Last week I got one of those annoying emails. You know the kind. They’re full of random misspellings, bizarre punctuation, and incoherent ramblings. Maybe an obnoxious text color if you’re lucky! It reminded me of the bogus forwards we all used to get in the early days of the Internet. I’ll spare you the contents of this particular email, but suffice it to say there were many nonsensical, unfounded, and highly politicized ideas regarding coronavirus.
Suddenly, I can’t think about anything else. My mood shifts from peaceful and relaxed to feeling like I chugged 16 oz. of high octane cold brew. The defensive, argumentative part of me emerges in full force. I frantically and angrily begin building a case for why I’m unequivocally right and the person who sent this email is unequivocally wrong (after all, I am the daughter of a lawyer). My body is jittery and my mind is in overdrive. This uncomfortable, unproductive, and energetically draining state lasts for about 45 minutes, or 3/4 of the yin yoga class I happened to be taking at the time.
Yes, it’s true. Even self-professed yogis can be totally distracted during a yoga class. I desperately want to stop thinking about the disturbing and reckless misinformation contained in this email. I know what my mind is doing is not contributing to my psychological well-being. I know indulging in these thoughts and ignoring the present moment is not an enjoyable way to move through life. I know this is an unhealthy modus operandi.
So how do I gain control and return to my happy place?
Ew, really? Yep, really! I’m living proof that it works. Let’s be clear though. From a mindfulness perspective, acceptance doesn’t mean giving your approval or agreeing with what someone did. It’s not synonymous with complacency, apathy, or dispassion. And it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t have desires or preferences.
Imagine a river.
One side of the riverbank is muddy, rocky, and dangerous. We could say it represents a state of being marked by anger, fear, resistance, chaos, rigidity, muscular tension/tightness, and narrow/contracted energy (what we might call activation in the sympathetic nervous system).
The other side of the riverbank is soft, grassy, and inviting. We could say it represents an open, spacious, balanced, stable, and integrated state of being (what we might call a parasympathetic dominant state).
Acceptance is the bridge that helps you traverse from a treacherous and emotionally dysregulated state into a calm and emotionally regulated state.
Acceptance is an active process. It’s a clear and deliberate decision to accept what’s happening. It’s saying, “I choose to meet the reality of this situation as it is.” It slices through our favorites defenses (any other intellectualizers out there?) and helps us fully embrace the now. We accept what’s happening in order to slow down and leave behind those pesky habitual thinking patterns.
When we hit the pause button and willfully check in with our bodies and our breath, we start to feel calmer and more settled. Acceptance is like a soothing balm for the nervous system. It’s medicine!
Acceptance, along with a heaping dose of patience and trust, steers me into the lane of compassion, gratitude, and generosity. From this perch of mindfulness, I’m able to face reality and move through life with less suffering and more ease. And real talk here, it helps me tackle problems (like infuriating, conspiracy-laden emails) with grace, humility, and kindness. So that I can respond in a way that is firm and resolute, but not harsh, punitive, or disrespectful.
I’m excited to share this week’s meditation with you! It builds on the theme of acceptance and renewal. It’s truly my honor to record these meditations for you, and I hope you’ll give this one a listen. Btw, here you can find all of the previous recordings as well as offerings from my friend and colleague, Julie Falchuck.
From my heart to yours,
Meditation for Acceptance and Renewal: