Acceptance, as we think of it in mindfulness, is acknowledging things as they actually are in the moment without judging or trying to change it. Few situations actually force us into acceptance like the death of a loved one. My program, Hunkapi, recently lost our horse, Easy, who had been with us for over thirteen years and, through his death, I got to experience the fast lane to acceptance.
The day Easy died was a normal day for me and him. I was pre-occupied with contracts, emails and cleaning stalls. Easy was perky and hungry, as always.
At 3:00 pm, I went and gave all the horses a snack and he met me at his stall hungry and alert, tearing into his snack voraciously. At 4:30 pm, I checked on him again and he was down, sweating, rolling, and in distress. In that moment, there wasn’t a contract or email in my inbox that mattered more than relieving the pain I could see he was in. In that moment, I began living in my most present state of the whole day.
Over the next three hours, I witnessed the sheer will of a being who was fighting to live, and I was forced to accept there was almost nothing I could do to help him, other than be beside him.
As a therapist, my day is spent working with people, both children and adults, who come here fighting to protect themselves from harm. We move quickly into fight, flight, or freeze through our hurtful words, our violent actions, substance use, or by non-response to protect our mind, body and spirit, only to create distance and disconnection from those whom we truly crave love.
In our final hours, though, our human body, like Easy’s, will fight, not to create distance, but to live. It will fight to live because it is our most innate nature. It will fight to live, because it was born to live, and living is worth fighting for. To fight for any other reason, is a waste of attention and energy.
The compassion and acceptance that filled each of us as we sat on the ground weeping his death was enveloping. I sat in awe as I realized that even in his death, he asked us to be our best selves. There was no criticism, judgment, or fear in that space; only love, support, and an absolute desire to take away his pain.
With acceptance, we have the opportunity to move forward into situations in life, with new-found intention and behaviors that are more benefiting to us and our community. In honor of Easy, let’s practice noticing our critical mind, judgments and the harsh words we use to protect and defend. Let’s practice meeting people with compassion and acceptance and seeing how we may ease their suffering. Let’s practice loving, supporting, and living.
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