Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.
Arugamama is one of my favorite Japanese words and I keep it in my back pocket for everyday use. It means something like things as they are. An acknowledgement of what is, even when “what is,” is something we do not like, and cannot control. Clearly cancer is one thing that is out of our control. But so are thunderstorms and viruses and the stock market. I suspect we all can come up with a long list. What’s important about this word is that it doesn’t imply passivity, rather better described as an active acceptance. With things as they are, what can I do here? I see it as the first step towards initiating change.
When we reflect on the question — with things as they are, what can I do now, we need to distinguish between what is controllable and what is not. Working to learn, influence and change what can be changed is meaningful, satisfying and a worthwhile expenditure of energy. When we refuse the victim mantel, and turn over every stone to influence what can be changed, we gain confidence and often satisfaction. We can ask questions, seek advice, listen, and learn. Action is essential.
Looking at the challenges and catastrophes that come our way we can view arugamama as a readiness to say, “what now?” With things as they are, what can I actually do right now?
Acceptance often gets a bad rap as it gets equated with resignation and passivity – lie down and let the world walk over me. However, this wonderful definition from Jon Kabat Zinn puts that misunderstanding to rest. This is the best definition I have ever seen. It is included in a collection called Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness.
Acceptance doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is – especially when you don’t like it – and then work mindfully as best as you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in, and with the resources at your disposal, to be in wise relationship to what is, which may mean at some point acting to mitigate, heal, re-direct, or change what can be changed.
Note 1:) One line from our wise poet, Mary Oliver: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
Note 2:) Something for listening. This video was created from the contributions of over 200 physicians from across Canada, singing and recording this music in isolation between November and December 2020 and under the auspices of the Phoenix Chamber Choir in Vancouver. It’s purpose is to help support front line mental health and addictions programs across Canada. I so enjoyed this cheerful, encouraging and worthwhile production called:
Note 3: ) Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read these musings and sending encouraging words. With appreciation and warmest wishes for you all. See you next week, Trudy