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Ukeireru: The Japanese Art Of Acceptance & How To Practice It 

Calm Woman in a Minimal Home
Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy
July 29, 2020
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In Japan, numerous words mean "acceptance." Depending on who you are with and the situation in which you find yourself, finding the right words to express acceptance varies and presents challenges for the speaker and listener.

It's no different from countless Japanese words and phrases that function as symbols or representations of meanings. When deciding to write [my] book, I contacted friends in Japan to see if they could help me understand acceptance at deeper levels than my own—an outsider to their upbringings, culture, traditions, and history.

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What might acceptance mean in Japan?

Yumi Obinata, an interpreter in Tokyo, sent me a highly detailed spreadsheet listing four words that mean acceptance: "Ukeireru, Uketomeru, Toriireru, and Ukenagasu." 

In the end, I fell in love with this definition of Ukeireru: "Used by a mother with a child to accept something gently, fun to imagine inside oneself, accepting reality."

What would it be like to act each day inspired by ukeireru? What might we do? What might we say? What sorts of things can we participate in and advance in order to have that sense of well-being brought about by acceptance?

How to practice Ukeireru.

Ukeireru means much more than self-acceptance. It means acceptance of our relationships in our families, in school, at work, and in our communities. It means accepting others. It means accepting reality and creating contexts that broaden the narrow, confining, and exhausting perspective of Self.

The plan is to accept yourself, your family, your friends, your colleagues, and your community.

As you do this, you might be able to understand other points of view. If you're not self-aware, and you lack a state of calm self-awareness, you won't be able to change things—especially not the conditions that created or contributed to stress in the first place.

Create well-being, and then address the problems that contributed to your isolation, worrying, and sadness. If you want, you can take the energy that comes from being calm and try to make necessary changes.

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What effects can this have on well-being?

Practicing the habits and adopting the behaviors associated with Japanese culture have helped me to observe and read and write with more concentration and comprehension than ever. Time seems to slow down—I'm not always thinking ahead, and I'm not always thinking back.

Ukeireru creates kind of a basic state of immediacy—of being present.

Excerpted from Why Be Happy?: The Japanese Way of Acceptance by Scott Haas. Copyright © 2020. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
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