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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.

333 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 2000

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About the author

Tara Brach

37 books1,482 followers
Tara Brach is a leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 40 years, with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation. Tara is the senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. A clinical psychologist, Tara is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, True Refuge: Finding Peace & Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart and Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of R.A.I.N. (Viking, Dec. 31, 2019).

Tara is nationally known for her skill in weaving western psychological wisdom with a range of meditative practices. Her approach emphasizes compassion for oneself and others, mindful presence and the direct realization and embodiment of natural awareness.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,472 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,402 reviews8,129 followers
March 6, 2016
How do we cope with unbearable pain? We drink, we eat, we smoke. We turn to our iPhones or our Facebook feeds or our video games. We lash out at ourselves or others. But what if instead of searching for external solutions, we learned how to cope with our pain - just by being with it? In her book Radical Acceptance, clinical psychologist and teacher of meditation Tara Brach urges us to do just that: accept ourselves and our pain, so we can treat ourselves with the care and kindness we deserve.

Radical acceptance may sound flimsy, but Brach makes sure to combat stereotypes about mindfulness and meditation. Radical acceptance does not mean giving up or sinking into passivity. Rather, it means giving ourselves the time and space to pause and to understand each moment, so our actions can reflect our compassion for the world, not just our emotional reactivity. Brach integrates some scientific theory as well as thoughts about medication in her book to enhance its holistic nature.

I have struggled with accepting the pain in my life. My eating disorder from years ago served as a way to deal with the pain of my abusive parents. If only I had had the resources to accept and validate my pain, as opposed to fighting it. Even now, I sometimes face concerns about my potential as a psychologist, as a writer. But through radical acceptance, general mindfulness, and Tara Brach's shining example of vulnerability, I know that it is never too late to apply love and tenderness to myself, so I can reclaim my confidence and thrive.

I would recommend Radical Acceptance to anyone interested in learning to affirm their emotions and tolerate their pain, both mental and physical. While a little light on scientific theory, Brach does a wonderful job encouraging her readers to slow down and to sit with themselves, with mindfulness and wonder. Also, if this one appeals to you, I would further recommend Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.
Profile Image for Krishna Chaitanya.
68 reviews122 followers
May 28, 2022
I heard about Tara Brach for the first time in the book Tools of Titans and that's how I ended up reading this wonderful book.

Radical acceptance is about accepting what life offers, as it is. That does not mean, you should be non-reactive to whatever bad comes your way, it's about becoming self-aware in tough situations, pay attention to the negative emotions within and take care of these emotions to become mindful and at peace.

At times anyone would have had a feeling of unworthiness, fear of rejection, sour to our family and friends, longing for fame, this would cause shame, distress, broken relations, reduce in productivity at work and decline in health. The author helps to resolve these problems with her personal experiences, case histories, Buddhist teachings and meditation practices. Each chapter ends with a meditation practice to let go of the negative emotion.

This book is not a quick fix to achieve mindfulness. It takes time and consistent practice of the guided meditations offered, this book will help you to get there.
Profile Image for Robert.
16 reviews28 followers
June 1, 2007
Not overly impressive, but a nice and helpful book. Brach writes a treatise on how the integration of Buddhist spirituality and meditative practices (most often based in the Theravadan traditions of vipassana and metta) can partner with western psychotherapy to assist in healing and personal development.

Intellectually it is pretty lightweight, which isn’t to say that it doesn’t package and reiterate some helpful ideas in useful ways. My biggest challenge with the book was that I couldn’t really figure out what she was trying to do: Is it a dharma book? A self-help book? An instructional book to therapists? Not that there can’t be some overlap, but it read to me as being a shallow bit of all of these without going deeply into any of them. Her “cases” are particularly weak as very quickly the recipe for them become clear (a client/patient is stuck or having some kind of intractable problem, works with Brach to integrate the cultivation of mindfulness and compassion, and presto change-o! All is well. It can also be difficult to read some of these without a touch of eye-rolling since in her descriptions of her patients post-practice often includes descriptions where they are “filled with light” “in touch with the great emptiness of awareness” etc (I’m paraphrasing).

