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Accepting the Present: Mindfulness Week #5

Accepting the presentHow much time and energy do you waste fighting against yourself or your circumstances?

How many times have you tried to convince yourself that you’re not overweight?

How much energy have you used creating that fantasy world of the future when you’ll finally feel happy?

How lost do you get in negative stories from the past running round and round in your head?

One of the attitudinal factors that constitutes the major pillars of mindfulness practice is acceptance.  Acceptance means seeing things as they actually are in the present.

Acceptance does NOT mean giving up or giving in.  It does NOT mean you have to like everything.  It does NOT mean you have a passive attitude to anything or everything.  It does NOT mean that you give up on your desire to change.

Acceptance is about pausing, taking hold and allowing things to be as they really are – even if there is a level of discomfort attached to doing that.  It’s about building a clear picture of where you’re at…  It’s about giving up wasting time and energy trying to push things away so you can direct those resources towards something more constructive.

When you have that clarity then you have the space to have a much greater possibility of knowing what to do and being motivated to succeed.  It gives us the space to avoid knee-jerk reactions and instead approach the challenge in the most skilful and resourceful way possible.

When each of us are faced with difficulties or challenges – be it stress at work, disharmony in a marriage, dealing with a weight issue, or making a big decision – it’s a natural reaction to try to push it away.

We may try to ignore it, ‘take our minds off it’, or simply run away from it by distracting ourselves with a multitude of other tasks.  We may procrastinate about it and circle around and around a decision without every passing go.  Or we may try to fool ourselves that there is no issue and everything in the garden is rosie.

Whether your tactics have worked in the past or not there will come a point where they don’t work.  You’ll need a new solution.

” … mindful acceptance gives us choices.”

If you didn’t already know, over the next 8 weeks (or so) I’m practicing the mindfulness course laid out by Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology, in his book co-written with Danny Penman – Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world (quotes from the book are shown in italics). My aim is to learn how to absolutely thrive in this frantic world.

This fifth week brought me to a key turning point in this course.  A point where apparently many people stumble.  A point where I got the opportunity to start flexing the muscles of attention that I’ve been building over the past 4 weeks to begin ‘exploring difficulty’.

Actually this was what I’m going to call the MEGA MEDITATION week – this time it was a single daily session with 3 meditations back to back (taking around 30 minutes) that needed to be practiced at least 6 days out of 7.  Plus there was still the 3 MINUTE BREATHING SPACE to also fit in twice a day.

The MEGA daily meditation was the 8 minute BREATH & BODY meditation, which I also did the last 2 weeks, coupled with the 8 minute SOUNDS & THOUGHTS meditation from last week.  Then I had to add-on the 10 minute EXPLORING DIFFICULTY meditation.

Apparently the first two ground you in preparation for the third, which invites you to bring unsettling situations to mind and then observe how your body reacts.

Now that unsettling situations didn’t have to be anything too major.  Perhaps a disagreement with someone, worry about a big meeting or a decision I’d had a problem making.  Something I could sit with for a little while without feeling overwhelmed.

Oh nice – really looking forward to that – not – was my reaction at the start of the week.

The essence of the mediation was to bring the situation to mind, maintaining warmth and compassion and to then be aware of the reaction my body had to those thoughts.  It was like using my body as an early warning system.  And then exploring those physical reactions with gentle curiosity.

The first challenge was to actively bring to mind things that unsettled me…. I found that really hard.  My natural reaction was to shy away from them.  Push them to the back of my mind.  It was actually difficult to think of things that weren’t too big and keep them in conscious focus.

On day 1 I did the practice and had the grumpiest day I’d had in weeks.  I’m not sure why.  I don’t know if the meditation brought thoughts to mind that I just didn’t want to be aware of… or if it just made me more aware of the challenges in my life and the way I reacted to them.  Whatever the case, I was ready to scream at the world.

One of the most challenging things I’ve found with this course is that it’s been hard to do it alone.  I’ve been missing a teacher as sounding board and other class members to compare notes with.  I know there’s no right or wrong in what I do and I’m not striving to achieve anything – but it would have been nice to be ‘with’ other people.

So OVERALL what did I feel about week #5?

Something changed.

Something profound changed.

Something dropped in to place.

By day 7 of week 5 I actually wanted to do extra practice – in this case the mindful movement meditation – by choice.

I suddenly realized that the shoulder and neck pain that had plagued me for weeks was gone.

For the first time in months I found that when I stood with my arms relaxed at my sides then my shoulders felt loose and relaxed, instead of up around my ears as they had been.

My mind feels relaxed.  I feel calm in a way I haven’t for years – well if ever to be honest.  I no longer have the feeling that my head will explode at any moment due to the millions of thoughts racing around in it – like greyhounds charging around a track..

This quote just says it all for me this week …

“Practice not-doing and everything will fall into place.”  Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching

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4 responses to “Accepting the Present: Mindfulness Week #5

  1. Thanks for the link! And I’m even more pleased about it as it meant I found your blog. This is a great post. I’m going to watch the rest of your progress with interest and when I’m done with my 30 day challenge maybe I’ll look at doing this. Awesome! Thanks again 🙂

  2. Pingback: Befriending Your New Best Friend: Mindfulness Week #6 | GATEHOUSE THIRTEEN

  3. Pingback: The Nourishment of Water: Mindfulness Week #7 | GATEHOUSE THIRTEEN

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