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Radical Acceptance

Hands up letting doves fly

Learn How to Accept the Unacceptable

Today is the past in a future that has not arrived. In other words, what you are facing today will someday become a memory.

Unfortunately, this idea offers no comfort to anyone suffering in the here and now. The only thing that can change the acceptance of a painful truth into the type of acceptance that comes with the future – is time.

It is as if time dissolves the intensity of now.

Taoism can teach you how to transcend the idea of suffering. I say ‘the idea of suffering’ because a change in perception allows you to discover how the mind can become a prisoner to its own judgments. We vacillate between ideas of good and bad in all we see. A truth that is actually good, and might lead to your authentic fulfillment can feel like bitter medicine when it is not of your choosing.

Taoism teaches how life is like a river and rather wasting energy fighting the current, we learn to let go – into the flow. This is not pacifism, but there are times when it is necessary to release the illusion that you must control the outcome. The drama only intensifies when you cannot see how you cling to something that is no longer cultivating your growth.

There are also times when standing up to the intolerable is necessary. Deciphering these two responses is challenging. When you check your mind to observe how you are judging everything – you will come to see the mind’s follies. A person avoids meat because they believe it is cruel. They remain unaware of how plants also show a type of consciousness as they position their leaves for survival. Everything has some purpose in nature, but we still have to eat.

Being forced to swallow the bitter pill of reality is no different than accepting the truth behind our sustenance.

All organic things are….well…they were once alive.

In your tendency to classify and judge, where do you draw the line? In what way do classifications and distinctions serve your idea of the truth?

One of the greatest challenges we will ever face is learning to accept the unacceptable. We’ve all encountered something that has challenged every ounce of our being. We want to yell “no!” as if fighting the truth, whether it is fair or not, will somehow make it not true. Something has happened – and now we must learn to accept it.

Our desire for answers is what can make this situation more difficult. Often the answer isn’t as important as living out the question. "Okay this happened. How can you follow the changes to arrive at better place?" Crisis is a catalyst for change and is sometimes a means to an end, and not the end itself.

The unacceptable can come as a court decree, a partner’s unfaithfulness, or facing a loved one’s death. It can even happen when accidentally stumbling upon a well-intentioned friend’s video on Facebook that exposes animal abuse. How do we reconcile what is intolerable? How do we unsee what we’ve seen – or unhear what we’ve heard? We can’t. Anyone who would attempt to describe cruelty in any terms other than cruel is kidding themselves. But to heal, we must learn to accept it.

Accepting the unacceptable is called radical acceptance because rather than allowing the mind to stalk the crisis, we reign in the mind. It is radical because it requires effort. It is much easier to feel like a victim or believe life has suddenly turned on us.

We can train the mind not to dwell on what it cannot change.

Taoism teaches us that beyond judgment, we can ‘settle’ into a sense of acceptance. To settle does not mean to sink – it means to let go. The water is moving, and the body floats when we relax. The river will take us somewhere if we allow it. The water becomes choppy only because we are slapping our arms around in protest. We believe we will sink and must fight against the water. But if we relax and breathe, we will float.

Taoism teaches us how judgment creates its own conditions. People drown because they are afraid to trust nature, or how the buoyancy of water reduces the body’s weight by 90%.

We were designed to float when in water.

Our need for control is what brings about our exhaustion. When we grow exhausted – we sink.

In the same way, the escalation of a crisis can be averted when we stop, look and think logically. This is the essence of radical acceptance. Once we come to terms with the truth, we can begin to think in terms of solutions. Rather than sink into a state of being a victim – we open to the idea that life wants us to succeed.

Without doing anything, the body breathes, heals our wounds and eliminates toxins. The body replenishes itself everyday – but stress is its biggest adversary. Stress is an offspring of a mind trapped in its own ideas. Stress is our desire for control.

There are many deceptions on the road to releasing judgment that even enlightened seekers fail to recognize. When I am helping others to transcend ego’s need to control the outcome, and how to overcome judgment, we always reach a nebulous plateau. In many philosophies compassion is a virtue.

In Taoism, compassion is still a judgment.

If we don’t know ourselves, how can we know others? Even when we find pity for another’s rude behavior by assuming they are in pain, we are passing judgment. What are we mirroring in those we love if we hold them in pity?

