Sunday, September 16, 2012

Acceptance, Part Two

I wrote in part one how my father and I were both sick, each with a poor prognosis.  It was our refusals to accept likely outcomes that laid the groundwork for our healing.  Or was it?

While it is true that I chose not to accept the likelihood of a dismal future, it was the acceptance of things that I had no choice about that began my healing.  In mindfulness, to accept is to acknowledge the truth of an immediate experience.  So yes, I was sick, unable to work, broke, and broken.  Those things were simple facts that needed to be accepted.  Only then could I begin to move forward and change my situation.

In accepting what was real I was able, through the practice of meditation as well as through therapy, to begin to acknowledge the thoughts and emotions that colored my experience.  I was in a bad situation and I felt desperate.  But while the situation was very real it had already happened.  The desperation was present and arose as a reaction to my trouble.  But it was only a feeling and did not have to be permanent.  While I could not change what had already happened, I did not have to continue to react in a way that would perpetuate my difficulties.  Through mindfulness and therapy I saw that thoughts and emotions arise and then pass.  They are things that occur and then cease.  Desperation was no more a permanent part of me than the shirt I was wearing when I felt desperate.

In meditation all of the negativity revealed itself to be a mental event that was not me, or even a part of me.  I did not have to believe that what was happening to me would last forever.  But I did have to recognize that each thought that arose, each story I told myself, was not permanent or attached to my experience.  I could stop reacting to these thoughts and emotions and begin to respond positively to the situation that I found, and accepted, myself in.  I began this change through meditation, but it was a change in the language I used that cemented my new outlook.

I used to say that I was bipolar.  Today I say I have bipolar disorder.  The simple change of verb has led to a sea change of belief.  Because to say, “I am” something” makes it your identity - not a part of who you are but, in fact, who you are at your core.  To restate the case and say I have something enables you to stand apart from it, to change it, to let it go.  No one says, “I am high blood pressure” or “I am cancer.”  Neither should any one say “I am mentally ill.”  No.  One has a mental illness.  Accept that and move on.

So I stopped defining myself through illness, I accepted that I was sick, and I learned to meditate, which revealed that my thoughts and feelings about being sick were not concrete or even correct and could be let go.  I improved dramatically.  I did not accept nor did I experience the poor future that was expected for me.  But there were still other things I needed to accept.  I’ll address those in the next post.

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