Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on"(Eckhart Tole)
When difficulties arise, a common and understandable response can be to stuff them down or to turn away from them. But this kind of resistance and denial require and enormous amount of effort and can often lead to even more discomfort. As an alternative to this we want to introduce you to the possibility of accepting and handling adversity.
Initially accepting something that hurts or burdens you can be a difficult prospect to engage in. However, you are not expected to resign yourself to your problems, but rather to bring compassionate awareness to them. Getting closer to your discomfort and embracing it can cause it to change, or even disappear all together.
The basic guideline in this practice is to become aware of what is most dominant in your moment-by-moment experience.
How do I put this into practice?
Step 1: If your mind is being drawn to a particular place, to particular thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations, you should deliberately give gentle and friendly awareness to that place.
Step 2: Notice as best you can, how you are relating to whatever is arising in that place.
Often you may relate to to an arising thought, feeling, or bodily sensation in a non accepting, reactive way. If you like it you tend to hold on to it (attachment); if you do not like it, because it is painful, unpleasant, or uncomfortable, you tend to contract and push away, out of fear, irritation, or annoyance. Each of these responses is the direct opposite of acceptance.
The easiest way to relax is, first, to stop trying to make things different. Accepting an experience means simply allowing space for whatever is going on, rather than trying to create some other state. Through acceptance you settle back into awareness of what is present. You "let it be" and simply notice and observe whatever is already present. This is the way to relate to experiences that have a strong pull on your attention.
For example: If you notice that your awareness keeps being pulled away from the breath (or any other focus of attention) to particular sensations in the body associated with physical discomfort, emotions, or feelings, the first step is to become fully aware of those physical sensations, and to deliberately move your focus of awareness to the part of the body where those sensations are the strongest. Once your attention has moved to and is anchored in your bodily sensations, you could say to yourself, Ït's okay. Whatever this is, it's okay. Let me feel it" Then try to use each out-breath to soften and open to the sensations that you become aware of.
Accepting an experience means simply allowing space for whatever is going on.
Try this quick three minute breathing exercise to cope with difficulties;
1. Awareness of the difficulty
Acknowledging: Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately adopting a dignified posture. Then ask, "What is happening to me right now" Notice, acknowledge, and identify what it is. Put your experience into words; for instance, say in your mind "There are feelings of rage/sadness etc ..."
2. Redirecting attention
Gathering: Gently focus your full attention on your breathing. Experience each in-breath and out-breath as the follow one another. You may find that it helps to note at the back of your mind: "Breathing in.....Breathing out....", or to count your breaths. The breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and to help you be still and grounded.
Anchor your awareness in your bodily sensations and then use the breath to open to your feelings.
3. Expanding awareness
Turning towards: Expand your awareness to your whole body and the space it takes up, as if your whole body is breathing. Perhaps draw a mental line around the circumference of your body. You could choose to breathe in and out of the difficulty, too. Finally visualise a symbol of strength , for example, the sea, the sun, a mountain, a big tree and so on. You are not encouraged to try and resolve anything by "being with" these uncomfortable emotions, but instead ask only that you act like a detective, investigating the nature of the discomfort. By turning towards, rather than pushing against these thoughts, you may begin to notice a change in your perception.