If you don’t know the reason behind why nature does what it does, what good is judgment? Taoism is a purity of outlook that holds no residue. We shake off ‘the red dust’ of where we have been. This purity in outlook can not only heal, but leads to the experience perpetual joy.

Forgiveness is a good medicine because learning to forgive is about letting go. In many circumstances, you see how things that seem bad can ultimately reveal a silver lining. What challenges you not only makes you stronger but reveals aspects of your unique path.

In nature, what is not sustainable will be taken down. We call it Karma, but play no part in the retribution. If nature chooses – the retribution will come. There is a ‘realness’ or truth in nature that does not sugar coat. If it leads to growth, it will be preserved. If it stunts growth, it will be torn down.

Nature’s omniscient view of its interconnectivity is something our mind can never comprehend.

We keep the past alive because we keep revisiting it. We feed our anger by focusing on why we should be angry. When we meet events that are irreconcilable with our version of life’s goodness, we can check the mind’s judgments and see its incongruencies. We can learn to let go of what we can’t understand. We can move beyond the need for an answer.

The huge, complex and powerful energy of life is not something we should ever seek to control. That is our folly. This is Tao. Go up to it and you will not see its head. Follow behind and you will not see its tail.

Tao is unfathomable and indescribable. It exists in the formless.

Today was a bad day because the outcome didn’t align with what you wanted to happen. There will be events that are so painful that you will feel the need to shut down. Always remember that life has been committed to your wellness since the day you were born. Life knows what it is doing. Once the mind moves into the acceptance phase, it will naturally begin focusing on solutions or opportunities to try something new.

Closing off the world will never heal you. You may never get an answer to the question of 'why', but once you stop asking, you create the space for something new to grow. The ‘why’ is like an intersection because you must choose to go one way or another.

Taoism asks us to give up learning once we recognize how judgment is our folly. We stop labeling good and bad by admitting we don’t have all of the answers. While others are full of knowledge, we remain simple and dull. This is the essence of acceptance – acceptance returns us to gratitude. When we return to gratitude, we discover the root. The root is the essence of 'what is' – unjaded by assumptions.

The I Ching teaches us about meeting adversity. Sometimes we are coached to state our truth, to fight, to climb higher for a better view, and sometimes we are coached to split apart the wheat from the chaff and plant anew. Life teaches us much about learning to let go.

Like autumn, we are stripped of the unnecessary until only the necessary remains.

The necessary is what makes life more fulfilling. Standing in a winter landscape can make you feel cold and isolated, but there is a new landscape being nurtured in the darkness below the earth. The future is growing beneath your feet. The springtime will come – it always does.

You can recognize one who has returned to a simple outlook because they have learned how to soften the edges. Uncut by life’s vicissitudes and the perpetual call for a response, you look into their eyes, and they are unfathomable. Their joy emanates like a joke that only they can understand.

It is not that they have lost their ability to feel or are jaded. They feel life more deeply than most, but are composed like a calm sea that is not reacting to a storm that passed by the week before. They know the storms bring about balance. Reactions defend the past against the future. Our responses are how we resonate in the moment.

Unattached as if you have no home to go back to, you can live in perpetual peace and harmony with life.

From the Tao te Ching Chapter 20:

Give up learning and put an end to your troubles.

How much difference is there between yes and no?
How much difference is there between good and evil?
Should I fear what other people fear?
How very remote the actual occurrence!

The people of the world make merry
as though making a sacrifice or
ascending the hills in a springtime festival.

I alone am inactive and reveal no signs;
like a new-born babe who has not learned to smile,
Unattached, as though I have no home to go back to.

The people have more than enough.
I alone seem to have nothing.
Muddled, I remain indiscriminate and nebulous.
While others are full of knowledge.
I alone am simple and dull.

Most people see differences and are sharp.
I alone make no distinctions,

Calm, like the sea;
like a restless wind that never ceases.

People of the world all have a purpose.
I alone seem impractical and out of place.

I alone am different from others,
and value being fed by the Mother.

To accept the unacceptable is to stop allowing the mind to vacillate between the extremes of its judgments. Even when the truth is a vague outline hidden by shadows, don’t look beyond it for answers. Allow the light of day to emerge and warm you.

Being fed by the Mother is realizing how we are nurtured by life.

Be comforted in the knowledge that you will never find the answers to life’s mysteries. But know that life will not stop ensuring that the path is cleared before you.