The last phrase of loving kindness meditation is “May I live with ease.” It sounds great, but what does it actually mean? And how would that even be possible? Between juggling the daily demands of work and personal life, let alone in a pandemic and time of economic and political upheaval, living with ease may seem like a long shot.
But if we sit with the phrase, its meaning can change. Over the years of practicing loving kindness meditation, it’s evolved for me from an invitation to kick back and put up my feet up to letting go of unnecessary struggle. In other words, life is challenging enough without us compounding the difficulty.
And there are endless ways we can do this. For example, maybe you struggle with anxiety, but your internal negative critic puts you down for having anxiety in the first place. Or, things are going pretty well, but you keep anticipating negative things, most of which never happen. And of course, having very rigid ideas about how the self, things and others should be can make life more challenging.
While they are countless ways to increase the difficulty of life, at the core of most is the refusal to accept some aspect of reality. Whether it’s an unwanted emotion, thought or situation. With acceptance things get easier. We let go of the struggle.
For the worrier, it means accepting uncertainty rather than latching onto negative expectancies to create certainty. For the person with anxiety, it means allowing yourself to feel unwanted feelings rather than structuring your life to avoid it or decrease it.
Here’s two ways to increase acceptance. Mindfulness practice helps us to cultivate the skill of undivided and nonjudgmental awareness of our present experience. Without judgments, it’s easier to allow thoughts and feelings into our experience. We’re less inclined to fight them. With Radical Acceptance, we’re practicing the deliberate and repeated embrace of the aspects of reality we find ourselves fighting but can’t change. Think “I don’t like it, I can’t change it, I can accept it.”
So, if you want less struggle and more ease in your life try cultivating more acceptance.
Dr. Lisa Napolitano is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other mindfulness-based treatments. A licensed psychologist in New York and Florida, she is the Founder and Director of CBT/DBT Associates, a boutique psychology practice group. Dr. Napolitano is an expert in the treatment of stress, anxiety, worry, and emotion regulation problems. She has specifically designed her treatment approach for executives, attorneys, and other high-functioning individuals whom she believes shouldn’t have to sacrifice their careers to manage their stress and work on developing their potential.