Her breaking down of specific concepts and applying them (somewhat) systematically is helpful and for most of the book, a breezy read (I found the last few chapters that I was losing a bit of patience), and her inclusion of specific exercises and meditations connected to each concept by chapter is helpful. As, to whatever degree it is, the book has some role as a discussion and instructional guide for practitioner/therapists interested in integrating meditative practices and Buddhist spirituality into their work it would have been extremely helpful, and in my mind helped her cause of this as a serious discussion, if she had spent some focused time and energy on the challenges of doing so, some cases that didn’t go so well, places where the two traditions can seem (and maybe or maybe not be) contradictory or incompatible.

Those looking to specifically integrate mindfulness/vipassana connected traditions and practice to psychotherapy practice will find a pleasant snack here, but not a substantive meal. For a more interesting and more exploratory, and less evangelical (although no less passionate), discussion of the integration of psychotherapy (rooted mostly in psychodynamic theory) and Buddhism, try Mark Epstein’s books, “Thoughts Without a Thinker,” “Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, “ and “Open to Desire.”
Profile Image for Diane.
1,079 reviews2,609 followers
January 11, 2020
A friend had recommended Tara Brach's work to me, and I found this book to be very insightful and meaningful. Recommended for those interested in self-compassion and mindfulness.
Profile Image for Kate.
4 reviews5 followers
August 26, 2016
I think the perceptions of this book are directly related to the suffering and innate self hatred that the reader possesses. When the concept of lovingkindness is absolutely foreign to you then this book can save your life.

Something I absolutely cherish about this book is kind and gentle repetition. I would read a concept and compartmentalize it as something I either had heard before, already knew, or couldn't possibly work. Then she'd reintroduce the same concept with a case study, a personal example or simply restated. Eventually even my stubborn mind was able to accept and hear the message it was trying so hard to avoid and reject.

Along those same lines the author seemed to anticipate my mental rejection of the concepts. She would directly confront rationalizations, sarcastic comments or undermining doubts in a way that clearly demonstrated she understood the problems faced by her readers.

The most profound impact that this book had was not while I was reading it but later, when I would try and become frustrated at being unable to implement it's teachings. I would chastise myself or the book or ideas and suddenly become aware that I was falling into a pattern explicitly detailed here and given instructions on how to unravel the habits I had become so used to.

That is not to imply that this book is a cure all for deep, debilitating issues but it's a really excellent introduction to thought processes and patterns that we each are so lacking -- particularly those most dramatically affected by mental disorders or severe depression / anxiety / self-hatred.
Profile Image for Alex Orr.
142 reviews6 followers
October 7, 2016
To some degree, I think what you get out of this book depends on what issues you are dealing with and what brought you to the book. Like a lot of folks, I heard about Tara from Tim Ferris's podcast. I enjoyed her episode and picked up the book mostly out of curiosity. I've been meditating for about a year and have been curious about ways to try and practice greater mindfulness in my everyday life. Tara's book does offer some insight into those areas, but the primary focus of the book is more directly aimed at those suffering from some rather specific sets of emotional crises. Now, I'm not saying I'm perfect and don't have my own neuroses, but reading through the book, I rarely felt like the specific examples really applied to my life. In general, each chapter is based around a couple of extended stories about clients who Tara has worked with. I hate to sound too cynical, but after a while, they all start to blend into a very melodramatic, Freudian miasma of self-hate, childhood trauma, and parental resentment. In the end, almost every case involves Tara talking her client into a sort of hypnotic state and then the client realizing that st some point she was repressing some sort of horrible abuse fostered upon her by her parents when she was a child. Once Tara makes them realize that the abuse is not their fault, and they just need to accept the pain, they are magically cured. Never really having much in the way of self-hate, nor (to the best of my knowledge) ever having been abused by a family member as a child, all of the chapters seemed rather far from my own life. Furthermore, the way they all seemed to follow the same script seemed a bit too hard to believe. That said, if you do struggle with self-hatred due to repressed memories of child abuse, well, maybe this is the exact book you need. My other big qualm is that she never really fleshes out some of the philosophical difficulties with her idea of acceptance. It's all well and good to say that if the violent alcoholic who is forever remorseful about his alcoholism and violent behavior would just accept it and stop blaming himself then...well...what exactly? In Tara's world he'll magically stop being a violent alcoholic. But what if he simply makes peace with it and now behaves the same but without any guilt? For me, there were a few nuggets of wisdom in here, but as a whole, I found her basic notion underdeveloped and her examples to be a bit too perfectly tailored to support her central thesis to be believable.
13 reviews5 followers
July 19, 2012

