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The Role of Acceptance: Mindfulness for Chronic Illness & Autoimmune Disease

Inherent in mindfulness practice is acceptance, allowing things to be as they are. What many people misunderstand is that acceptance doesn’t mean we want things to be the way they are, it simply reflects that things are the way they are, so we might as well accept them instead of resisting what is.

Bringing acceptance to the present moment does not mean that we willingly allow or endorse unnecessary suffering or unjust behaviour. We accept and open to whatever is arising in the present, not because we necessarily like, condone, or encourage it, but because it is already happening. Then, from a place of clarity, we can consciously discern what is needed and respond in an appropriate and skilful way.

Acceptance & Change

“The curious paradox of life is that when I can accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Through this process of acceptance, we are able to see our situation realistically and respond in a conscious manner. Thus, paradoxically, acceptance is one of the essential elements that lead to transformation and change.

Practicing mindfulness, we come to realise that our suffering comes from wanting things to be different than they actually are. We crave certain experiences and we reject and push away others. We try to push or pull and force reality into being the way we want it to be. And even if for a moment we get it just right, just the way we want it, in the next moment things change. And so, we continue to resist and, hence, to suffer.

Mindfulness both illuminates this suffering and is an antidote to it. Mindfulness is a way of being with all of our experience. It allows whatever arises to be here, which makes sense because it already is here.

When difficulty and adversity arise in our life however, our automatic impulse is to resist it. Accepting it is the furthest thing from our mind. To try to feel safe we push away unpleasant experience, despite the fact that this only leads to more suffering.

Mindfulness practice shows us that suffering is not invariably caused by what is happening, but emerges from our relationship to what is happening.

It is our desire for things to be different than they are, which causes suffering.

When we resist painful experience and do not accept what is, we prolong our suffering.

The saying “what we resist, persists”aptly describes this process.

Tara Brach writes in her book Radical Acceptance:

“Radical acceptance of whatever is here, because it is already here.”

“The boundary of what we can accept in ourselves is the boundary of our freedom.”

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness and compassion are important aspects to my clinical approach, and have played a pivotal role in many of my clients journeys. Many clients come to me worried about their capacity to change, having tried things before and "failed", and subsequently losing trust in themselves. My holistic approach takes into account you as a whole person, not just focusing on your condition or disease. In this way, we can work with your previous experiences, beliefs, and behaviours to rebuild your health, both physical and mental, and enable you to feel healthy and vibrant - long term.

Next Steps

Hi I'm Molly, I'm a UK-based Nutritional Therapist (DipION, mBANT, CNHC) and Self-Compassion Coach (MSc) serving my community in Harpenden and online. Here in my little online home, you'll discover the benefits of nutritional therapy and complementary therapies for autoimmune disease and chronic illness.

Want to understand more about nutrition for autoimmune diseases? Download my free recipe book and discover 12 Nutritionist-Certified Recipes to Help Alleviate the Symptoms of Autoimmunity & Chronic Illness.

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