Meditation + Talk: Accepting Other People

Meditation + Talk: Accepting Other People

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 34-minute meditation and 52-minute talk and discussion about Accepting Other People.

I hope you find it helpful, and you are welcome to join my free Wednesday Meditations – open to everyone!

Meditation: Accepting Other People

Talk: Accepting Other People

Dāna offering:

These teachings are offered freely, at no charge.

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Generosity itself is a beautiful practice that opens and gladdens the heart, relaxes the contraction of “self,” and ripples out into the world to touch many people – and perhaps, eventually, even oneself.

Additionally, many expressions of generosity are not about money. People offer attention, encouragement, and patience many times a day. Sometimes we withhold when it would be so easy, actually, to listen quietly for another minute or to offer a word of appreciation or simply a look that says, “I’m with you.” Try being a little more generous for a day and see what happens.

Accepting Other People Talk (download transcript here)

Rick Hanson [00:00:00] So a comment came in that—you can see the name of the person if it’s public—from Penny Jean. And I saw you earlier in the Zoom window, Penny Jean. I am having a little trouble with the concepts of openness and spaciousness. Openness is easier for me, but spaciousness scares me a little. When I enter unlimited spaciousness, I feel like one drop in a vast ocean. Can I lose myself there?

[00:00:29] A couple of points here. First point is that different words mean different things to different people. Even terms from early Buddhism whose earliest surviving record was in Pali and also in Chinese, actually, people are still arguing 2500 years later about the proper translation for certain terms, which have different connotations when they’re translated. So, you know, what it might be for you might be different from another person. I do relate to what you’re saying here, Penny Jean, in the sense that openness for me is the simple quality of being open, you know, available. And it has a kind of somatic sensory element to it and kind of emotional. We know what it’s like to be open-minded, open-hearted, open in general. Spaciousness is a little more objective, a little more impersonal as a characteristic of something in that it can hold just about anything. There’s always room for more. It’s not tight, it’s not contracted, it’s not restricted or constricted, maybe the opposite of spacious would be constricted or contract. It doesn’t have those qualities. Openness and spaciousness go together. They intertwine. But I find there is something kind of emotional and experiential by just dropping in both of those words here.

[00:02:06] Now, as to your specific comment about losing oneself in spaciousness, yeah, it can be kind of oceanic, right? It can be unbounded. And that can be really alarming sometimes. So it’s helpful to do foundational practices that are bodily centered and grounding, such as having an ongoing felt sense of the livingness of your own body, the breathingness of it, the heart beatingness of it, the ongoingness of it, here, as this body. You know? This fleshy body. So that can help you.

[00:02:45] It can also help you to keep realizing that you’re OK. You’re all right. It’s OK. And to include, frankly, just understanding, it could be a little conceptual, that all right, even if there really is all one ocean of the Big Bang universe, let’s say, and maybe what’s beyond, but even if there is only one ocean, still, that one ocean includes the moon and the Earth. And on the Earth, it includes this tree, and that bird, and this person process unfolding over time with a particular consciousness associated with it. So even if there is that sense of the allness, there’s still the ongoingness of your own particularity. And recognizing that can be calming. And then you can experiment with letting the boundaries soften and see what it’s like to be more and more open, continually renewing as it is helpful to you and refreshing that sense of being really OK along the way. All right. OK.

[00:03:58] John Lao? Law? Lao? Hello John, said at 6:42 p.m., I find myself feeling lonely even when I’m around people, even with my partner. But that loneliness feeling disappears when I’m meditating, or even a couple of hours after meditation. I wonder if it has to do with spaciousness for meditation. Perhaps somebody might have insight about that. I’m not altogether of course sure, John, the particular qualities of your own experience. I think it is very poignant and common for people to feel lonely, even while they’re with other people. And I think that it’s possible using, you know, taking in the good and positive neuroplasticity and so forth that I’ve talked about to repeatedly internalize feelings of connection with others. Warm, visceral, healthy, appropriate feelings of connection, both that are based on what’s flowing into us and what is flowing out from us toward other people. And as we repeatedly have and then very importantly, internalize various healthy experiences of connection with others, more and more, we don’t feel so lonely. We feel increasingly seen and present in the minds of others and wanted and liked by others. And we also feel in some ways healed by the warm heartedness that flows up and through us toward other people.

