If you didn’t catch last week’s blog on this beautiful topic of Radical Acceptance, please find it HERE!
image by Steve Rosenfield, What I Be Project
As I continue reading Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance, it’s as if she’s writing about my life. It’s as if she knows my little secrets around fear, shame, doubt and . . . oooooooh . . . self-hatred but those words feel SO harsh that it twinges my heart. Let me soften it – in an effort to be kinder to myself, practice Ahimsa (the first of the five Yamas meaning non-injuring or compassion) – and instead I’ll say that I’ve been operating for a very long time from a place lacking in true self-compassion.
In our external lives, we can drone on going through the motions of getting up and doing the thing we do, then doing the other thing we do and then the other thing just like the day before, coming home night after night to repeat all the things and then heading for bed, only to wake up and do it all over again.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
I know from personal experience how this can happen. It starts innocently and then suddenly you realize it’s been happening for nearly 13 years or maybe more. This is exactly what went down for me in my corporate life until it started to feel as though if I didn’t regain control of the proverbial steering wheel, I’d crash and ultimately die. It sounds dramatic, but I WAS indeed on a crash course that felt terribly bleak!
It reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray, playing Phil Connors, is stuck in the same place and time with the same day and its redundant circumstances repeating over and over and over. As he moves through the story, he continues with his old behaviors and his same old methods for thinking and avoiding his pain. Until he seems to realize that in order to get through this he must accept what is happening, find whatever meaning around his circumstances that he can, ultimately align with some new purpose, even find the blessings in what felt like curses, and THEN through this chain of events, great CHANGE occurs.
becoming aware through mindfulness and then, bridging the gap with compassion —
THIS is what I’m workin’ on right now!How’s it going, you ask?
On a quest to incorporate the principles of Radical Acceptance into my life, I honestly can’t believe how often I catch myself thinking about: others approval, how inadequate I feel, how others are better or worse, how I did something and now he or she doesn’t really like me anymore, how unready I am for a particular task or event…and, if I just do this one thing I’ll be more appreciated, I’ll be smarter, better prepared, more “perfect” in some way! It’s silly when I see the words unfolding on this screen. I feel a strong pull to edit the words so I don’t sound pathetic – oh there it is again, the inner critic. But, the truth is, I can be my own worst enemy. Becoming aware of these patterns EXCITES THE HELL OUT OF ME!!!
Why? Because as Tara Brach says, “perhaps, the biggest tragedy in our lives is that freedom is possible yet we can pass our years trapped in the same beliefs and patterns, entangled in the trance of unworthiness.”
The first step is recognition. Going to the root, seeing what is there, accepting THAT for what it is, allowing space and then nourishing.
R – recognize what is happening
A – allow life to be just as it is
I – investigate the inner experience
N – NOURISH YOURSELF
In Tara’s book, she illustrates this tragedy of being trapped through the story of Mohini the white tiger who is confined for a period of time to a 12 X 12 cage. Once released into a much larger and more beautiful enclosure with trees, waterfalls, space to roam, rather than bounding around in joy, Mohini goes directly to find another small 12 X 12 space to spend the rest of her days.
We are bound by what we perceive and by our formed beliefs…but only until we begin to question them.
What is REAL?
Another movie comes to mind, The Truman show. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must-see! Truman Burbank is born into an actual reality television show where the creator’s manufacture his entire life. He basically lives in giant bubble duplicating the outside world. He grew up there, he was “fed” all of his experiences and was never exposed to the outside world. His reality was completely shaped by what he was allowed to see. It isn’t until he begins to question his life as it is, it isn’t until his heart begins to pull him in new directions that everything shifts.
So, what is Radical Acceptance?
According to Tara Brach:
Here’s What Radical Acceptance IS
Radical acceptance is when we begin working on the inner process of accepting our moment-to-moment experiences.
Radical Acceptance means bringing a clear, kind attention to our capacities and limitations without giving our fear-based stories the power to shut down our lives.
Radical Acceptance also means acknowledging another important truth: the endless creativity and possibility that exist in living. By accepting the truth of change, accepting that we don’t know how our lives will unfold, we open ourselves to hope so that we can move forward with vitality and will.
Tara describes what she means by “radical” which is derived from the Latin word “radix.”
Radical Acceptance allows us to return to the root of who we are. It enables us to get to the root or source of our being.
Here’s What Radical Acceptance IS NOT
Radical Acceptance does not mean giving up. It is not resignation. Acceptance can be misconstrued as an excuse for continuing to foster bad habits: “It’s just the way I am” or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Be mindful as the word “accept” can infer approving of something or agreeing with someone. Radical acceptance does not mean you are agreeing to a situation or action. It means you are acknowledging that the event happened and it is real. You are acknowledging the reality of the situation.
Radical Acceptance does not mean defining ourselves by our limitations. It is not an excuse for withdrawal.
Radical Acceptance is not self-indulgence. It doesn’t mean that each time we want wine we crack open a bottle and down it. Rather, we bring mindfulness and compassion to the craving and possibly even tension that we feel when we want something.
I love the image of two wings to remind us to be mindful and to be compassionate in the process of Radical Acceptance.The wing of clear seeing or mindfulness allows us to observe what is happening from moment-to-moment.
The wing of compassion invites us to respond gently to what we are seeing.
