"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it." - Eckhart Tolle
I had to get an eye exam today. Alone. The last time I had one was years ago and my mom was there to help me get home safely after pupil dialation. I remembered my vision being blurry and feeling slightly motion-sick. All of a sudden, anxiety about today's exam came flooding over me. Would I feel ill or be able to drive myself home? Then I remembered this quote from one of my favorite authors. The situation hadn't even happened, yet I was anxious with all of these what-ifs. My thoughts about how the situation might be were causing suffering. When the time came for dialation, I practiced accepting each sensation and being with what is. I found that it wasn't nearly as bad as all the what-ifs in my head. Plus, I made it home in one piece.
This is Acceptance. Learning to be with what is.
Yoga and mindfulness meditation are wonderful tools to practice being with what is. Specific practices cultivate our ability to greet painful or intense experiences with kindness and compassion. When awareness is turned to our body, thoughts, or feelings, we may experience pleasure or aversion. It's safe to say that most of us are accepting of pleasure. But what happens when we are faced with a difficult or uncomfortable situation? For example, shavasana might feel so good that you could spend ten minutes lying there, but notice how your mind wonders, "How much longer do I have to hold this?" during upward boat. Yoga helps us confront the urge to run away, distract, or hide from discomfort. It also brings light to the clinging, grasping nature of pleasure. Can we learn to meet both with curiosity and acceptance? These are valuable skills for "yoga off the mat" and learning to accept whatever life brings you in the present moment.
Mindfulness Meditation for Acceptance:
* Begin in a comfortable seated position, either in a chair or on a cusion. Make sure your spine is straight and you are comfortable, but not overly relaxed. The goal is to be alert, not fall asleep.
* Sit still and resist the urge to shift, fidget, or scratch. When the body is still, the mind is still.
* Bring awareness to your breath without changing it. Just notice what it feels like to breathe. How does the breath move in the body? Feel the sensation of air moving in and out of your nostrils. Feel your belly fill up and your chest rise with each inhale. Slowly and steadily exhale while pulling the navel toward the spine.
* Continue to focus on the breath, but notice each time the mind wanders. Where does it go? What sensations, thoughts, or emotions arise? Notice if they are pleasant or unpleasant. Notice when you begin to feel aversion of any kind. Meet these experiences with curiosity, then go back to the breath.
* Practice awareness of what is happening inside your body and mind with clear, non-judging attention. If your leg falls asleep, you feel an itch, or you become anxious, pause. Just sit and fully experience the sensation without clinging or aversion. Watch as these sensations come and go. Remember, everything is impermanent.
* Meet your present feelings with a kind, compassionate heart. You may discover as Rumi stated, "The cure for the pain is in the pain."