Radical Acceptance

October Monthly Mindfulness

How can we be free and live in peace? This fall, some of us are studying Radical Acceptance as a practice of liberation and peace. We are using the book: Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. Radical Acceptance is quite contrary to our egocentric screen of life that processes everything in terms of like and dislike, good and bad, right and wrong. It is the direct entry into our present moment as-it-is without our constant evaluation. That is why it’s so radical! Going beyond our self-centered evaluation, we experience life as-it-is. In Zen, we call this no preferences.

What does it mean to radically accept the present moment as-it-is? It is the cultivation of a deep peace or deep patience with the ups and downs of our individual stories. We begin to see our stories and karmic life in a huge, universal perspective.

But, we as humans, can get so stuck in our wrongdoing. We enter, as Tara Brach writes, our trance of unworthiness. This trance is a thick fog of our evaluations and stories about life that cloud our direct experience of the present. We get lost in our self-judgment, unworthiness, low self-esteem, and on and on. We have an underlying feeling of “not good enough” which undermines our peace. It is not really satisfied by a constant stream of self-improvement projects. These projects actually reinforce our idea that the present moment isn’t good enough and in the future, we project, we might reach a state of being “more perfect.”

This efforting for a future that is better then the now is counter to the dharma teaching. The teaching affirms that there is only the Now, and that this Now is whole, complete and interconnected with the whole universal functioning, just as-it-is. Here is where true peace and serenity lie. Can we accept this as true? We need to keep connecting to the present moment as the expression of the whole works.

Radical acceptance is not passive. By truly accepting what is, we don’t lose our motivation for change. We can see even more clearly what the problem is and from a position of kind acceptance, we can act. This is very different from acting in a reactive way stemming from our greed, anger, and ignorance. Our reactivity actually just adds more agitation to our already miserable samsaric world.

Carl Rogers: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Radical Acceptance is based on the two arms of the Buddha: Wisdom and compassion. It is based first on clear seeing and comprehension of what is directly happening. It is complimented by compassion which is a kind and tender attitude towards the human predicament of suffering. We learn to see clearly and to bear witness at the same time. Our actions can come forth from this place.

Please contemplate this month:

This moment, do I accept myself just as I am?