Course Book Lesson 1: Accepting & Allowing – Audio & Text

Lesson 1
Allowing & Accepting

Lifehouse Body & Soul (LBS) is a fitness studio and mindfulness program aimed to help us live more consciously, heal our traumas, and improve our relationship with our bodies, our God, and ourselves. Here, we use the body as a spiritual instrument–a radical departure from the image-focused, air-brushed, and objectified human bodies so often idolized. Whether transmitted through our culture, social circles, religious communities, profession, or even our families, so many messages around us seem to equivocate happiness and success with perceived outward perfection. As we begin our journey together, it can be important to acknowledge such conditioning, whether we realize its impact or not. Together with our lived experience, such messages inform the unique way we view ourselves and our bodies.

In response to these unhealthy body narratives, we may have mastered the ideal image, finding safety in the security of other people’s admiration. Or maybe we have rejected these constructs entirely, building a cocoon of protective layers around ourselves. For a time, either our hyper-focus or total dismissal of the body may seem to work. But sooner or later, we awake to a background static of fear or never-ending striving. It may serve us to look beyond our surface and consider if, on some level, we are using our bodies as objects: either to get ahead or to hide away. Inevitably, both strategies can come to feel like an offense against our most authentic Selves.

Typically, the world encourages us to band-aid our body-disconnect through external means: rigid dieting and exercise regimens, nutrient-dense supplements, weight-loss competitions. But the motivating factor is typically image-centered: the underlying belief is that we will be happy when we look good. Such mindsets keep us grasping outside of ourselves for something to fix or complete us. Even successful outcomes can be short-lived and eventually feel empty.

At LBS, we practice from a radically different viewpoint. Our philosophy hinges on the belief that everything we are looking for is already here, already within us at this very moment—precisely as we are. We believe that peace, joy, love, and worthiness are our inherent birthright–not things we attain by meeting some outside measure of perceived perfection. As divine beings on a mortal journey, we don’t have to do anything to deserve these things. At our innermost essence, we are these things.

But how do we get from where we are now to embodying this profound realization? The first step is counterintuitive: it is to let go. What do we need to let go of? We can begin with our attempts to control ourselves, others, and our life situation. We can continue with our opinions and ideas about how things are supposed to be–the overall attitude of “I know best.” Why is letting go our necessary first step? Because we first have to unlearn our conditioning before we can consciously choose a more enlightened way of being.

According to Zen tradition, the parable of the Empty Cup symbolizes this fundamental requirement for deep learning and growth. As the story goes, an enthusiastic young student comes to study under a great master. The master invites him to sit, and he begins to pour him some tea. The student’s cup fills to overflowing, and still, the master continues to pour, tea now spilling over across the table and into the student’s lap. “Stop! The cup is full! It’s full!” shouts the student in confusion and shock. “Ah, yes, your cup is full, my young friend. So there is no room for me to pour the tea. Likewise, there is no room in your head or heart for new ideas. There is no room for me to teach you anything.”

Potentially profound personal transformation is possible when we empty our cup, offering an open and inquisitive heart and mind. But how do we do this? At LBS, we use breath and movement to clear space daily in our inner landscape. We learn to identify and release energy and thoughts that do not serve us. We learn to let go of strongly-held beliefs about how it is and our need to be validated or right. We learn to let go of old identities—the stories we have created about who we are and why we do or don’t have value. We practice letting go one moment at a time, each time we feel the urge to lock up into old patterns, strong opinions, or righteous indignation. When we feel this locking-up resistance inside us, we can know this is an opportunity to let go and accept what is.

We might pause to consider if perhaps we have tried to use food, exercise, and our bodies (among other things) as a means to salvation: to secure love, safety, freedom, or a sense of control. If this has been true for us, we can recognize with compassion that we, like all humans, have the desire to be loved and accepted. This desire can be a beautiful part of our human nature. But the problem is that these externals or facades cannot provide the salvation we seek. And when we cling tightly to ideas of what our body or even our lives should look like, fear and shame can make it difficult to honestly acknowledge and appreciate what actually is. Letting go creates the space for something new to flow into our lives.

We are shifting into a new mindset–where we accept ourselves just as we are and allow the roller-coaster of life to be. Allowing and accepting life exactly as it presents itself is the core practice of the LBS program and the heart of our spiritual journey. This mindset can impact all aspects of our lives, including our relationship to food and body. Some of us may need to loosen our grip on the strict rules or fear-driven control strategies we have clung to in the past. Some of us may need to acknowledge our shame voices and bring more presence and structure to the experience of eating and moving. Over time, we can all discover and learn to trust that our own body can tell us when we are hungry, when we are satisfied, when we have worked hard, and when we need movement to help release or regulate our emotions. Rather than relying on apps and SmartWatches to track our weight, calories eaten, or calories burned, we can practice listening to our bodies and trusting our inner guidance.

LBS has no strict requirements governing food intake–a fact that may be challenging for some of us. Our Conscious Eating Guidelines instead encourage us to focus inward: less tracking and more experiencing. It’s easy to buy into the idea that peace is to be found at a certain number on the scale or that our weight is our problem. But this mindset keeps us in bondage as long as we believe it. Perhaps we might consider the possibility that our body and our relationship with food can offer eye-opening insight into our hidden core beliefs.

