Radical Acceptance: Accepting What is, Both in Yoga and Life
Derived from Buddhist philosophy, “radical acceptance” is the life-changing practice of simply accepting what is. You might think this to be an obvious approach – of course you have to accept what is, or you might think this approach sounds too passive to be effective. Well, despite its apparent obviousness, radical acceptance is practiced less often than one might expect; and rather than being viewed as passive, radical acceptance is simply the only approach which is not futile in nature.
Before you can cultivate effective strategies with which to change your present circumstances, you must first accept what is. Accepting what is doesn’t mean you don’t work to change it, but regardless of whether or not you agree with a current set of circumstances, the truth of the situation is still the truth of the situation; and to fight the truth of any situation doesn’t make it different.
Here’s an example that should help to clarify…
I’ve just spent the weekend helping my boyfriend paint his condo. (Before I go any further I’d just like to say he is a wonderful human being and this example is provided with nothing by respect and admiration for its subject.) Countless minutes, nay – hours, could have been spared had my boyfriend practiced radical acceptance.
Sometimes paint lines happen. These can be caused by either a brush or a roller, and they are – to anybody with an ounce of pride in their workmanship – undesirable. However, prior to implementing logical changes to avoid continued paint lines, my boyfriend spent an astronomical amount of time re-confirming that the paint lines were, in fact, present, and cursing at said paint lines.
He looked at every wall, from every conceivable angle. He squished his face up against the wall, he lay on the floor looking up and he experimented with different lighting.
The marks on the wall were visible from any angle (and in the dark for that matter). But, because he was not ready to accept that those marks existed, he kept trying to defy reality and prove a different truth existed.
It’s amazing how often we do this in life. We want something to be different than it is, so we dwell on what we don’t like, or try to deny it altogether, instead of taking reasonable steps to change what is into a new reality with which we are more pleased.
When you practice yoga, do you spend the entire time you’re in seated wide-legged forward bend berating yourself because your chin isn’t on the floor? That’s ineffective. Instead, you could radically accept that this is, in fact, the extent of my flexibility in this position, and use all the energy spent there on deepening into the yoga pose.
The paint lines were, eventually, radically accepted (by their maker I might add) and productivity increased greatly. Temperatures were adjusted and techniques tweaked, and the future reality my boyfriend needed to accept was much more to his liking. But that outcome could not be reached until he simply accepted what is.