One sometimes runs into folks who are suspicious of Buddhism and particularly of the capacity of westerners to find solace in an allegedly Buddhist perspective. I am not a Buddhist, but have found a lot of value in meditation--and in the ethical viewpoint roughly associated with Buddhist practice.

So if the discussion comes to exchanging book titles this is the one I recommend as an introduction to what I'll roughly call a Buddhist approach to suffering. There are better books on meditation. There are better books on the Precepts--the founding concerns of Buddhist ethical life. There are better books on...Buddhist monastic life, lay life, activism, spirituality, sexuality, relation to psychotherapy, the tradition's kooks and heroes and Americanization.

But I don't think there's a better-voiced introductory book on the practical value of cultivating a Buddhist frame of mind in relation to suffering and what she calls "the trances" of everyday life. The first time an American from what is most likely a Christian background picks up a Buddhisty book it's likely to be pretty scary. Tara Brach seems to get that, and to address such seekers in an inviting and heart-opening way.

One of the things I like about this book is the many sources it draws on. It is personal, telling, for example, of joining an ashram and having a falling out with its leader, of a divorce, of difficulties in raising her son. It draws on her professional work, relating stories of exchanges that, as a psychotherapist, she has had with her clients. And most of all it is literary, skillfully so. She retells and interprets stories from the tradition, as well as anecdotes from contemporary American life, all to the end of introducing the outlines of a kind of consciousness she calls "Radical Acceptance."

There is a two star review by Robert who calls the book "pretty lightweight." I think I can see where he's coming from, although the way that I'd put it is that this book is highly syncretic. Robert damns the book's stylistic achievement with faint praise calling it "a breezy read." Here I would disagree. It does go down easy, but the "it" that goes down is a broad, passionate, intelligent, practical introduction to a rich spiritual tradition about which there is a growing curiosity.
Profile Image for Caterina (on hiatus).
235 reviews90 followers
April 25, 2017
This book offers much more than it first seems to. From introducing the Buddhist practice of mindfulness as applied to difficult experiences, it deepens and opens out into practices of radical compassion for oneself and others - radical lovingkindness. Working & practicing my way through this book very slowly over four months' time has been a tremendous gift. Tara Brach begins by teaching a new way of approaching emotionally intolerable situations - being overwhelmed and practically nonfunctional because of physical manifestations of anxiety, fear, desire, melancholy, depression, anger, embarrassment, as well as by a sense of unworthiness, guilt or shame. She delves into situations of interpersonal conflict, loss, grief, and learning to forgive when forgiveness seems impossible.

The practice begins centered in the self and slowly shifts over time to an outward focused, selfless practice of awareness and compassion. It begins by pausing, stepping back, and becoming fully aware of everything that is going on within and around oneself; and then regarding oneself and these experiences gently and without immediate judgment. With clear seeing and "radical acceptance" the situation and my own emotions may still exist but they are no longer completely disabling and in fact it might even be possible to appreciate them. I honestly do not always want to get rid of my sometimes intolerably intense emotions and responses to things because, as an artist, they form the fuel for the power and intensity of my art. But still, it can be hard to live with them in relationships as well as by myself. And - as the practice develops, lo and behold it becomes possible to shift from focus on oneself to focus on others, lovingkindness for others. To learn to live with in peace with myself and others - at least more of the time - is an indescribable blessing.

