There’s a great quote from notable meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein that says, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” And so it is with life. Waves in the form of thoughts, emotions, and events can catch us off guard and throw us off balance where we can be rolled and tumbled in the undercurrents of chaos.

Or…we can learn to surf. To ride the waves. To understand how they work and rise above them. The first step towards mastering this skill is through the art of acceptance. Accepting that, regardless of what you do, the waves will continue to come. Situations will continue to test you. Thoughts and feelings will attempt to steal your peace and you will have to decide how you’re going to respond to them.

It is a choice.

Often, the only thing that we can change is our reaction to all the waves. If you get upset that it’s raining, you’re giving your power away to something that already exists. It won’t stop raining whether you’re bothered or not. It’s wasted energy.

If you get upset about something someone said, will it change the words that were spoken? Does a negative reaction make the words less true or does it add fuel to the fire?

Most of what others say and do is 99% about them and very little to do with you. Other people are busy reacting to their own waves. Their words and actions are typically triggered by their ungrounded responses to what they do or don’t like in any given moment. And if we’re constantly reacting to what we do or don’t like, once again, we’re giving our power away to something that already exists. Like the prayer, we must learn to accept the things we cannot change, have the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Most importantly, we must learn to accept ourselves. Whether it’s past mistakes, our looks, or intelligence, we have to recognize that all of it is a result of biology or beliefs that we’ve inherited or adopted along the way. We have to recognize that we’ve done the best we could in each moment based on where we were at that time. Accept that it’s in the past and let it go. Once you accept it, then you can begin the process of change and forgiving yourself (and yes…you deserve forgiveness too).

Self-improvement and growth can only come once we’ve embraced acceptance.