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Acceptance And Vulnerability


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Because of one or two things suggested by other threads a few things have surfaced in my mind concerning "acceptance" and "vulnerability". It seems to me that it is not just the Christian faith that revolves in part around "acceptance" - our being "accepted" by the Divine. Yet within my own experience there has been the recognition that the "self" we experience ourselves to be seeks always to "earn" this acceptance, to "justify" it. Part of this seems to be a refusal to recognise our own vulnerability, and the need to feel self-sufficient.


As a counterpoint to all this is the twin ideas of the "self" as being "redeemed", as against the "self" falling away ( Zen speaks of the "dropping of body and mind") For me it is in the reality of pure acceptance of ourselves as we are that paradoxically leads to genuine transformation and this to a certain extent does link the two ideas/modes.


A couple of quotes......


Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something different. It’s about befriending who we are already." Pema Chodron



And a passage from a book called "The Little Locksmith" by Katherine Butler Hathaway.......



I am shocked by the ignorance and wastefulness with which persons who should know better throw away the things they do not like. They throw away experiences, people, marriages, situations, all sorts of things because they do not like them. If you throw away a thing, it is gone. Where you had something you have nothing. Your hands are empty, they have nothing to work on. Whereas, almost all those things which get thrown away are capable of being worked over by a little magic into just the opposite of what they were..........But most human beings never remember at all that in almost every bad situation there is the possibility of a transformation by which the undesirable may be changed into the desirable.


Anyway, sometimes there is just a little confusion in my mind concerning working with what we have or "dropping" it! And it revolves around acceptance and vulnerability, or seems to in some ways.


Sorry to have taken so long, but the thoughts of others, drawn perhaps from their own experience, would be welcome.

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Maybe owing to the rather confused way I posed my questions I need to kick-start this topic myself. I'd just like to say that this is not some sort of dry academic pursuit of understanding for its own sake - my own reading and reflection/meditation has always been soteriological in intent, not just to help pass the time!


Obviously if the word "saved" is now totally redundant or if anyone feels that "grace" plays no part, looking more - or exclusively - towards "works" then really you may as well look away now.............


Its just an observation of mine that we find it very difficult to truly accept a gift. I realise that gratitude for that which is given is a natural response yet I feel it goes deeper than this. There is a deep need, it seems to me, for the "self" to justify itself and "stay in control", to show in some way, however obscure, that the gift has been earned.....or payment has been made!


There was a little cobbler called Saichi, who is known as a Pure Land "saint". His verses are inspirational at times, but often hard to grasp...


To say, "How grateful!" is a lie;

The truth is: there is nothing the matter with one;

And there is nothing more that makes one feel at home -

"Namu-amida-butsu! Namu-amida-butsu!"


(namu-amida-butsu, loosely translated = "my foolish self is enfolded withing infinite compassion, grasped, never to be abandoned.")




O Saichi, such as you are, are you grateful?

Nothing's the matter with one,

However much I listen to the sermons, nothing's the matter with me.

And no enquiries are to be made.


Gratitude is a "lie"?


Maybe pure grace is just too good to be true and a self-respecting "self" just doesn't want to be taken for a ride! Yet in my experience the whole reality of grace has been life giving in a way I find it impossible to deny. In my sad mind one thought and experience often seems to collect and gather a million more, making multiple inter-connections......for me "reality" implies grace. It is the fabric of Reality-as-is, the only thing that finally makes sense of it - sense as opposed to the "absurd" of those who would deny an ultimate meaning to anything.


Perhaps I still havnt fully explained my question. But I won't turn this thread into a self-confessional soliloquy ( :D ) so will not add to this thread unless others wish to join in.


Just another passage from another book to finish, as it seems relevant here, at least to me. Its from Jack Kornfield's book "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry"


Underneath all the wanting and grasping, underneath the need to understand is what is called the "body of fear." At the root of suffering is a small heart, frightened to be here, afraid to trust the river of change, to let go in this changing world. This small unopened heart grasps and needs and struggles to control what is unpredictable and unpossessable. But we can never know what will happen. With wisdom we allow this not knowing to become a form of trust. We rest upon what has laughingly been called "the Firm Ground of Emptiness"...........giving up the ego's territory and trusting in groundlessness.