This is also a lovely book, filled with poetry by Rumi, Rilke and others. Tara Brach is quite vulnerable in sharing her personal stories, which may or may not appeal to everyone, but you do not have to have a story line similar to hers to appreciate the teachings. I have tagged many passages and poems to return to.

I first reviewed this book when I had only read it halfway through (twice) and thought I "got" it - but don't stop when you're halfway through, because the book is structured to deepen and expand as it goes along, building on previous knowledge, and the second half focuses most strongly on the practices of lovingkindness and is very worthwhile.
Profile Image for Natalie.
310 reviews135 followers
April 29, 2013
So I don't usually read self-help books. At all. I kinda hate them. And I don't usually read hippy dippy Buddhist stuff either, because I get too scoffy.

When I started this one, I almost didn't go past the first chapter, because it was not really resonating with me at all. And parts of the book (like the closing chapter on discovering our true essence and realizing we are nothing but awareness..... super hippy dippy) totally fell flat.

But there were a few key sections, and really the overarching concept, that were just so useful and important and applicable. I liked a lot how she used real life anecdotes about people applying these concepts to their own challenges.

I particularly appreciated the chapter on how to accept fear and the accompanying meditation guide for how to work through fear to a place of acceptance and power. It is a skill set I need to develop in a bad way before I go through childbirth in a few months. :)

I'm also on a somewhat hippy-dippy "journey" in general to reshape/revitalize my spirituality which I thought had been permanently killed and buried, and which I'm really enjoying being able to connect with in new ways. And reading about different spiritual experiences people have with these meditation techniques, and feeling the familiarity of it all from when I used to pray on my knees to Jesus, really reawakened a desire to use that part of myself.

I was gonna give it 4 stars, but there were some random, subtle hints of misogyny (totally random calling of one woman a bitch, and a few little diatribes about how uncaring mothers can emotionally fuck up their children for life). Disappointing to see those in here in a couple of spots, but not enough to eliminate the usefulness of a 300-page book.
Profile Image for Martha.
277 reviews37 followers
April 1, 2008
Kripalu Yoga is primarily a practice of compassion, and this book is it's perfect companion. The foundation of all yoga practice is acceptance, and it begins with ourselves. Feelings of deficiency are common to all of us. Being criticized, making mistakes, and experiencing relationship difficulties, all can make us feel unworthy. Our human suffering and our loneliness keep us from feeling fulfilled. Recognizing how we become trapped by these feelings is the first step in reconnecting with who we really are: perfect beings. Through personal stories, case histories and guided meditations, Ms Brach brings her teachings alive, showing her readers how to transcend their day-to-day existence to arrive at a sense of clearsightedness and acceptance of who they are in every moment of their lives. Based in Buddhist teachings, we awaken to our experience exactly as it is, and find the joy that is our birthright. This is a book to savor and reread again and again, a place of refuge in a chaotic and jarring world.
738 reviews7 followers
February 25, 2021
I like the message a lot. I've just always had an aversion to books that relate to the reader though anecdotes about patients and clients. "This lesson brings to mind my patient Daniel, who was struggling with..." every chapter is filled with these. They left me feeling like I was in a Dale Carnegie Buddhism class. That's not bad, really, but this style of writing rings inauthentic.

Brach's teaching and meditations, minus this, would have made for a better read. Many people will like her relatable anecdotes. My critique is a personal preference.
Profile Image for Lavonne.
219 reviews4 followers
February 22, 2009
I have tried twice to read the Power of Now, and could never quite grasp what all the fuss was about. This book, Radical Acceptance, delivered the insights that I was supposed to get from the other book. It is basically talking about the same subjects, but Tara Brach brings a humanity to her approach that is sadly missing in Power of Now.

