Sunday, April 8, 2012


In much spiritual literature, we are encouraged to ‘accept things as they are’. Acceptance is stressed as a sure sign of wisdom and maturity. Yet there is very rarely any clear description of what exactly acceptance means or involves. I’ve found from many detailed discussions about acceptance that most people understand acceptance as accepting something they really don’t agree with or like and would rather not have in their life. This ‘acceptance’ creates a feeling of despair and resentment rather than freedom. The resigned, regretful, irritated giving in to a situation that seems both unchangeable and unacceptable cannot be a good idea. To get a better understanding of the real intent of acceptance as a goal we have to begin with a radical acceptance of how we actually feel. Without this absolute self-acceptance, there can be no real acceptance of anything else. If I do not accept myself, exactly as I am, how could I possibly accept you or anything else in life?

Radical self-acceptance may seem at first like narcissism, as in “I’m fine, what’s wrong with you?” In fact, narcissism is the massive denial of anything that could be perceived as failure or inadequacy. Self-acceptance embraces and welcomes everything exactly the way it is, needing nothing to be any different. “Just this, as it is; nothing more, nothing less” could be the theme of genuine self-acceptance. Can I see myself as I am, with all my imagined inadequacies and deficiencies, and embrace everything, leaving nothing out and needing nothing to be different than it is?

Such radical acceptance may seem to prevent or obviate the need for change. In fact, real change that is deep and lasting appears to be possible only after we accept what is real now without requiring that current reality be any different. Therefore the encouragement is to see things as they are and accept them as they are-because that is in fact how they are. When the ordinary mind is carefully observed it eventually becomes obvious that we normally do not see what is right in front of us. We see what we wish to see, or what we are programmed to see. We do not typically see what is. Learning to see what is –that is the goal of real spiritual practice. Learning to see ourselves as we actually are at this moment is the challenge. This direct seeing of what is requires the surrender of the compulsive habit of seeing our projections and distortions rather than simply seeing what is real. Can we merely see ourselves as we are, not as we believe we should be or wish we were or have been programmed to believe we are in the face of compelling facts to the contrary? How do we do this direct seeing that is the same as real acceptance?
See the You Tube video clip below for a further discussion of radical acceptance of things as they are.

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