Acceptance & Mindfulness Take a moment to think of the last difficult situation you were in. Did you say statements like “this isn’t fair”, “it should not be this way”, or “why me”? What emotions did you have during this time? Now think about the statements above. What emotions do you feel when you think of these? Perhaps frustration, anger, sadness, or feelings of being stuck. Wishing things were not the way there were creates a lot of difficult emotions. Our mind often travels to the past of what was and then spirals to future anxiety of what is to be. We begin to ping-pong from the past to future and lose touch with the present. When we push back against reality, we are choosing not to accept the present moment. When we do not accept the present moment, we create more pain. Leaning into Acceptance… No one wants to experience pain. If you take a look at our society…we tend to avoid pain at all costs. One way to avoid it is to wish the present situation was not happening. The irony behind this method of avoidance is that we are actually creating more pain for ourselves. When we push back on the reality of the present moment…we create more pain. When we refuse to accept the truth of a situation, we deny the present. When we deny the present, we are disconnected and feel both the pain from the situation AND the pain from wishing it was different. This not to discount the pain that comes from a difficult situation. Rather, acceptance invites us to acknowledge the truth rather than staying stuck in wishing it was not this way. Failure to accept the present moment as is can cause a greater intensity of emotional pain. …And How Mindfulness Can Help Us Do This Mindfulness has become quite the buzz word in our culture along with many different ideas of what the practice is. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, provides us this definition: “The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 2015) Simply put— mindfulness is to experience the present moment fully awake. This means we are not ruminating in the past nor letting the mind wander to the what ifs of the future. We are fully embracing the present moment for what it is. Pay attention to where our thoughts wander…are you in the past or future? Or are we fully in the present moment? What is the story we are telling ourselves? When we begin to live awake in the present moment and accept what is, we can lessen painful experiences. Acceptance ≠ “I Agree” Let me confirm that true acceptance DOES NOT mean agreement. It is extremely difficult to accept a situation that is painful AND we can choose to accept the present moment. True acceptance does not mean agreement. We can both disagree with a circumstance and agree that it is reality. When painful experiences happen in our life it is human to wish circumstances were different. It is when we lean into full acceptance of the current situation that we arrive to freedom. While we cannot discount the pain and difficulty a situation may bring us…there is freedom in acknowledging the reality. It is when we push back at the present moment when circumstances become more painful. Once we fully acceptance the present moment for what is it we can then navigate the new reality. Bringing awareness to your thoughts on the situation – what is the story you are telling yourself? Start by noticing your thoughts. When they wander to “this is not fair” or “I can’t deal with this”, acknowledge them non-judgmentally. We Have a Choice It takes a LOT of energy to fight reality. Acceptance can place us in control of our emotions. Acceptance AND mindfulness of the present moment gives us freedom. Life can guarantee pain. It is our choice how we respond to it. Acceptance gives us the ability to be mindful in the present moment. When embracing acceptance accompanied by mindfulness of our thoughts and feelings…pain is lessened.