Radical Acceptance Revisited – Tara Brach

Radical Acceptance Revisited – Tara Brach

A number of years ago, the Dalai Lama was
here for a Mind Life Conference – a gathering of scientists and researchers, teachers and
the like that were all… This was really when the beginning of affirming
some of the benefits of meditation was really taking root. And, at one point, he was interviewed by network
news because his latest book on happiness had come out. And the question they asked him was, “Well,
what was the happiest moment of your life?” And he thought for a little while and he gave
that — he has a mischievous look he gives — and he said, “I think now.” And to me it was perfect because really the
gift of meditation is to be able to really be right here in the one place, the one moment,
where we can truly experience happiness and love and creativity — where we can truly
see the nature of reality. So the challenge is that, most of the time,
we have this really deep conditioning to not be here, to be on our way somewhere else. It’s often in the form of lost in thought. We’re thinking that, generally, the most
important moment of our life is either ahead or has already happened. But it’s rare that we think that this moment
really matters. This is it. Right here, this moment. So it’s really an interesting inquiry. What is it that takes us away, so regularly,
from presence? And if we begin to check through the day and
saying “Okay, what’s going on here?” we’ll find that, much of the time, we are
in a trance of thinking. We are kind of living in a virtual reality,
you know, we are not awake in our senses right here. And that in that virtual reality there is
an under-current of I want something or I am fearing something. Okay. There’s wants and fears. There’s a sense of something is missing
. . . something is not quite right, and that drives the thinking. And if we really check closely, we’ll find
that right at the core of our thinking-trance is some assumption that what’s wrong is
our self — that we’re not right, that something is wrong with me. I was talking with a good friend the other
day who was having a hard time, and when we started really investigating, she said, “It’s
this fear that around the corner I’m going to fail.” And that goes hand in hand with this sense
of something is wrong with me. Something is wrong with me and I’m going
to fail. And I’ve found, over the years, that this
is pretty much the most pervasive form or expression of suffering that I encounter in
myself and in those I’ve worked with. And it comes out as fear or shame, and it
has the kind of bottom-line of I am fundamentally either flawed, or unacceptable, or just not
enough, or not okay as I am — but there is not a sense of being at home with how we
are. I remember, you know, I wrote Radical Acceptance
as basically a kind of unpacking this. And when I was on a book tour for Radical
Acceptance, one of the places I stopped in…one of the — it’s a Buddhist university, Naropa,
had a big poster and the poster had a big picture of me and the caption was, “Something
is wrong with me.” But we know it. It’s so in our culture. I was a… I saw a little cartoon with a guy who had
a self-esteem — you know, talking about self-esteem — and he is writing in his diary
and he is saying, “Dear diary, I am sorry to bother you again.” So what I’d like to explore . . . I am calling
it Radical Acceptance Revisited. Because, you know, over the years of exploring
radical acceptance, I find that I can’t come back to it too often, because it’s
. . . it’s a trance. We forget how common it is for our system
to go into that sense of not enough or not okay. We need remembering. And I call it the trance of unworthiness on
purpose. And I like to check in always. And one of the questions — I have two questions
for you. And one is: How many of you are aware of judging
yourselves too much, of that critic inside? So that would be like most of us. And how many of you are consciously trying
to lighten up on yourselves and be kinder? Can I see by hands? It’s almost as many. Thank you. So this is a big deal. It’s something that most everyone I know
has as an intention — to honor and appreciate the life that’s here and not to be at war
with ourselves — and yet it’s really challenging. I mean, when we are in the trance of unworthiness,
even though we know we judge ourselves too much, we’re not aware of how much we’ve
— our body and our emotions and our thoughts — have locked into that sense of falling
short and that fear that we’re going to fail. We’re just not aware of it. And the trance of unworthiness brings us to
addictive behavior, because there’s a real deep, raw discomfort with feeling shame and
fear. And so we try to soothe it. And it makes it very hard to be intimate with
others because, if we have a sense, “well, something is wrong with me,” then we also
have a sense that, even if others don’t know right away about that, they’ll find
out. So it’s hard to be real and spontaneous
and close to other people. And the trance of unworthiness makes it hard
to really take risks because we’re afraid we’re going to fail. So we don’t take risks. And, most basically, hard to really relax
because right in the heart of the trance of unworthiness is we need to do something about
it to get better. So not doing — resting — is not a really
safe thing. So the Buddha’s . . . probably the, kind
of, core teaching, is that we suffer because we forget who we really are. We forget, really, the essence — the awareness
and the love that’s here — and we become kind of caught in an identity that’s less
than who we are. I love the description of our life . . . our
sickness . . . our disease and sickness being home-sickness — that we don’t feel at
home. I remember when my son was in the Washington
Waldorf School, one of the stories circulating was about a art class and that students were
sitting at tables in fours and the teacher was circulating looking what the children
were doing. And one little girl was really diligent. She was really industrious and really into
. . . immersed in her work. And so the teacher stood behind her and finally
asked, “Well, hon, what are you drawing?” And the little girl said, “I am drawing
God.” And the teacher, “Ahem. Well, no one knows what God looks like.” And without skipping a beat, without even