So faith and trust come into it, letting go and letting God.

Edited by tariki
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I think this is a wonderful topic that requires ones full attention as it seems to me to relate to the start of real transformation through Acceptance and making yourself vulnerable. I am in the process of setting up for a big Thanksgiving and then will be driving to Florida for the winter so it will be a few days before i can respond. These terms to me relate heavy to the weakening of the ego and allowing grace to dominate in ones life.




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Many thanks for your encouragement, your few words have already acted to clarify my own mind on the actual questions involved. Pity the poor dustbin!!


While looking up another text, I just happened to catch the following, which for me in many ways captures the state of the heart/mind that is open to its own vulnerability......and perhaps, therefore, to Grace.


Great knowledge is all encompassing; small knowledge is limited. Great words are inspiring; small words are chattrer.....When we are awake, our senses open. We get involved with our activities and our minds are distracted. Sometimes we are hesitant, sometimes under-handed, and sometimes secretive. Little fears cause anxiety, and great fears cause panic. Our words fly off like arrows, as though we know what was right and wrong. We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. And yet our opinions have no permanence: like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away. We are caught in the current and cannot return. We are tied up in knots like an old clogged drain; we are getting closer to death with no way to regain our youth. Joy and anger, sorrow and happiness, hope and fear, indecision and strength, humility and wilfulness, enthusiasm and indolence, like music sounding free from an empty reed, or mushrooms rising from the warm dark earth, continually appear before us day and night. No one knows whence they come. Don't worry about it! let them be! How can we understand it all in one day?


Bless you all


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I don't feel like an old clogged drain. rolleyes.giflaugh.gif Though I can relate to the practical aspects of your words, for some reason i have no desire to regain my youth nor be concerned with my 'slippings' into the things you have outlined. As you said. " Don't worry about it! let them be! How can we understand it all in one day? "

Such wise words, even if they are from a Pure Lander... biggrin.gif


To me, the word acceptance means non mental resistance to what is. Some may interpret that as apathy or think it leads to inaction but that is not at all the case. Non-acceptance to me, is entertaining mental images that constantly compares the present moment with the past images for satisfactoriness or thought that is always concerned with the way the present moment is compared to what it deems it ought to be to be satisfactory to its cherished images. With acceptance this mental noise subsides and clarity to act opens up. I have friends who constantly refuse blessings and gifts bestowed upon them because their past conditioning has been programmed that they must 'earn' everything and when this noise arises, instead of letting grace do its work they refuse it re-enforcing their otherness and personal pride which has a form of momentary pleasure but seems to me to always be absent of inner peace.


To me, a deep trust that this moment has in it something useful to me and that there is indeed something in it to be gained gives me the peace to see beyond it and respond accordingly. It is common that people are diagnosed with cancer or some illness and enter into a battle with it as if there is something to fight. Thinking that the alternative is to lay back and die. This fighting attitude to me seems anti-productive for healing. Acceptance to me says here is where I am at and though it may not be desirable, i am okay with the moment and wherever it leads and has for me. It seems to me the answer then always presents itself and if the mental noise, fighting and fear is absent, I will recognize it. It is subtle and to me is captured in the Christian phrase.. "walking in the spirit".


Anyway, I am in Florida after two days of driving and still settling in and setting up camper for the winter. Its a little cool at 59 at the moment but will soon warm up into the 70's.





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Im slowly recovering from a long travel day/week, but wanted to respond a bit to this topic.


Its so true that it is in the pure acceptance of ourselves as we are that paradoxically leads to genuine transformation. I was thinking about that as my family gathered for the holiday this past week. Liked the quote by Pema Chodron, on befriending who we are alreadysame end result as Jesus teaching on forgiveness. The Hathaway passage reflects the idea of the realm of God being always available, as the positive interpretation of reality.


