That is easier said than done, right? It’s simple, but it’s definitely not easy. Accepting things as they are, is well understood as the first step of mindfulness. Being with what is. Not suppressing or denying our experience, or getting caught up in ideas about the way things should be, rather than how they are.

The closer we can come to doing this, the more peaceful and happier we are. I think we’re reluctant to ‘welcome everything as it is’ because there’s always so much that we want to change or improve. It feels far too passive to just accept things as they are. That feels like giving up. So, I think it’s worth teasing this out a little.

A necessary first step

Perhaps welcoming everything as it is, is a necessary step that we tend to overlook. Not the total response, but the first step, in any challenging situation. What’s that saying ‘before you know where you’re going, you have to know where you are’? Otherwise, we’re just dragging along with us a sense of resistance and refusal. Believing that things should somehow be other than the way they are.

Come into the body

To tend to this crucial, and often overlooked first step, there are some things we can each practice. We can try noticing what’s happening in our bodies as we recognise things as they are. Where and how in the body do we feel it? Is it heavy, light, tight, spikey, dull? Does it have a colour or shape? Investigating our experience just as it is and laying aside, just for a while the ‘fix it, change it’ project, that happens in our heads.

Move from reaction to response

Welcoming everything as it is can then open up a flood of information to inform our response. We’re aiming to shift from reaction to response. It’s a timing thing. Practicing and including that first crucial step of feeling into things just as they are, might seem counter intuitive and interrupt our improvement project, but it taps us into truth and then we can move from where we are, not from some idea of where we should be.

Why so hard?

When we’re able to welcome things as they are, we’re in tune. We’re not arguing with reality. What is it that makes this simple and truly peaceful way of being so difficult? Over our lives we’ve internalised layer upon layer of ideas about the way things should be. We have story lines already written about the way things should turn out. Or, due to our life experiences we have narratives running about who we are, which can come with limitations that prevent us from expressing our authentic response to situations.

The sources of these ideas or ideals come from a mixture of; society, culture, media, family of origin, books we’ve read, things we’ve seen, the relationships we’ve had, and on and on – our whole life experience. We may feel like we’re betraying a belief system if we welcome things as they are, or, that we’ll be rejected by a particular group if we do. Basically, we’re being strangled by ideas and ideals rather than seeing clearly the facts in front of us, especially if they’re messy.

Advocating for a pause

We’re human, that’s what we do. I’m not suggesting that we try to wipe out our conditioning or memories. They are precious and make us who we are. I’m just advocating for a little pause to see things clearly, as if for the first time, rather than filtered through the lens of our established belief system about ourselves and the world. Coming into our bodies is the best way of getting out of our heads, where the conditioning and memories reside that act as a filter. Coming into our bodies connects us back to nature, we are nature, interconnected with all of life. For many of us our conditioning has disconnected us from that fact.

With keen observation we can notice when we’re running on auto-pilot from our conditioning. We can then choose to suspend that judgement for a moment. We can take a little pause, a break in momentum, so that a more grounded, interconnected response might emerge. Not something that just comes from habit or the ideas in our heads but from the deeper truth of who we are as a unique expression of life and part of a whole.

A more authentic response

Over time, as we practice this pause we begin to develop a new habit that supports us to respond rather than react. As Victor Frankl said, way back in 1946 “between the stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space lies our freedom and power to choose our responses. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. Over time, we may come to trust a more authentic response that arises from the knowledge of our interconnection with all of life.