There will be many times in your life when you find yourself in a situation you simply don’t like. Perhaps you find yourself stuck in a job you no longer enjoy. Perhaps the place where you’re living is far away from where you really want to be. Maybe your health is not as good as you’d like it to be.
In some situations, you’ll be able to take action to change things; in others, change may be – for the moment at least – outside of your control.
When we’re in a situation we can’t change, what are our choices? Author and mindfulness meditation teacher Dr Arnie Kozak sums up our options with a simple example:
There is a basic choice we have in every moment of our existence. I can be with whatever is happening or I can want to change it…. If you are sitting in a room and it is hot, get up and open the window…. There is no particular virtue to remaining hot when a simple action can change that. However, there are many situations in life where a simple action is neither feasible nor possible. You are outside waiting at a bus stop and it is hot. There is nothing that you can do. You are stuck waiting. In this situation, acceptance is an option; resistance is another option.
When you are hot, you sweat. That’s an experience. As long as you are not at risk of heat stroke or dehydration, it’s not a problem – unless you make it into one. Yet we often turn our experiences into problems by wishing things were different, creating tension in our minds. This tension uses up a lot of mental energy and often prevents us from seeing more difficult situations – and emotions – as they truly are.
Accepting the reality of a situation – instead of denying or resisting it – changes your focus from fighting the present moment to working with the present moment. Starting from where you truly are gives you the mental space to choose how you react to a situation. You may not like the situation you’re in but, once you accept that situation, you can make clearer choices about what to do next.
More about acceptance and mindfulness
To find out more, read our blog post, Mindfulness and acceptance, or Dr Kozack’s article, Acceptance is Mindfulness; Mindfulness is Acceptance.