happy african american colleagues standing with cups of coffee and laughing

The Conscious Practice of Radical Acceptance

Acceptance is a skill. A skill we were never taught. We always valued change. We have an infatuation with “progress.” If you’re not moving forward, then you are dying. It’s also very hard to accept something when we perceive it as negative. I’ve seen many of my colleagues go through the experience of a layoff. I’m certain the last thing they want me to say is accept it. Acceptance doesn’t mean we must hide our emotions about a certain circumstance. It means to accept what the situation is and, subsequently, the emotions that come with it. We shouldn’t be ashamed of how we feel about what’s happened, yet we shouldn’t have the mindset that things could be different. We have to move forward with what has transpired.

Having a practice of acceptance is kind of scary because it means we give up control. At the same time, this sense of control is an illusion. We like to think that we have control of how our life plays out, but in most cases, we don’t. It also means that we can’t judge our situation. In our world, judging has become our second nature. We must remember that every situation in our life has no meaning but the meaning we give it. We have a choice to make the circumstance positive or negative.

Regarding a layoff, we now have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. We can try something we’ve never done before. We can start that business we always wanted but couldn’t because we never had time. You can spend more time with your family doing the things you love. Of course, losing a job may come with subsequent worries like financial stability, but you can only do what you can. Worrying doesn’t make what we perceive to be problems go away.

Tara Brach is the reason for this article. I’m reading her book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha. In the book, she describes radical acceptance as recognizing what we’re feeling in the present moment and embracing it with compassion. I’ve written many times that the opposite of this type of acceptance is resistance, otherwise known as ego. When we don’t accept what is, we don’t allow life to happen. With our false sense of control, we believe we can try to manipulate everything to work in our favor. That only brings suffering. The should of, would of, and could of’s in life never provide a real solution.

My father was integral in teaching my radical acceptance. No one wants to die. As a Christian man strong in his faith, my father didn’t believe it was time for him to leave the earth. Who could blame him? The unknown is scary, even when you believe that death is not the end. As a result, my father resisted the idea of dying. It was hard talking to him about the idea of passing on because he had a strong conviction that God would heal him. The conversations that a family was supposed to have about a loved one dying didn’t happen. We were too afraid that speaking to him about his potential death would dismiss the belief in his healing.

I can only imagine his suffering. Not being able to do what he once did when he was healthy. He would talk about how he could run for two miles on his treadmill. Without a lung, he was dependent on an oxygen tank and found himself exhausted after taking a few steps. One thing I will say about him is that he believed to the very end. I know that he’s at peace now, free from his sickness. At the same time, I wonder how better he would be if he found peace with his cancer diagnosis.

Like we’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post. Radical acceptance is a skill. It’s something that we have to practice because our default nature is to find meaning. We ask, “Why did this happen to me?” We then start to judge the incidents as unfortunate. We typically don’t see any opportunity in how life is shaping us. Again, this doesn’t mean you hide your feelings. This isn’t the place to be toxic-positive. This is the time to acknowledge the situation and acknowledge the emotions without judgment of either. The events in life serve no importance to us. How we react to it does.