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Now this? Radical acceptance revisited

March 31, 2019

On Christmas Day, 2012 meditation teacher Allan Lokos and his wife were in a plane crash. Later, Lokos described the moment when he realized, as he struggled to escape the burning plane filling with black smoke, that his foot was caught on something and he could not move. Lokos feels his years of meditation practice helped him pause momentarily, find a sense of calm in the chaos, and stop struggling long enough to free his foot. The mindfulness that helped him escape the plane also guided his long path to recovery from severe burns.

 

I share this amazing story as a follow up to a recent post (“Radical acceptance” https://bit.ly/2CMLYMt) in which I wrote about the importance of accepting the present moment, even when it is extremely difficult. One reader wrote to inquire how accepting our current reality makes sense when our current reality is that fifty people have just been slaughtered in New Zealand. Does acceptance mean we just shrug off other people’s tragedy so we can return to a comfortable state of head-in-the-sand peace? This is not the kind of acceptance I was writing about when I shared the nested meditation that ends with “Let it be, as it is clearly here. Already acceptance is transforming it.” What I’m referring to in these lines is an acceptance that our present moment is already here. Whether it is a joyful moment, a boring one, or a terrifying one, it is here. Acceptance means letting what’s here be here. This can protect us from a tendency to protest that the present moment is here. We can easily get caught in fear, depression, or regret about the present moment being here. These energies do not move us to our best response. Acceptance moves us beyond energies that paralyze us and gives us enough mental space to assess our options for action.

 

In Allan Lokos’ case, acceptance meant something like, “It’s Christmas Day and we’ve just been in a plane crash and I am surrounded by fire and smoke and I am stuck.” Pausing to see and accept that this was his present reality allowed him to momentarily interrupt an automatic panic response so that he could get unstuck.

 

In responding to the reader who wrote to me about what radical acceptance means in the face of evil or injustice, I mentioned an exciting new approach to psychotherapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The acronym for this therapy makes it clear that acceptance is not about passive lack of action. Acceptance allows us to stop protesting difficult things that have come into our lives and make a commitment to moving forward with our best response. When we pause long enough to avoid going immediately with our most habituated emotions or behaviors we have a better chance of choosing our best response to a difficult present moment. When we live each day this way, we can continue to choose our best life, even after life has taken a difficult turn.

 

Here's a nested meditation from Now is Where God Lives that captures this kind of radical acceptance:

 

Now this?

 

Now this

just is what is.

 

Now this

just is. What is

in it for me?

 

Now this

just is what is.

In it for me

is a choice.

 

Now this

just is what is.

In it for me

is a choice

of how to be in it.

 

 

 

________________

 

Kevin Anderson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, author, and speaker who lives in the Toledo, Ohio area. His latest book Now is Where God Lives: Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul is available at Amazon or thewingedlife.com

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All writing excerpts on this site copyrighted by Kevin Anderson.  For permissions, email wingedlifeinfo@gmail.com

Crecopia moth photo in header used by permission of Scott Rosenfeld, scottrosenfeldphoto.com