In a previous post, I wrote about the practice of radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is accepting life on life’s terms. It is derived from deep spiritual wisdom that goes back thousands of years. The practice of radical acceptance has helped people thrive during periods of upheaval or change, and has helped decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, suicidality, and self-injurious behavior.
Radical acceptance requires a deep and fundamental shift in thinking. However the body must align with the mind in order for us to accept. The exercises below help support the practice of radical acceptance. These exercises were first described in the 1975 book, The Miracle of Mindfulness by Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh and later re-purposed by psychologist Marsha Linehan in her 1990 work on radical acceptance.
How to begin:
- Select a topic that is difficult for you to accept.
- Read over the three skills of radical acceptance from my previous post.
- Take 5 minutes each day to do one of the nine exercises.
- DEEP BREATHING: Lie on your back. Breathe evenly and gently, focusing your attention on the movement of your stomach. As you begin to breathe in, allow your stomach to rise in order to bring air into the lower half of your lungs. As the upper halves of your lungs begin to fill with air, your chest begins to rise and your stomach begins to lower. Don’t tire yourself. Continue for 10 breaths. The exhalation will be longer than the inhalation.
- COUNTING YOUR BREATH: (my personal favorite) Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair, lie down, or take a walk. As you inhale, we aware that “I am inhaling, ONE.” When you exhale, be aware that “I am exhaling, ONE.” Remember to breathe from the stomach. When beginning the second inhalation, be aware that “I am inhaling, TWO.” And, slowly exhaling, be aware that “I am exhaling, TWO.” Continue up through 10. After you have reached 10, return to ONE. Whenever you lose count, return to ONE.
- FOLLOWING YOUR BREATH WHILE LISTENING TO MUSIC: Listen to a piece of music. Breathe long, light, and even breaths. Follow your breath; be master of it while remaining aware of the movement and sentiments of the music. Do not get lost in the music, but continue to be master of your breath and yourself.
Accept reality with your body. Relax (by letting go or by just tensing and then letting go) your face, neck and shoulder muscles and half-smile with your lips. A tense smile is a grin (and might tell the brain you are hiding or masking). A half-smile is slightly up-turned lips with a relaxed face. Try to adopt a serene facial expression. Remember, your body communicates to your mind.
- HALF-SMILE WHEN YOU FIRST AWAKE IN THE MORNING: Put something in plain view on the ceiling or a wall so that you see it right away when you open your eyes. This sign will serve as your reminder. Use these seconds before you get out of bed to take hold of your breath. Inhale and exhale three breaths gently while maintaining a half-smile. Follow your breaths.
- HALF-SMILE WHILE LISTENING TO MUSIC: Listen to a piece of music for 2 or 3 minutes. Pay attention to the words, music, rhythm, and sentiments of the music you are listening to (not your daydreams of other times). Half-smile while watching your inhalations and exhalations.
- HALF-SMILE WHILE IRRITATED: When you realize, “I’m irritated,” half-smile at once. Inhale and exhale quietly, maintaining a half-smile for three breaths.
- AWARENESS OF POSITIONS OF THE BODY: This can be practiced in any time and place. Begin to focus your attention on your breath. Breathe quietly and more deeply than usual. Be mindful of the position of your body, whether you are walking, standing, lying, or sitting down. Know where you walk, stand, lie, or sit. Be aware of the purpose of your position.
- AWARENESS OF CONNECTION TO THE UNIVERSE: This can be practiced any time, any place. Focus your attention on where your body touches an object (floor or ground, a chair or arm rest, your bed sheets and covers, your clothes, etc.). Try to see all the ways you are connected to and accepted by that object. Consider the function of that object for you. That is, consider what the object does for you. Consider it’s kindness in doing that. Experience the sensation of touching the object and focus your entire attention on that kindness until a sense of being connected or loved or cared for arises in your heart.
- AWARENESS WHILE DOING A SLOW-MOTION ACTIVITY: Prepare a cup of coffee, tea, or a warm snack with total awareness of each minute movement. Take a warm bath, do laundry, breath the fresh air, or do chores very slowly and deliberately with your focus absorbed completely on each tiny movement and sensation of the task.