Great observation, that we find it very difficult to truly accept a gift. Something that Ive often experienced friendships, favors or help refused out of pride in ones self sufficiency, or the need to feel in control, perhaps the inability to repay in kind. As Jesus said, the kingdom has to be received the way a little child does, vulnerable, dependentwhat is given can be taken away. Being open to grace is an attitude many of us have to learn slowly especially those raised in a Stoic atmosphere (like me)because it involves so much unlearning. And yet reality implies grace we are all benefiting minute by minute from Gods gifts, as well from as the love and labor of others before us and around us. It echoes the bibles saying what have you that you have not received?


This topic reminded me of Paul Tillichs words on grace; also another passage of his that for me seems related: People are sick not only because they have not received love but also because they are not allowed to give love. Do not suppress in yourselves or others the abundant heart, the waste of self-surrender, the Spirit who trespasses all reason. Do not greedily preserve your time and your strength for what is useful and reasonable. Do not suppress in yourselves the impulse to do what the woman at Bethany did. Keep yourselves open for the creative moment.

Edited by rivanna
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I don't feel like an old clogged drain. rolleyes.giflaugh.gif Though I can relate to the practical aspects of your words, for some reason i have no desire to regain my youth nor be concerned with my 'slippings' into the things you have outlined. As you said. " Don't worry about it! let them be! How can we understand it all in one day? "

Such wise words, even if they are from a Pure Lander... biggrin.gif








Well, your arteries must be in a better condition than my own. :o:D And just to put matters right, the words quoted were by the Western Vipassana meditation master Joseph Goldstein, not a Pure Lander at all, so we can both be astonished at such wisdom coming from unlikely sources!


But thanks to you, and Rivanna, for the responses to the questions asked..........via my catalogue of quotes. Though I often "walk in the dark" - in more ways than one! - I often like to look back and try to make sense of my experience. Though much of our "progress" seems to me to take place in the darkness, in the intuitive "unknowing" of the unconscious, a little bit of clarity does come in handy at times. Really, that is all this thread is, some sort of attempt to clarify what ultimately seems beyond "clarity". Perhaps, at best , we can only prepare ourselves for Grace and then not worry overmuch about it, just seek to live a life of gratitude for what has, or hasnt, been received. This said in recognition of the fact that for us foolish Pure Landers, it has been given before we were ever born.


For those suffering from an overdose of quotes, please look away now. Here are a couple from the pen of Thomas Merton, who often seems to marry in his heart, experience and understanding the intuitions and insights of "east" and "west". He speaks of "grace", "faith" and "salvation", maybe even "enlightenment". The first from his Journals, the second from a letter.......



The reification of faith. Real meaning of the phrase we are saved by faith = we are saved by Christ, whom we encounter in faith. But constant disputation about faith has made Christians become obsessed with faith almost as an object, at least as an experience, a "thing" and in concentrating upon it they lose sight of Christ. Whereas faith without the encounter with Christ and without His presence is less than nothing. It is the deadest of dead works, an act elicited in a moral and existential void. To seek to believe that one believes, and arbitrarily to decree that one believes, and then to conclude that this gymnastic has been blessed by Christ - this is pathological Christianity. And a Christianity of works. One has this mental gymnastic in which to trust. One is safe, one possesses the psychic key to salvation......



In contrast.........


..............we are in paradise, and what fools would we be to think thoughts that would put us out of it (as if we could be out of it!). One thing I would add. To my mind, the Christian doctrine of grace (however understood - I mean here the gift of God's life to us) seems to me to fulfill a most important function in all this. The realization, the finding of ourselves in Christ and hence in paradise, has a special character from the fact that this is all a free gift from God. With us, this stress on freedom, God's freedom, the indeterminateness of salvation, is the thing that corresponds to Zen in Christianity. The breakthrough that comes with the realization of what the finger of a koan is pointing to is like the breakthrough of the realization that a sacrament, for instance, is a finger pointing to the completely spontaneous Gift of Himself to us on the part of God - beyond and above images, outside of every idea, every law, every right or wrong, everything high or low, everything spiritual or material. Whether we are good or bad, wise or foolish, there is always this sudden irruption, this breakthrough of God's freedom into our life, turning the whole thing upside down so that it comes out, contrary to all expectation, right side up. This is grace, this is salvation, this is Christianity. And, so far as I can see, it is also very much like Zen.........


