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A better way to cultivate acceptance

“…[T]he most important [characteristic of reality] in the practice of Vipassana is anicca [impermanence]. As meditators, we come face to face with the impermanence of ourselves. This enables us to realize that we have no control over this phenomenon, and that any attempt to manipulate it creates suffering. We thus learn to develop detachment, an acceptance of anicca, an openness to change, enabling us to live happily amid all the vicissitudes of life.”

–Vipassana Research Institute,

The idea of “detachment” as it relates to Buddhist practice is often misunderstood. It seems like something we can choose to do, like giving away old clothes. But we could think of “acceptance” as a better way to say the same thing: when you realize what’s really going on in life (i.e., a moment-to-moment flow of change), you stop trying so hard to make things stay the same.

The more we realize that everything is constantly flowing–from the breath into and out of the body, to the blood circulating through our arteries and veins, to the subatomic particles that make up every cell of the body–the more we can let go of the idea that we need to arrive, to finally get our lives completely in order.

Too often we (at least, I) imagine at an unconscious level that I’ll be happy once I finish the project that feels so important right now or take care of some part of my life that’s been neglected for too long. Like finding a bra that fits well or doing my taxes.

What’s liberating about the Buddhist teachings is that, yes, things will never quite work out the way I want them to. But they don’t need to. Deep underneath that constantly changing surface, my true nature is buried: the luminous emptiness of buddha nature.

The irony is that until we recognize that everything (ev.ry.thing) at the conventional level of reality is subject to change without notice, we can’t begin to identify with our buddha nature.

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