[00:05:36] Now, if over time you start to realize that even amidst certain familiar people, you still feel lonely inside, even after you’ve done practices and maybe start to recognize that there’s something that’s objectively present here with the other person or the other group of people, there’s a reason why you feel lonely. Maybe because they’re maintaining a relationship that’s pretty superficial. Or they’re not really very empathic. Or they’re not very, really engaged with your own innermost being. You know, there are objective reasons why we feel lonely, sometimes with certain people. So then you’re on a journey of what to do about that. And that’s a larger question.

[00:06:21] What might be happening for you in meditation and spaciousness, which does relate to spaciousness, is spaciousness and openness naturally go out into vastness. We have a sense of abiding as everything. Abiding as the field, the ground, the tissue. The one tissue, as is said in Taoism, the one tissue of everything, mind and matter together. And that, of course, gives us a very strong feeling of connection. Thus, less lonely. So that might be a notion here, and you might see what’s worth exploring for you. OK.

[00:07:03] That meditation, I took you through, the steps, the particular steps I find really quite helpful for me, you know. Steadying the mind, using warm heartedness as a way, you know, as part of steadying the mind and then establishing a kind of quality of open-hearted presence, the combination of the two. And then going from there into resting and being and recognizing that in being and in awareness and in the mind as a whole are these inherent qualities of spaciousness and openness. They are the nature. They’re a key part of the nature of being. And we can increasingly explore what it’s like to be spaciousness, be openness. Pretty good.

[00:07:58] And just to name it also, since there’s a range of people who do this with these Wednesday evenings and so on, and I think also inside is both the benefit of establishing the foundations again and again, while also with an invitation for opening out as widely as you possibly can in a way that works for you. So I kind of acknowledge that over the course of the meditation, I tend to progress from fairly straightforward, maybe readily within reach ways of being into openings that might feel more of a stretch for you, more advanced, perhaps in some sense, more profound. And I think it’s really important to do that and not just kind of settle for repetitive, you know, foundational meditations and not explore even vaster, more profound ways of being. Hopefully that works for you. All right.

[00:08:57] I have a talk to offer here on accepting and accepting other people. And by the way, I do read your chats as they come in. And especially I read them afterward, you know, when I have more time to do it, although I’m seeing a lot here already. Let’s see somebody quickly asked. I did a talk for Henry Shukman’s group last Thursday, his Mountain Cloud organization, Sangha, and they’re going to post it. So yes, they will post it in a week or two, I think. And hopefully that’ll work out. Hopefully work out well. I was on fire, so hopefully it was a good one.

[00:09:36] OK, here we go, accepting other people. So I’m going to be sharing here from some notes that I’ve created about this. I want to declare to you all and admit it that whether it’s close to home or far away, I sometimes wish that some people were different. I admit it. In other words, depending on who they are, I wish they’d stop doing things like leaving cabinet doors open in our kitchen that I whack into. I wish they’d stop sending me spam emails. I wish they’d stop turning a blind eye to global warming, to the climate crisis. And I wish they’d start doing things like being friendlier to me sometimes or spending more money on public education, even if it doesn’t affect me directly. Also, sometimes for their own sake, I do wish that some people I care about were fill-in-the-blank, more energetic, more committed to their own well-being, less anxious, or less self-critical.

[00:10:42] In what ways do you wish that people were different? Think about the people close to you, friends, family, mates, as well as coworkers, drivers next to you on the highway, business people, media types, politicians, world leaders. Think about people who are not doing their share of housework, not getting you the health care you need, not returning your calls. Or promoting political policies that you disagree with and so forth. These people. Those people. It’s normal to wish that others were different. Really, it’s normal. Just like it’s normal to wish that you yourself were different in some ways. You know, wiser, more compassionate, more committed to regular exercise, thinner, richer, wiser, and so forth. It’s fine to try to influence others in skillful and ethical ways.

