Resignation is giving up, quitting, stepping down, standing down, or otherwise conceding defeat. Accepting what is means allowing what is to be and then working with what is. Accepting what is does not mean you are giving up trying to change it. Accepting what is does not mean quitting or conceding defeat.
Fundamentally, acceptance means no longer fighting against something. I studied Aikido and Tai Chi for many years…and taught Tai Chi for several years as well. Both these martial arts styles require one to not fight against the situation…using force against force. Instead, you learn to receive the attack/force from your opponent. Once the attack/force is received, you use that force as part of your counter. To receive the force, you must accept it.
For example, when someone is trying to grab you…in Aikido you offer a hand and as the person tries to grab the wrist or arm, you lead him right into a throw, and send him flying. In Tai Chi, we do something called Pushing Hands. We start by crossing wrists and then either in a form or free-form try to push or pull the other off balance. Pushing is the usual attack. If you resist the push (i.e. push back or otherwise not accept the push), you will be pushed or pulled off balance. However, if you accept, yield to, and receive the push, you can lead the force away from your center (so you don’t lose your balance) and you might get the other person to overextend and then pull him off balance.
In the movie, “Peaceful Warrior”, Socrates says to Dan after throwing him to the ground, “did you notice how the right leverage can be very effective? What if I were to tell you that’s what your training…even your life is about? Developing the wisdom to apply the right leverage in the right place at the right time.”
This requires acceptance. You need to be open to and allow everything that is going on. If you are denying, resisting, defending against, or fighting what is, you are not really being aware of what is going on. Furthermore, you are missing how you might be able to receive, yield, and then lead what is going on into an something you would prefer. Using (the force of) what is to your advantage. Instead, you are using force again force…you are not being receptive and sensitive…and so like in Tai Chi Push Hands you might very well be pushed or pulled off balance…and be thrown. One who is fighting what is…resisting and denying what is…is not concerned with the right place or right time. Such a one is not even concerned about the right leverage either…just leverage for the sake of leverage – putting up resistance…using force against force.
Once final analogy to get the point across regarding the difference between acceptance and resignation. Say you are walking in the woods, jungle, or other outside location and suddenly you fall into a pit of quicksand.
Now you could resist and fight it. You would thrash and struggle…potentially sinking yourself and dying. You are not allowing the situation and may be denying it mentally (“I can’t believe this is happening to me” – for example). There is a lot of misery and suffering in this…struggling physically, mentally, and emotionally against the situation.
You could choose resignation, you would just stay in the pit forever. You would quit trying to get out and concede defeat. In ceasing to move, you will notice that you float. You only sink under the quicksand if you struggle against it. But now life is spent up to your neck in quicksand. Not much fun.
You could choose acceptance. “Yes, I am in a pit of quicksand..there is no denying the reality of it. As long as I don’t struggle, I see that I don’t sink…so stay calm. I don’t want to stay here forever, so what are my options?” Maybe you see a vine or branch hanging down that you could reach for. Maybe in the silence of not struggling or moving, you might hear someone else walking not far away that you could call for help. Perhaps you don’t see any options at the moment. In this case, you just patiently wait…not resisting or fighting because you clearly see it won’t do any good. The time is not right, so you wait…perhaps you hear a person in the distance. Perhaps others start to wonder what happened to you and start looking for you.
The right leverage in the right place at the right time can only be recognized when you accept what is and you are present.
* Acceptance could also be called allowing, surrender, yielding, or nonresistance. These words are all pointers for the same thing. I like the term nonresistance the most, because it points to a non-action…ceasing to resist. If you ceased denying, it is automatically allowed and accepted. It is not so much what you do, as what you cease to do. Our inherent nature allows and accepts all…just cease egoically resisting, denying, fighting, etc. and then allowance and acceptance already is.