When was the last time you found yourself behind schedule and it did not irritate you? In the first part of this series, we examined why mindfulness is important, and the first of its three core concepts, living in the moment. Ann Page considers the second core concept: acknowledgement and acceptance (surrender).
The first essential component of this concept basically means acknowledging situations in a clear way. Crucially, this should be done without allowing your instinctive desires to take over, such as your natural impulse to avoid pain or put any kind of spin on the circumstances (positive or negative).
Just acknowledging what you are thinking and feeling, including any other sensation you are experiencing, is the acceptance segment. It is about seeing the situation without your internal critic judging you or the event. It is about being able to observe neutrally what is happening in the moment and making no judgement – good or bad.
It also does not mean resignation. Resignation about something normally includes negative feelings such as powerlessness. This leads to thinking statements such as ‘I’m not bothered’.
People often stumble over this concept of acceptance (surrender) for dealing with difficult emotions or situations. It is useful to remind ourselves that negative emotions do exist, and accepting they are present in the moment does not mean that we won’t take action. In fact, the first stage is to allow the presence of these emotions or difficult thoughts, so that you can then make a choice.
Let’s take a meditation example, as this technique is practised in mindfulness. Perhaps when you sit down to meditate, instead of a clear mind, you feel bombarded by thoughts dragging you away again and again from the meditative state.
If you don’t accept the fact that your mind likes thinking, you become more and more frustrated, upset and annoyed with yourself. You want to focus on the meditation but just can’t. Buddha called these arrows of pain.
So, in the above meditation example:
- First arrow: lots of thoughts entering your mind during meditation.
- Second arrow: not accepting that thoughts are bound to come up in meditation / criticising yourself for having too many thoughts.
- Solution: to acknowledge and accept those thoughts are part and parcel of meditation. You can do this by gently saying to yourself, ‘thinking is happening’, or ‘it’s natural to think’, or whatever phrase helps you avoid becoming wrapped up in those thoughts.
So, the main aspect of acceptance is to come to terms with your current situation.
You need to know and accept where you are before you can begin working out how to get to where you want to be. This includes facts and feelings.
Paradoxically, acceptance is the first step for any radical change. If you don’t acknowledge where you are and what’s currently happening, you can’t move on appropriately from that point.
In a journal or notebook (electronic or paper), record the following steps to allow you to take this important move.
- State the facts – for example, the job you wanted was not offered to you or your team member did not behave how you would like them to. This part should only be facts about what you can see or hear.
- Write your emotions about the facts – these are your emotions, so no evaluation of good or bad, just what they are.
- Otherwise, gently recognise the label of the experience you aren’t accepting. For example, if you’re not accepting that you’re angry, you can say this in your mind to yourself: ‘I’m feeling angry at the moment … I’m feeling angry and I am not going to judge this.’ In this way, you begin to acknowledge your feeling(s). It has been reported that denying that you are experiencing a ‘negative Mindset or [set of] emotions’ is risky for your mental health. This is because being unwilling to experience negative thoughts, feelings or sensations is often the first link in a mental chain that can lead to automatic, habitual and critical patterns of mind taking root or becoming established. Thus the inner dialogue is not ‘I should be strong’, but ‘fear is here’.
- Notice which part of your body feels tense and record this too. If the sensation becomes overpowering or too painful then breathe into the awareness to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Once you have fully recorded everything, then consider how much you accept or acknowledge your current thoughts / feelings / sensations on a scale of one to 10. Ask yourself what you need to do to increase your acceptance and then do it as best you can.
The next blog will provide the last core concept, which will provide you with a way to process these, so that you can remain resourceful.
If you would like to know more on how to use mindfulness to manage your stress and build resilience, please contact me.
About Ann Page and Yorkshire Courses for Lawyers
Yorkshire Courses for Lawyers (YCFL) delivers strategic coaching and training in leadership, management and interpersonal skills for the legal profession primarily based in Yorkshire. Since 2003 Ann has trained nearly 7,000 lawyers in leadership, management and interpersonal skills both in the UK and internationally. Ann has also trained with the Coaching Academy and holds a HNLP certificate in coaching as well as being an NLP master practitioner. She coaches lawyers on business skills, including stress management.
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