September 19, 2017

How I Overcame Abuse: Self-Acceptance

This week, we continue our series with Greg Reese, who delves into what is means to accept ourselves and what we gain access to by doing so.

In part 1, Dispelling the Victim, we looked at the trappings of ego identity, and at the vital importance of releasing blame so that we can become proactive in our own personal growth.

In part 2, Being the Witness, we learned an ancient art of self-observance. An art that we can practice in any and every moment to gain valuable self-knowledge. Once we begin seeing through the mind’s fanciful projections, we will start to see ourselves as we truly are. And when we do, we won’t like everything that we see. We will want to change our self, which is a healthy desire, but change takes time. This sort of work likely takes a lifetime. This is where we find the need for self-acceptance.

Here in part 3, we will look at the value of cultivating a strong practice of self-acceptance.

As we become more practiced in the art of being the witness, then we will better understand the workings of our own mind. After observing its different aspects, we may pronounce the ego to be the trouble maker, and come to see it as some sort of illness. Some even exclaim: “death to the ego”. This, however, is a common ruse perpetrated by the ego itself in an attempt to evade capture. It will be quite happy having us chase our own shadow, so long as we don’t quiet the mind and accept responsibility for our actions.

The ego is not the trouble maker. It is not bad, nor is it our enemy. It is a personal faculty of the self that we must operate lest we fall to its chaos.

"The ego is a lot like a dog. When you get a new puppy and take it home, it's all over the place. And if you neglect to train the puppy, it will piss and shit all over the floors of your home, and tear apart everything within its reach. By never establishing yourself as the boss, it will become the boss. And since a dog is not equipped to rule a human home, it will grow into a neurotic animal.

The dog is not bad, and it could be your new best friend. It just needs to be trained.

I needed to keep my ego on a tight leash, but I also needed to occasionally allow its indulgences. To completely refuse it would be extreme, and I needed to love and accept my entire self unconditionally."

~ Sex Drugs and Om: An Autobiography of an American Yogi

We often make the mistake of seeing the things that hurt us as being negative, and this type of thinking is short-sighted and divisive. If we come too close to fire, it will burn us. This does not mean that fire is a negative force, but rather, it is a force that we must respect.

The ego is also a force that we must respect. It is always calling us to formulate strong opinions of what is good and what is bad, and we can easily allow it to knock us into unhealthy extremes. It is all subjective, and finding a balance becomes paramount to having any control over our life.

Everything is made up of the same polarized stuff. Within each of us exists both the positive and the negative charge. This is called yin and yang iChinese philosophy. Two opposing forces that are inherently interdependent. One giving rise to the other which then gives rise back again in an endless symbiosis. It is perhaps the very motor which produces the spark of life.

As the Witness, we detach from taking things personally so that we can see our self as we truly are. This is precisely the same state of consciousness we want to ply in order to garner self-acceptance. Un-attached as the Witness, we can see past our expectations of how we think we should be, and accept ourselves as we truly are.

"The goal of Un-attachment is taught in most Eastern religions, and I began to better understand it when I replaced the word attachment, with the word expectation.

It wasn’t pursuing my desires that caused unhappiness, it was having an expectation of their outcome. Things would always turn out to be different than the way I expected, and this would invariably cause disappointment and a feeling of failure. Learning how to always keep an open mind, and expecting nothing, was vital to understanding sustained happiness.

There is another popular teaching in Eastern religions; Renunciation. I never liked the word because I used to think it was about ignoring our desires and saying no to all worldly things, which made no sense to me. But I learned that this understanding was incorrect.

Renunciation was not about turning away from worldly desires. It was about realizing that you don't own anything. Nothing is yours and nothing lasts. Renunciation was about not clinging to things. It was about learning to appreciate whatever comes your way, pain or pleasure. It was about taking things as they come, letting them go as they pass, and always being present.
I was ready to trust my higher-self, and that's what renunciation and giving up expectations was all about. The ego chases after things, clings to them, and expects a certain outcome. Whereas, the higher-self has them delivered by the divine, enjoys what is given, and releases what is taken."

~ Sex Drugs and Om: An Autobiography of an American Yogi

Self-acceptance is very much like forgiveness and surrender. It is letting go of our own resistance.

When we truly choose to accept something, then we experience the state of mind known as surrender. I have manifested strange magic with this. Aspects of my life that tormented me for years became immaterial when I let go, surrendered, and accepted them. It is a great power to wield.

This entire process could be described as love. To love something is to see the good in it, and thereby come to appreciate its form. This is what we want to do with everything we find within our self. We want to see the good in every part. 

This requires us to come to an understanding.

For example:

While being the witness, we may observe that we treat certain people unfairly. And we may begin to feel contempt for our self. But upon further self-analysis, we realize that we treat them unfairly because they remind us of someone who hurt us years ago. The behavior was initially created to protect our self from injury, but it has also become an unconscious prejudice. We don’t want to act unfairly, but we can now appreciate its causality.

Ignoring our flaws will make feral burdens of them, weighing us down like sickness. But with acceptance; we can calmly acknowledge them and bring them into accord with our conscious desires. Over time, we can begin to enjoy a rich life of purpose.

When I first began being the witness and seeing myself as I truly am, I felt as if I had wasted years of my life allowing my ego to drag me through unneeded suffering and sorrow. But upon further introspection, I could see its great purpose. The ego was teaching me as it led me along its dark tumultuous paths. It was not all for naught.

When I failed to choose the clear cut path, my ego would drag me through brambles and thorns. And through the bloody pricks and misery, I always came out the other side with more knowledge. I do believe that they are working together, both ego and higher-self taking me to the same place. One goes the easy way and the other goes the hard.

There is a voice within us that is quietly guiding us along our path. If we follow this path, we realize our true purpose and come to find contentment and joy. But a legion of temptation and distraction haunts our mind and longs to lead us astray. This is the game; to tame the wild ego and fearlessly follow the quiet voice within.

Greg Reese was born in Vallejo, California, raised in Cleveland, Ohio and now lives in a yoga ashram in Virginia. Since leaving High School, Greg has been a carpenter, musician, filmmaker and writer, as well as a saw-gunner in the US Marines. At the present time, he works in the audio-video department of the yoga ashram.

Having been a writer of poems and essays all his life, and having had such a uniquely unusual life so far, Greg decided to write a book about his experiences. Sex Drugs and OM: An Autobiography of an American Yogi, is an enlightening, entertaining account of how he elevated himself beyond suffering with yoga and meditation, and found sustainable happiness.

Greg is busy writing his first novel, plans on moving to Hawaii, and writing several more to come.

His favorite quote comes from Robert Anton Wilson, and sums up his feeling about belief - “Only the madman is absolutely sure.”

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