She has been persuing a spiritual path for many years and speaks with knowledge and compasison. Yet, she admits that when she is continuously approached by a difficult student or her son misses the bus and has to be rushed to school, she sometimes gets caught up in the anxieties and difficulties of just living life. Again and again, it is mentioned that she has to keep reminding herself of her spirituality.

I love that humanness. It makes me feel that I can do this, too. After all, who has five months to sit on a park bench and contemplate life? Most of us have to continue to deal with life, regardless of what spiritual path we are on. Tara Brach shows one way that you can do both.
Profile Image for Amanda.
270 reviews3 followers
November 3, 2015
I tried to read this a second time and while it does have some nice points, it's nothing new to anyone who has ever read a book (or a dozen!) on mindfulness, Buddhism, etc.

Also, I always find it super depressing that people who have meditated for decades, and lead workshops and write entire books on the subject still deal daily with anger, depression, anxiety, etc. I know it's just part of being human and I should radically accept it, but man, does it get me down...
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,448 reviews366 followers
February 23, 2019
A wonderful book on accepting one's self and life exactly as they are (thus creating the possibility of change). Brach provides many wonderful meditations which I've already begun using and find very helpful.

The writing is clear and warm and easy to follow. It would be a fast read if there weren't so much to pay attention to. I was also slowed up because I stopped to use her different suggestions.

I also enjoyed her use of the examples of other people and their struggles (as well as their successes) and her sharing of her own personal experiences. They created a personal connection to her work that otherwise might have felt more distant and abstract. Her examples both drew me in emotionally and provided more understanding of how to use her suggestions.

This is a book I will continue to study. I can't wait to read another of her works. I felt like I found a friend here, a companion on my own spiritual journey.
Profile Image for Donna Kirk.
113 reviews4 followers
Read
August 19, 2008
about recognizing, with compassion, your own weaknesses and in the end, finding room to accept them and treat them with love; in effect, healing yourself.

It's like going over to a suffering plant in a garden and tending to it with care, feeding the soil, doing away with pests, giving it compost, sunlight, water; is, metaphorically, how this book suggests we deal with our own fragile, deeply human lives -- that by encouraging our friends and families to take care of themselves the same way, we collectively reach a higher state of health, freedom and, ultimately, justice. The actual book review says more on this, too.
Profile Image for Michelle.
13 reviews3 followers
June 26, 2011
If I pause and accept any more radically than I have come to realize I do, my husband will divorce me and my kids will starve.
Profile Image for Joe Rumbo.
2 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2008
I've only read the previous edition, but I am here to tell you that Brach brings a message that is welcome tonic to the soul of anyone who has ever felt inadequate or unworthy for any reason. Usually these reasons have to do with culturally defined standards and ideals that no person can ever live up to fully. Brach skillfully weaves these influences together with psychological and Christianity-based explanations of how we live our lives in the 'trance of unworthiness,' and how we can move beyond it. It's all about accepting yourself, of discovering and treasuring the unique goodness within you, and of training ourselves to see these qualities in other people. Book offers guided meditations at the end of each chapter to help the reader work on the principles and living practices that chapter discusses.
Profile Image for Caterina.
21 reviews
January 15, 2019
Radical acceptance was suggested to me by my therapist, and since I’ve started listening to the audiobook, I’ve gone back to parts of it over and over. It's been enlightening more than any other self-help book I’ve read (which are not many, to be fair).

I'm not particularly spiritual, or good at sitting still and meditating. But, since I've been listening to this book, I've made more efforts throughout the day to hold a caring thought to my body and myself, especially in the moments in which I don't feel great about things. If it hasn't opened the gates of happiness, it definitely has helped in making me realize I spend way too much time running away from negative thoughts, and trying to distract myself with ephemeral things, rather than facing them.