looking up, she said: “They will in a moment.” So, I think one of our big questions is: How
do we leave home? And just to look at that. How do we come to this place where we believe
in a not-okay self and where we are not at home in ourselves? And a hint is from the poet, now deceased,
John O’Donohue — poet and philosopher and mystic — and he says, “We are so busy
managing our lives so as to cover over this great mystery that we are involved in.” We are so busy — managing and controlling
things, trying to avoid failure, trying to be the person we should be, staying busy — that
we cover over the mystery, the beauty and the goodness of this life. And we don’t see who we are, and we don’t
see others. So we can sense that, on a very existential
level, how that happens, that all beings come into
. . . incarnate and have some sense of a boundary that says in here . . . the stuff in here
is organized and senses self and out there is other. And when there is any sense of separation,
the primal mood of the separate self is fear. So, right away, then we have . . . the organism
has to control and manage to make sure it’s not invaded or hurt or in some way destroyed
and has to try to grasp to try to get what it needs. So managing is, like, the first response to
that feeling of separation. And then with humans, we do a lot of conceptualizing. We use our minds to try to manage things — our
minds to plan, and our minds to worry, and anticipate — and our minds end up creating
a story about who we are, and about how we need to be, and what’s wrong. And that locks in. So again, we’re managing. We rely on our mind as a map. We believe the map of the mind to be true. And then, the sense of unworthiness gets dramatically
amplified depending on the culture we are in. Okay, so we already feel separate, and we’re
already trying to manage things, and we’re already forgetting our basic spirit . . . kind
of hitched to a small story of self; but then the actual toxicity of the story — how contracted
it is, how bad we feel about ourselves — really has a lot to do with the culture we’re in. Now, in our culture, fear of failure is really
big because we’re a very individualistic culture, and there’s not an innate sense
of belonging. It’s not like a given that we belong — like,
“Okay, we are all family and community. And, yeah, you can make mistakes, and do this
and that but, bottom-line, we are together.” That’s not there. So every step of the way we have to prove
ourselves. And we have to prove ourselves in ways that
kind of “fit” . . . fit the . . . the standards that are out there. We compete and we have this fear of falling
short. So one of my favorite readings — if you’ve
been with me for a while you’ll remember this — is called Spiritual Fitness: “If you can start the day without caffeine
or pep pills, if you can be cheerful ignoring aches and pains, if you can resist complaining
and boring people with your troubles, if you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
if you can face the world without lies and deceit, if you can relax without liquor, if
you can sleep without the aid of drugs . . . then you are probably a dog.” So, we have these standards. Each one of us has them, and they’re basically
installed by the culture we’re in. And the message of being inferior — being
set up to fail, being not enough — is particularly toxic for minorities. So, consider in this country. Consider in the United States, our history
— that, for the African American, that message of you are less than started right off the
bat with slavery, was continued through with Jim Crow, continued through with restrictive
housing and inferior education, continued through to today with the treatment by police. Now what message does that give? It’s a culture saying, “You are less than.” And that’s what we internalize. And so, for different degrees, for different
. . . those that don’t fit the dominant culture’s standards, there is an accentuated
sense of not enough. We have these standards. Do you fit them in terms of financial success? In terms of the way you look? Your body-shape? Your physical capacity? Your gender-orientation? Your sexual orientation? For many of us it’s “Yes. Yes. Well, no. Yes. Yes. No.” — and then where the No’s are,
deep suffering. So then it gets carried on — this sense
of the messages that start having us feeling not enough — through our families. And that’s the domain of most psychotherapy. And that’s where the messages are, you know,
“Here is how you need to be to feel our respect and love.” And parents, to different degrees, were conditional
in their love and understanding, just because they were treated in that way, and they are
afraid that we won’t succeed. So this is the message they give us. One story of a little girl who was doing art
and she figured out that if you put together yellow and blue it makes green — little
Melissa — and her mom said, “Oh, you should show your daddy when he comes home!” So her father kind of comes in the house and
he’s — Wall Street guy — and he is on his phone and he is continued business right
through as he walks through the door and she starts tugging on him saying, “Daddy, Daddy,
look!” And he is just walking around the house with
his cell phone, and she’s kind of tugging on him and he gets all the way into his office
and she still kind of trying to show him, and so finally he says, “Melissa, what are
you doing down there?” And she says, “Daddy, I live down here!” So this was an NPR story, and I heard it and
it really hit me that, you know, sometimes it’s not abuse. It’s a different kind of a not seeing or
a neglect. So we have these standards, each of us. And we go around with the . . . they are internalized
and we’re always comparing against that standard and, to a degree, there’s a gap. That gap brings up that feeling of I am not
enough and I’m going to fail, and it’s around the corner. So the core wound, of course, is severed belonging
— that if I am not enough and if I fail, I won’t belong anymore. So then we have to, as we grow up . . . and
I call this “developing a space suit self,” because that’s harsh, and there is a feeling
of there’s a lot to lose for not belonging . . . so we have to develop ways to manage
ourselves — remember managing — so that we can be the person who will be loved and
