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Radical Acceptance

Surrender into healing

Most of us spend our life wishing for something or someone we don't have, in other words, wishing for "what is not." When I think of how much of my life I have spent doing this, I even wonder "what would my life have been like if I had just accepted what is. Then I have to chuckle, realizing - I'm doing it again!!! Again wondering about something that can't happen, something that "is not."

For many of us, life's challenges have not been tiny and in some cases they have been massive. Perhaps you have a special needs child or you have a serious medical illness or significant financial worries. This seems fertile ground for wanting something else. One thing I've learned from being a doctor (that I learned from patients) is that all it takes to turn challenge into opportunity is attitude. And I don't mean bad attitude! Many of my patients who have cancer have told me that their diagnosis was a blessing. Perhaps it made them slow down enough to spend more time with family or friends or just to enjoy life more.

I recently saw Dr. Wayne Dyer's PBS special, "Excuses Begone." He brought a young man on the show who had suffered burns over 70% of his body when he was a toddler resulting in losing both hands and the toes of one of his feet. He went on to fulfill his dream of becoming a drummer and after he was introduced, he said "my being burned was a gift to me."

On NPR, I heard an interview with a recently deceased author, Reynolds Price, who became a paraplegic 30 years ago from spinal cancer. When asked if he had the proverbial magic wand and could no longer be paraplegic, he shockingly said "no." He went on to describe his paraplegia with all its problems and with all that it made him give up or lose as having changed his life in some ways for the better.

In these individuals, there was a unique and deep form of acceptance and surrender to their challenge or circumstance. It's the same type of surrender the Buddhists call "radical acceptance." Radical acceptance is accepting what is on a deep level without judgment - not saying it's right or wrong but just that it is.

In my work with drug addicts and those with eating disorders, I've seen individuals accept being abandoned by a parent. I've been privileged to witness individuals accept severe traumatic experiences and much more. It's not about how difficult your challenge. It's really about how much you want to heal back into life. Because non-acceptance keeps you in hell. It could be something as small as "my husband likes to watch TV at night and I don't" or "my son died."

It is not the size or severity of the problem that makes us able to accept what is. It is our intention to heal. An intention to heal brings us back to love which is the destination of our soul's journey to healing.