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Acceptance: The Key to Becoming Mindful

When you hear the term “acceptance,” what comes to mind? Maybe you think that acceptance means it is time to give up on this experience. Or maybe you think that acceptance means, How can I change this experience from happening?

Acceptance is another term that society either gets wrong or does not completely understand because true acceptance is not about either of those things. Rather, acceptance is about empowerment, helping someone tolerate the truth of what is occurring rather than letting your emotional reaction take over.

Acceptance is about acknowledging what is happening and that nothing needs to be done to fix it. True acceptance allows you to increase your mental and emotional resources to help you make more helpful, intentional choices, moving forward.

My Relationship with Acceptance

I was one of those people. I felt that acceptance was giving up and moving on because there was nothing more to do. While I felt like this was the right thing to do, I often felt emotions in the family of sadness and disappointment. I was left with a feeling of hopelessness because there was nothing I could do to change the situation. Living like this was extremely uncomfortable, and I felt like something was always holding me back, but I did not realize that it was me who was causing that.

Practicing mindfulness - and truly understanding the meaning of acceptance - allowed me to become my true self. The same situations can occur, but the feeling surrounding them has definitely changed. Instead of focusing on trying to fix what had happened, I shift my mindset to focus on what I could do moving forward. Instead of trying to forget what had happened, I shift my mindset to focus on learning from that experience.

Did I go from those feelings of sadness and disappointment to being super happy and positive? No, but that was not the point. The point of acceptance is to help me keep going and not get bogged down by something that I cannot change. Acceptance can be a hard concept to grasp, because sometimes it can feel like you are giving up, but that is why it is something you must practice.

How to: Walking Meditation

This month’s practice to build mindfulness comes in the form of a walking meditation. I previously discussed a sitting meditation, which helped to build mental muscles by increasing awareness of the body, not just the breath.

Walking meditation is the next phase, but with a focus on walking or standing as opposed to sitting. This practice entails intentional focus on the sensations that you experience as you walk, which often we take for granted, but also adds to the experience of developing awareness on what is taking place moment-to-moment.

After reading this column, take several minutes for yourself and go outside where you can walk freely. Once you arrive, notice your breath and your posture as you stand. Observe the placement of your feet, the bend in your legs, the curve of your spine, and the angle of your neck.

With intention, look at your feet and slowly arrange them so they are parallel, slightly less than shoulder width a part. As you feel your weight become distributed evenly, bring your attention to your knees and take a moment to bend and straighten your legs slightly, without moving your feet, but noticing the flexing and relaxing of the muscles.

Next, settle into a comfortable standing position and roll your shoulders up and back as you take a deep breath and place your head squarely on top of your shoulders, allowing your shoulders to relax. Notice the peaceful nature that comes with a tall, dignified posture. Allow your arms to find a comfortable and relaxed position, and notice your posture as you stand there. Allow your gaze to settle on a spot several feet in front of you.

Once you feel comfortable, direct your attention to the soles of your feet. Notice any sensations at the point of contact with the ground, feel the pressure on the balls and heels of your feet. Notice how there is slightly more pressure along the outside of each foot than on the inside. Without lifting your feet, begin to shift your weight from your left foot to right foot, back-and-forth. Notice the changing sensations in your feet as the pressure of contact moves from one foot and to the other.

As you continue to shift your weight, expand your field of awareness to other muscles in the body to simply notice what each muscle group is doing: your calves, your quadriceps, your hips, your shoulders.

Now, begin to take slow steps forward. Allow the muscles in your foot and calf to relax as you lift each foot. Notice how your toes hang down as you lift your leg. Give yourself the opportunity to feel every sensation. Notice the wave of pressure as your foot comes in contact with the ground, starting at the toes and flowing through the ball the foot, the instep, and finally the heel.

Feel the tension created in the upper thigh as you lift each leg off the ground and pay careful attention to the bottom of each foot as it makes contact with the ground. Notice how the pressure increases on your heel as your weight begins to shift, and notice how pressure flows through the outside of your foot, to the ball of your foot, to your toes as you take another step forward.

Notice the interconnectedness of every motion with each step. As you walk in this intentional way, allow your awareness to expand beyond your feet and legs. Feel the muscles in your lower back tensing as you step forward, feel the air against your face as you move through it.

Every movement you make establishes connection after connection. Now, begin to slow your pace back down and come to a stop. Do a quick scan of your body from head to toe, and take in all the sensations generated by this practice.

Finally, take one last deep breath, and bring your attention back to the world around you.

Final thoughts

Acceptance of what is taking place can be challenging in the moment, but ultimately allows you to refocus your attention to the present moment and remain control of your emotions and what you need to do in order to be the best version of yourself.

Practicing mindfulness can help you be more accepting of the world around you, the bodily sensations you experience, and also your thinking. Continue to take time for yourself in building your mindfulness practice and see how the world around you changes.


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