respected. So, we all take on strategies — our space
suit strategies — to be loved and accepted. And we all have different ones, but they’re
ways to compensate for that not enough feeling. And I won’t spend a lot of time on them,
I talk a lot about them. But you probably know yours. You probably know the ways you try to go about
getting other people to pay attention, or to love you, or to respect you and to get
your own feeling of being good. I mean, for many of us it’s, in some way,
striving and accomplishing and proving ourselves. For some it’s . . . there’s just a habitual
busyness — just to stay busy makes us feel more like at least we’re on our way somewhere. Then there’s the addictive behaviors to
kind of numb out the feelings. And then, for many, it’s just looking good,
it’s like presenting a good self. One of the stories I like is of a young man
who worked in a supermarket and an older gentleman comes over and asks to buy half a head of
lettuce, and the young man says, “I don’t think we do that, but I’ll go check.” So he goes to the back room and he asks his
manager and he says, “This jerk back there wants to buy half a head of lettuce.” And then he realizes the guy is just standing
there, right behind him, and then he goes, “And this fine gentleman has offered to
buy the other half.” You know… A little bit later in the day . . . later
in the day, the manager comes up and says: “You know, I like a young man who can think
on his feet.” He goes, “Where do you come from son?” And the young guy says, “Well, I come from
Canada.” And he says, “Oh, well, what brought you
here?” And he says, “Oh, Canada… all there are
whores and hockey players.” At which point, the man stiffened and said,
“My wife comes from Canada.” And the young man said, “Oh, what team does
she play for?” So our most basic management strategy is judgement. And we try to manage things by judging others. It’s a way to feel better about ourselves
and to control others. And then — as we began this talk — we
judge ourselves. And it’s got a positive intention. We’re trying to get ourselves to be the
person that will be good enough so we’ll get approved of and loved. And, as we know, it doesn’t work that way. Because the more we are judging ourselves
and the more we are pushing ourselves and trying to get approval and straining and striving
and numbing and whatever the strategies are, the further from home we are — the more
we’ve covered over that mystery and that goodness and that heart. We’re identified as a space suit self and
we forget . . .we forget who is here. You know, one of the stories I’ve always
loved took place in Asia. There’s this huge, huge statue of the Buddha. For many years it survived — through the
centuries, actually. It was not a handsome statue, it was a kind
of plaster clay statue, and . . . but people loved it for its staying power. And then, one year – this happened about
12 years ago – it was a really long dry period and a crack appeared in the statue. And so the monks brought their little pen
flashlights to look inside the crack . . . just thought they might find out something about
the infrastructure. And what happened was, when they shined the
light in, what shined out was a flash of gold — and every crack they looked into, they
saw that same shining. So they dismantled the plaster clay, which
turned out to be just a covering, and found it was the largest pure solid gold statue
of the Buddha in this whole . . . in all of southeast Asia. And the monks believe that the statue had
been covered with plaster and clay to protect it through difficult years, much in the same
way that we put on that space suit to protect ourselves from injury and hurt. And that the . . . What’s sad is that we
forget the gold. And we start believing we’re the covering. We believe we are the egoic, defensive, managing
self. And we forget who is here. So, really, you might think of kind of the
essence of the spiritual path as a remembering. Reconnecting with that . . . with the gold
and with that essential mystery of awareness that’s our essence. Reconnecting. So the remainder of what we’ll explore in
this talk is how we wake up from that kind of narrow trance of being a limited, deficient,
fear-of-failing being and remember the gold — remember what’s shining through. The practice of meditation — or coming into
presence — is described as having two wings. And the two wings are . . . One of the wings
is mindfulness, so that you actually see what is happening in the present moment. Non-judging presence. And the other wing, you might think of as
heartfulness, where whatever is seen is held with tenderness — with compassion. So, it’s seeing what’s here and regarding
it with tenderness. You can think of it as two questions. If you ask yourself: What is happening right
now? It’s like that attention that notices what’s
going on inside you right now. What is happening? And then the other wing is: And can I be with
this? Can I regard this with kindness? So these are the two wings that we cultivate
to be able to wake up out of that trance of unworthiness . . . to wake up out of the spacesuit
self and sense that the gold is shining through. These two wings. And I’ll give you some examples. I’m going to give you two examples tonight
of how we can directly take these two wings to what’s going on inside us and loosen
up so that we really begin to come home to a much vaster, deeper sense of who we are. And the first story is . . . this is several
years ago . . . I was at a class . . . one of these classes, and afterwards a man came
to talk to me and a friend had sent him a podcasted talk. And he wanted to see if mindfulness could
help him. And he was an IT executive. His problem was that . . . that he presented
. . . that he said, “I am incredibly impatient and harsh and critical of everybody. And it’s really hard because it’s, you
know, I get feedback from my employees and also from my wife and from my team. So can mindfulness help with that?” So this is some years back. We met a couple of times. And so the basic thing is I said, “When
you get triggered, pause.” And I invited him to go through a situation
that . . . recently, where he had been triggered and, you know, when he was feeling all the
judgement and the anger. And I said, “The first step of waking up
