6 Ways to Practice Radical Acceptance
In Part One of this post I shared the basics behind 'Radical Acceptance'. A quick recap: Radical Acceptance is a practice in not running from your fears or fighting them. Rather observe, take pause, and accept them as part of you. The things that scare you are not going to destroy you – but you treat them like they will. When you keep your fears at a distance and make them something outside of yourself then you can never truly escape their hold on you. Radical Acceptance is a new way of looking at the things that frighten you.
These aren't necessarily spooky fears but deep rooted things we live our life to avoid. Things like shame, self-worth, criticism, guilt, doubt, and rejection. They aren't real so much as we perceive them to be real. Which makes them real, do you follow? Whether they exist or not living your life to keep them at bay makes them a very real player in your life.
If you can't escape them what are you to do? Let them exist. Alter how you see your fears and how you interpret their impact on your life and you loosen the grip they have on you. We automatically assume that something we're afraid of serves no purpose other than to warn us. But what if our fears were our greatest teachers?
It isn't when things are easy that we grow. It's when we face great adversity that we grow.
Our greatest adversity comes form within our own self - our words, our assumptions, and our perceptions. In other words, your fears are your adversaries and they will help you open your heart and expand into loving kindness when you turn toward them and not away from them.
Radical Acceptance is how you turn toward your fears and not away...
"Radical Acceptance opens the door of our cage and invites us to move freely in our world."
- Tara Brach
As you connect with what is right in front of you, you realize the true immensity of who you are. When the Buddha said, "Life is 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows." I think what he meant was that the purpose of life is not to vanquish our fears and only live in pleasure but rather live by embracing BOTH and you find freedom. And freedom is not good or bad, it's simply free.
What do you think this quote means?
It's living in the way as The Taoist would say. Free from attachment. Free from fear. Free from pleasure. Free from mis-understanding. And free form all-knowing.
I also believe we can not understand pleasure if we don't know pain. We only know something because we know its opposite. We know love because we know not-love. We know fear because we know not-fear. So to turn away from your fears is to turn away from wholeness.
But I understand fear is scary and has a tight grip on almost every creature on this planet. It's very uncomfortable to sit with your fears without reaction or attachment to a story about your fear - To feel fear in your body as a tightening of the hands, your heart racing, palms sweating and not feed the energy with aggression or blame.
Here are 6 ways to turn toward fear and embrace it as part of your life.
Just notice what happens in your body when your fear is triggered. Where do you feel it? Do you get hot? Does your heart race? Do you feel like running away? Do you feel like caving in to a ball? Do you feel like punching something? Just notice what you want to do.
Observe what emotions are behind your body's reaction. Are you angry? Afraid? Pissed? Do you feel small? Do you feel unsure? Do you feel big and important? Just observe what emotion and story is behind your physical reaction.
Give yourself permission to act out in 3 minutes. Use these 3 minutes to hit the pause button. As you're sitting with your fear, noticing and observing, use your breath to take a time out. Take intentional breaths for these 3 minutes.
On the other side of your breathing return to noticing the sensations in the body and observing the emotions present. An emotion takes exactly 1 1/2 minutes to play out. Now that you're on the other side of this how do you feel? Has the emotion softened? Are you still upset but can step away from acting out?
I encourage you to practice 1-3 first. When you feel comfortable with these steps then move into 4-6.
Embrace your fear as part of you. A fear can only be triggered if you're harboring it somewhere in your life. It's not the person or situation that triggered you, it was the attachment to what it means that triggered you. Embrace this and honor that it too deserves love and kindness. After taking your pause place your hand on your heart and say, "I love my fear. I love my pain. I accept my suffering as part of me."
This is not passive acceptance. It's quite active resilience. Passivity is to push your fears away from you, to ignore their presence. Active participation and acceptance of all of you is a very intentional act.
Cultivate a loving relationship with your fears. Understand that they are in your life to teach you some great lesson. This lesson will only make you more resilient and free if you allow it to. As Pema Chodron has said, "Simply be with what is, not what we would prefer them to be."
Accept your fears and you accept yourself. You're not giving them permission to keep you small or keep you stuck. They are doing this without your acceptance. Cultivate a new relationship with your fears. Ask for the lesson.
Practice living the lesson your fears have to teach you. At our very core we're all afraid of rejection or separation. We are beings that are designed for connection. Find how your fear is keeping your separate in an attempt to keep you connected. Practice thanking your fears for keeping your safe.
This can take many lifetimes to master so let go of mastering it. Make Radical Acceptance a practice. I think you'll find more ease in your life and your relationships. You may discover less tension in your body and an easier time breathing deeply.