I’m listening the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. Currently the author is presenting the paradox that change is easier when we are totally accepting of ourselves. This includes acceptance of that long list of what we what we don’t like about ourselves. The Toltec tradition that is my path also promotes total acceptance as an act of love and as an ingredient of healing.
Since we are immersed in a culture that focuses on something being wrong, this can seem like an impossible task. Part of my transformation embraces removing the “task” label from anything that I do so that I approach it from a different perspective.
Let’s take a side trip here to investigate what perspective is. I invite you to look around wherever you are as you read this for about a minute. When you have done that, face the opposite direction and look all around you. You are in the same spot with a different perspective. If you are feeling adventurous, you can lie down where you were sitting and have yet another perspective as you look around. The perspective you choose is integral to the experience you create for yourself. Personally, when I think of something as a task, I’ve created an obstacle for me getting started. When I take the perspective that there is something valuable for me here, I’m more likely to say yes to beginning.
Now back to that notion of total acceptance of self. One way to understand this is as taking stock of what and where we are in our lives without judgment. It’s really the judgment that does us in. Acceptance is like a grocery store that nourishes me. On the way there, I turn down a side street without a sign. It leads to judgment. It’s a not where I intended to go and doesn’t feed me. It simply traps me there until I forget where I began and where I intended to go—an unmarked dead end. No food, no nourishment, no acceptance here. For that I have to turn around. If I judge myself for being at this dead-end, I stay on the judgment street even longer, still without food.
Judgment is not only not required, it brings the process to a standstill. It also goes by the name of resistance. Using the analogy of the road, one face of resistance is saying that the dead-end is where I intended all along. Another face would be saying that I’m sure that is a grocery store on this street somewhere. Or it’s saying that I’m going to pretend that something else is happening. I’m now focusing all my attention on justifying where judging myself. Hanging out at the end of a dead-end saying how I shouldn’t have taken this route, how a sign should have marked it, or any other mode of staying is resistance—the opposite of acceptance. I traveled this route for some reason that I may not even remember. Accepting where I am without judgment is radical for most of us. Accepting that others accompany me, direct me, and hang out with me WITHOUT JUDGMENT is radical.
To get to that grocery store, I have to notice where I am and decide to turn around and tell my internal GPS to show me the way from this location to where I want to be. A GPS can be a helpful metaphor since it doesn’t care how or why I arrived at my current location (life experience). It’s just looking for the route from where I am to where I tell it that I want to go. No judgment involved. Sometimes it provides more than one route and will tell me to take a different route if obstacles appear on the one that I initially chose. This is a model for acceptance of what I have named as flaws or mistakes. Theses “flaws and mistakes” are the route I have taken on this human journey. I am not required to treat them as my identity. I can look at what I learned and be grateful for seeing today without judgment. Acceptance is a big payoff all by itself. It reorients me and allows me to relax my mind and stay tuned into my heart. Then I may discover both my progress and also the abilities that I have denied.