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Mindful : December 2017
By Holly Rogers, MD We don’t have to like everything life throws our way. If we can learn to truly accept—not ignore or resist—the hard stuff, it won’t feel as hard. M uch of life’s pain comes from the disappointment of having your unceasing desires unmet. Truth be told, over the arc of your life, you will have breathtakingly wonderful experiences, but you will also have losses and failures. Your general well-being will be determined less by the number of great moments, and more by the way you manage the difficult ones. The key to dealing with those bad things when they happen is acceptance. If grasping and aversion are about always wanting this moment to be better or different, acceptance is about making the best of each moment, just as it is. When unwanted things happen, it’s painful. When we resist our pain, we multiply our suffer- ing. Consider it as a formula: Pain x Resistance = Suffering Pain is what you feel when something dif- ficult, unpleasant, sad, or scary happens. It is inevitable that we will all feel pain. Resistance is all the things you do to escape pain. Think aver- sion on steroids. Complaining is also a form of resistance. The soundtrack of resistance might go like this: It’s not fair. Why does this always happen to me? It’s not my fault. You should not have said that! Acceptance Decreases Suffering You can’t avoid pain, but you can avoid amplify- ing it into higher levels of suffering by cultivat- ing acceptance. Acceptance is the state of mind that sees the present moment just as it is. It allows you to feel pain or sadness or anger with- out making it worse. To be clear, the kind of acceptance I am talking about does not require you to give up or be pas- sive in the face of disappointments. There is noth- ing passive at all about acceptance. It is a highly active state of awareness that points you toward wise actions. Acceptance is not what keeps you stuck; acceptance is what carries you through. It is important that you have a clear under- standing about what acceptance is and is not. Acceptance is not the same as liking, agreeing with, or passively resigning yourself to anything, or making a decision about what you choose. Let’s dig a little deeper into these differences. 1 Acceptance Is Not Liking Santiago said, “My roommate keeps coming in late, making all sorts of noise. He wakes me up, never says he is sorry, and it really pisses me off. I’ve been trying to accept it, but honestly, I don’t like it.” Santiago was struggling with the common confusion between acceptance and approval. He doesn’t need to like or approve of his roommate disrupting his sleep in order to accept it. Accepting the behavior means recogniz- ing reality. It means seeing clearly that it does indeed happen and what specific problems it causes for him. Once he is fully aware of this, he can be thoughtful about what, if anything, he wants to do about it. Does his roommate know it bothers him? Does he want to talk to his roommate? If so, what is the best way to approach him about this? Would it make more sense to just buy earplugs? Or ignore it for a while and see if it goes away? → PHOTOGRAPHBYGOODVIBRATIONSIMAGES/STOCKSY On Moving→→