The purpose of an acceptance mantra is to act as a sort of trigger.
It can be used as part of a simple practice to reset your mind when it comes time to accept the situation you find yourself in. Saying the mantra out loud anchors your attitude in the Amor Fati process you are trying to make a habit of. With repetition, you will quickly begin to associate the saying of this phrase with the next action you need to take.
The consequence of this kind of practice is the cultivation of a greater and more natural sense of equanimity, or imperturbability, (what the Stoics would have called ataraxia) in the face of life’s unpredictability.
Amor Fati Practice
As a reminder, and to show where the mantra fits in, practising Amor Fati when faced with a problem might look something like this:
- Write a description of the event in the plainest, most unemotional language you can. Reading it back, it should seem a lot less catastrophic.
- Come up with your own acceptance mantra to say in the midst of difficulty. Saying it out loud as part of this process will help habitualize the practice.
- Look back at your description from Step 1 and consider all the possible solutions to the problem that are within your control. Pick the best solution and break it down into small, manageable tasks. Start work on the first task.
- As the old saying goes, this too shall pass. Learning to love the difficult times, and focusing on how we can greet them as challenges to be overcome, gives us even more of life to love.
As you can see, saying an acceptance mantra in step two is almost part of a ritual. It’s a motion we go through to constructively handle a difficult situation.
In case you are struggling to think of a good mantra, I wanted to offer five ideas I came up with for myself that you might find useful along with a brief explanation of where they came from.
“This too shall pass.”
“This too shall pass” is an adage that is believed to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets. It is a meditation on the temporary nature of everything, making the point that no moment in life, whether good or bad, will indefinitely last.
The story of the phrase’s origin tells of a powerful Persian King who asked his sages, including the Sufi poet Attar of Nishapur, for one quote that would be accurate in all situations. After much consideration and consultation between themselves, the wise men finally produced their answer:
“This too shall pass”.
“This is perfectly lovely. Let’s have a blast at it.”
This mantra comes from a John O’Donohue speech I have referenced in previous articles called Love is the Only Antidote to Fear. In the speech, O’Donohue delivers serious advice on facing worry in his trademark cheerful style.
When we’re worried about some future event, he says, the time leading up to the event can be totally overshadowed by what lies ahead. We waste perfectly lovely days by fearing the uncertain. O’Donohue describes his technique for dealing with this kind of fear (for accepting it):
Something that I try to do myself when I’m afraid is to sit myself down, and on an empty chair opposite me I’d imagine the thing (or person or situation or whatever) that I was afraid of. Then I’d say to myself, “Let’s do it now. Instead of being miserable about it, let’s have a blast at it.”
He then goes on to imagine the worst possible outcome of what is worrying him to mentally prepare for its occurrence. By the time the situation arrives, it’s rarely as bad as feared.
“Facing this is not painful, trying to get away from it is.”
For this one, I have adapted a line from Alan Watts’ book The Wisdom of Insecurity where he says:
“Wanting to get out of pain is the pain; it is not the “reaction” of an “I” distinct from the pain. When you discover this, the desire to escape “merges” into the pain itself and vanishes.”
Using this mantra is a good reminder that most of the time the present moment itself is not painful. We create pain in the present by regretting the past or obsessing over the future and then trying to get away from those two imaginary points in time.
Realising that this moment, right now, is basically fine makes acceptance much easier. And in a weird, virtuous cycle, acceptance makes it easier to realise that this moment is basically fine.
“I am saying yes to this, in spite of everything.”
If you have ever read Man’s Search for Meaning, you’ll know that Viktor Frankl’s acceptance of his circumstances as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II is one of the most inspiring true stories ever told. In the most harrowing conditions, the psychiatrist was able to find purpose in trying to help others and was somehow able to remain hopeful until his eventual release.
He conveyed his attitude of acceptance perfectly in these lines from the book:
Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
Although Man’s Search for Meaning is Frankl’s most famous book, the mantra I’m taking from him comes from a collection of his lectures entitled Yes to Life, in Spite of Everything — I can’t think of any other combination of seven words that could so concisely describe a love of one’s Fate.
“This, like everything else in life, can be turned to your use.”
Inspiration for this final mantra comes from the words of Epictetus:
“On the occasion of every accident (event) that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use.”Enchiridion 10
A Stoic doesn’t use acceptance as an excuse to be passive in all circumstances. Acceptance is the acknowledgement that there are elements of a situation you simply can’t change and so shouldn’t waste time trying to. From there it becomes possible to focus on the elements you can change and create something positive from an event you first perceived to be wholly negative.
Your Own Acceptance Mantra
Try creating your own acceptance mantras to use as part of your Amor Fati practice. You might come up with something original, you might base them on your favourite quotes, or you might simply use the ones I have suggested.
The key thing is to put them into your practice as a way of reliably getting yourself into an accepting frame of mind.
This gives you the power to move past denial and turn everything that happens in life to your use.