these two wings is you have to pause.” And this is for all of us — that the sacred
art of pausing is a lifesaver. I’ve had AA-sponsors say that learning the
sacred pause is worth two years of meetings. It’s not an either-or-thing but it’s amazing! If you can just pause, you get more access
to your intelligence and your heart. So I said: “Pause. And then find out what’s going on. You know, instead of doing anything, see if
you can find out what’s going on in those moments that you’re feeling triggered and
when you’re feeling irritable and judgmental.” And, so, when he paused he said: “Okay. I am believing that things are out of control,
that they’re going to go wrong and I’m going to fail. It’s like they are doing something but it’s
going to cause me to fail.” That was what he said. That was what he said. And then I said, “Okay. And when that’s going . . . what’s the
feeling in your body? And he goes, “Well, it’s anxiety. It’s like this clutched, clenched fist in
my chest.” So I said, “Okay. So let’s just do the two wings now. So you name that. Okay, anxiety, anxiety. That’s the wing of mindfulness — recognizing
it and naming it. And then the wing of compassion — just say
yes, make space for it. Let it be there. In other words, don’t try to make it go
away. Don’t do anything. Just let it be.” So that was his practice — that every time
he got triggered, that he could remember he was to pause. Okay, what’s going on? Feeling it, naming it, and saying yes. And he did it over and over and over again. He’d feel that rising irritation, he’d
pause, he’d breathe, he’d name it, he’d say yes, and then sometimes he would say something
that was harsh and judgmental, and sometimes he wouldn’t. But he had a little more space and, with time,
more and more space — which is, by the way, a very realistic way this practice happens. It’s not like, right away, you unfold the
two wings and, you know, the trance dissolves and you’re crystal rainbows of light and,
you know, compassionate and the beloved…you know, in form. It takes time. But it was happening. And, some months later, he described an experience
that he said was what made him commit to practice ongoingly: He had a meeting with a Project Manager, and
the project manager admitted that the team was behind schedule on a major project — one
that was really, really important to this guy — and that he had — the project manager
also admitted — that he had personally let some things fall through the cracks. So this is exactly the setup, like he felt
the irritation rising and, internally, he was saying, “Okay. Angry. Okay. Anxious. Okay. Yes. Yes. Be with it. Feel it.” And he didn’t blow up. And they… he… in fact, he just got more
there and then they began to strategize on how to deal with things. And the manager was about to walk out of the
room, and then he came back to his desk and he said, “I didn’t plan on saying this
but I want to let you know, a few weeks ago my wife was diagnosed with stage-4 breast
cancer. And I have two teens. And it’s a tough time.” And the two men hugged. And he left the room — the project manager
left the room — and this . . . the guy I was working with said that he had tears and
it was for this man, but also that he might have missed that moment. Do you know what I mean? If he had gone through his normal chain reaction? But learning to pause and bringing those two
wings to life gave him a moment of human contact that was precious. 28:36
So these . . . these are . . . This is when we are caught — when we are stuck in our
space suit self — to pause. What’s happening? Can I be with this? Yes. Reflection: Let’s pause right now. I’d just like to give you a chance to check
inside for a few moments. Take a bit of time just to settle, to connect
with your senses, to feel your breath. We’ll just do a very short and simple exploration of these
two wings. I’d like to invite you to come up with a
current situation in your life that . . .that brings up difficult emotions. Not something that is traumatic, but something
that brings up anxiety or anger, hurt — where you react in a way, perhaps, that you wish
you wouldn’t. And let yourself go right to the part of that
situation, bring to mind, visualize it, and see it, and move through it to right where
you go into reactivity, and sense what emotions are coming up in you like, for this man, it
was a clutch anxiety in his chest. And take some moments to sense when you typically
react — when you start to manage things by either lashing out or turning on yourself,
withdrawing, whatever you do — just sense how that feels. And you might even mentally use the word no. Managing is a way of saying no to what’s
happening right now. “No, I don’t like this.” “I want you to be different.” “I want to be different.” Notice what happens when you’re saying no
— when you’re trying to manage things, trying to take control, resisting. So you’re . . . get connected and aware
of what the feeling of no is like when you’re reacting in a tight way from your spacesuit
self. Sense how it is in your body . . . your heart. And then take a few full breaths. We call this a state-interrupter. Just kind of breathe and feel your body right
here fully. But let the same situation be in your awareness. In fact, again, let yourself remember the
triggering, what gets you going, and what the worst part about this is. See if you can feel, in your body, where it
lives. But, this time, just name and say yes. “Okay. Fear. Yes. Let it be. Anger. Yes. Just let it be. Hurt. Yes. Let it be.” So you’re really giving permission to your
body and your heart to feel what it feels. We are not saying yes to the other person’s
behavior. Yes is a way of allowing and letting be the
life inside you. Let it be as it is. It’s very brave, very permissive, very allowing. Yes. In fact, no matter what’s happening inside
you right now – pleasantness or unpleasantness, tired, numb, dull, anxious – see what happens
when you say yes, when you just give it permission to be as it is. Then you might sense, in the days and weeks
to come, when this situation arises, that it’s possible for you to pause and awaken
the two wings — that you can pause and really ask “What’s happening?” and name your
experience inside you. And you can say yes to the experience and
