A continuing commentary on Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
Our suffering points to resisting what actually is happening in this moment. Our resistance is the great saying “no” to our life - the life of the moment and the life of our karmic story. These two polarities of life, the mentally constructed story of consensus reality and the moment, always inter-embrace and arise together. To take care of them both as one, we need to receive our life straightforwardly as it is with no resistance, and respond in the most wholesome, mindful way.
Resistance is the opposite of “saying yes” or Radical Acceptance. We fight, hate, deny, try to escape our unpleasant sensations and suffering stories. The more we do this, the farther in our heads we go, and the less in the present moment. Our suffering points to our resistance and offers us an invitation to release, surrender, to allow what is. Practice cultivates radical acceptance of pain and unpleasantness. Learning to relax with our unpleasant sensations, we can meet them with a non-reactive awareness.
We can cultivate a direct practice of presence with our unpleasant sensations.
In Zen, we learn this through experience rather than instructions. Sesshin is a great vehicle for increasing our capacity to be with negative sensations and emotions. We learn through inner experimentation how to stay, stay, stay, with whatever is arising. To stay upright as Reb Anderson would put it. However, the Vipassana tradition augments this experimentation with concise verbal instructions which my community and I have been studying in this past year.
Direct contact with compassionate awareness.
For many of us, we have to find and strengthen our connection with unbounded, unconditional openness or unconditional compassion. This is why we meditate and do longer retreats. We have, innately, a natural connection with this openness and yet, we are not always in touch with it. We can build our awareness by remembering to open our sense gates and allow ourselves to truly see life. Look! Look! The Mystery! Even on our sickbed, we can see the sky through the window or the love in our hearts for our visitors. We can open to truth beyond the container of our selves and our stories.
Our practice is to return to the felt body sense and simultaneously open our field of awareness. We can see that there is plenty of room in the vastness for the unpleasant sensation to be. The unpleasant sensation is not permanent either. It moves. Sensations change. This too shall pass. The presence of fear can stand just as it is. Fear can open into universal perspective. It is, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, the fodder for our liberation. We can release our resistance over and over. Nowhere to go and nothing to do. Just be with it ALL.