[00:11:39] But—this is the key but and you know this but inside yourself—problems come up when we tip into righteousness, resistance, you know, anger, fault-finding, badgering other people or any other kind of struggle with reality. Reality as it is. Instead, we could accept them for who they are and who they are not. Now, by acceptance, I don’t mean that we give up the truth. We don’t give up the facts. We don’t turn a blind eye to the facts, whatever they are. We may not like the facts. Very understandable. There are facts I don’t like. OK? I don’t like the fact that one in five children in America currently lives below the poverty line. One in four more or less in my home state of California. Crazy. I don’t like that my mom is no longer here. I don’t like that I’ve hurt people by losing my temper sometimes. I don’t like that. But things are the way they are factually. And we can accept the way things are while still trying to make them better when that’s possible. Very important point. Acceptance can be occurring as an experience, as an attitude, as a stance. Acceptance can be ongoing in you, even as you engage skillful action to make things better.

[00:13:24] At bottom acceptance grounds us in what is true, which is the fundamental source of wisdom, health and happiness, the recognition of reality as it is. Suzuki Roshi, for whom English was not his native tongue, would describe, had the phrase “things as they is.” Something like that. Things as they is. So we can accept things as they is, even if we don’t like them. That’s where we have to start for any kind of true and lasting effectiveness, happiness or healing. Acceptance is the foundation of wisdom and inner peace.

[00:14:03] Acceptance is not merely—doesn’t mean agreeing with them, doesn’t mean that we’re waiving our rights, you know, doesn’t mean that we approve of them, doesn’t mean we downplay their impact on us and others. You know, we can still take actions. You know, we might be discontent. We might be frustrated. But at a deeper level in acceptance, somehow we’re kind of at peace with the way things are. That alone is a blessing. And sometimes the shift to acceptance can help things be better.

[00:14:37] Now it’s interesting if you look at early Buddhism, our best understanding of what the Buddha himself taught and thought and his immediate contemporaries in an collaborative kind of way in the development of the Dharma, the fundamental teachings of Buddhism that are common to all of the Buddhist traditions that then developed over the next 2500 years. And in relationships, the Buddha emphasized three things, a combination of three things. First, discernment, clear seeing. Including seeing who you’re dealing with here. For example, there’s a line frequently in early Buddhism, there is no sense arguing with a fool. Also in discernment, there’s a recognition of interdependence, interbeing, our intertwining relatedness with others. From the Sutta Nipata: As I am, so are others. As others are, so am I. Having thus identified self and others, harm no one nor have them harmed. I’m going to put these quotations in the chat. OK.

[00:15:56] So we have the element of discernment. Acceptance is in a context of discernment. Acceptance is also in a context of the second quality, benevolence, fancy word for good wishes, goodwill rather than ill will, which includes compassion and kindness and a motivation for justice. I think it’s really, really true. Without justice, there can be no lasting peace. Another quote from the Sutta Nipata related to benevolence, one of my favorites: With goodwill for the entire cosmos, cultivate a limitless heart. Above, below and all around unobstructed without hostility or hate. That’s a kind of spaciousness, isn’t it? Kind of boundless open, rippling out, radiating out in all directions with goodwill for the entire cosmos. So that, too, is a context for benevolence.

[00:17:06] And I’d like to offer a poem here from D.A. Powell. I hope I’m not violating copyright by sharing it with you. D.A. Powell in The New Yorker, August 26, 2019, page 55. The poem is titled Open Gesture of an I, and it’s the letter I like I. Open Gesture of an I. I want to give more of my time to others, the less I have of it. Give it away in a will and testament. Give it to the girls club. Give it to the friends of the urban trees. Your life is not your own and never was. It came to you in a box marked fragile. It came from the complaint department like amends on an order you did not place with them. Who gave me this chill life. It came with no card. It came without instructions. It said this end up, though I do not trust those markings. I have worn it upside down. I have watched it without separating, and it did not shrink. Take from it what you will. I will. I just love that weird little poem.

