In "The Book of Joy" there is an appendix of meditations and, while these two are known, it is worth reflecting on them now:
"If something can be done about it,
what need is there for dejection?
And if nothing can be done about it,
what use is there for being dejected?"
(The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shantideva)
"God, give us the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changes,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other."
(The Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr)
The practice of analytical or reflective meditation
I should also add that within the book, the Dalai Lama also explains his views on "analytical meditation." While there is always a place for meditation where we shut our eyes and get away from it all, this is an active approach to using that time to learn. Personally, this is the type of meditation I use and enjoy it greatly. I find that it gives me the headspace because I do it when I am running, AND has the added bonus of being able to get to the root of issues while in a safe - and calm - environment. (Much more effective for taking considered action.)
Why focus on acceptance?
We have a finite amount of time and energy available to us to do all the many things we desire. However, we do not allocate it specifically to our goals and the areas which serve us - some of it gets wrapped up in anxiety, worry - other people's psychodramas! The more the latter elements chip away, the less we have for ourselves, and in turn this can create additional stress.
As compassionate people, we are drawn to support others and this is a wonderful, kind and generous thing. However, we are most effective in our support when it is effective at initiating the changes needed. Being drawn into a whirlpool of sadness is helpful for neither of you.
By being able to practice acceptance of reality - you are also able to plan effectively what can be done to push the outcome in the way you desire. If you are unable to influence any part, then you help yourself and others best by focusing on what keeps you strong emotionally and mentally. This means energy and time are always directed in the most valuable manner.
Acceptance is also not about "giving in". It is about knowing from where to start.
Try this simple exercise for acceptance:
In a relaxed time and place, think of a situation that you are struggling with.
Remind yourself, first, that life includes painful moments which can affect us and those we love.
Remind yourself also that you may not know all the reasons leading to the situation or struggle.
Remind yourself that there is little to do to change the past - and your greatest effect will be on the future.
Try this affirmation "I accept what I cannot change, and direct my energies into what I can influence." "I am responsible for myself and my behaviour alone - if I can assist, I will help others, if I cannot I will send hope, love and good wishes* to them." (You may replace this with "pray for" if you are religious rather than broadly spiritual in your approach to life).
Then, if you do find yourself fretting over something you know through analytical reflection or meditation that you cannot influence try these alternatives:
Tell yourself "Even if I cannot control anything else, I can control my breathing." (I do this while practicing "square breathing" - using your fingers to trace a square in the air - breathing in as you make the horizontal line, out on the vertical and so on.)
Find something you can do which will raise your energy a little (eg. listen to music, share in laughter, message a friend) - as at least, then, you will have more to spend!
We charge our phones to keep them working - we must do the same for our heart, mind and body!
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilienceFor coaching tips and tools including positive psychology: click WORK WITH ME or SKILL PILL and here for Media appearances or Psych Q&A. Twitter/IG @draudreyt
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