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Radical Acceptance

Cover of Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance

Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
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For many of us, feelings of deficiency are right around the corner. It doesn't take much--just hearing of someone else's accomplishments, being criticized, getting into an argument, making a mistake at work--to make us feel that we are not okay. Beginning to understand how our lives have become ensnared in this trance of unworthiness is our first step toward reconnecting with who we really are and what it means to live fully.
--from Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance

"Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering," says Tara Brach at the start of this illuminating book. This suffering emerges in crippling self-judgments and conflicts in our relationships, in addictions and perfectionism, in loneliness and overwork--all the forces that keep our lives constricted and unfulfilled. Radical Acceptance offers a path to freedom, including the day-to-day practical guidance developed over Dr. Brach's twenty years of work with therapy clients and Buddhist students.

Writing with great warmth and clarity, Tara Brach brings her teachings alive through personal stories and case histories, fresh interpretations of Buddhist tales, and guided meditations. Step by step, she leads us to trust our innate goodness, showing how we can develop the balance of clear-sightedness and compassion that is the essence of Radical Acceptance. Radical Acceptance does not mean self-indulgence or passivity. Instead it empowers genuine change: healing fear and shame and helping to build loving, authentic relationships. When we stop being at war with ourselves, we are free to live fully every precious moment of our lives.

From the Hardcover edition.
For many of us, feelings of deficiency are right around the corner. It doesn't take much--just hearing of someone else's accomplishments, being criticized, getting into an argument, making a mistake at work--to make us feel that we are not okay. Beginning to understand how our lives have become ensnared in this trance of unworthiness is our first step toward reconnecting with who we really are and what it means to live fully.
--from Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance

"Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering," says Tara Brach at the start of this illuminating book. This suffering emerges in crippling self-judgments and conflicts in our relationships, in addictions and perfectionism, in loneliness and overwork--all the forces that keep our lives constricted and unfulfilled. Radical Acceptance offers a path to freedom, including the day-to-day practical guidance developed over Dr. Brach's twenty years of work with therapy clients and Buddhist students.

Writing with great warmth and clarity, Tara Brach brings her teachings alive through personal stories and case histories, fresh interpretations of Buddhist tales, and guided meditations. Step by step, she leads us to trust our innate goodness, showing how we can develop the balance of clear-sightedness and compassion that is the essence of Radical Acceptance. Radical Acceptance does not mean self-indulgence or passivity. Instead it empowers genuine change: healing fear and shame and helping to build loving, authentic relationships. When we stop being at war with ourselves, we are free to live fully every precious moment of our lives.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    The Trance of UnworthinessYou will be walking some night . . .

    It will be clear to you suddenly

    that you were about to escape,

    and that you are guilty: you misread

    the complex instructions, you are not

    a member, you lost your card

    or never had one . . .

    Wendell Berry

    For years I've had a recurring dream in which I am caught in a futile struggle to get somewhere. Sometimes I'm running up a hill; sometimes I am climbing over boulders or swimming against a current. Often a loved one is in trouble or something bad is about to happen. My mind is speeding frantically, but my body feels heavy and exhausted; I move as if through molasses. I know I should be able to handle the problem, but no matter how hard I try, I can't get where I need to go. Completely alone and shadowed by the fear of failure, I am trapped in my dilemma. Nothing else in the world exists but that.

    This dream captures the essence of the trance of unworthiness. In our dreams we often seem to be the protagonist in a pre-scripted drama, fated to react to our circumstances in a given way. We seem unaware that choices and options might exist. When we are in the trance and caught up in our stories and fears about how we might fail, we are in much the same state. We are living in a waking dream that completely defines and delimits our experience of life. The rest of the world is merely a backdrop as we struggle to get somewhere, to be a better person, to accomplish, to avoid making mistakes. As in a dream, we take our stories to be the truth--a compelling reality--and they consume most of our attention. While we eat lunch or drive home from work, while we talk to our partners or read to our children at night, we continue to replay our worries and plans. Inherent in the trance is the belief that no matter how hard we try, we are always, in some way, falling short.

    Feeling unworthy goes hand in hand with feeling separate from others, separate from life. If we are defective, how can we possibly belong? It's a vicious cycle: The more deficient we feel, the more separate and vulnerable we feel. Underneath our fear of being flawed is a more primal fear that something is wrong with life, that something bad is going to happen. Our reaction to this fear is to feel blame, even hatred, toward whatever we consider the source of the problem: ourselves, others, life itself. But even when we have directed our aversion outward, deep down we still feel vulnerable.

    Our feelings of unworthiness and alienation from others give rise to various forms of suffering. For some, the most glaring expression is addiction. It may be to alcohol, food or drugs. Others feel addicted to a relationship, dependent on a particular person or people in order to feel they are complete and that life is worth living. Some try to feel important through long hours of grueling work--an addiction that our culture often applauds. Some create outer enemies and are always at war with the world.

    The belief that we are deficient and unworthy makes it difficult to trust that we are truly loved. Many of us live with an undercurrent of depression or hopelessness about ever feeling close to other people. We fear that if they realize we are boring or stupid, selfish or insecure, they'll reject us. If we're not attractive enough, we may never be loved in an intimate, romantic way. We yearn for an unquestioned experience of belonging, to feel at home with ourselves and others, at ease and fully accepted. But the trance of unworthiness keeps the sweetness of belonging out of reach.

    The trance of unworthiness intensifies when our lives feel painful and out of control. We may assume that...

About the Author-
  • Tara Brach, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist as well as a Buddhist lay priest and popular teacher of mindfulness (vipassana) meditation. She is the founder of the Insight Meditation Community in Washington, D.C., and has conducted workshops at Spirit Rock Center, Omega Institute, the New York Open Center, and other retreat centers nationwide. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her teenaged son.


    From the Hardcover edition.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 12, 2003
    A psychotherapist and Buddhist meditation teacher in the tradition of Jack Kornfield (who contributes a foreword), first-time author Brach offers readers a rich compendium of stories and techniques designed to help people awaken from what she calls "the trance of unworthiness." The sense of self-hatred and fearful isolation that afflicts so many people in the West can be transformed with the steady application of a loving attention infused with the insights of the Buddhist tradition, according to Brach. Interweaving stories from her own life as a hardworking single mother with many wonderful anecdotes culled from her therapy practice and her work as a leader of meditation retreats, Brach offers myriad examples of how our pain can become a doorway to love and liberation. An older Catholic woman in one of Brach's weekend workshops, for example, recounts how she learned to ask God to help hold her pain. Like her colleagues Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein and others in the Vipassana or Insight meditation tradition, Brach is open-minded about where she gathers inspiration. Garnishing her gentle advice and guided meditation with beautiful bits of poetry and well-loved if familiar dharma stories, Brach describes what it can mean to open to the reality of other people, to live in love, to belong to the world. Obviously the fruit of the author's own long and honest search, this is a consoling and practical guide that can help people find a light within themselves.

  • Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry "Radical Acceptance offers gentle wisdom and tender healing, a most excellent medicine for our unworthiness and longing. Breathe, soften, and let these compassionate teachings bless your heart."
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Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
Tara Brach
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