give it more space, and notice, perhaps, there’s more openness, more flexibility, that you
are more at home in yourself when you haven’t managed and gone into the old behavior. Okay. So, as you are ready, open your eyes. Or if you’d like to sit with your eyes closed
that’s fine. I’m going to make a few comments. Sometimes, when we do this and we get in touch
with something . . .an emotional tangle that’s difficult . . . and we name it, and then we’re
saying no to it, and we’re managing, it actually feels better — because we are kind
of keeping on top of things, and we feel a sense of our own power and like we are in
charge — even though, over time, that no ends up giving a sense of tightness. What most people find is that no is tight
and yes has more openness. How many of you noticed that? Okay. So, ultimately, we want to be able to say
yes to our inner experience because, unless we open the windows and doors and let the
winds and light move through our being, we’re not going to feel free. But, sometimes, when things are too much,
we need to say no and temporarily be able to manage them. So it’s not like yes is good and no is bad. It’s just knowing the direction you’re
going is to increasingly have a capacity to name what’s there and allow it . . . say
yes. And, again, I want to say that often people
do this practice and say, “Am I supposed to be saying yes to that person who is abusing
me?” No. You can say yes to your inner anguish, hurt,
anger, fear, and do anything you need to create the boundaries you have to do. But this is for the freedom of your own heart
and the healing of your own heart, that you learn to recognize and allow your inner life. Now a big challenge for saying yes is when
we feel like we’re bad. If we feel like I am a flawed person. I can’t say yes to that. I can’t say yes to that shameful feeling
— it’s too much, it gets very, very difficult. When we’re at war with ourselves, it’s
sometimes difficult to bring that second wing of allowing alive. So I want to spend probably the next… most of the remainder of this talk . . . on
how do we bring the two wings to our experience when we’ve totally turned on ourselves or
are totally at war with ourselves. Okay? Now, I remember one yoga teacher who used
to say, “Put your right arm over your left and hug yourself.” And then she said, “Now put your left arm
over your right and hug your evil twin.” Part of this practice of Radical Acceptance
revisited is knowing that, whatever arises, whatever we can’t embrace with love, imprisons
us — no matter what it is. If we are at war with it, we stay in prison. But I often have encountered . . . it’s
been now . . . oh, since Radical Acceptance . . . say about 13 years since it’s come
out . . . the biggest fear I encounter is: If I try and embrace myself, if I try to bring
this wing of allowing and compassion to myself, I’ll never get better. I’ll never be a better person; in fact,
it’s indulgent. I’ll only become more of that person I don’t
like. That’s the fear of Radical Acceptance. How many of you can relate to that? That if I start loving myself unconditionally,
I’ll get worse? Can I see? I mean, it’s really natural. We wouldn’t stay so hard on ourselves, if
we didn’t think it worked. Okay? But I often quote Carl Rogers – the psychologist
Carl Rogers – who said, “It wasn’t until I accepted myself just as I was that I was
free to change.” That, in other words, that this acceptance
— this recognizing what’s going on inside us and this deep unconditional tenderness
— is the prerequisite to change. Okay? So I’ll give you a story, because I think
the deal is that, when we bring these two wings to, you know, naming and then saying
yes, the yes . . . sometimes we need to infuse the yes with a profound sense of compassion. So let’s look at that one and how that can
happen. And this is the story: A minister I was working with some years back
was in a real impasse in his marriage and his wife was so dissatisfied that she said,
“You know, if we can’t work this out, I don’t know if I can stay with this.” So it was a very rocky time when he talked
to me. And, basically, she wanted him to be more
intimate, more vulnerable, not so spiritually detached. She wanted him to be able to say “I love
you” and look her in the eyes. And he was very blocked and, whenever she
would ask for something, that would make it even harder for him to feel like he could
be warm and friendly. And so… he was also very defended, but he
knew she was right that he was not able to be intimate. And so, when we started working together and
we sensed, Okay, feel the defendedness and the block, underneath it was a huge sense
of deficiency as a human being, and a very harsh critic. And he felt like an imposter. And I’ve found that many, many high achieving,
very successful people feel like imposters — feel like they can look really, really
good and achieve everything in the world, and, still, deep down, there’s a sense of
I can’t believe people are taken in by this. You know. So, he felt a sense of his own hypocrisy because
he preached about love — he preached about human love, and spiritual love — but he
didn’t feel like he embodied it. He felt like he had been ambitious in his
process in the ministry and, you know, he was… he was very controlling and he felt
his ego got in the way a lot, and that he could look good, and comfort people — as
a spiritual advisor even — but he wasn’t really getting . . . he couldn’t be close
with people. So his inner critic was basically saying,
you know, “You don’t deserve the position you are in and you don’t even deserve your
marriage.” So he got in touch with a really deep sense
of shame and aversion. And, when we started . . . So we started exploring
with the two wings and, you know, really sensing into the . . . the sense of that place that
was feeling . . . he would name it and feel it — and what it did most need? And what that place most needed – that really
defective place – was to be forgiven. And he said, “I need to feel like God sees
me and knows I’m trying.” And when he said that, that’s when . . . I
felt like this was the ouch-moment. I sometimes call them that. And that was when he really got his own suffering
— that he was trying and he couldn’t help it. Who knows the conditioning that lead to him
