Manchester Art Gallery

Entangling ourselves in knots of our own making

There was lots of noise in the gallery today.

The galleries are usually busy with school groups and visitors chatting to each other about art but today was a particularly noisy day due to essential maintenance being carried out in the building. Drills, hammers and voices filtered throughout and eventually into our mindfulness practice. Which ironically enough was all about noticing sounds in the gallery. Usually the sounds we hear though are slow footsteps on creaky Victorian floors, the far off distant clink and clatter of cups from the café and occasionally even the pitter-patter of tiny feet exploring the gallery perhaps for the first time. Today the sounds were different.

During this noisy practice I could tell a couple of participants were a bit put out, it seemed as though the noise was disrupting their experience. A natural reaction to something we do not like is annoyance or irritation. Here, I thought to myself, was the perfect opportunity to talk about acceptance, an important element in mindfulness practice. When we bring acceptance to everyday things that we find annoying like the sounds of drills in the gallery or the sound of someone on the tram talking loudly on the phone (this is a personal peeve of mine, ask any of my friends), we are more likely to bring a sense of acceptance to the big things in life such as overwhelming and intense emotions.

By the way, acceptance does not mean resignation or giving up; it means perceiving your experience and simply acknowledging it rather than judging it as good or bad.

A lot of our struggle as humans comes as a result of resisting difficult emotions. We do not like to feel afraid or hopeless or empty or enraged and so we fight against them – we rationalise, we bargain, we retreat, we try to neutralise and repress them  – as the poet Rilke so beautifully put it,

  We entangle ourselves in knots of our own making and struggle, lonely and confused.

But if we are our wisest, bravest and most self-compassionate version of ourselves, accepting the moment that we are in will help us manage and recover from those emotions more quickly.

But if we are our wisest, bravest and most self-compassionate version of ourselves, accepting the moment that we are in will help us manage and recover from those emotions more quickly.

We discussed this. Some members of the group nodded, some simply looked like they were taking it all in and a few looked unconvinced. Which is fine. And so we tried again. Listening, noticing the sounds of the hammering and the drills, noticing when this annoyed us and then trying our best to accept the sounds, letting them be there because there really was not anything we do about them. Cultivating a sense of acceptance of what was already here.

Afterwards, I asked the group ‘How do you feel?’ One participant, who I know is having a difficult time smiled for the first time in the session and simply said ‘Better.’

Louise Thompson, Health and Wellbeing Manager


Take notice

First and third Tuesdays of the every month

12:15 & 1pm

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