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Intentions are like seeds: from the moment they are planted, the potential for growth is fully present. But, also like seeds, something else is needed lest that potential becomes dormant. There needs to be soil: Soil that’s fertile and hospitable to growth.
Acceptance is the soil in which we plant our new intentions. As we all have stood witness to, new beginnings in our lives (whether they be the start of new, healthier routines or life transitions like a move or a new relationship) never emerge as if plucked from obscurity. Big or small, welcome or not, these new beginnings in our lives come into fruition because something else has ended.
Face Endings with Open-Hearted Acceptance
When we’re lucky, such endings are welcomed and embraced. Though, most of the time, endings come when we’re not expecting them. They’re the unwanted guest reminding us that so much of our lives is beyond our control. What is ours to control, however, is our mindset.
While it’s helpful to bring that truth to all of our interactions, its necessity becomes most apparent when we’re setting new intentions, standing in the doorway between what is and what is going to be. Facing endings with open-hearted acceptance gives us the freedom to let go and devote our full energy and presence to the new intentions we are setting and cultivating.
Meditation teacher, psychologist, and author Tara Brach calls this state of being Radical Acceptance.
At first, Radical Acceptance may seem like an oxymoron. What’s revolutionary about resigning to the way things are? Doesn’t it imply accepting defeat? It sounds, at first, like a prettier way for us to package our giving up.
Brach explains it as “the willingness to experience ourselves and our lives as it is.” What makes it so radical is that Brach says we can do this with any situation at any time. We can override our conditioned reaction to turn away from what’s in front of us.
She writes, “Radical acceptance reverses our habit of living at war with experiences that are unfamiliar, frightening, or intense. It is the necessary attitude to years of neglecting ourselves, years of judging and treating ourselves harshly, years or rejecting this moment’s experience.”
Release the Cycle of Resistance
There were many experiences that I wanted to reject this past year: the main one being that the relationship I was planning my future around abruptly and traumatically ended. Somewhere in the bardo of my grief and pull-at-my-hair-what-do-I-do-next nights, someone reminded me that when a door slams shut, we have to find a window to climb through. My window would be a move to a new city in a new state.
My intention for a fresh start was set, right along with my GPS. I quickly found, however, that you’ll never make it through the window if you’re still fidgeting with the old door’s handle, peeking back, just checking one last time, and then once more for good measure, to see if it really is shut for good.
“We lay the foundations of Radical Acceptance by recognizing when we are caught in the habit of judging, resisting and grasping, and how we constantly try to control our levels of pain and pleasure,” Brach writes. Being caught in the cycle of resisting what had happened to me risked defeating all of the new intentions I set for myself with my move. My intentions were a package of seeds left out on the countertop and, somehow, I still expected them to grow. It was time to practice acceptance.
Four Tips to Cultivate Acceptance
Acceptance may not be our first instinct when it comes to facing life transitions we didn’t plan for. Lucky for us, it functions like a muscle that we can work to strengthen.
Ask yourself, if I had to stay in my current situation for the rest of my life, what would I need to accept in order to be at peace?
If you have a journaling practice, let your writing time be the bridge between what it is that you’re resisting and what it is you want to bring into fruition. Re-read your entries and try to be aware of any attempts to shield yourself from reality. You can even practice writing “I accept...” and completing the sentence with whatever is holding you back.
Use sitting meditation to become mindful that you can handle - and eventually, accept - difficult emotions. Brach suggests, “As you pay attention, notice how the emotion changes… When the emotion is no longer compelling, turn your attention back to the breath.” This primes you to release and let go, both of which must happen before you can be truly open to something new.
Carve out time to create your own ritual that honors and acknowledges what ended for you. This could mean taking a walk to a body of water and releasing a rock or leaf into the flow. Or it could take the form of writing a letter, sealing it, and placing it in a safe place. Do what feels meaningful for you.
Once acceptance becomes a presence in your life, energy blockages are released, and you can have a more gentle, kind, and compassionate relationship with the new beginning in front of you. Rather than experiencing a sense of strain or striving, you’re able to abide in genuine openness and you can better integrate the changes you wish to make in your life.
Practicing acceptance in my daily journaling and meditation practices helped me locate the open space in my mind and heart that was needed to be open to my move and tap into all of the potential around me. Energy that was once spent spinning denial narratives was finally free to be creative and help me design a life in alignment with my spirit.
From Acceptance to New Beginnings
Your acceptance practice will prepare you to set (and keep) intentions that will help you be fully open to the many opportunities and new beginnings that lie ahead for you. There are exercises that we can do to honor this connection and invite it into our lives.
Release and Allow
Acceptance means letting things be. Contemplate the intentions you’re setting and ask yourself if they’re serving your growth or if they are harboring your desire to control the pain and pleasure in your life.
Trust in Infinite Potential
If you practice breathing meditation, breathe in your potential, and breathe out what no longer serves you.
Expand and Manifest
When you practice acceptance, you are expanding instead of narrowing. Give gratitude to the part of your nature that’s expansive and use that to invite in the change you wish to see in your life.
Acceptance can be a slow journey. It is also a life-long one. Again and again, we continue to release the layers that bind us and open our hearts. Whether these practices come naturally to you or feel like labor, know that every action you take now is tilling the soil so that the intentions you are planting can bloom in the future.