What is Mindful Acceptance
Mindfulness is sometimes described as being simple but not easy. This is because the idea of being present in the moment is an easy concept to get your head around, however the application of being present in the moment; particularly in the modern world, where we our attention is constantly being called upon by modern technology, is not so easy to do. This is why people who are new to Mindfulness often see it as just a few simple exercises that anyone can do. But when they try a few of them and find they are still suffering they just give up and see the practice as some overly simplified, “how to get on with things”, mumbo-jumbo. I draw your attention to the, “simple but not easy,” comment earlier. Mindfulness is a muscle that needs to be trained if you want to see results from it. Yes it is simple but it is simple in the same way that swimming is simple. If you plan to jump in the deep end of the pool you had better have more than just a few fundamental ideas of whats involved in staying afloat before hitting the water. Just as with swimming, if you want to get good at mindfulness then you need to start off in the shallow waters with just a few of the basics. Then with a little practice you can swim in waters of any depths with ease. Put in even a little mindful practice and I assure you the results will come and they will come in a very big way.
Mindful Acceptance is a bit like swimming in the deep end of the pool. When you have the basics it’s no more difficult to understand and achieve than swimming in the shallow waters but without the basics it can seem daunting and even impossible. It is neither.
Mindful Acceptance is often misunderstood as putting up with pain, or a bad job or a poor marriage or some other form of suffering that is being imposed on us from the outside, either by some other person or by some situations outside of our control but this is not what mindful acceptance is at all. Mindful acceptance is not about accepting a bad situation, it is about accepting the feelings and suffering that can come from a bad situation and understanding that these sufferings are created only by our own minds and can be managed in a very real way while you tackle the situation that is causing the suffering.
Most of us will have gone through many minor and major difficulties in life and know how they can fill our every moment. These are those problems that just keep gnawing away at you in the background all day long. It can be something as simple as worrying over an interview for a new job that has kept you up all night tossing and turning or it can be a major life event like the break up of a marriage, the loss of your house or an illness. Mindful acceptance will help you to separate out these feelings, it will allow you to feel them but not be controlled by them and if nothing else it will help you get some sleep when normally your thoughts would keep you up and suffering all night long. But before we can understand how mindfulness can help with these problems we first need to understand why problems cause us so much suffering in the first place.
The human mind has many attributes. Two of them are, an ancient built in ability to learn from pain and suffering and the more modern ability to think imaginatively. The first one looks like this. If you nearly got bitten by a snake on the left side of the watering hole yesterday then today you might go to the right side of the watering hole today. The second one goes like this. If I make a knife and cut the grass away from around the watering hole, then i can see if there are any snakes and where they are. Unfortunately the first, more ancient of these attributes is far stronger than the second one and pushes the second more modern one to feed into it. Perhaps the snakes will learn better ways of hiding and i wont be able to see them at all. Perhaps with their cover gone they will start living closer to my home? Perhaps they will sense my fire and move even closer. Perhaps they are here right now, next to my bed as i try to sleep? Yikes!!!
You see how this might be a problem. Humans have developed a negative bias, (our minds will focus more towards the worst scenario). This negative bias has served us very well in surviving and has pushed our minds to create more and more ways of surviving. It helped us develop houses and villages, heating systems, plumed water and sanitation. But it also leaves us very prone to over stimulus and stress. The sort of stress that keeps you up all night worrying if Mary will take offence at that thing you said about her on social media or will she just see it as the joke it was meant to be. This is a long way from worrying if we are going to be eaten by a lion or bitten by a snake, while we sleep. When a Zebra sleeps at night, it does not worry about what Mary might be thinking. Wild animals do not suffer the long dark night of the soul. When they get tiered they just go to sleep.
So humans, with all our wonderful abilities, can also be slaves to these very same abilities. The modern world exasperates these negative biases even more. There was a time when, when you went home from work your boss could not get in contact with you until the next day, no matter who trivial the need :). Where you could go out for a few drinks with friends and say something stupid without it being broadcast across the whole world before you even got home. Where the wonderful things everyone else in world is doing (real or imagined) isn’t shoved in your face 24/7 making you feel inadequate, stressed, un-worthy, and a complete waste of space compared to everyone else.
My god, you feed all this stuff into a system designed to to focus on the negative and is it any wonder the we are all stressed out and suffering at levels never before seen.
