Acceptance, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness


A friend was having issues with the neighbor above her: he was noisy and would wake her with his banging at around at 2am, to the point that she had trouble getting to sleep at all.  Every night.  It began to bother her so much that it was on her mind every evening, taking up all the space in her head with wory and rumination on “What if this” and “What if that” and “Why can’t he do the decent thing” and “Why can’t he be more considerate” and many many more What If’s and Whys. It became a constant nag and an equally constant drain on her energy.

At some point, she’d had enough – desperate and frantic from lack of sleep, she was willing to try anything short of moving (although that would have been next).  And as so many of us know personally, desperation is a wonderful impetus for change.  Sure enough, It wasn’t too long after this decision that she had a huge Aha moment: it was when she changed her perspective just a little, adding one more “What if”: What if her neighbor was like someone with poor eyesight and debilitating arthritis, who couldn’t help but constantly drop things? What if they had to get up at night to use the bathroom? If an elderly person were living above her with these issues, would she be as intolerant? Or would she find a way of dealing with it that brought her peace?

The fact is she would have no trouble accepting the situation as it was for an elderly person, so what was stopping her from accepting the situation as it actually was with her neighbor? The only thing that was stopping her, she discovered, were her own judgments and expectations.  All she had to do to find peace and a good night’s sleep was acceptance of what actually was.

I’ll leave the last word on Acceptance to Jon Kabat-Zinn: Acceptance is a very active process, there is nothing passive about it, it’s not passive resignation but an act of recognition that things are the way they are… Acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t work to change the world, or circumstances, but it means that unless we accept things as they are, we will try to force things to be as they are not and that can create an enormous amount of difficulty.

If we recognise the actuality of things, then we have the potential to apply wisdom to the situation and shift our own relationship to what is occurring in ways that can be profoundly healing and transformative… Without acceptance of a situation it is very difficult to know where to stand and to take a first step.”

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at .


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