As I see it, it is very difficult to plot a course that prepares one for this. For me, I just "walk on", tied up in knots at times and very, very vulnerable. And not much left to say.

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Interesting thread. I am not sure I understand what you are saying. I would like to pitch it back to you in language I am more familiar with, and see if we are communicating. I am writer focused on the hero character and the hero story, and I have become very fond of the template developed by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Here is Campbell at the heart of the hero's journey – Atonement with the Father -


“Atonement (at-one-ment) consists in no more that the

abandonment of that self-generated double monster - the

dragon thought to be God (superego) and the dragon thought

to be Sin (repressed id). But this requires an abandonment of

the attachment to ego itself, and that is what is difficult. One

must have a faith that the father is merciful, and then a

reliance on that mercy. Therewith, the center of belief is

transferred outside of the bedeviling god's tight scaly ring,

and the dreadful ogres dissolve.” The Hero with a Thousand Faces


In my understanding, every movement requires a passage through uncertainty. Your description here -


“for me "reality" implies grace. It is the fabric of Reality-as-is, the only thing that finally makes sense of it - sense as opposed to the "absurd" of those who would deny an ultimate meaning to anything.”


implies to me that you have stepped outside of ego, and prefer the clarity of the view. In my words -


“Lucky to be born. Miraculously lucky to be born human. Lucky for all of the good things that happened, lucky for all of the bad things that didn't. The only thing you can take credit for is the effort you make, and even then, you are lucky to be in position to make that effort.” It seems to me that gratitude, or grace, is the only way to escape the selfish ego, which is blinding us to reality. The leap through the hero threshold into nonexistence is a passage through uncertainty. Returning your life to God out of gratitude for your great fortune, appears to be the only mechanism by which we can escape the blinding limitations, immobilizing fears, and voracious hungers of the selfish ego. Ironically, escaping the limitations of selfishness appears to be a powerfully profitable move for yourself.


Are we close?

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Many thanks for your interest in this thread. Yes, we are very very close. But would just like to say that as far as "stepping outside of the ego" is concerned, for me this remains aspiration rather than accomplishment!


I remain at the stage of trying to live a life of gratitude for all the opportunities you speak so well of, and seeking to remain open to the work of grace....which seems always impossible to control though my faith is that we can rely upon it, which is rest in itself.


Thanks again, and I wish you well.


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It seems a little bit quiet around here at the moment. Perhaps everyone is beginning to hammer down the hatches for Christmas........and why not, curling up with the Marian Canticle from The Book of Hours that Mike posted on another thread.


But, Christopher, I just wanted to add a little more. I'm not really over familiar with mythology or its methods. Replacing one thing with a symbolic "other thing" causes me more confusion that anything else, being more existentially inclined! I said we were very close, and reading your words again I would not alter that. But I would have to say that I do not really see the ego (super or id or whatever) as some sort of dragon to be "slain". Perhaps befriended? Perhaps seen as a very naughty puppy indeed? That to me seems to echo the way of Christ (and Amida), who accepts us as we are - not because we are iintrinsically loveable but because total acceptance is the catalyst for genuine transformation.


Maybe we can get to "dragons" asbeing more suitable when we reflect upon the Stalins and Hitlers of this world (and even here I do think we need to keep in mind that they too were human beings, not to be demonised, as this again tells us more about ourselves, and just what cost there can be in acceptance........its not soft soap)


Anyway, just thought I would offer that.

Happy Christmas everyone


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Actually, I don't get the dragon superego stuff either. What I take away from this stage of the hero's journey is the escape from ego as a result of “grace” (a new word I am starting to like), and how he placed it at the heart of the hero's journey. I am really working from my own experience, which occurred before I discovered Campbell. There was a time in my life when I found myself standing on top of a mountain of luck piled suspiciously high, watching myself take credit for how really super special I was, and hungry for more, more, more.. The sight sickened me, I was a cartoon, a self generated fantasy, and I decided I would rather not exist, than live a lie. So I took from myself everything of which I was so proud, and along with my life, gave it all back to God. I leapt into nonexistence. That's when things got really interesting. It is not easy to claim you have escaped ego, without sounding egotistical, but this experience triggered an epiphany that I believe is what they refer to as the gnosis of enlightenment.


