Mindfulness Attitudes – Acceptance
Acceptance is a very active process, there is nothing passive about it, it’s not passive resignation but an act of recognition that things are the way they are… Acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t work to change the world or circumstances, but it means that unless we accept things as they are, we will try to force things to be as they are not and that can create an enormous amount of difficulty
The process of acceptance begins with the willingness to see things exactly as they are in the present moment. Acceptance is not about resignation. It is about courage. It is about the courage to look a situation right in the eye and say: “Yes, I have this issue.” Much like alcoholics first need to recognise that they have a problem before they can do something about it, so do we need to accept that we have an issue and not try to cover it up. By not covering it up, that is not for other people but not covering it up for ourselves. Trying not to live in a self-imposed denial.
Can you keep your attention focused exactly here and now, taking each moment as it comes and connecting with whatever presents itself? Often, to accept what comes into awareness, you must pass through periods of intense feelings such as anger, fear, or grief. These feelings themselves require acceptance. Acceptance means seeing things exactly as they are rather than as you think they are or as you think they should be.
Remember, things can only change in the present moment. You have to see things as they are and yourself as you are in this moment if you wish to change, heal, or transform yourself or your life. So developing an understanding of acceptance and willingness to experience your emotions is critical to enabling change. Much of our mindful awareness practice is targeted toward developing the ability to remain in the present. However, being in the present without accepting what we find there will undermine our ability to benefit from our practice.
The act of acceptance includes softening and opening to what is here. Allowing ourselves to engage with the present, fully with complete acceptance, is an act of concentration and focus. However, it should be comfortable, and the sense of struggle should be released. By ceasing to deny and fight with the way things are now, the strange thing about acceptance is that by giving up on all the energy we were using, our energy is freed to tackle the situation with some freshly gained insight.
An important realisation of acceptance is that it does not mean you have to like everything or that you have to take a passive attitude. Often people mistake acceptance for tolerance or submission. It does not mean you have to be satisfied with things as they are, or that you have to stop trying to change things for the better. As we speak of it here, acceptance simply means the willingness to see things as they are, deeply, truthfully, and completely. This attitude sets the stage for acting in the most potent and healthy way in your life, no matter what is happening.
This is not a revelation which belongs only to mindfulness, many of us will remember the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling (an extract which sums up acceptance):
If you can dream and not make dreams your master;
If you can think and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
It is not an easy option, it requires patience and practice. Acceptance enables us to make choices with the full facts at our disposal, with objectivity, which means we can make the best decisions possible. The stoic approach which tells us to be concerned about only those things over which we have control requires the acceptance to understand what we can control. The words of the “Serenity Prayer” by Reinhold Niebuhr are another example of acceptance.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference
You do not have to consider this as a prayer, if you do not have that kind of spiritual belief, the concept of acceptance is still valid.
All of the mindfulness attitudes support each other, with acceptance supporting our non-judgement and non-striving to remain mindful and aware.
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