There’s one thing I always forget to do when I am stressed out. This one thing makes all the difference too. You’d think that I would turn to it first whenever my joy and peace are gone and I’m feeling distressed. I don’t know why this one thing always slips my mind. It should be second nature by now because it is a technique that works.
The one thing: Acceptance.
I always forget. And then as I am pondering my predicament, scanning my internal environment to determine what exactly my problem is (yet again), rehashing all the things that I did and the things that happened to me, all of a sudden I have the familiar flash of insight. Oh yeah! I remember now. Accept. Relax into it. Whatever is causing me pain or sorrow or anger or fear loses its grip on me when I simply accept.
I’m sitting in a roller coaster car 200 feet up, hanging over the edge of a sheer vertical drop that will plunge me toward the ground at 70 miles per hour. There’s no getting out of this. I relax every fiber of muscle in my body, dangling my arms and legs in front of me and I breathe. Suddenly, I am flying, swooping and soaring toward the earth like a bird of prey. Exhilaration!
Acceptance is based on the knowledge that I am safe. No matter what danger I face on this earth, in the big picture I am safe in the arms of the Creator. Because of that, there is no need for the inner response of fight or flight. No need to deny what is going on right this moment. Acknowledge it and move through it.
I learned about acceptance in a practical way when I was preparing for my second home birth. My first home birth had been an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world but I wanted to manage the pain of labor more peacefully. I studied relaxation techniques and found that the essence of total relaxation in the face of extreme pain is acceptance.
A visualization exercise used to manage contraction pain is to imagine the contraction is a wave of the ocean. You are walking into the water and as the wave approaches you, you walk through it to the other side. You dive into it. You enter it. You accept it. And in that way, you pass through it.
The technique of acceptance and total relaxation meant that what had previously been hours of pain and crying out before, turned into a serene, relaxed, shorter labor. The pain was still there but my response to it was changed and so I maintained ownership of peace and joy.
The physical relaxation I learned to command in home birth has served me well over the years whenever I am in pain or discomfort. The thing I always forget is that the same relaxation and acceptance works for emotional and mental distress as well. Don’t run from the wave. Embrace it and move through it to the other side.
Image courtesy of Mark Asthoff