You know how people talk about “just accept it,” as though if you acquiesce and accept whatever, that it will make it okay? The zen book I am reading, “Being Zen,” handily counters this notion by saying it’s much deeper than acceptance. That living your life as your practice means that it would help if you realize what your expectations might be and that they are the real root of the problem of being unhappy. A real no-no. Because if you don’t have whatever expectations you might have about how life ought to be, then there’s nothing to accept, per se.
To put it another way, we, in our American culture, have a lot of expectations. Some might even say that they’re part of an “entitled” world view: every man and woman is able to pursue his or her American Dream and succeed to some degree, find the love of your life, bear beautiful, inspiring children, live in homes with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, huge flatscreen TVs, and have enough money to do and wear what you want.
If these are our widely held expectations, then there’s a lot of acceptance to be had when we’re missing some or many parts of that American dream. A Zen approach is basically to have no expectations at all and to experience the present moment for what it is, without judgment nor opinion, even. Otherwise, the book says, we are just living a “substitute life,” not a real one in a universe where we are not constantly feeling hemmed in with what’s working or not working for us.
Seems easy to describe. Harder to live by.