being closed off? But, when he said that, “I need to have
God see that I can’t help it, I am trying, and forgive me,” that was the moment that
the second wing came alive and he could actually feel some tenderness towards himself. So, in a way, his practice was this — he
would get into that place of feeling stuck and incapable of being close because he felt
such . . . like he was such a defective person, he couldn’t bring that into a relationship. He’d see that, he’d feel his shame, and
then the second wing of allowing compassion was, “Please forgive me.” And then it kind of went like this, a sense
of forgiving himself. Now, as I described with the other story with
the IT Executive, this was over and over again, a practice — that every time he would get
triggered and so on, that he could be by himself and practice, he would feel his sense of deficiency
and his fear about being exposed, and he’d . . . in some way . . . the second wing was,
“Please forgive me,” and then, kind of, “Forgiven, forgiven.” Over and over again. And it took him a number of months, but he
shared that his wife . . . he said, with his wife, that for the first time in 26 years,
he said, “We are feeling each other’s hearts.” So, again, I’m sharing this because this
is a shift in identity. He went from being caught – and this is
the spacesuit self, and the deficient self, and the critical-judge self – to a place
of just simple tenderness – of offering himself forgiveness and just feeling that
tenderness of vulnerability. And this is the shift in identity that each
one of us experiences every time we even get a taste of these two wings. If you even… If you stop and pause and just name what’s
going on and then say “yes”, there’s a little shift in identity- there’s a little
shift from the self that’s stuck to that witnessing. Do you understand? Just to name it and say “yes” you move
from inside the story of the defective self to that awareness that’s noticing and kind. Even a little bit. This is a poem by Pesha Joyce Gertler: “Finally,
on my way to yes, I bump into all the places where I said no to my life, all the untended
wounds . . . those coded messages that sent me down the wrong street again and again . . . and
I lift them one by one close to my heart and I say holy, holy.” I lift them one by one close to my heart and
I say holy, holy. So, in this reflection for this class, we
are really exploring a key dimension of what’s called the Bodhisattva path — the path of
spiritually awakening beings. And the understanding is that the heart of
the path is compassion, and the heart of compassion is compassion for ourselves — that we need
to step out of this trance of something is wrong with me by recognizing it and responding
to ourselves with kindness . . . recognize it, saying yes to the moment. And when we do that, when we’re able to
regard our own being with those two wings, then we start looking around and we see past
the spacesuit self of others. You know, initially they look like… others
look like the ego-self that’s protecting and defending and managing. We see other managing egos. But when we’ve seen past that in ourselves
and we’ve touched that tenderness and that openness, we look at others and we can see
the vulnerability that’s there and we can see the mystery that’s looking through those
eyes of consciousness. And then we respond in a way that affirms:
We are together. We belong together. Our society needs us. Our society needs us to bring this healing
to our inner life and each other. There’s so much division. There’s so much hostility, mistrust. There’s so much disconnection from the earth
and from each other, that every time we bring the two wings to our own inner life and start
connecting, we are more able, in the field, to look at another person and say, “We belong
together. We are in this together.” So let’s . . . we’ll close tonight in
a simple way . . . just take a moment to check in one more time. And just to feel that inquiry . . . feel into
the inquiry: Is there anything right this moment between me and feeling at home in myself,
at home in who I am? Just sense if there’s any way that you’re
making yourself wrong, any way that you’re at war with yourself that you’re aware right
in this moment. And, as you scan, if you find some place that
you’re holding some harsh judgement against yourself, that you feel unforgiving, that
you are not able to accept something about yourself, take some moments to… just to
note that with that wing of recognition. Okay. At war. Judging. Feeling deficient. Ashamed. Then you might sense how that… the place
in you that feels deficient or wrong or bad, what it most needs right now. What’s the quality of heart it most needs? And I’d invite you to bring your hand to
your heart, if you feel open to that, and just communicate inward. It could be simply the word yes . . . it’s
okay, you’re here. Just to allow the feelings to be there. Or maybe the communication of: It’s okay
sweetheart — something I use a lot — or I’m sorry, and I love you. It can be the word forgiven, forgiven. This is the second wing, the wing of compassion. “Finally, on my way to yes, I bump into
all the places where I said no to my life . . . all the untended wounds . . . and I
lift them one by one close to my heart and I say holy, holy.” Now, widening the field and bringing to mind
someone in your life that can use your healing attention, someone that you know is struggling,
themselves, with feeling deficient . . . unworthy . . . And sense that you could feel that person
living in your heart, just recognizing the suffering and vulnerability of feeling not
okay. And just the way you put your hand on your
own heart, sense that, energetically, you could put your hand on that person’s heart
or cheek . . . or embrace them, and send a message of care — whatever message you sense
would be soothing or healing. And sensing the heart-space that’s here,
that can hold all beings, this heart-space of wakefulness and tenderness . . . May all beings everywhere recognize their
deepest essence as loving presence. May all beings trust this essence and live
from it. May all beings everywhere touch great and
natural peace. May there be peace on earth . . . may there
be peace on earth. May there be peace everywhere. May all beings awaken and be free. Namaste and thank you.

