The word “acceptance” baffles many spiritual seekers.
We work towards extending compassion to ourselves and others. The world’s well-being depends on our ability to raise our consciousness.
That’s a hefty responsibility we take seriously.
But how can we “accept” a toxic family member? Doesn’t that mean we approve of their behavior?
If we accepted our negative thoughts, wouldn’t that mean they’re true?
Our confusion makes sense… Even the dictionary says “accept” is “to agree to or approve of something”!
Yet if we dig in further and read all the definitions, we find an intriguing one, albeit less popular: “to continue in a difficult situation without complaining, because you realize that you cannot change it”.
In mindfulness practice, we welcome our inner world, however unpleasant it may be.
We know that resisting our thoughts and feelings—for example, by complaining or wanting to change them—prolongs our suffering.
Embracing the present moment doesn’t necessarily mean we agree.
We simply create space between us and a difficult situation, so that we can consider better ways to respond.
Acceptance precedes radical change
What does your inner critic’s voice sound like?
Mine usually sounds like my own voice.
Though I often forget the self-critcism I hear in my head comes from many different sources. Like my parents, teachers and society, in general.
My ego reminds me how to be satisfactory to others, so that I gain love and respect:
Ugh, redo that task. You’re not allowed to make mistakes. Get moving!
On my worst days, that harsh voice takes over. And I may spin out trying to finish an endless amount of tasks.
Eventually, I tune into my body. What am I feeling? Where do I feel tension? What could’ve caused this tension?
Accepting pesky thoughts can sometimes feel like I’m adding more weight to my shoulders. Or like I’m letting myself drown in a tumultuous sea.
Negative thoughts seem bulletproof, authoritative and convincing.
But my intuition pierces through and invites me to lower my guard. My mind and body soften a bit. I see how I’ve unconsciously blocked my body’s signals to slow down.
In that moment, I surrender to the old fear of being inadequate. The ball of tension in my throat rushes up and tears begin rolling down.
What a relief!
Acceptance is a two-fold process… First, we shine a light on our troubling thoughts and emotions. We can’t pretend to acknowledge them.
Our inner world is like a small child who needs our full attention—our love—to thrive.
Focusing on our breath clarifies our mind, so that we can then choose a loving action. And if we can’t control a certain situation, we can gracefully let it go.
“Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness.” —Eckhart Tolle
5 ways to practice acceptance
We can usher in the energy of peace for anything, whether that’s work, health, family or our beliefs.
A recent study even shows that practicing acceptance is key to reducing stress, building resilience and cultivating self-compassion.
So, how can we practice acceptance?
Ideally, we’d embrace our own internal experience as much as possible, before trying to accept other people. (Though the two often complement each other.)
Past emotional wounds have a way of doing more harm to ourselves and others, if left unattended. Once we cultivate compassion for ourselves, it becomes much easier to do so for others.
Try these tips to accept yourself:
- Take breaks. Running from one thought to another disconnects us from ourselves. Instead, take a 5-minute break about every hour, so that you can become more aware of your inner experience.
- Check in with your body. Our bodies tell the truth about our emotions, while our mind easily denies them. Get in the habit of looking for signs of stress like low energy, tight shoulders or a clenched jaw. That’s when you’ll know you need to be kinder to yourself.
- Incorporate mindful movement. Any activity will do: jogging, dancing, lifting weights, swimming, raking leaves, yoga, etc. Our mind and body often reflect each other. So mindful movement can help us release painful emotions.
- Ask questions. Getting curious lessens resistance and relaxes our ego. Contemplate: What’s keeping me from accepting this moment? What need isn’t being met? Our unconditional awareness brings us into the direct experience of the here and now.
- Partner up. Asking a spiritual friend for mutual support does wonders for our practice. It could be a weekly or monthly call, where you both create a safe space to discuss recent lessons and epiphanies. Or check out my private coaching program, The Self-Compassion Program.
To be the most effective portals of change…
We must be willing to accept and intimately know our deepest fears.
Untangling the roots of those fears from every aspect of our lives is a monumental challenge.
But as we transform our own limited beliefs, we’re heralding a brighter future for us all.
About the author
Annie Moussu is a spiritual coach offering practical wisdom to awakening souls. The world needs your inner peace. Sign up for her newsletter to get blog articles twice a month.