Foster Acceptance when Practicing Mindfulness - dummies

Foster Acceptance when Practicing Mindfulness

By Shamash Alidina, Joelle Jane Marshall

Acceptance is a core attitude of mindfulness. Acceptance means allowing your experience to be just as it is, whatever it is, rather than fighting it. Acceptance doesn’t mean complacency or giving up. It means taking your experiences one at a time and acknowledging them as your present-moment reality, as best you can. If you prefer, use a different word to ‘accept’, such as ‘acknowledge’, ‘allow’ or ‘let be’.

If you feel upset or hurt, the natural urge is to fight it immediately to try to feel better. This avoidance tactic may work for a short while, but in the long run it does just the opposite of what you wanted — you end up feeling more tense and hurt because you’re in denial.

When you’re preparing to meditate, sometimes you may feel as if your mind is full of thoughts that keep dragging you away from your meditation. If you don’t accept these thoughts and allow your experience to be just as it is, you may find yourself frustrated, angry and stressed. You are trying to focus but you just can’t.

Remember that judgment is learnt and not innate or natural. You judge yourself or your behavior as good or bad, right or wrong. With this judgment, there can then be little acceptance. Judgment causes your lack of acceptance and openness. Difficult feelings become stuck to you if you try hard to constantly fight or avoid them.

Feelings want to be felt rather than pushed away — if you can accept them, they’ll ease off in time. In mindfulness you are encouraged to skillfully welcome, accept and explore your emotions.

If acceptance of your experience seems impossible, start with baby steps. For example, if you’re experiencing pain, try feeling the sensations and moving towards them slowly. Be as courageous as you can in your baby steps. Even the tiniest beginning of acceptance can start a chain of events that can lead to an eventual transformation. Think of acceptance as having a positive snowball effect.

Acceptance of your current experience is the starting point for transformation.

This exercise helps you to move towards accepting a situation, circumstance or sensation that you just can’t change. Have a go by following the steps below:

  1. Consider your current ‘unacceptable’ thoughts, feelings and sensations, and write them in the first column of the following table.

    In the second column, consider how accepting you are of the experience.

  2. Gently state the label of the experience you aren’t accepting.

    For example, if you’re fighting feelings of anger, say to yourself, ‘I’m feeling angry at the moment. I’m feeling angry’. In this way, you begin to acknowledge your feeling.

  3. Notice which part of your body feels tense and imagine your breath going into and out of the area of tightness.

    As you breathe in and out, say words that help you move towards acceptance. For example: ‘The feeling of X is already here. Let me feel X with gentleness. I can be okay with feeling X, moment by moment.’ Replace X with whatever you’re feeling. Feel the experience you’re avoiding slowly and gently.

  4. Become really curious about your experience.

    Ask yourself: ‘Where did this feeling come from? Where do I feel it? What’s interesting about it? How is it changing as I breathe?’ Complete the third column.

  5. Now consider how much you accept or acknowledge your current thoughts, feelings or sensations on a scale of one to ten.

    Ask yourself what you need to do to increase your acceptance by one, and then do it as best you can. Write how accepting you are of the situation in the fourth column.

  6. Notice what effect the exercise has on your level of acceptance of difficult emotions day to day.

Experiencing Acceptance
Thoughts, Feelings and Bodily Sensations Before the Mindful
How Genuinely Accepting Are You of This Experience? (1 = Not
Accepting, 10 = Totally Accepting)
Thoughts, Feelings and Bodily Sensations After the Mindful
How Genuinely Accepting Are You of This Experience? (1 = Not
Accepting, 10 = Totally Accepting)