At last night’s M3 gathering, we had a discussion about the acronym AFOG. Before defining the acronym, a little background on its context and where it comes from. Our discussion was centered around the idea of acceptance, and we read from a section of the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Anam Thubten’s book No Self, No Problem. Most of the men were surprised to find what the acronym stood for. It's probably not what you would expect.
In Buddhism it is often said that there are external and internal hindrances, in other words, external obstacles and internal obstacles. The external obstacles are the more physical obstacles that we all face—things like earthquakes, being tired, a toothache, a flat tire, or anything that gets in the way of what we want. Nobody is born under such auspicious or lucky stars that they don’t have to face external obstacles. We are constantly facing external obstacles each and every day.
So now the question is, How are we supposed to deal with outer conditions, the external aspects of everyday life? The answer is acceptance. We have to learn to accept what is….The spiritual precept, the discipline that we have to try to maintain in our heart in all situations, is learning how to stay open in each moment.
Acceptance is not the same as being passive. Acceptance does not mean giving in and refusing to change or grow. Acceptance is not attaching blame, judgment, dislike, or like to the external obstacles that arise. We can accept the reality of our aging, of our failing health from sickness or age, and of our future death. But that does not mean that we do not take care of our health, do not apply wise decisions to how we eat, exercise, or use our bodies. Acceptance is not the same as letting go.
Acceptance is releasing all attachment to the obstacle. It is neither bad nor good. It is neither an obstacle nor a stepping stone. It simply is.
In the last part of the chapter, Anam shares the story of a friend of his who was dying from cancer.
He had an expression that he used when was going through difficulties. He always used to say, “This is AFOG, another f----ing opportunity to grow.” That was his holy incantation, a little unconventional, but it worked for him.
Another Fucking Opportunity to Grow, or AFOG. That’s true acceptance. For me my mantra has become, Accept—Grow. We accept what has occurred and then we look for how we can grow from that experience. I like that Anam writes that AFOG was his friends “holy incantation,” his holy mantra. All is sacred. All is profane.
The usefulness of AFOG is when we use it to bring us back to the present moment. Our meditation practice, our mindfulness training is what gives us the power to accept what is occurring in each second so that we can see each obstacle, each event as Another Fucking Opportunity to Grow.