A Story of Acceptance and Finding Peace

We wanted to share this powerful and beautiful story of acceptance.

It was a busy morning, approximately 8:30AM, when an elderly gentleman in his 80's arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00AM.

I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would be able to see him. I saw him look at his watch and decided since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.

While taking care of his wound, we began to engage in conversation. I asked him if he had another doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I then inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer's disease.

As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now. I was surprised, and asked him, "And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?"

He smiled as he patted my hand and said, "She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is."

We all want to find peace. And when we don't accept what is in life, there is a lack of peace and we experience tremendous distress and suffering. But it's human nature, and our habit to struggle and resist. we want to fix things and solve problems because we are fighters. But sometimes we just need to accept things as they are in order to find peace.

Our former conference speaker, Jon Kabat-Zinn, says that even when things are hard to accept, like death and pain, we still need to put out the welcome mat, because the welcome mat is actually the gateway to freedom from suffering. The best selling author, Kelly Corrigan, says acceptance is the Mt. Everest of human emotions--it's that hard to get there and it's that hard to stay there. But once we let go and tell ourselves this is how it is, we find the world doesn't end and there is a liberation that brings us peace. So part of living in peace is recognition that things are the way they are. Like the loving husband in this story, accepting all that is, has been, will be and will not be in his relationship with his wife who has Alzheimer's disease.

Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher, author and nun, says: holding on to, not accepting what is, limits our experience of life. It's not the ideas or opinions that are the problem, but the grasping onto our beliefs and opinions that causes the problem. When we use our belief system this way, we create a situation in which you choose to be blind, instead of being able to see, to be deaf instead of being able to hear, to be dead rather than alive, asleep rather than awake. To live fully, Pema suggests we simply accept what is. To make that our practice. When we catch ourselves grasping to our beliefs, right or wrong, to acknowledge them without judgement, and let them go. Always coming back to the present. Always coming back to, and accepting, what is. This is where we will find peace.