Friday, April 16, 2010
Living a Mindful Life Lesson 17: Radical Acceptance
I grew up hearing the saying over and over again: "That which does not break you, makes you stronger." But I've grown to believe this frame of mind is very harmful and anxiety provoking to my physche: make it happen or you will be broken. Sure, you get stronger, I guess, but typically not in the moment that you are broken. It may take a few days, weeks, or, in my case, years to feel that there is a message in this madness called "life".
I learned a term the other day that has brought my search for a meaningful life to the next level: radical acceptance. In essence, this term means: "Letting go of fighting reality." (http://www.wikipedia.org/) Basically, you accept how things are even if you don't agree with them and live in harmony with your struggles. This frame of mind goes hand-n-hand with the "it is what it is" attitude.
I am eternally dealing with this mindset on a daily basis. In the uncontrollable midst of life, I constantly try to figure out, not what I CAN change, but what I WANT to change. I try to twist and fight and exhaust every effort to make things the way I want them to be. This action results in a lot of disappointment, angst, and anxiety....and, boy, does it make me tired. I have also learned that when I am in the throws of an upheaval, I really can't think about other people: it is too overwhelming for me, so I tend to focus on what I need to do to pull myself up. While trying to get pregnant with both my children (thank you, God, for them) I suffered several miscarriages. I know people meant well by telling me their or other people's horror stories that were either equal to or worse than mine. You know what, these stories made me feel worse because then I was worrying about my situation and everyone else I heard about. The best response, I think, is "I am so sorry this happened to you." A basic, caring statement is all that is needed to help someone feel supported and achieve radical acceptance.
In living a mindful life, I am trying to embrace radical acceptance and come to terms with those things I don't agree with but can't change. Maybe it is a delayed flight or a natural disaster that causes great damage to your home. Maybe it is a grumpy check out person at the grocery store or bad service at a restaurant. Maybe it is worse; maybe it isn't so bad. Whatever it is that causes you to live in struggle, not matter how small, deserves to be radically accepted. Not because you are thrilled it happened. Not because you think it happened for a reason. Not because you believe it will make you stronger. But because for the now it allows you to live in peace with chaos.