‘We must stress again that mindful acceptance is not resignation. It is not the acceptance of the unacceptable. Nor is mindful acceptance an excuse to be lazy or to do nothing with your life, your time and your innate talents and gifts.’
(Williams et al 2011: 45)
We can spend a lot of time and energy resisting the way things are, bemoaning what they are not, fighting against things because they are what they are, here and for now. The very process of doing this can create more tension, stress and effort, taking more energy and time than resolving things might. And through all this we are probably not moving forward or resolving any of the things we need to. We may even be preventing moving forward.
Acceptance then is a pause to give time and opportunity to fully appreciate a situation before responding to it skilfully. By really appreciating the now, through acceptance, we set the ground for the next step. In this way it could be considered the art of maximising what is here, now.
This doesn’t mean we have to like the situation, or that we will not try to act to improve it. It means being clear on what it is that needs to be considered or changed in order that we can find a way to go forward. Oddly whilst acceptance is often thought of as passivity, in this context it enables more conscious choice than merely reacting to a situation, ‘doing things’, reacting, without being fully conscious.
Sometimes we can overthink a situation, not accepting it for what it is, and get in our own way in terms of acting, by say running a parallel dialogue or, developing multiple potential scenarios, rather than focusing our attention on the job in hand. Accepting can be a way to pull back from this, often automated, reaction.
Of course, there may be situations where we cannot change what is, it is outside of our or anyone else’s control. In this situation then acceptance can be a way to come to terms with the situation, rather than adding additional struggle and suffering on top of what is already there.
Sometime coming to accept things as they are may mean going through other emotions, such as denial, anger or sorrow. However, it is only once acceptance is reached that we can move forward.
Generally the first stage in dealing with a situation is to accept it for what it is, for now, be that pleasant, painful or neutral. This means firstly accepting any thoughts, emotions, sensations or impulses that arise and not pushing them away or hiding from them. In this way we can become fully aware of the situation, which can be difficult to do, and choose a response.
Don’t forget to accept the good things too. It is an important element in recharging our energies and maintaining our sense of well-being and resilience. Be grateful and appreciate the things that go well, the good things in life.
At the core of all meditation practice is an acceptance of things as they are. During practice we may get distracted, notice uncomfortable feelings in the body, or move away from the object of meditation. Whatever happens just accept that this is what the meditation is, this meditation practice for now, in this instance.
Williams, M. and Penman, D. (2011) Mindfulness a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Kindle. Hachette Digital