The damn things come off.


That was long ago and far away. I would like to add, from my present perspective, the damn things grow back. Just a couple of days ago I was poked in the ego, and got sore. I am not trapped inside of ego, forced to respond from inside of ego, but I still suffer the cravings and fears of ego, but much less. It seems that being able to see ego implies you can step outside of it, however briefly, because I think it is invisible from inside. It also looks to me as though some people have never stepped outside of ego, and are thus completely enslaved by it, and completely ignorant of a perspective from outside of ego. From outside of ego, this seems fairly easy to spot. This ain't you, brother.


I agree about the need to remember that the Stalins and Hitlers are human beings, and from my own experience, I can relate strongly to the words - “they know not what they do”. The words “turn the other cheek” once rescued me from a poisonous righteous wrath I was sucked into, and when I forgave my enemy, I could see how I had been casting stones, but was far from sinless.


However, while I can feel compassion for them as victims, I also feel compassion for their victims. Turning the other cheek rescued ME from my rage. I was grateful. But it created a conflict with my hero character, who does not believe that turning the other cheek is going to win the day.


From my last novel, Hero Nation, written during the 2004 election cycle


I roll over and push myself awkwardly to my feet.

Our eyes meet. How do I put this delicately?


“Thank you, brother. Once again, you have pulled me

from the River Styx, and I am grateful beyond measure.

Once again you have reminded me that men are weak and

that the test is difficult, and those who fail deserve our mercy

and our understanding. There, but for the grace of God, go



“But your words were spoken before they nailed you

to a cross, and then swept across the world, raping, torturing,

and murdering in your name. I say to you, in all humility,

when I was your age, I felt as you. But our love did not melt

the hatred that binds the monster’s heart, and I hear his

victims wailing in the night.


“I thank you with my whole soul, and my whole

heart, and my whole mind. I respect the saints. Together, we

try to serve the loving God as best we are able. Many times

you have helped protect me, and rescued me, from my inner

monster. I have learned to forgive my brother, for I could be

my brother, and perhaps that is why I hated him so much.

But if the hero turns the other cheek to avoid the monster

inside, the monster outside will strike him down, and who

then will protect the innocent upon the field of play?


“And so I find myself once more at risk of becoming

what I fight against, and I know the peril to my soul that this

battle brings. But it is a risk that I must take, for I am the

hero, and without me standing between the outer monsters

and those they feed upon, you cannot rescue the victim’s

hearts from the River Styx. This I promise, the hero will

prepare, but he will not strike first. When he is forced onto

the field of war, he will make great effort to ensure that only

those who attack the innocent, and the protectors of the

innocent, perish by his hand. All of those who are captured

or surrender will be held with dignity.


“I thank you, gentle saint, and I pray that if I stumble,

and once again get sucked down into this poison hate, that

you will be here to fish me out of the River Styx before I

reach the Gates of Hell. And I will dream about a day when

saints and heroes can sit together, and give thanks to the

Creator, the loving God who gifts our turn upon his field of



We look at each other from across a chasm that I fear

we may never bridge. Then he extends his hand, and I take it,

and it was as simple as that.


“I can see that there is someplace you need to be.”


“Resurrection Day.”


He holds up a coin.


“I suggest you take the ferry.”



Merry Christmas back at you. You can download Hero Nation free at my website.

Christopher Sly


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I can relate to your first paragraph, about feeling "wise" and taking credit, being on "top of the mountain"! Fortunately I had it kicked out of me some time ago, now I've realised that "great things are seen in the valleys, only small things from the peaks"


And again, yes sometimes the view from the mountain pops back, but often now I just smile and watch the conceit drift away again.........though as you again say, the conciets are often invisible.


Can't really say that I step in and out of "ego" at will, don't really see it like that. Its tricks just become a little more playful, and I just tend to live AS it, seeking to open to Grace. And sometimes I'm surprised by joy, that the mechanics of my pitiful mind can issue in what I experience as genuine love and empathy with others.




All the best


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