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Radical Acceptance

This is a powerful concept which unfortunately is often misunderstood. It does not mean that we have to agree with, or like the challenges that often come our way.  It does mean that we acknowledge and accept the reality of these challenges for what they are. It is a courageous response to life as it is, rather than how we think life should be. It gives us the opportunity to see clearly what is actually happening, without adding to it or diminishing it.  This is a crucial first step in living skilfully. We can’t hope to respond to the challenges we face, if we’re not clear as to what they actually are.

Sometimes we live under the delusion that if we don’t accept what’s happening, somehow it will go away. We often rail against what we consider to be unjust, cruel or stupid. This takes up a great deal of often righteous energy, allows us to let off steam, drops us into power games such as good/bad, right/wrong, but doesn’t effect any useful change.

Some of us resist reality in order to avoid pain, disappointment, rage, grief, loss and heartbreak. However avoidance of uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings often leads to anxiety, panic disorder, depression and addictions.

Pain is an inevitable part of being human - no-one escapes it. If we let our self feel the pain it will pass, unless we resist it or feed it in some way.  Even people in intractable pain, notice that if they open themselves to the pain and accept it, rather than pushing it away, they are pain free at least some of the time. It’s possible to have a life that’s worth living, alongside pain.

I am fortunate that I’m not in intractable pain. However when I’m at the dentist or having injections or painful procedures, if I stay open rather than tensing up and trying to push the pain away,  it’s so much easier. I’m also able to observe the pain, seeing it as just a part of my whole experience, rather than being swamped by it.  It is as it is and it passes.

So, pain is an inevitable part of human life. Pain plus resistance to physical and/or psychological pain leads to ongoing suffering.  Radical acceptance relieves us of life’s suffering. Sounds simple? Maybe. Sounds easy? It isn’t and it takes courage and tenacious practice. The prize is inner peace in the face of the joys and sorrows of being human.

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