This week I have been reflecting on accepting myself as I am and my life as it is. As I age, I recognise how difficult this can be sometimes. This is especially so when our minds are fed with messages of non-acceptance by the media and in advertising.
I remember a moment that struck me last year where I was aware of the subliminal mind and non-acceptance working on a large scale.
I was teaching tai chi and mindfulness at a well-known UK spa resort. There I was leading mindfulness sessions for women, guiding them to accept themselves as they are. Next door, a ‘war on fat’ aerobics class was happening. I witnessed a room full of miserable women not being kind to their minds or bodies.
They would come into my tai chi class after – hardly able to walk and in pain from overdoing it in the aerobics class. They were in obvious anguish trying to be something they were not. On every wall there were posters telling women they had to get rid of their wrinkles and excess weight. ‘If you have wrinkles and fat you are not normal, acceptable or attractive’ the posters were shouting. Their sneaky hidden agenda was to touch on that sore point of not being good enough or ok as we are.
As a compassion-based mindfulness teacher, during a body scan, I guide people to accept and appreciate their bodies and all the wonderful things the body can do. When I teach tai chi and yoga, I invite people to be kind to their bodies as they move. To be gentle. To be safe and appreciative.
At the spa I attracted about 6 people to the tai chi class. Tai chi is a mindful movement practice that is proven to be very beneficial to the health of our bodies and minds. How many women were in the ‘fat busting aerobics classes’? Over 30! Women flooded in to the spa for their anti-ageing and beautifying expensive treatments. By their behaviour women were saying “I look old”, “I am unattractive”, “I am fat”, “I am not good enough as I am”.
Noticing my mind at work I wasn’t sure whether I was being judgemental or not, as I too had succumbed to clever marketing messaging for years. It was so easy to think there was a remedy for this feeling of not being good enough or ok as I was. Until, that is, I embodied mindfulness and compassion practices. For me they were the only remedy to this particular ailment.
I fully appreciate that we need to look after ourselves and keep fit and healthy by taking a moderate amount of exercise. Also I realise we need to be mindful of consuming healthy foods. However, a lot of marketing is aimed at feeding the ‘not good enough’ in order to make us buy something to look or be a certain way.
A major ingredient for happiness, it seems to me, is to develop a liking and acceptance for whoever I am at any given time. Who I am is who I have to live with in my life.
During my practice I have found the compassion practices to be the most beneficial. Compassion is learned in depth during the Mindfulness Level 2 – Responding with Compassion Course.
Sending compassion to myself during the Loving Kindness practice, the self-compassion break or tonglen has allowed me to soften and accept myself just as I am. It doesn’t mean I don’t have wobbly days – I do. It means that I know how to soothe myself and come back to a place of peace, when my mindfulness practice has shown me that I am not completely accepting myself.
My mindfulness practice helps me to retain vigilance. To guard my mind against messaging in the media which might imply that I need a face cream or faddy diet to look younger or slimmer. At the end of the day, it’s the mind that can be very tricky. It so easily latches on to the triggered negative aspects. And in our mindfulness practice, we know that what the mind tells us isn’t all true.
I invite you to take a few moments when resting in your practice, to notice any aspects of yourself that you struggle to accept as it is. Notice how this non acceptance feels in the body. By introducing some self-compassion and acceptance, softening around the resistance and giving it space, notice how this feels. Are there any practices you do that help with acceptance?
I’d love to hear about your experience with acceptance so please do leave a comment below this post, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish you a wonderful peaceful week ahead, full of acceptance and compassion.
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