Radical Compassionate Acceptance

Look on the brightside.” Who else wants to stab the person who says this to you when everything you know has been stripped away and you lie bare and vulnerable in your pain, fear, anger, hurt? When your marriage falls apart and you have to look your children in the eyes and break their hearts too, or the test results that tormented you in the night come back positive? When the test results that tormented you in the night come back negative? Radical compassionate acceptance. That’s how we create a more loving world. And it starts not with others, as many of us have been taught to believe, but with ourselves.

“Radical compassionate acceptance.” The moment those words left my teacher’s lips I was hooked. I had no idea what it meant; I only knew they were calling me to dive into the deep end of the pool. I didn’t know what would happen next; I only knew I could no longer tolerate the disparaging conversations constantly at play in my head. That was seven years ago. I went home after my first Zen meditation sitting group and made a sign with the words: Radical Compassionate Acceptance. That sign lived in my bedroom where I could see it every morning and every night and every moment in between when I wandered into my most sacred space.


My travels down this path began in a Zen meditation class and have continued to grow with the influence of many teachers—teachers who have come into my life through books, workshops, seminars, webinars, meditation experiences, in the most unlikely people, in the most likely people, in my ever evolving, transforming body, to support my blossoming into a whole human being. “Whole,” meaning I embrace all parts of myself (not just the “happy” parts), I embrace all parts of life (not just the “fun” parts). I have stopped chasing the orgasmic highs, with crashing lows, thinking that that is what it feels like to be alive.

New teachers come along right when I need them. Often the message is the same, but a new voice, dialogue, manner, delivery returns me to beginners mind and an opening appears. Suddenly I am able to let it in, that voice I have been hearing (but not hearing). We get things (insight) when we are ready and not one minute before.

Staying open, remembering we are all doing our best, not holding anyone to their last (or perhaps lowest) moment. Not holding ourselves to our last or perhaps lowest moment.

“The quality of our lives depends on the focus of our attention.”

To me, radical compassionate acceptance is holding space for everything. The pain, the worry, the fear, the joy, inspiration, and rapture that can happen all at the same time. My practice is to feel the pain, to embrace the full expression of life in me.

“If you can’t feel pain, you can’t feel anything else” – Ordinary People (1980)

Know that from this dark, smelly, grating place, when fully embraced, beauty emerges. If you don’t believe me, just look at life. The evidence is all around us.


Beauty emerges.

Last night I lay awake contemplating said test results. I tried to escape in all my usual ways, distraction, convincing arguments, research, pep talks. In the morning all that was left was to embrace this experience, to say yes, to ask my body what is wanting to emerge. To feel my feelings. When I was walking to my doctor’s office, the sidewalk was closed and I had to detour through a small park where I was greeted by a brilliant green hummingbird flying right up to me. Hummingbirds are my sign that all is well. I am on the right path. Beauty emerges. The evidence is all around me. As for my doctor’s appointment and the test results, more tests are being done, and my gut feeling is: all is well. On my way back to my car there was a bounce in my step and a lightness that came from nothing but being.

Care to share? I’d love to hear from you.

And remember. You get love. Exactly as you are.

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