When we learn to apply mindfulness to all aspects of our experience–from core beliefs to nutrition–we find that there is an innate wisdom–a Higher Power–capable of bringing us to right action in every way. Letting go of outcomes attached to our weight creates space for this Power to inform every part of our lives according to His will. Peace can be found in letting go, trusting this Power, and learning to accept and allow all of our experience. When we commit ourselves to this spiritual practice first, we can trust that our physical form will reflect our inner alignment over time.

Starting today, let’s set an intention to allow our body to be exactly as it is in this moment. No matter where we are currently at, we can choose to accept ourselves fully, without criticism, asterisks, or justifications. As we move through the Course, we will widen this intention to bring acceptance to every aspect of our lives. We can feel more freedom to do this by recognizing that acceptance does not mean approval. We can allow life to be just as it is, even as we hope to move towards something better. After all, we only see our present step on a much greater journey.

Accepting that we are where we are is our first step towards change: it gives us solid ground to stand on, where we can understand our situation and explore solutions. As we find moments of open-hearted acceptance, let’s notice how it feels in our hearts, minds, and bodies to truly let go. Let’s also mindfully notice how this state contrasts from the times we fight against, complain about, or deny reality. The dissonance and struggle we feel in our resistance can be so familiar that we often reside there without even knowing it. This is the very definition of unconscious living. The LBS Course and Community can raise our awareness and help us identify where our unconscious resistance keeps us stuck. We can celebrate and share our vulnerable insights as we unravel together and find the courage to let go of the false sense of control we have leaned on. We are in a safe place to fall apart.

Mindfulness Practice:
Recognizing Resistance

What does it feel like to resist life? Exploring this question is our mindfulness practice for Week One. To do this, we shift our focus away from the noise and chaos outside of us, and learn to tune into exactly what is happening inside, right here and now. This is where awakening happens: this is where our reality shifts. We will find that when we are out of alignment with life, we can feel resistance in many aspects of our being: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually, sexually. This week, we bring mindful awareness to our resistance in 3 aspects of our identity: our physical body, emotions, and mental thought patterns.

Physically, resistance often feels like a tightening or contraction in the body. For example, try closing your eyes and thinking of something that brings you pain or makes you fearful. Perhaps your muscles tense, or your heart hardens inside your chest. It may feel like your throat is closing off or your shoulders clench. An awareness of these body sensations can help us recognize when we are meeting a moment with resistance rather than acceptance.

Sometimes, there is good reason for our mind, body, and spirit to resist. Perhaps we have been harmed, betrayed, or traumatized. These involuntary bodily reactions are valuable communications from our soul: they inform us that a part of us feels unsafe. When we bring awareness to this resistance with open curiosity, we become more conscious of what is happening. Instead of getting caught and overwhelmed in a reaction, we can seek the help and support we need. When these reactions are extreme, we might consider whether we are experiencing a trauma response. Trauma impacts our brains and bodies in very complex and significant ways. Qualified help from a trained professional can help us move through trauma. Specialized therapy can complement the work we do at LBS in beautiful and healing ways.

Emotionally, resistance can feel like any number of negative or confusing emotions. When upsetting emotions displace our serenity, they often point to ways we are resisting what is. This doesn’t make these emotions bad; it makes them helpful. When we become aware of these emotions, we can ask ourselves, “What am I resisting right now? What would happen if I let go and allowed this to be?” Some common forms of emotional resistance include:

complaining    minimizing           judging          avoiding        blaming
self-pity           criticizing             worrying        annoyance    denying
ignoring           controlling           numbing        fighting         stuffing
stressing.          past-obsessing     future-obsessing

Mentally, resistance often manifests through thought patterns that ultimately fuel such negative or unhelpful emotions. These can become narratives that center around self-justification or blame and portray us as victims–creating anger. They can attack our deepest fears, like a tangible voice speaking cruel words about our worth–creating despair. They might obsessively compare us to others–creating fear. When we allow these unhealthy narratives to run rampant, we can become trapped in repetitive and counterproductive thought patterns that keep us stuck in suffocating emotions, and unable to receive all the gifts that life wants to bring us.

During our first week of practice, our mindfulness task is to bring consciousness into all forms of our resistance, one experience at a time. In class, we use Ujayi breath to “be victorious over our thoughts.” We can use the same technique to gain victory in our daily lives. When we feel ourselves contract into mental, emotional, or physical resistance, we can pause and take a conscious breath. This simple practice can be a powerful tool to find our center and connect to our heart. When we make conscious contact with our heart, with a Higher Power at our center, we call this “touching home.” From this place of wholeness, serenity, and connection, we can find the strength to accept ourselves and our lives exactly as they present themselves in this moment.

Let’s remember that acceptance does not mean that we are passive in the face of mistreatment or abuse. Instead, it means we learn to take healthy action without placing ourselves in a victim role. In every situation we face, we can seek to feel, hear, and courageously follow our inner guidance, trust our lives into the care of a Higher Power, and let go of our perceptions of what others may think. Recognizing and letting go of resistance one experience at a time brings us into our hearts in the present moment. As we continue in this program, we will find that this sacred place inside us is where all of our problems can be solved.

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