“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” – J.K. Rowling
I was doing the warrior pose in yoga class when our teacher uttered the words “see the truth, know the truth.” I found myself then silently uttering the phrase “and live your truth.” This was several years ago at the beautiful grounds of the Yoga at the Ashram in Millis, MA. I was going through an existential crisis at the time and felt overwhelmed by several stressful chain of events including my husband’s illness and job loss coupled with the responsibilities of a demanding job and raising a young child. I was at a loss and yoga practice helped me to feel grounded, stable and strong. I went to some Kundalini yoga classes too, which involve a lot of coordinated body movements and intensive breath work. It was so cleansing and renewing. It was an amazing experience and I feel grateful to the teachers who showed me how to safely work through all my past and present adversities.
J.K. Rowling‘s quote really resonated with me because she speaks to the most important steps of the healing and recovery process – understanding and acceptance. Recovery is a lifetime endeavor and we are always (in my opinion) healing from various types of losses, stressful experiences or maybe even traumatic events. One does not need to have a mental health diagnosis to benefit from healing from various difficult and painful life experiences. This is part of our shared journey as human beings living on this beautiful planet.
One of the important lessons in all my years of therapy (both as a therapist and as a client) is the practice of acceptance and letting go. Marsha Linehan who created the dialectical behavior therapy program for clients experiencing difficulty with emotion regulation teaches what’s called “radical acceptance.” There is also a book by Tara Brach, meditation teacher and Buddhist Psychologist, entitled “Radical Acceptance” that speaks poignantly to this concept. It’s about accepting this moment, this reality, just as it is, without harsh judgment towards self, other or the experience. It involves breathing and letting go, over and over and over again. It involves self-forgiveness and forgiveness of anyone who you have experienced as hurting you in any way, whether covertly or overtly. It involves being present in mind, body and soul and allowing every single feeling you are experiencing to safely run its course without fighting, resisting, denying, avoiding or blaming.
I love how Brené Brown, social worker, researcher and story teller, explains the function that blaming serves -“it’s a way to discharge unwanted negative emotion.” Blaming is a waste of time because it only takes you further from your truth and it is a way to distract from our own inner experiences. It also just fuels feelings of powerlessness because we can not change others, only ourselves. When we turn the focus inward then the difficult work of acceptance and letting go can begin. As Dr. Brené Brown says truth is never comfortable but it’s not a weakness. We can only grow from allowing ourselves to experience vulnerability, safely.
Take a moment now to say these words out loud at your own pace: With each breath in I breathe in acceptance and with each breath out I let go. I let go of what’s no longer needed. I let go of resentment, anger and blame. I let go of unrealistic expectations. I let go of the need to control others and focus on my self-care. I let go of what’s no longer serving me in the best, healthiest way possible. I let go, let go, let go.
With each breath in I breathe in love and acceptance. I breathe in forgiveness and hope. I breathe in encouragement and strength. I feel worthy and I belong. I breathe and sit. I sit silently and breathe. I accept myself – all of myself – just as I am in this very precious moment.
Try practicing the mantra above for 20 minutes. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Play soothing music in the background or just allow silence. Put on a timer if it helps. Feel free to use your own words as they come to you. Repeat calming and soothing phrases that help you feel empowered and strong. Even if at first you are not sure you believe them, keep repeating them while breathing out any doubt, negativity, or false guilt. Let it all go. Life is happening in this very moment, and the only way to move forward is to let go, one breath at a time.
May your practice go well. May you access your inner strength and courage to live your truth.