[00:18:37] And then the third quality after discernment and benevolence is equanimity, which involves emotional balance, non-harming, including is an ethical impulse, non-reactivity. There’s a recurring metaphor of the Earth that receives all things without reacting to them. Spacious awareness together with self-regulation. So quoting from the Samyutta Nikaya: Knowing that the other person is angry, one who remains mindful and calm acts for one’s own best interest and for the others interest as well. Also from the Dhammpada: The wise are controlled in bodily action. Controlled in speech and controlled in thought. You can substitute a word like regulated, you know, if controlled seems too tight. The wise are regulated in bodily action, regulated in speech and regulated in thought. They are truly well-regulated. Also there. So acceptance is in the context of discernment and good wishes. And it’s in that context that we can explore the benefits. So how to do it?

[00:20:11] Here we go, a little more experientially. To have a clear experience of acceptance, start with a simple, direct, undeniable experience such as accepting the sensations of breathing. Want to try it? For a few breaths right now, focus on the sense of letting the breath be whatever it is. And see what it’s like to say to yourself quietly, things like, I accept this rising of the chest. I accept this falling, this flowing in and flowing out. Focusing on the sense of acceptance in relationship to the fact of breathing and its sensations. You could even take it a little further, such as, I accept the fact that this body needs air. I accept that I need to breathe. Then focus on the sense of acceptance itself. What was it like to accept breathing? Not deny it. It might seem so obvious, but I’m trying to highlight the sense of acceptance. You’re not denying it. You’re not acting like it’s not true. You’re not preoccupied with wishing you were not true. It’s like, yeah, there’s breathing. I accept it. And there are related feelings there, such as relaxation, or easing, or calming alongside acceptance. Yeah. I’m seeing the comments coming in the chat. Yeah. There’s breathing. I’m not struggling with the fact of breathing. I’m not denying the reality of breathing, I’m not railing at reality. Phooey, breathing. No. You know? I’m not railing at the sensations of breathing like maybe we wish they were different. Maybe associated with breathing, maybe you have asthma. There’s a history of kind of anxiety about breathing. OK. Can you accept that anxiety? It’s there. And in the acceptance, maybe, can there be some calming, even when there’s anxiety related to breathing?

[00:23:16] Now, let’s try something that might be hard to accept. Something medium or small. Not horrible in huge, medium or small. So, you know, speaking of some of my own mindstream, I might think to myself, I can’t believe people who don’t use their turn signals while driving. Actually, that’s not one of my pet peeves, but I have others. I can’t believe people who stand in doorways in public spaces talking to their long lost best friend. What? Others might be, I don’t like how my roommate does the dishes, or I wish my partner were less hyper-rational and more in touch with their feelings. Hmm. So explore this one. See what it’s like, pick something, if you can, that just has been like, I can’t accept this. It’s intolerable. I don’t accept it. And see what it’s like to, you know, fill-in-the-blank and I’ll offer some prompts here with things like it’s true that such-and-such. It’s simply true that yes, people do stand in doorways when I’m trying to get through them. Yeah, it is true. It’s a fact. It’s part of reality. It’s part of the great ocean of reality, right? The vastness of the universe. Yeah, it’s true. I see that people stand in doorways. I recognize that my partner is really in their head. I recognize that I wish they weren’t so much in their head. I see that fact. How about this? I surrender to the fact that some people stand in doorways. I surrender to, it’s a fact. Doesn’t mean I agree with it, doesn’t mean I approve of it. But it is there. I’m not, as George says, I’m not engaging the frustration from resisting the reality around me. You might try this. I wish with all my heart that such-and-such were not the case. But it is the case. I wish my partner were more interested in my inner life so that I felt less lonely in the middle of this marriage or relationship. And it’s the way it is, at least currently. OK? See what happens when you explore statements to yourself, even. Like even more actively like, I don’t like it and I accept it. Right.

