Percival
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By acceptance, I don't mean resignation. I don't mean, 'If you think you can't do something, accept it' - that would be giving up rather than accepting. I'm talking about your experience from moment to moment.

For example, when you feel pain, whether it's physical, such as a painful shoulder, or mental, such as depression or anxiety, the natural reaction is to try to avoid feeling the pain. This seems very sensible, because the sensation of physical or mental pain is unpleasant. You ignore it, distract yourself, or perhaps even go so far as turning to recreational drugs or alcohol to numb the discomfort. This avoidance may work in the immediate short term, but before long, avoidance fails in the mental and emotional realm.

By fighting the pain, you still feel the pain, but on top of that, you feel the emotional hurt and struggle with the pain itself. Buddha called this the 'second arrow.' If a warrior is injured by an arrow and unleashes a series of thoughts like, 'Why did this happen to me?' or 'What if I can never walk again?' that's a 'second arrow.' You may inflict this on yourself each time you feel some form of pain or even just a bit of discomfort, rather than accepting what has happened and taking the next step. Avoidance - running away - is an aspect of the 'second arrow' and compounds the suffering. Acceptance means stopping fighting with your moment-to-moment experience. Acceptance removes that second arrow of blame, criticism or denial.
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A useful formula to remember is

Suffering = Pain x Resistance



The more your resist the pain you're experiencing, the more you suffer. The pain is already there. Resisting the pain compounds your difficulties. Acceptance teaches you to let go of the resistance and therefore ease your suffering.

Perhaps when you're mindful, you feel bombarded by thoughts dragging you away again and again. If you don't accept the fact that your mind likes thinking, you become more and more frustrated, upset and annoyed with yourself. You want to focus on your mindfulness practise, but you just can't.

In the above example:

First arrow: Lots of thoughts entering your mind during mindfulness practise.

Second arrow: Not accepting that thoughts are bound to come up in mindfulness; criticising yourself for having too many thoughts.

Solution: Acknowledge and accept that thoughts are part and parcel of mindfulness practise. Let go of your resistance. You can do this by gently saying to yourself, 'Thinking is happening' or 'It's natural to think' or simply labelling it as 'thinking thinking.'

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