A favorite mind-shift, from long ago, recently popped to mind: a three-way option presented by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now. He posed the choices, in a conflict, as Accept the situation, Work to change it, or Separate from it – instead of the “normal” “insanity” of down-spiraling in non-stop objections. I got a huge charge from this new awareness of inner space, a place where consciously making such a choice was possible.
Years passed (during which I realized this three-way choice was a softer version of “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”). My insight into what “acceptance” actually means, in esoteric terms, made the three-way choice even easier. The key is to focus, first, on that first choice: “Accept” (notice what’s happening at every level, without condoning or collapsing). Noticing, to be transformative, means allowing hidden objections (fear, pain, rage) to come fully into awareness (Jung’s point about bringing light to the unconscious). The objections won’t come gently to awareness until they’re compassionately seen as instinctive, programmed by Nature: every self-protective reaction can be witnessed as a loving if unconscious act of self-preservation – a viewpoint that can also generate empathy with others in similar difficulties.
That’s Step One. Completing it resolves parts of the next two choices: the situation has already been changed, since reactivity has shifted into relaxed honest witnessing; and the situation has already been left, since there’s been a disengagement from the gut-dynamic of the conflict (even if surfaces are still turbulent).
From this transcended point of view, the possibility of further change is more evident. As newly empathetic energy flows, the whole situation might shift – visibly or subtly. Helpful speech and action can arise spontaneously.
Inside that dynamic, alertness to the possibility of leaving a situation can arise – not the blind flight of fight-or-flight, but a serene decision based on a review of circumstances. Spiritual (and secular) literature is full of references to the freedom of detachment, of leaving, frequently highlighting the ultimate leaving of physical life, which is a liberating idea (an end to suffering). Allowing the idea to arise completely can unlock reservoirs of life-force, enthusiasm, and liberation that were trapped under armored denial.
Once the three-way choice is seen through these soft-focus lenses, situations become more malleable, more filled with potential, more life-enhancing. The first draft of this post was called “The World as Teacher,” and this is one way it teaches, in allowing the disruptions to bump us out of automatic pilot and focus attention on the choices we have, moment to moment, and all the instincts underneath them.