The great gift of mindfulness, for those willing to reach out for it, is that it offers us a space between, us, the being, and the us that has to deal with the goings on of the world. Dealing with serious problems or challenges like a marriage break up or the launching of a new business will not just go away because you have learned to be mindful but they will become manageable in a way that will not leave you stressed out and on the verge of an absolute metal collapse. Of course you cannot just pick up a book, read a few lines and suddenly be capable of tackling major life events. You learn to tackle the bigger problems by first learning to tackle the smaller ones. The trick is to get the practice in. What initially seem as simple mindfulness exercises become the foundation of mindful survival with just a little time because the only real difference between dealing with the big problems and the small problems is the amount of practice and experience you get at being mindful.
How to get instant mindfulness feedback
Most people who have encountered mindfulness will be familiar with some of the exercises that often come with it. The raisin exercise, the breath exercise and the mountain meditation as examples. What most people don’t relies is that these exercises are not done just for their own purpose. They are done of exploring mindfulness from differing angles and perspectives. The raisin exercise is not practiced so you can learn to eat mindfully, or to understand more about the foods you put in your mouth, though it can be used to do so. The raisin exercise is used to help you open up your mind to the idea of being mindful, using touch, taste, smell and texture to do so. So, with that in mind i am going to give you two simple mindfulness exercises to practice and then i am going to show you how you use them to stop a run-a-way mind when you are trying to get to sleep. That way you will very quickly be able to stop wondering if Mary’s feelings were hurt and if she is annoyed with you. And with some practice you will be able to see just how these very same techniques can help with the bigger problems or challenges that may face you as you live your life. The two exercise are the Breath meditation and the Body scan meditation.
Before i show you how you can jump in and out of these two simple meditations to very quickly calm your mind and find some peace lets fist look at each of the meditations. Below i give you nice short meditations for you to try and practice. The more often you practice these two simple meditations the greater your strength will become at calling on them to quickly calm your mind.
The breathing Meditation
The Body Scan Meditation.
Quick effective calming of the mind
I highly recommend that you practice each of the short meditations above every day if you can, and if not then as often as you can. Do not judge yourself if you can only practice one of them, every other day. If that is all you can do then be happy that you can do that much. Once you have been practicing for a few weeks you should be able to start using the techniques in these meditations almost at will to help you calm your mind.
For example lets say you have been bad mouthing Mary again (poor Mary). And you are laying in your bed and you mind is racing and you cannot sleep. Take a moment and focus on the breath as you have practiced from the above meditation. But this time just take 5 breaths, bringing your attention to the breath as you do. After 5 breath allow your attention to move to your body. Explore where in your body the anxiety of your thoughts is agitating. Perhaps you might notice you heart is racing a bit. If so bring your attention to the sensation of your heart rate. If you find your mind drifting back to your thoughts acknowledge that without judging yourself for it and bring yourself back to the sensation in your body. Do this for a minute or two. Then bring your attention back to your breathing again for another 5 breaths before once more returning your attention to the sensations in your body. Repeat this process until you are fully relaxed. Most people fall asleep within just a few rounds… and in this case that is the point.
The reason this technique works so well is that the anxiety that you are feeling when your mind is racing at night like this is not real. Yes you can feel it but the stimulant that is causing it is not real. Mary is not arguing with you. You are laying in your nice comfy bed. Nothing is attacking or threatening you. You are arguing with you and you are doing it entirely in your own mind. Your mind is playing out possible dangers and your body, which only has you mind to tell it when it is in danger, sees the danger as real and happening to you right now. Your mind has created a battle situation and your body is trying to fight it. But it is not real. By bringing your attention to your breath and to the sensations in your body, your attention slips away from your mind. Once that attention slips away the stimulus for the battle slips away with it, (again because it is not real), and your body settles into the relaxed reality that is is fact in your nice warm bed.
This might seem like a rather simple way to remove tension at night and it is. It does take a little practice though but if you work at the short meditations I have given you above, they will give you all the practice you need. The important thing to remember is just become aware of the breath and when you move your attention to the stimulus in your body, just become aware of that. Don’t ask why it is the way it is or what is causing it, that will just bring you back to your mind. Just observe it and enjoy the sensation of observing the tension, frustration, anger or whatever is it causing the anxiety slip away.
All the best and i hope you enjoy a really easy sleep.