Be a kind and constant friend to yourself and your painful experiences.
When in a distressing situation, we tend to panic. If this sounds familiar, you can learn something from the story of Jacob, one of the author’s colleagues.
Jacob was an experienced meditation teacher, who was also in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Standing in front of a class of meditation students, he found himself suddenly confused and unsure of where he was. Importantly, though, Jacob didn’t panic. Instead, he told his students how he was feeling. He admitted to being scared, confused and disoriented.
Not the best meditation class, right? On the contrary!
Although it might sound disastrous for both the teacher and his class, the students thanked him afterward for one of the best lessons on meditation they’d ever received.
Why were his meditation students so impressed? Because instead of pushing away his negative experience – his fear and confusion – Jacob had the courage to express what he was experiencing.
Importantly, by naming his fear and confusion, Jacob honored his painful experience, instead of rejecting it as something that was “wrong” or unmentionable. He didn’t turn the experience into an enemy; he accepted and made friends with it. Jacob’s reaction was a shining example of radical acceptance.
When you recognize your emotions at any given moment and greet them with this unconditional friendliness, you’re practicing radical acceptance. In this state, you pay careful attention to your feelings, allowing yourself to accept them instead of making them into an enemy to recoil from.
This aspect of radical acceptance is crucial because it helps increase self-compassion.
Most of us are only friendly toward ourselves when we’re succeeding. As soon as we fail at something, we rush to self-judge and reject the parts of ourselves that are less than perfect. But ask yourself: Would you treat a good friend poorly if they failed at something? Hopefully not.
It can be difficult, but try to extend to yourself the same compassion and understanding you’d extend to your closest friend.