As human beings we like to remain in control.
This is why when things happen in our lives that we can't control it really bothers us. This happens even though we know deep down that, in reality, we can’t change something once it has happened and we can’t predict the future. The only thing we can control is how we react in the present to these events.
When I lie awake at night worrying about the past or the future I, instead, think about, what I call, the art of acceptance. This is all about surrendering to what’s beyond your control. It’s a way of cultivating presence, awareness and calm in the NOW. And once this is achieved it can change your life for the better.
For me, I’m never more calm, clear or confident than when I adopt the art of acceptance.
It is an invaluable tool when managing stress as it has been shown to effectively lower blood pressure, calm the nervous system and regulate the immune system plus so much more.
So, how do you incorporate the art of acceptance in your life?
It comes down to 3 simple principles:
Awareness is being conscious of something, observing it. To be aware is to be focused on what’s happening in the present moment, including connecting with your breath and how your body feels in the moment. It’s also about becoming aware of what you’re thinking and what emotions you’re experiencing. I’ll often do this when I’m out for a walk. I take notice of the footpath, the cars going by, and the flowers in people’s gardens, is my posture OK, and am I feeling relaxed or tense. What thoughts are going through my mind? Am I speaking kindly to myself? Most importantly am I ruminating about something from the past or worrying about the future? When I find myself drifting to the past or the future, I purposefully refocus my attention on what’s happening in the present moment. I do this by concentrating on what I am hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling.
After you’ve become aware of the present moment, the next step is to accept or embrace the experience as it is without attempting to change it. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, ‘What we resist persists’? Acceptance is about embracing life in the moment, exactly as it is, versus resisting or trying to control or deny reality. This is not being passive but rather releasing the facade that we can control the universe!
Acceptance is to acknowledge what’s happening and realize that I cannot change the past. This principle is important because, in order to experience life in the present moment, we must recognize what’s within our control versus what’s not.
Responding vs reacting:
When something happens in our lives we have a choice; we can react or we can respond. Reacting is an immediate response that isn’t mindfully thought through. For example, someone does something to offend you and you immediately shoot back at them with an insult out of anger; that’s reacting.
Responding is different; it’s taking a moment – maybe even removing yourself from the situation – to become aware of how you’re feeling, accept the situation and then respond to it in a more meaningful or thoughtful way.