49 comments on “Radical Acceptance Revisited – Tara Brach

  1. DH Post author

    Tara, I love your voice and your message. Thank you for being yourself. You are bringing out my real self 🙂

  2. Sean Schroeder Post author

    Tara, Thanks so much for revisiting "Radical Acceptance" in this talk.  I appreciated the focus on the two wings to help bring us inner peace:  mindfulness and heartfulness (compassion).  I loved the many examples you used throughout your talk, especially the example of the gold Buddha status encased in clay – great metaphor that reminds us of our true nature or essence!  Thanks again!  Namaste.

  3. Judi M Post author

    Tara, I listen to you every night before sleeping. Your voice is so clear, soothing and gentle. Your sharing of related humor when starting and throughout your talks are wonderful. You surly a woman of dignity and honor. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, teachings, beliefs of Spiritualality and Psychology.

  4. MrSynth1200 Post author

    Hi Tara, thank you so much for the video!!!!!
    But how do you pause in the heat of the moment?
    If I would be able to pause when when agitated my life would be whole lot less painful.

  5. Greg Owens Post author

    Hi Tara , Greetings from Australia . Stumbled on you and your teachings by accident…or was it !
    So glad to hear such clarity and wisdom …and that joyful smile. Thank you ..

  6. jessica campos Post author

    How can you even be at peace if you really dont belong in society? I mean by being different, not having same opinions as majority, being outcast, etc.?

