“I don’t like the way I look in this picture.” “I hate the wrinkles on my forehead.” “This is not the home I dreamed I’d be living in.” The circle of acceptance is a tool to help you explore this idea called radical compassionate acceptance. To dive deeper into yourself.
The concept itself is pretty simple. Make a circle (below you will find a circle you can print out if that’s easier for you). On the inside of the circle write the things about your life, yourself, your relationships, etc. you find acceptable.
On the outside of the circle, list the things you find unacceptable.
Note: In doing this exercise, you will also get a bonus exercise on projection. Hooray! Not sure what a projection is? Imagine your life is a movie and you’re brain is the movie projector. It is showing you the film called life based on the images and experiences cataloged in your mind/body. It can’t show you anything that’s not part of you. Therefore everything that exists “out there” also exists “in here”. Once on meditation retreat we were honored with the company of a donkey. A wonderful teacher about projection. When the donkey brayed throughout the day some retreatants felt sad, having heard sorrow and loneliness from the donkey. Others heard joy. Frustration. Anger. Each had their own experience of what was happening for the donkey.
If you find things acceptable about others in your circle of acceptance, can you find that thing acceptable about yourself? If you find things unacceptable about others (outside of the circle), can you see those things in yourself? The world around us is but a mirror of our own experience in this life, reflecting back to us who and what we are. Owning our projections presents us with opportunities to grow, embrace and love deeper than ever before.
Once you have completed this exercise, either visually, or physically put a circle around the whole thing. Nothing to fix. Nothing to change. Can you embrace all that you are? All that you find acceptable. All that you find unacceptable. Trust in the process of noticing and allowing. What happens next is nothing short of miraculous as life offers you the freedom to choose over and over again to embrace that which is unacceptable and that which is acceptable. To say, “Yes, thank you” (Rob Bell) or “And I love that” (Kyle Cease).
“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things they are transformed.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
As a deep practitioner of meditation and mindfulness, I am always astonished to see, when I am really honest, how much is on the outside of my circle of acceptance. Then I see this story I have about myself as a spiritual person, everything “should” be on the inside of this circle. That’s Zen right? Acceptance. Everything is acceptable. It took me a while to learn how to embrace everything, and that everything includes the unacceptable. Ego is a real trickster. Loves to play off my tendencies towards perfection (double Virgo nature).
My practice has become a gorgeous dance with the part of me who is a hot mess (sleek designer suits with matching accessories make my skin crawl), while at the same time embracing the part of me who is discriminating and likes things just so (like how the dishwasher is loaded, the towels are folded or the refrigerator is organized) and just so is completely personal and changeable and sometimes a bit critical. That’s what I am writing about next, embracing my critic. Until then, enjoy the circle of acceptance. Play, comment below, shout out if you just don’t get it (and want to).
Shared with love and awe,
P.S. Can you own these projections? Open your journal and write down what you see when you look at these photos.
These qualities live in you too. Mine: Breathtaking, powerful, serene, unlimited, expansive, magic.
What are yours? Notice and embrace. 🙂