When our experience is uncomfortable or painful, our usual strategy is to try to push it away, resist it, reject it, or numb it with something like alcohol, drugs or over-eating. Our avoidance strategies may bring a temporary sense of relief, but avoiding the underlying issue actually increases and prolongs our suffering.
Radical acceptance means learning to accept what you cannot change, and change what you cannot accept. For example:
- If you are running late because you are stuck in a traffic jam, fretting about it will only cause you unnecessary suffering. You can’t change the situation so you may as well accept it.
- If you have a painful toothache, you don’t have to accept the pain and wait for your tooth to fall out. You can change the situation by taking some painkillers and visiting your dentist.
The Importance of Radical Acceptance
Radical acceptance involves fully experiencing ‘what is’ without any resistance, judgement or agenda. When we are fully experiencing ‘what is’ without any resistance, we are fully present. When we are fully present there can be no resistance because resistance comes from the ego, and when we are fully present there is no ego, there is only our soul’s presence.
When we are identified with, or invested in, something that we are experiencing, we are not fully present. Resistance pushes our soul away from our direct experience, which has unfortunate consequences. The soul grows and evolves by ‘metabolising’ its direct experiences, so resisting and avoiding our inner experience hinders the development of our consciousness and the evolution of our soul.
Acceptance means we don’t have to be anyone or do anything – we can simply ‘be’. This type of radical acceptance can be challenging for some people because ‘not doing’ can be confused with being lazy, passive, fatalistic or giving up on life, but the only thing we are giving up is our ego’s resistance. Acceptance doesn’t mean that we have to be a passive victim; nor does it mean that we have to fight back aggressively, because the world is only black and white to the ego-self. If we are genuinely present our true-Self will intuitively guide us through life. When we stop strategising, struggling and resisting we can tap into the intuitive guidance of our true-Self. When we stop listening to the ego-self we are better able to hear the silent voice of our true-Self. Radical acceptance allows us to transcend our thinking, judging, strategising ordinary-mind and enter into the direct knowing, direct experiencing, non-conceptual higher-mind of our soul.
The more we practice being present and aware, especially when life is challenging or boring, the easier it becomes to radically accept Life without resistance. The problem is never with Life – Life is always perfect. The problem is with our perception of Life; i.e. our subjective egoic viewpoint usually doesn’t allow us to see Life’s inherent perfection.
Life’s Inherent Perfection
Life is the dynamic unfoldment of ‘potentiality’ into ‘actuality’. Life unfolds as it interacts with Self. Life animates each individual Self, so we are all one, but we are also individual. Life is a dynamic process that moves with grace, direction and purpose. Each moment of Life gracefully follows that direction and is attuned to that purpose. So each moment of Life is inherently perfect, no matter what the ego-self may think about it. Whenever we resist Life we are separating ourselves from the perfection that is unfolding.
Life is a journey not a destination, so where we are right here and now is far more important than our final destination. Wherever we are on our journey right now is perfect – perfect for our soul’s development. Striving to get ‘there’ or attain enlightenment takes us away from Life’s inherent perfection in this present moment, and it takes us away from our inherent perfection in this present moment. When our attention is focused on the past or the future we are depriving our soul of the perfect experiential growth opportunity that is right here and now.
‘What Is’ is meant to be
If we want to awaken, we must stop resisting ‘what is’, i.e. let go and allow life to unfold naturally in this very moment, without analysing it, judging it, resisting it or trying to control it. This doesn’t just apply to the present (what is); it also applies to the past (what was) and to the future (what will be):
- The Past: Believing (in the present moment) that a past event was bad, wrong or shouldn’t have happened is resisting ‘what was’. Changing the past is impossible, so resisting the past is futile because it always results in unnecessary suffering. The same is true of continually re-hashing or regretting past events. Accepting what has happened is the only way to find peace.
- The Future: Manipulating matters (in the present moment) to affect the future is resisting ‘what will be’. Putting all our efforts into trying to manipulate one particular future is a big gamble – if it comes off we will be happy for a while, but if it doesn’t, we will be disappointed for a lot longer.
Whatever has happened, is happening or may happen doesn’t have to be judged as good or bad. Be it pleasant or unpleasant – ‘it is what it is’ and it is meant to be that way. If we judge it as ‘good’ we will be sad when it ends, and if we judge it as ‘bad’ we won’t be happy until it ends. But more importantly, judging implies that we want everything to be good and nothing to be bad. This sets us up for more unnecessary suffering because we can’t control life enough to make that happen – Life simply happens.
If we put all of our effort into trying to achieve something and it happens, it doesn’t mean that we have succeeded; it just means that it was meant to be that way. If we put all of our effort into trying to achieve something and it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean that we have failed; it just means that it wasn’t meant to be that way. No matter how life turns out it is exactly how it is meant to be. Life gives us the experiences that we need for our development. What actually happens in our lives is meaningless (from a cosmic perspective); it is what we get from the experience that counts.
Key Points About Radical Acceptance
- Learn to accept and allow your inner experience, instead of resisting, rejecting or numbing it.
- Realise that you can’t always control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them.
- Look at the objective facts about your situation, instead of creating a subjective story about it.
- Let go, relax and stop resisting ‘what is’.
- Stay with your inner experience, even if it is uncomfortable or painful.
- Don’t judge situations or emotions as “good” or “bad”.
- Don’t ignore or deny the reality of your situation.
- Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean agreement.
- Stop resisting and rejecting, and start feeling and inquiring.