To summarize Tara, feeling what we feel without judging ourselves for having the feeling or being driven to act on it. Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us and accepting what we see with an open, loving, kind heart.
So, despite the snow globe tousled feeling that arises with change, since beginning this journey and cultivating a greater awareness here I’ve felt the spaciousness of acceptance. For me, moving from resisting the truth of what I experience, moving from trying to push away the emotions because they seem “wrong” — the fears I feel, the shame, the self-doubt, the insecurities — if I instead recognize, observe and accept these feelings as they are and hold a moment to even feel compassion for their presence, not only do I sense them losing their power, but I feel viscerally expansive. I feel a greater sense of control. I feel empowered.
It’s so good to feel the feels and even embrace them.
“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time. When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.
It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”
― Mark Nepo
Oooooooh, there’s so much more I want to share here but I’m tabling some stuff for another post so this doesn’t become “TL;DR” or too long; didn’t read!
But, before we move on to the meditation, I’d like to point out a few things…
In the eight-fold path of Yoga, Ahimsa is one of the Yamas or observances meaning non-harming, non-violence, compassion.
Satya, the second of the Yamas translates to truthfulness in one’s thought, speech and action.
The Niyama of Svadhyaya is translated to mean self-study, self-discovery or as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali express, to“Study thy self, discover the divine” II.44).
Each of these concepts are so powerfully woven in to all of this work around Radical Acceptance. Being kind and compassionate starts with ourselves. Being outwardly truthful cannot exist if we are inwardly hiding the truths of our being. And, then how would Svadhyaya ever even come to be if we could not dig in, understand AND admit the truth of our own feelings – the feelings we are both proud AND not-so-proud of?
We must observe the truth.
We must accept what is real with deep compassion and love.
We must come to understand ourselves and ultimately reconnect with our truest, divine nature.
I believe this is the path to a peaceful heart.
We are all capable of learning Radical Acceptance.
We are all capable of loving ourselves and others without holding back.
Please take a moment to do this Guided Meditation.
I pulled it directly from pages 46 – 48 of Radical Acceptance.
Guided Meditation: The Practice of Vipassana (Mindfulness)
The Buddhist practice for developing mindfulness is called vipassana, which means “to see clearly” or “insight” in Pali, the language of the Buddha. What follows is a simple introduction to this practice. You might tape it or have someone read it to you until it becomes familiar.
Find a sitting position that allows you to be alert – spine erect but not rigid – and also relaxed. Close your eyes and rest your hands in an easy, effortless way. Allow your awareness to scan through your body and wherever possible, soften and release obvious areas of physical tension.
Because we so easily get lost in thoughts, vipassana begins with attention to the breath. Using the breath as a primary anchor of mindfulness helps quiet the mind so that you can be awake to the changing stream of life that moves through you.
Take a few very full breaths, and then allow your breath ot be natural. Notice where you most easily detect the breath. You might feel it as it flows in and out of your nose; you might feel the touch of the breath around your nostrils or on your upper lip; or perhaps you feel the movement of your chest or the rising and falling of your abdomen. Bring your attention to the sensations of breathing in one of these areas, perhaps wherever you feel those most distinctly.
There is no need to control the breath, to grasp or fixate on it. There is no “right” way of breathing. With a relaxed awareness discover what the breath is really like as a changing experience of sensations.
You will find that the mind naturally drifts off in thoughts. Thoughts are not the enemy, and you do not need to clear your mind of thoughts. Rather, you are developing the capacity to recognize when thoughts are happening without getting lost in the story line. When you become aware of thinking, you might use a soft and friendly mental note: “Thinking, thinking.” Then, without any judgment, gently return to the immediacy of the breath. Let the breath be home base, a place of full presence. While you might notice other experiences – the sounds of passing cars, feelings of being warm or cool, sensations of hunger – they can be in the background without drawing you away.
If any particular sensations become strong and call your attention, allow those sensations, instead of the breath, to become the primary subject of mindfulness. You might feel heat or chills, tingling, aching, twisting, stabbing, vibrating. With a soft, open awareness just feel the sensations as they are. Are they pleasant or unpleasant? As you fully attend to them, do they become more intense or dissipate? Notice how they change. When the sensations are no longer a strong experience, return to mindfulness of breathing. Or if the sensations are so unpleasant that you are unable to regard them with any balance or equanimity, feel free to rest your attention again in the breath.
In a similar way, you can bring mindfulness to strong emotions – fear, sadness, happiness, excitement, grief. Meet each experience with a kind and clear presence, neither clinging to nor resisting what is happening. What does this emotion feel like as sensations in your body? Where do you feel it most strongly? Is it static or moving? How big is it? Are your thoughts agitated and vivid? Are they repetitive and dull? Does your mind feel contracted or open? As you pay attention, notice how the emotion changes. Does it become more intense or weaken? Does it change into a different state? Anger to grief? Happiness to peace? When the emotion is no longer compelling, turn your attention back to the breath. If the emotion feels overwhelming for you, or if you are confused about where to place your attention, relax and come home to your breath.
The particular sensations, emotions or thoughts that arise when we practice mindfulness are not so important. It is our willingness to become still and pay attention to our experience, whatever it may be, that plants the seeds of Radical Acceptance. With time we develop the capacity to relate to our passing experience, whether in meditation or daily life, with deep clarity and kindness.