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A Walk in the Hills

A Few Thoughts on Self-Acceptance

by Jonathan Young

Confluence Magazine, August-September 2003

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What a fine day, I thought, for a walk in the hills. The sky is pleasantly warm and clear. The breeze drifting through the trees makes the world seem fresh and new. On an outward level, this stroll is a very small adventure. I pass near some old sheds that were once used for animals, but have been neglected for years. The dark planks have texture and character that are the gifts of the seasons. Further away, some cows graze with what seems like infinite inner peace.

My love affair with the beauty of this landscape is not rare. Anyone who visits the coastal hills has to be swept up in the natural grandeur of such a place. As a native Californian, I share in the belief that this is about as close to sublime as we are going to find on this planet.

So, ok, I'm in a good mood. I am appreciating the simple experience of moving the body and how it takes me into a reflective space. There is more than a lovely day to celebrate. I am grateful to live in a part of the world where people are curious. The seekers that are numerous in these parts are kindred spirits. Being in the company of adventurous types is gratifying. Around here, I don't feel like the only one who is forever poking at difficult questions.

A Walk in the Hills Santa Barbara County
Santa Barbara County walking Trail

The people that appeal to me are forever discovering new layers of possibility. Their larger adventures are often within. After all, our rich inner lives are what we have to show for how we have invested our energies over the years. Whatever we might accomplish in practical terms is modest, compared with the marvels within. It is as if a life is the task of building an interior castle of ideas, feelings, experiences, and dreams.

On this day as I wind my way through a glen with a small creek, most of my attention is in the private world of thoughts. Bits of conversation float through my mind.

A memory comes of a very successful friend who once asked for ideas on how to live so that, at the end, he would have no regrets. I thought long and hard, then answered that I thought regrets were inevitable. There isn't time to do everything. There is always some grief about all the good ideas we never get around to developing. I don't think life has to be perfect to be fulfilling. I suggested that he give some thought to how to handle regrets well, rather than putting too much energy into avoiding them.

These days, I am far more interested in self-acceptance than in further improvements. Seems to me that a good deal of pop psychology is thinly veiled self-rejection. Of course, I want to continue to discover more about life and myself. I just don't want to miss the quiet knowing that has always been present.

The sun is starting to get low in the trees. The air is growing cooler. At moments like these, I can hear the angels sing.