Pandemic Book Recommendation #8: Radical Acceptance

I had a difficult December and January this year, with an unexpected change in my job position right before Christmas due to budget restructuring. This was before Christina’s job was eliminated due to the AB budget changes in health care and a global pandemic roared its ugly head. Tara Brach’s “Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha” has been one of the most helpful books inspiring me to live into saying “Yes” to an ever-evolving future. And no, I am not a Buddhist – this book has a lot to offer to everyone.

I listened to this on Audible after it was recommended to me by (surprise!) my wife, Christina. Tara Brach is a Clinical Psychologist and the founder of the Insight Meditation Community. She became a helpful mentor as I listened to her book at the gym while on the treadmill or elliptical. (Remember when we could go to the gym? Sigh…).

What is Radical Acceptance? Tara defines it as, “Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart.” Radical Acceptance is about leaning into the present moment to observe our experience clearly, and be compassionate to ourselves about that experience. Radical Acceptance involves the practice of mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, whom I discussed last week, teaches a form of mindfulness stripped of religion. Though I am neither a Buddhist nor a philosophical idealist, I have tremendous respect for the practice of mindfulness, which is reflected in some ancient Christian traditions such as contemplative prayer.

I believe three of Tara’s practices, in particular, are helpful during this time of pandemic:

First, the power of a pause: taking time to stop and remember where we are, what we are doing, and why we think it matters. All of our patterns are changing as we step into the “new normal” of social distancing and, perhaps at times, full social isolation.  The pause helps us to be present in these changes and find opportunities for peace and gratitude.

Second, an essential question: What would it be like if we could accept life at this moment exactly as it is? What if I (you?) stopped thinking about how this moment could be better? If only there were sports. Or more seriously, if only I could work another shift to pay rent.  What if we stopped resisting our reality and instead open ourselves to the joy, freedom, and possibility that is right here in this moment? No matter how dire our situation, we can find acceptance and, therefore, peace – radical acceptance.

Finally, Smiling. Seriously. Our world needs more smiles right now. Tara defines a smile as the, “unconditional friendliness that welcomes experience without fear.” You could change the world of those around you this day with a smile.

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