“Happiness is really a deep harmonious inner satisfaction and approval.” ~Francis Wilshire
This is a word we often toss around, but what does it truly mean? Perhaps the meaning of it ultimately resides within its beholder. I know I have certainly achieved my own understanding of what acceptance means to me and for me, and so far, this definition is ever evolving.
On November 6, 2013, I returned to the United States after having lived in Australia for two and a half years. I spent the majority of my time there studying and practicing yoga and teaching yoga and meditation.
As a teacher, I had to face my attachment to the experience my students had or did not have. I feared that I would not be good enough, that somehow they would find fault in my delivery, and that I would ultimately not be accepted.
Now, let’s be clear, this fear was no new fear. It had haunted me all my life. Becoming a yoga and meditation teacher was just one of the divine blessings that brought this fear to the surface for me to clear and overcome, like nothing had been able to before it.
At the end of last year, I traveled to the Oneness University in India. For thirty-one days we went through many classes, ancient rituals, and ceremonies, and had an abundance of time and opportunity to see ourselves clearly.
The monks lovingly guided us to look at our unconscious fear, pain, suffering, and inauthentic actions.
This was extremely confronting, because most of us had no idea we were operating on a level of such fear.
After that, I went back to Australia and spent the next five months falling apart as I became aware of so much inner dissatisfaction and disapproval. Holy Moly! I sometimes wondered if I’d ever come through it.
During this time, I did some coaching with a woman named Jaxin Brooke. In our initial consultation, it became clear how much I longed to feel like I fit somewhere, like I belonged, like I was completely accepted.
She helped me see how I had been going about this with external efforts; I thought if I could up my career game, or perhaps if I moved back to America, or got married, then maybe I would “fit in.”
The truth was, I suffered from internal rejection and an inability to feel like what I was offering, who I was, and where I was at in my life were good enough.
Awareness is the most effective tool for helping me shift from fear to love, from criticism to compassion, and from conditional to unconditional love.
Awakening begins with seeing.
Once I become aware of the way I am currently operating—meaning I can see the inner critic, the judgments, the fear, and the stories—the awareness alone brings light to the darkness or consciousness to the unconscious. This brings about an automatic shift in perception. So for me, inner satisfaction and approval depend on my level of inner awareness.
Between working with Jaxin and watching a TED talk by Brené Brown on vulnerability, I began to experience a profound shift. There was a specific message that I received, and that message was this:
“Acceptance comes as a result of sharing what’s in our hearts, regardless of the outcome.”
It clicked. I understood that acceptance was no one else’s responsibility. It was my own. The first step toward it was vulnerability. Vulnerability is courageous. Courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means heart.
I began to share what was in my heart, regardless of the outcome, in my classes, with my boyfriend, with my clients, with my friends, in my articles, and I began to experience something beautiful.
Showing up and sharing was no longer about the feedback or responses I got from others. It was about me doing my part. It was about showing up as the best version of myself, without hiding the things I assumed other people wouldn’t love.
I began to apply this into my daily life as a spiritual practice. I began to give fully, to speak my truth openly, to share what was in my heart each day, regardless of the outcome, and I experienced the joy of connecting with people like never before.
I was no longer trying to be perfect, but rather letting them see me exactly the way I was.
I was finally able to see my boyfriend through loving eyes, becoming aware of everything that was awesome about him instead of picking out what was wrong about him.
I was able to share, personally and professionally, from a place of authenticity and vulnerability. I was no longer taking responsibility for what others did or did not get from my sharing, because I knew my only job was to generously and unconditionally give what sat in my heart and to surrender the rest.
As a result, my relationships became even more powerful, even more mutually nourishing, and even more effective.
Everything began to flow in abundant ways after this awareness blossomed within me, which has been a huge help for me now that I am back in the U.S. and spending time with family.
Our loved ones have the ability to show us our deepest, darkest corners of insecurity, self-judgments, and inner disapproval.
As a result, we typically end up pointing the finger at them and complaining about how imperfect they are. This trip home has been different for me than trips in the past.
I have always assumed my family thinks certain things, that they judge me, or are disappointed in me for not being what they may have wanted me to be.
Now, however, when I see myself in conversations with them and the old programs come up, telling these stories of their disapproval of me, in that moment I can soften. I can recognize the pain that is present in us all in that moment. I can have compassion for them and myself.
I can reaffirm that I know who I am, I know what I’ve achieved in my life, and I know what amazing things I am up to; and therefore, I don’t have to demand their approval.
I can consciously choose to let go of the old stories, the boxes I have put us in, the need to prove anything, and instead I can re-examine things with fresh eyes that have only one goal: to love myself and them.
Even if my assumptions about my family were right, which is unlikely, with inner satisfaction and approval, I can still be happy and okay in the face of other people who may think, feel, and see things differently than I do.
Awareness is what opens the pair of internal eyes that we need to see what is going on onside of us. Awareness will shine the inner flashlight on the internal fear and criticism. It will show us where we are currently operating and offer us the opportunity to upgrade.
I am not inviting you to fix or change yourself. I simply invite you to turn on the flashlight within and see what happens. I invite you to become willing to surrender to the process that will follow such awareness, and to stay committed to your intention to accept yourself and others.
Photo by Jennifer Graevell