[00:26:22] Sometimes there are blocks to acceptance that gets surfaced when you try to do a practice of acceptance. One block is what we fear we’d experience if we really accepted another person. Maybe there would be feelings of betrayal or grief or feelings that we have to leave the relationship and we don’t want to. You know? Feelings might come up. And to deal with it, it’s helpful to recognize what those fears are, of the feelings you fear. What are the feelings you might have if you really just utterly fell back into reality as it is, complete surrender to reality as it is? What might you feel with regard to that other person if you just—and you just accept it then? You quit trying to—particularly if you realize they’re not going to change. If you give up, you know, trying to get him to change and just accept it, they’re not going to change. If that’s true. Or if you decide to yourself, the costs of trying to get them to change are just much greater than the benefits of whatever change might occur. I give up about it all. I accept it as it is, you know, maybe with some implications for the relationship. You accept it as it is. What might you feel? And then you can realize that I can tolerate that feeling. I can accept that feeling. I’m OK with it. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to run away from it. And meanwhile, I can still accept the way it is. Acceptance can occur alongside feelings. All right?

[00:28:12] And then let’s think about someone—on my way to finishing up here—who is really important to you, I can think of, definitely, people, half a dozen people maybe more, but certainly that central half dozen who are really important to me. You can do this practice with multiple people. So in your mind or out loud or in writing, you might say, you know, recognize what there is. And then say to yourself and see what it’s like to say to yourself, I accept you completely. Go for it. I accept you completely. Only if it’s true for you. But you can experiment was saying this and then see what comes up and then work through those blocks and then go back to the statement again of I accept you completely. You might add, you know, drawing on some of the wisdom of the Buddha, countless causes large and small have led you to think, speak, and act the way you do. Countless causes large and small have led you to think, speak, and act the way you do. You are who you are. I let it be. I let it be. You are a fact, and I accept the facts in my life. You and I are part of a larger whole that is what it is and I accept it too.

[00:29:54] If you like, you could name aspects of the person that are particularly bothersome to you, such as I accept that you snore. I accept that you leave your clothes on the floor. I accept that you are still angry with me. I accept that you have little natural interest in conversation with me, particularly conversation that includes my inner world. I recognize that fact about you, and I accept that it is indeed a fact about you. I accept the fact that you have little natural interest in sex. I can understand some of the many reasons for that. And even though I wish it were different, I can accept that fact. I can accept the fact, even though I don’t like it, but I accept it, that you are fighting me tooth and nail in this divorce. And I can recognize that this is harming our children while accepting that this is a reality and I’m not in denial about it. I’m not in delusion, or ignorance, or illusion about the facts here. I see them, recognize them, and accept that they are facts. I can accept that you don’t really understand me. I can accept the fact, it is a fact, that you hurt people on a large scale while fighting with all my might to help those people and stop you and your allies from doing that. The two can be together.

[00:31:41] You might think to yourself, particularly with people in your immediate life, how you’ve gotten tangled up with them in mutual non-acceptance and trying to change them, trying to fix them. When I think about this myself, frankly, I become quite aware fairly quickly of my own rightness and positionality, my own judgments. You know, my own critique that can move forward all too quickly, sometimes, unfortunately. My pushiness irritability, views, right? Hurts, longings, other things that get caught up in the tangle with other people and see if you can let go of some of that, some of that tangle. See if acceptance is like a solvent, dissolving some of the wires, the threads that tangle us up with other people. Acceptance. You know? Open to the easing, the relief, and peace that comes when you do.

[00:32:43] Also, recognize how you like it and others accept you. Right? Wow. That was huge for me because I felt very not accepted because a lot I wasn’t when I was a kid in a lot of ways. But later on to just feel like people were OK with me as I was. You know, they had their wishes. They had their own little list, but they basically accepted the package. That’s maybe another way to think about it. Maybe there are parts inside another person that are hard for you to really accept. But stepping back, heck with it, you accept them as a package. You recognize the total package and you recognize the fact that no package is perfect this side of sainthood. Even saints can be grumpy by all accounts. Anyway. But you can accept the package. That might be a very liberating way to relate to this topic or think about it. OK.

