Self-acceptance means freedom from self-criticism. Self-criticism is that little voice in your head that seems to be consistently engaging you in negative and repetitive patterns of thought and feelings. The question is, how do you let go of these negative patterns that are the main causes stress? The practice and it is a practice, of letting go, starts with acceptance of what is. This is where self-acceptance and meditation meet.
Meditation teaches you how to cultivate certain qualities, such as non-judgment which is the flip-side of acceptance. You may not like what you see when you first begin to suspend judgment, but if you want to learn to accept things as they are you need to experience them and understand them clearly, without denial. As your observations become clearer in meditation you begin to create more space inside yourself and in that space you can begin the process of getting go.
The letting go process begins by recognizing that you do not have unlimited control of your life. Meditation offers you the opportunity to drop your struggles by allowing the present moment to be as it is and opens you to the experience of pure being. Understanding this process may be easier to grasp with an example, and Ed and Deb Shapiro have story of acceptance that suits…
“We were just with Deb’s mother, Anne, in England. On the third day we were invited for tea at the House of Lord’s (more on that below) and were preparing to catch a train to London. In a bit of a rush we were quickly downing breakfast when the toast got burnt. We watched in amusement as Anne took a deep breath and simply said, “Oh dear, burnt toast,” calmly tossed it in the trash and put a fresh slice of bread in the toaster.
Few of us usually have such a reaction to burnt toast, especially when we are in a hurry. But Deb’s mom displayed the same attitude of calm acceptance later that day when we were having tea in London. Now, being invited to the House of Lords does not happen every day, but we were there to discuss a meditation project with one of the younger Lords. It is a stunningly beautiful old building, seeped in history and tradition and was a real treat for Ed, who grew up in the Bronx. We sat in the chambers and listened to the debate; we walked through the Queen’s robbing room where her throne sits; and then we went for tea.
Tea in the regal Tea Rooms sounds quintessentially English and we fully expected it to be of good English quality. The room was spectacular, the service was everything we could have wanted, but the cakes were not—they were boring, dry, commercial and cheap—not good Brit fare at all. All we could do was swallow distastefully and continue our conversation.
Accepting and simply being with what is, is a quality that Deb’s mother has perfected. It showed itself as she delicately ate her most unappetizing chocolate éclair. It is a quality that we can continue to learn in every moment that does not go our way. But, instead, we usually spend most of our time wishing that things were different – whether it is the big things like our partner or job, or the smaller things like the weather, burnt toast, or chocolate éclairs.
When we resist what is then we create more suffering for ourselves, as there is a constant, underlying dissatisfaction, otherwise known as the “If Only…” syndrome: if only this, that or the other happened, then I could be happy. If only so-and-so would change his or her behavior / lose weight / find a job, then I could be happy. If only I had more money / a bigger house / went traveling / had a good lover, then I could be happy. We were teaching a workshop and a participant, Mary, said she could only be happy when her children were happy. The list is endless. You can fill in the blank spaces for yourself.
Accepting what is, as it is, does not mean that we are like doormats and get passively walked over by all and sundry. Rather, it means recognizing that what happened even just a second ago can never be changed, it is letting the past be where it is so it does not take over the future. We make friends with ourselves and our world. At the same time we can also make changes wherever necessary, working toward a saner and more caring present. We can either make a song and dance about burnt toast and get even more stressed, or we can take a deep breath and put a fresh slice of bread in the toaster.” Click here to visit the original source of this post
There are three afflictions that meditation seeks to relieve, which are attachment, aversion and indifference. The antidotes, to these three afflictions, meditation provides are acceptance and letting go.
Try this little meditation exercise as a way to receive the benefits of practicing letting go and of acceptance.
1. Sit comfortably and begin following your breath. Place your attention on the natural in flow and out flow of your breath, without trying to control it.
2. As you begin to feel relaxed move your awareness to your thoughts and feelings. Allow whatever arises to come into your experience without judgment.
3. Notice that when thoughts that arise that are uncomfortable or are unpleasant, your tendency to avoid or judge them and then accept your judgment of those thoughts. Continue for a few minutes with this process of acceptance.
4. Now bring your awareness to your desire to follow different trains of thought that seem important or pleasant, and no matter how compelling they are, begin letting go of them each time they come up. Continue the process of letting go for a few minutes.
5. When you have become comfortable with accepting and letting go, allow your perspective to shift and see this practice as one continual process of accepting and letting go. When a thought arises, pleasant or unpleasant, acknowledge it and then release it, accept it and let it go.
You can learn more in ED and Deb Shapiro’s book, Be The Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman.