On Radical Acceptance as a Consequence of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a fancy way for saying: aware of what is happening when it is happening. Mindfulness is not an end goal where we arrive and remain, but rather a constant aspiration that we practice as best we can, as often as we can remember to. Sometimes we don’t want to – and that’s ok, too. But we could even become interested in this not-wanting-to-pay-attention business, noticing when and how it shows up as well as its impact on us. When we start to pay attention to what is happening when it is happening, we begin to have a clearer awareness of how we are operating in ways that sometimes get in our own way. These habit loops have served a noble purpose at different points in life. They may have come in the form of distorted beliefs or automatic defenses or identity narratives that helped you to cope with intolerable experiences.


What’s more, when we are mindful we have the opportunity to develop a sense of radical acceptance – unconditional positive regard and maybe even appreciation – for these little buggers. Your thank you card to these little buggers might go something like: “Thanks y’all! Couldn’t have done it without you. Now, though, I think I’m ready to try some other variations. I think I’m ready to feel things just a little bit more, both the delight and the soreness.” You might even feel inclined to say: “You’ve been a real pain in my ass!” or “I’ll miss you so much!”


The point is not to simply break up with these habit loops, demonizing and shunning them from your mind, but to begin having an honest conversation about whether or not your relationship is enhancing your life and how to renegotiate the relationship so that it does. Through mindfulness, you become more able to track the trajectory of these loops and intervene to change course if you so choose, interrupting and mixing it up a bit. You might experiment with new behaviors that are informed by your alert relationship with the present moment to create different and new upshots that more closely align with the person you would like to be in this world. This is the paradox of change: it is only when we accept ourselves completely, exactly as we are right now, that we find the ability to show up in a different way consistently and authentically.

— Caroline Leach, MA

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