[00:33:43] It’s easy to accept beautiful sunsets, golden prizes, and cotton candy. It’s the hard things that are hard to accept. So it’s important to appreciate the peace that comes from giving up the fight with the way it is. The appreciation of that peace and enjoyment of that peace can move it into acceptance. You can still do whatever you can, which is sometimes unfortunately nothing at all, while also being very real with yourself about what is actually true and accepting reality as it is. Just this, just this acceptance usually eases conflicts with others. At some point, an easing comes into your own heart. A softening, a clarity, and a hard-won honest freedom. The fruits of acceptance. OK.

[00:34:44] Lots have come in in the chat. I keep encouraging you to focus on your own practice and be a little careful about helping other people. You know? So questions or comments? I appreciate what the comments are. I love what you just say there, Art. Give up the fight without giving up. And thank you, Rick Kruger, right, you know, for your kindness there and acceptance recognizing that acceptance can be very liberating. OK, so Heather asked a question is 7:20, very important. What about the block of not being confident enough in my own discernment of the facts. And I’m changing Heather’s word from judgment. Judgment tends to imply evaluation, like good or bad. And I suspect you really mean discernment or recognition, but I just kind of want to highlight that quality. What if I’m not confident in what I think I see, especially after internalizing the critical people who have questioned my own judgments, my own discernment about reality? Absolutely. This is so foundational, Heather. And it’s such a sad casualty of abusive relationships or abusive regimes in different countries, this undermining of respect for truth and undermining respect for the quest for truth and the people who quest for the truth, such as scientists and journalists and people engaged, and the fact-finding processes that are so inherent in the rule of law. Right? So it’s very important to restore a sense of confidence in your own capacity to recognize what is true.

[00:36:24] So I would say start with simple things, like, there is a bottle here. I see it. I know I see it. I trust that I see it. 10000 people could come in here in white coats with PhDs, and they could all say Rick, there’s no bottle. But I would still know inside myself, there is a bottle here. They might say you’re using the wrong word. It’s a flask. I go, whatever. There’s a thing here that has water in it. I don’t care what you call it. It tastes good when I’m thirsty. See what I mean? Start simple.

[00:37:04] And then start simple with things that you recognize in other people. Build up your confidence. And also start to recognize the agendas of other people who try to undermine you. And really keep shoring up your own discernment of what the facts are. Facts are facts. They’re distinct from our value judgments about the facts, our opinions about the facts. And sometimes the facts are ambiguous or complex. Fine. Still. But whatever we do recognize as factual in the larger mosaic of reality, if it’s there, it’s there. It may be tested, but if it’s there, it’s there. And over time, we can build up our confidence in that recognition. That’s extremely important, Heather, to claim for yourself and to support in other people and to really stand against people who undermine factuality. We see a lot of that in the political sphere. We see a lot of people who prefer not to acknowledge asymmetries of different kinds in the ways different parties act. You know, if a kid is in school and a big bully whacks on the kid and the little kid hits the bully back. Yeah, they both hit each other. But there’s no equivalence in what happened there, for example. OK. And yes, it’s not good to hit people. All right.

[00:38:25] Let’s see. Anybody want to talk to me? Hand-raised, I see Linglee. All right, Linglee, Linda, I’m asking you to unmute. Here you go. Like I always say, you know what I’m going to say, keep your question short, concise, under half a minute, and focused on the topics of the day. OK.

Linglee [00:38:44] Yes. So I had a situation a couple of days ago when my mother was literally scolding my niece, 10 years old. And blaming them for her mistake. And I was witnessing it. And I feel the rush. And I felt I’m directly trying to counter my mother. It didn’t go well. Yeah. And I thought about it and I was thought, OK. It was very difficult for me to not speak. I know I needed to find more peace and accepting, understanding. But, yeah, so I was struggling.

