Peace is this moment without judgment, this moment in the heart-space where everything that is- is welcome – Dorothy Hunt
In times of great conflict and opposition, such as the election, it can be more challenging to welcome in the practice of mindfulness and radical acceptance; two of the essential acceptance skills in DBT. DBT challenges us to approach life situations and choices from a Wise Mind perspective, rather than living from a black and white list or right and wrong rule book. This can be difficult for people who are accustomed to black and white thinking (i.e. a right and wrong or good and bad way of thinking and evaluating choices). In some ways, it is easier and more time efficient to think from this narrow perspective, as it requires far less critical thinking skills and emotional resources. In fact, we are hardwired to make snap decisions when strong emotions are triggered as a survival mechanism, so it is no surprise that when people play on our emotions, a polarization of views could be activated and acted on.
For me I find challenging situations as opportunities to strengthen these skills. This year has been filled with such opportunities, including COVID-19, racial injustice, and the current election race to name a few. I suppose that viewing challenging situations as “opportunity” is the first of many tips I would like to share that may help you navigate the challenges ahead with skillful means. Perhaps you may even emerge with a sense of mastery and inner strength.
Top Tips to Mindfully meeting challenges (not in any order):
- Practice mindfulness in whatever way possible: singing, walking, easing, showering, singing, dancing, drawing, painting, swimming, cleaning, breathing, or even just being. This entails doing just one thing in the moment and bringing full attention to the experience without judgment.
- Non-judgment deserves it’s own space on the list because this skill requires paying attention to our thoughts and reactions while ”catching” judgments as they form in the mind. Then pausing, noticing, and dropping the judgment in favor of noticing what is factual and observable. Make it a game and place a referee on your shoulder who can blow the whistle every time a judgment forms, calling it out as “that’s a judgment” and then with mindfulness you get another shot at forming a thought that is judgment free.
- Using phrases that inspire mindfulness and non-judgment from poems, passages, spiritual texts, like the one above from Dorothy Hunt’s poem. This poem is helpful because it reminds me that a feeling of peace is available inside, when I can free myself from judgments. While this may be hard for you to take in as possible right now, given all the external threats we are presently bombarded with, once you try it, you will know it is possible to create space and calm within, even if just in that moment. I love to use poem and passages in this way, often memorizing and repeating them to myself in times of stress.
- Acceptance of the things I cannot change is critical to reaching Wise Mind. The ability to truly accept that there are complex forces beyond our control, even when we take skillful action, may still result in us not getting what we want in the end. Acceptance is not giving up, being a door mat, or not caring. Acceptance is the moment to moment awareness of how things are; acting in accordance of what is, not what one wishes. While we may not like what needs to be accepted, we simply have no choice but to accept what reality is dishing out to us in this moment. When we refuse to do so, we turn the pain we are experiencing into suffering. Reality acceptance can be practiced and deepened through mindfulness practices directed at allowing and accepting painful emotions, discomfort, and unease. By no means does this imply we never take action; DBT encourages taking action when it is wise, helpful, and possible.
- Finally, surrounding yourself with supportive people who can also engage in dialectical thinking, mindfulness, non-judgment, and are accepting and tolerant of differences, is wise.
Over the next few days, and in the weeks to come, I challenge you to practice these tips daily, with the hope of bringing you a sense of calm and serenity amidst these stormy times.