to this. All human acts are no different than waves in the oceans. There is no control. Just one energy and one flow of events. Even the worst perceivable acts are just like lightning from a storm cloud. It had no choice but to strike, as the collective conditions forced it’s existence. And further conditions forced those conditions and so on. There’s no one or nothing to blame. We get lost in believing that with our self-consciousness and ability to think about things that we are somehow exempt from the natural flow of things but we are not. Everything comes to be because it has to, and this includes the acts of so-called “intelligent” life. The more you reflect on this and think about this, the easier it will be to accept everything, because it’s much easier to accept everything when you know everything was literally forced to be as it is.

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