Rick Hanson [00:39:39] Yeah, OK, if I hear you right, and I want to focus on the theme of acceptance of course, so, for example, and it’s a hard one, can you accept the fact that your mother was mistreating your niece in that way and in a way that your mother probably mistreated you as well? You know, which is a big one. That’s a big one. On the 0-to-10 scale. That’s that’s an 8 or a 9 or a 10. That’s a big one. Still, can you have a feeling inside you of, you know, I recognize that this is true and I accept that this is part of reality? While—OK, that’s good, right there. And knowing that you can accept it while disapproving of that and maybe having emotional reactions that are very understandable, like anger at your mother, protection for your niece, wondering about, I guess, one of your brother or sister and their family who are the parents of the niece. Yes. So you can have acceptance alongside those other things. Right?

Linglee [00:40:52] Mm hmm.

Rick Hanson [00:40:53] Yeah. Then there’s a separate question, which is how to act skillfully. You know, and I think you’re asking that as well. And there, I think it’s very complex in families. And sometimes we take our stand in quietly internally knowing what is true, while taking action to protect certain people, including ourselves, without getting into the big problem with the key person, in this case, your mother. Maybe we just realize I am not going to change my mother. She will never take responsibility for how she treated me. She will never change how she is. She is the way she is for many, many reasons, including perhaps some of them embedded in a larger culture and the way she was raised and the way her parents were raised and going back in time. Maybe. And maybe sometimes what happens, and I’ve been there with my parents in this way, I realize they’re never going to be different. And there’s no cheese down the tunnel of fighting with them about it. Yes, once or twice, maybe, going on record myself, writing a letter, saying something so that I know I’ve said it, that I recognize how they are acting and how they acted toward me, just so I know myself not to change them. Even though I hope they would change, but they’d never change. But they did not change. But for myself. But once I’ve done that, after that, you know, one possibility is to focus just on behavior and getting out of the war with the other person. Not trying to argue with them, not trying to punish them, not trying to change them, but more protecting yourself behaviorally from them and protecting others, such as your niece from them. And building up alliances with other people and working on your own healing about that other person without getting into direct conflicts with them. That sometimes is a path that people take. I think of it as kind of a middle path where we’re not directly in conflict with the other person like your mother. But on the other hand, very clearly with our actions, we’re demonstrating what we see and what we think and what we value. And by implication, what we think about our own childhood.

[00:43:44] At some point, sometimes people—if I could just. I’ll just say one more thing then I better keep going. I want to get to Mark, if it’s OK. So I better leave it here, Linglee. I’m sorry. But I’ll just say last, now I know this, for some people, this middle way, you know, it doesn’t seem right. They feel like it’s important to punish or bring justice to, you know, let’s say, the parent or the other person. And I respect that choice. I’m not trying to argue against it. I’m just saying that I think sometimes there’s an alternative to it, especially in complex families, that is more based on our actions and not based on us trying to process with the other person.

Linglee [00:44:25] Hmm. Can I quickly share just one thing that it came up as your talking?

Rick Hanson [00:44:30] If it’s under 30 seconds.

Linglee [00:44:32] Yes. Yes. I realize the most difficult thing for me to accept is a grieving that of my mother was so lonely because of the way that she acted. She alienated everyone.

Rick Hanson [00:44:50] Yeah. That’s hard to accept inside yourself, isn’t it? But it’s so—you have a lot of love for her and compassion, which is very beautiful about you, Linglee, especially considering how she was. And there, too, we can we can accept that people are hurting themselves. You know? We we see them pounding their foot with a hammer. And we feel sad for them. But we realize over time, if it’s true, and maybe every year or two we make one more effort to get them to change. And then we see again, nope. Not going to work. Oh well. But, you know, we just recognize they’re not—we can’t stop them from pounding their foot. So we feel sad for them and still over here, we make our life. OK, well, I wish you well with this. Thank you, Linglee. Your niece, your niece is very fortunate in her aunt. OK.

[00:45:45] All right, Mark. Am asking you to unmute. Great.

Mark [00:45:52] So can you speak to the role of acceptance in dealing with global problems such as climate change denial, diversity, and social justice?

