My phoenix moment, when everything just slotted into place; I simply accepted what was.
When I was feeling really low and was unwell, I spent a lot of time ruminating on things; things I felt were unfair, things I felt were unjust. If people really understood my perspective then all would be better. Then I found 'Radical Acceptance', where I could simply accept what was, accept life on life's terms, regardless, and just move on; focusing on changing what laid ahead of me. Its brilliance is in its simplicity.
Following on from my recent post about depression, I have been using an idea called ‘Radical Acceptance’ to great effect. This is an idea pioneered by Marsha Linehan, a well known American psychologist, and I thought it was worth sharing.
It is a simple and very powerful way of dealing with, or moving on from, things or times in your life that you’d rather put behind you.
Personally, I used to find myself replaying the same situations over and over in my mind (many times with a more negative lens). I didn’t realise, until I started meditation, just how much of my headspace was being consumed by this sort of thinking. The answer is: a lot.
It has been a major distraction that has stopped me from enjoying the more important moments in my life, stopping me from being present in the now; contributing significantly to me keeping my head and shoulders down.
Many of these things were playing out like a silent movie in my head unbeknown to anyone around me. I am not sure about you, but it sometimes can feel like a battle in the mind where your rational mind is trying to overwhelm really powerful emotional thoughts about your past, but with little success.
With this idea of radical acceptance, I started to look at the things, thoughts and emotions that were causing me angst or distress in my life. I started to package them up and shift towards just accepting them on life’s terms. I remembered, accepted, respected and started to love again, who I was. Sounds trite but it is important, because no one else can love you if you don’t love yourself. I started to acknowledge and enjoy more where I was in my life and I really bought in to how I’d got there. It gave me a big reset moment, a new foundation. Importantly, also, I now don’t judge or worry about whether these somethings are / were right, fair or just - because, fundamentally, they are just things that have come to pass. This is a key teaching in mediation, be aware and accept, don’t judge. It also made me own the problem rather than feeling like a victim, because only I can own how I think about something.
Sometimes bad things happen in life. Simply accepting these things can be very powerful because it can unburden you of the baggage that hangs around in your mind, driving how you deal with the world day to day.
It is also a great platform for forgiving yourself and/or other people; which can be crucial to moving forward.
This might sound weird, but I feel grateful for the difficult times in my life because they make the person I am today. Why? Well, for some time now I have believed that we as people are defined by how we respond to difficult circumstances in our lives. How we lead ourselves and possibly others through those times. Acceptance of these times and situations becomes a part of life’s rich tapestry. They become part of my story and make me more interesting.
When I shifted my thinking to acceptance of things it enabled me to think about them very differently. It was actually a huge weight lifted. These things had occupied a lot of headspace for me and when I shifted to just accepting them, and life itself, on life’s terms, it changed everything. And I mean everything. It helped me think about things in a much more helpful and positive way.
The biggest thing I have accepted, is that I can’t change the past (sounds obvious but we spend a lot of time trying to do this in our minds). And even if I could perhaps I wouldn’t want to for the reason I mention above. So my focus has become about how I can change my future. Because I can own that. I can own it by living in the now, not the past.
Once I decided to accept situations for what they were, and realised that I wouldn’t be the person I am without them, I found that it was much easier, and much more enjoyable, to move on. In an unencumbered way. It has been like a new lease of life!