A stands for accepting. This does not mean that you wanted what just happened to happen. It simply means that you acknowledge that it did. You name it: for example, “anger is here.” The idea is that although you are not going to indulge the emotion or thought with further thinking or righteousness or another emotion, neither do you resist or avert or distract yourself from what’s happening. You simply acknowledge and name what is happening. You are willing to be open to whatever it is.
I stands for investigating the sensations in the body. This step is primarily a physical noticing. What does anger feel like? The heart beats faster, there can be a flush of energy and heat and a tightening of certain muscles. These physical events are what we label as “anger.” This energetic emotional component has to be willingly and thoroughly felt until the body returns to open relaxation. You breathe and wait and breathe and feel the body, at first tight and then slowly changing, relaxing and opening, letting go. If this is not thoroughly done, then we haven’t really felt the emotion that was triggered by the initial thought, and that energy gets stuck in the body and adds to the conditioned structure that was triggered in the first place. This openness to the physical event is what integrates the energy, dissipates it, and—if it is practiced over and over— eventually dissolves that particular egoic structure, which has no concrete core. The realization that the egoic system will eventually dissolve if we don’t add more thought or energy to it is a wonderful one when first experienced, and a real taste of the potential freedom to come if we continue with practice.
N stands for not identifying. There’s no need to identify a “me’” in what just happened. It was just a passing mental and emotional event, like watching a scene in a movie or the clouds as they move through the sky. We don’t have to build and rebuild a “me” on the passing content of the body-mind. Instead, we can stand as the observer. This not-identifying is tricky, but when the first change of identity shifts from the content of mind to the observer, we can see that the content is not who we are. This is the first real shift of freedom. Eventually identification as “the observer” drops away as well, but to simply make the shift is a good place to start.