  7. LizXXX Post author

    Does this also work with long-lasting repeated emotions of anger or emotional pain? What i mean is that the emotions have been stuck for a very long time

  8. Shaman 18 Post author

    I love your videos but I can stand the mouth noises you make (Sensory Processing Disorder) so I can listen to your videos 😕. I'm sorry I've tried many times.

  9. Sean-Patrick S Post author

    I got the 3 cd series in 2008, and while it resonated with me, it wasn't until a couple years later that I sat down and listened again, discovering I wasn't open in 2008, almost wish to say 'I wasn't ready or willing.' Although, I thought I wasn't ready, I was actively working on my Self. Upon revisiting the audio series, I was marveled at the transformation, the wonderful shifts I had since experienced. I am currently doing the Master Cleanse, releasing stored emotions that has built up in the body over time is being released at 'let go'. I came back to this audio series to do further work to support and release. In gratitude, thank you for your teachings!

  10. Sama r Post author

    This really struck a chord with me. I loved the concept of the managing self and I totally do that. I hope I can really use this practice in my daily life to make changes

  11. Jim Beam Post author

    The problem with people like Brach is that they put people off by being so touchy feely. Her words are important, but the style doesn't appeal to people like me who don't like all of the spiritual bullshit that surrounds it.

  12. Mariela Mayor Post author

    Me encanta Tara, pero me gustaría poder leer los Subtitulos en español ya que muy pocos videos lo tienen

  13. Jem84 Post author

    Tara, you are an angel. You have helped me connect to who I really am, over and over again. Your videos are my anti depressive medication, my light in the darkness. Thank you thank you, thank you.

  14. Gra Piken Post author

    The Dalai Lama is no angel unfortunately… I wish the West's worship of him would end, or at least be willing to scrutinise him objectively

  15. Rina White Post author

    The plaster story gave me the feels! This one will stay with me as food for thought for years to come, I can feel it <3

  16. Integral Stanley Post author

    Tara acknowledges the difficulty of living life as a human being; dukkha. She gives us a beneficial practice. Thanks.

  17. Eduardo Najarro, Jr. Post author

    We're so busy managing our lives so as to cover this great mystery that we're involved in. – John O'Donohue

  18. Anon O. Miss Post author

    When you watch this, you realize this woman doesn't take the subway during rush hour in and out of New York City every day.

  19. Bullfrog Brown Post author

    Life is a challenge .. and change is not always easy, which is why acceptance is essential. I try the 3R mantra .. responsible for self, respect for others & ‘no regrets’ ..

  20. Luigi Lammachi Post author

    Fear is now an integral part of managing people. It is pervasive throughout our society – people, places, things. We are encouraged to fear. Our associations with comfort are being stripped away.

  21. Joe Van Wyk Post author

    I just heard about you in a recovery meeting at the Austin Zen Center. A beautiful young woman spoke about the impact you are having in her life. Bless you Tara. I just subscribed.

  22. Tristan Walker Post author

    re: Tara's Rosalie trauma hypnosis story:

    I would be interested to hear from those who are familiar with this line of therapy.
    Full disclosure – a part of me wants to believe hypnosis can help.
    Another part has read that hypnosis can be problematic – that the client can easily enter into a kind of playing along
    with the therapist, that there can be false memories implanted (unintentionally), that dropping down the stairs and through the door can cause a panic attack and even mental break for some, and so on.
    And so in part, I am kind of surprised that Tara uses hypnosis.
    I would have thought more of a somatic therapy thing – with spiritually informed.
    But I wonder what people think about her Rosalie hypnosis story?
    About trauma, other mental illness, and how best to treat these problems.


  23. Tristan Walker Post author

    Given that Tara is not available for therapy, where can I find a list of similar therapists – with this kind of spiritual, somatic, multi-tool approach? Ideally fully certified therapists or psychologists. Who are also awakening on a path. Thanks

  24. Sandra Cabeçadas Post author

    Your words are so true. Thank you. I am practicing, I mean 'pausing'. It's precious.

  25. mysticanimationscience com Post author

    This is great but if you are having oscillation and need stability to crack through your personhood there is a self who has managed to use backwards teaching methods which works in the modern day.

  26. divine Post author

    thank you so much! you have so a gentle and kindly voice. this teachings are a possability for me to learn and improve my english. greetings from dresden, germany.

  27. Psyche Revival Post author

    I’ve listened to this talk several times, each time gleaning something new. Through that I came to recognize the value of attending weekly teachings, as is common in many religious practices. We always have something new to learn.

  28. Brenda Schwieterman Post author

    Ok, I love this… but I don’t feel it’s totally fair to bring up that police mistreat blacks. Sending that very message is part of the problem.


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