Conversation 3: Acceptance & Willingness

Choosing Willingly

Choosing Willingly – a recording of Julian McNally (2:34 min)

(“Choosing Willingly” by  RMIT Counselling and Psychological Services, Six ACT* Conversations, RMIT University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Okay, when your legs have recovered, I’d like you to try that exercise again.

When I said that just now, did your mind say something like “Oh, no! Not again. I don’t want to do that. It hurts. What’s the point of this silly exercise anyway?”

So if your mind does this, Thank Your Mind, which is an exercise from Conversation 2: Action & Experience versus Thought & Emotion, and remember why we’re doing this.

Photo by Oliver Paaske on Unsplash

We want an answer to the question, “Do unpleasant thoughts and feelings stop you being effective?” Because, if you can be effective even when you don’t feel enthusiastic or motivated, how useful would that be?

See if you’re waiting for enthusiasm, motivation and inspiration to strike, well… I don’t know about you, but I find that when I need it, it’s hardly ever there and then when it is there, I probably take it for granted.

So if you could do what you need to do – regardless of the direction your thoughts and feelings are pulling you, would your actions be more effective and productive? And would your quality of living improve?

So we’ll do the exercise again, and this time as you do it I’m going to talk you through an enhancement to the exercise that Dr Russ Harris in the book The Happiness Trap calls expansion.

If you want to time yourself and see how long you can stay in that uncomfortable posture, as a measure of effectiveness, you can. But remember we’re not trying to get you to stay longer in a half-squat position, rather to see if you can choose your actions in the presence of unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings and thoughts.

By the way, if you’re listening to this somewhere now where it’s not physically possible for you to do this exercise, I’d suggest skipping forward to the next part and trying this exercise when you can.

Exercise 4: Half-squat with expansion

Okay, we’ll start now.

So from a standing position with your feet nearly shoulder-width apart, keeping your back straight, just sink gently down until your legs make almost a ninety-degree or right angle.

Depending on your height, this should mean dropping almost 12 inches or 30 centimetres from the standing position.

Now, take a deep slow breath in…

[PAUSE – 5 seconds]

and breathe out…

[PAUSE – 5 seconds]

and as you breathe out, just push a little more air out on that outbreath.

Good, now let the air back in.

And pay attention to the sensations you are starting to feel in your legs.

Whatever those sensations are… and however they are right now… let them be that way and just notice them.

[PAUSE – 5 seconds]

At the same time, when thoughts about the sensations appear, just acknowledge them and bring your focus back to the physical sensations you’re having right now.

[PAUSE – 5 seconds].

See if you can just watch these sensations like a curious scientist who has never seen this before.

Keep breathing. And as you breathe, see if you can breathe around the sensations, expanding to make space for them to be there just as they are.

Allow the feelings and thoughts that you’re having to come and go, to change and shift as you continue to give them your full attention.

[PAUSE – 5 seconds]

Even if you find yourself distracted by a thought or an impulse, keep bringing your attention to the experience you’re having… and continue to willingly grant it permission to be – just as it is.

Alright, now that’s about two minutes, so you can stop now or continue if you wish.

Either way, continue to observe your sensations and thoughts in response to that choice.



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