Rick Hanson [00:46:08] Yeah. So for me, we can accept that those people are doing those things. I mean, and in the larger context of history, we can recognize that many people have done many bad things many times. Right? Which is not to diminish it or make it smaller at all. It’s—acceptance also means waking up from naivete and even sometimes a childlike innocence or wishful thinking. It’s to really see what they’re like and what they’re doing and what the consequences are. So for me, it’s pretty straightforward. We see the fact of it. That’s kind of what I mean by acceptance, especially. Yeah, it’s horrible. And sometimes what comes up, we don’t want to accept it. They really are that bad. They really are that determined to dump all the fossil fuel they can into the sky to make as much money as possible, meanwhile, and then live in their air conditioned palaces while the rest of the world starves and is awash in the ocean. You know? It’s like I can’t believe it. Well, part of acceptance moves us past I can’t believe it, and we don’t, you know, and that’s hard sometimes. But still, we kind of need to to get there.

[00:47:42] Acceptance also is entwined with disenchantment, which is a deep value in Buddhist practice, which has no monopoly on valuing it. But it’s the disenchantment that recognizes that certain people are not well-intended, really. They might be nice to their kids. They might, you know, not cheat at cards if you’re playing with them. But deep down, they’re not well-intended, and we wake up from that. We also, you know, we can accept, too, internally that certain things we do are not actually going to be that rewarding. We wish they were. We get caught up in hope. Right? Acceptance can move us to that space that, as the Buddhist saying puts it, beyond hope and fear. Beyond hope and fear. So you might explore that coming together of disenchantment. That’s kind of what I mean. It doesn’t mean acquiescence. Doesn’t mean—acceptance doesn’t mean turning a blind eye or submitting or accepting or acquiescing to it. That’s what I mean by it. Yeah. I hope that was clear.

[00:49:08] Hey, Rick. Let’s finish with you briefly. Briefly, sir. Rick Kruger, here we go.

Rick [00:49:16] Thank you, Dr. Hanson. So what I experienced this week was that it was very, very difficult for me to accept a particular person and what they were doing. But it was because, I mean, what drove me to do what I did in not accepting this person was my own insecurity. And so I think it’s really, really important to start with accepting oneself. I got some feedback from my boss that made me question my own competency in some particular area. And the person I lived with was doing something in the kitchen that I thought was, you know, objectionable for whatever reason. And I just kind of lost it. I mean, it’s just kind of awful. I mean, I’m really utterly embarrassed with my behavior. But you know, what I realized is that there was this underlying sense of insecurity that drove me to that reaction. That’s all I have to say.

Rick Hanson [00:50:33] Well, thank you for that insight and sharing that experience and your own openness about it. And I think you’re totally right that it really helps us accept others if we’re accepting ourselves. Yeah, and sometimes that self-acceptance moves into self-forgiveness.

Rick [00:50:57] Moves into I’m sorry?

Rick Hanson [00:50:59] Self-forgiveness.

Rick [00:51:03] OK.

Rick Hanson [00:51:04] Yeah, that’s a good one.

Rick [00:51:06] I’ll consider that as well.

Rick Hanson [00:51:08] Yeah, don’t just consider it.

Rick [00:51:12] All right. I will act on it.

Rick Hanson [00:51:17] Get on that—remember how when you were, when we were young, we might put water on a slide and then you get on top of the slide and you slide down it really quickly. Whoosh. Here you go. Acceptance is climbing the ladder. And then when you get to the top, you know, from self-acceptance, you get to the top, whoosh, self-forgiveness.

Rick [00:51:38] We used wax paper. You ever try that, wax paper?

Rick Hanson [00:51:43] Self-forgiveness. OK, everybody. That was good. I really appreciate your attention here, your kindness, your practice, fantastic comments and, you know, so forth coming in. Just terrific. So let’s finish here. Let’s finish here knowing what acceptance feels like, even simply continually accepting the arising moment in the present as it is. Allowing, opening, spacious acceptance, including the acceptance of other people as the whole package.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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