Acceptance as a practice is about surrendering. It’s about letting go without giving up. It’s about seeing things as they are without struggling to make them different. Acceptance is an active practice and requires engagement, vulnerability and commitment.
“Suffering = pain x resistance” ~ Buddhist Philosophy
Acceptance is an essential practice for anyone who is tired of playing tug-of-war with life. Resistance can be exhausting. Acceptance creates spaciousness and takes us out of the fight. It doesn’t mean we give up or become complacent. We give ourselves time and space to feel into any moment and find our center – far away from fear and worry so that we can see with more clarity.
Most of the practices on acceptance come from various faith and wisdom traditions. Psychotherapy has developed an approach called Acceptance Commitment Therapy or ACT. The research has been mixed on its effectiveness as a treatment for issues such as anxiety, depression and addiction . The core principles are compelling and align closely with the knowledge presented by the faith and wisdom traditions. ACT is organized around six core principles. These principles are designed to offer a supportive and flexible structure to our sometimes rigid thinking:
- Cognitive diffusion: Learning methods to reduce the tendency to make thoughts, images, emotions, and memories more concrete and less abstract.
- Acceptance: Allowing thoughts to come and go without struggling with them.
- Contact with the present moment: Awareness of the here and now, experienced with openness, interest, and receptiveness.
- Observing the self: Accessing a transcendent sense of self, a continuity of consciousness which is unchanging.
- Values: Discovering what is most important to one’s true self.
- Committed action: Setting goals according to values and carrying them out responsibly.
How To Start Practicing
Be Mindful – Mindfulness helps us to recognize and name what we are experiencing in the moment, so we can be more engaged, present and intentional with what happens next. It helps us cultivate more receptivity to what is happening and stay with it, by the simple act of observing. Over time, and with practice, we can begin to notice a change where there is more spaciousness in the moment and a lightness that allows whatever is present to just simply be.
Explore Your Resistance – Understand where resistance exists in your life and how it operates you. If you want to practice acceptance, spend some time mindfully exploring when you are engaged in resistance. Resistance often shows up as a tension. It can be tension in a relationship with a partner or your children or it might be a tense relationship at the office. Many of us resist painful or difficult experiences or we resist certain aspects of ourselves. Notice when tension arises and ask yourself “Is there something here that would benefit from my acceptance?”
Practice Deep Listening – Being present, offering our full attention and creating a space of stillness for another to be seen and witnessed, is one way to practice acceptance. When we allow someone’s expression to be felt without a need to fix or change it, we not only practice acceptance for ourselves, but also create a container of acceptance for the other person. Deep Listening requires a strong awareness of our environment and ourselves. It is a practice that asks us to be open, receptive, calm and present.
Explore Sensation – Often times when resistance takes hold, there is a physical sensation linked to the resistance. Meditation creates a physical intimacy and helps us connect with ourselves in deeper, more meaningful ways. This intimacy helps us in our quest to practice acceptance by giving us permission to sit with discomfort.
Practice Curiosity – When we stay curious, we allow ourselves to explore new ways of being and we deepen our understanding of an experience. Curiosity can open the door to acceptance by keeping us out of resistance. As you build your awareness, try to notice the moments when you are no longer being curious. Often, these are the moments when judgment will enter. Judgment is a contraction where as curiosity is an expansion.