The main message of the book is quite simple, but extremely important: many people in modern society, if not almost everyone, deep down feels a feeling of unworthiness, that we’re not enough to be loved the way we are. We keep attacking ourselves, and criticizing ourselves, treating ourselves with little kindness. We’re trapped in feelings of shame and guilt: we do not deserve to be happy, but all we look for is to be loved, to feel whole and happy.

Here is were radical acceptance comes to play: instead of running away from bad feelings, one has to look them in the eyes, to acknowledge them, to feel them. Rather than running away from the pain, one should hold its hands, and eventually she’ll go away on its own. Meeting sadness or pain as a part of life and existence, the way of the Buddha, rather than something to be run away form. A way in which one can hold on to this is through a body scan: once an unpleasant feeling starts to arise in the body, in the stomach, in the head or chest, that can be used as an anchor to understand what we’re feeling.

Once the suffering has been detected and acknowledged, the stage of compassion can initiate: instead of shoving the pain away, instead of feeling ashamed for suffering, the pain can be soothed by a deep compassion for oneself, a taking care of your own wounds.

We all commit mistakes, we all feel shame and guilt. But the first stage towards finding others’ forgiveness is accepting the pain, and feeling compassion for oneself.

It’s important to not confuse the acceptance of pain with playing victim, being resigned to suffer and giving in. That is not what radical acceptance should be about, according to TB: radical acceptance is a process that frees the mind from the anxieties, confusion and restlessness that negative emotions may arise, and in this way it creates space for the mind to see clearly, to engage in more thoughtful actions.
Profile Image for Heather Delia.
79 reviews1 follower
August 28, 2015
I disliked this book enough to stop reading it with 75 pages left to go. No compelling reason to finish it. The meditations were nice, if someone were reading them...but you can't read it and meditate at the same time. I found the book to be very repetitive and somewhat annoying.
43 reviews1 follower
August 9, 2021
I came across this books couple times in different recomendations and decided to check it out, however now I think it was a bad timing for me to pick it up as it didn't resonate with me at this point of my life. Having said this I would say that there is something in this book for everyone as themes in chapters differ. If I would have to call out one thing that made this book interesting for me is the social aspect of spiritual practices on the East in comaprison to West.
Profile Image for Sandy Plants.
255 reviews17 followers
June 7, 2019
I found it difficult to finish this book... I found a lot of wisdom in it but I also felt frustrated with it most of the time.

My judgement is that it would have been more effective if it were half the length (or maybe a 20 page leaflet). There were just too many stories for my liking (I acknowledge that they were triggering for me: they reminded me of all the used-car-salesmen-looking pastors I used to have to listen to every Sunday growing up who used story after story to badger their point home—a form of emotional manipulation in my judgment).

Also, this isn’t anything new, it’s recycled eastern philosophy and spirituality, white-washed and repackaged for wealthy, white people (not that that’s a “bad” thing)...

I also feel a near-allergic reaction to “self-help” books written in “we” statements (eg. “When WE begin to feel our feelings, WE see our true self blah blah blah”). I judge it to be emotionally coercive and passive and my want is for everyone to own their judgements and wants and beliefs—ESPECIALLY “spiritual” teachers!—by switching to “I” statements (eg. “My judgement/belief is that when I begin to feel my feelings, I see my true self”).

I realized very early on that so many of the shitty, unhelpful therapists I saw in my twenties had read this book and adopted a quasi-understanding of it (in my judgement). I found it really unhelpful and destructive then and now, though now that I’ve read this book, I understand the heart of what they intended. Unfortunately they seemed to have used it as a way of denying and disregarding my feelings, which, I judge to be NOT the aim of this book...

So, it’s fair to say this was a sore spot for me—it triggered me and because of that, I found it hard to appreciate and enjoy it—I feel disappointed 🤷🏻‍♀️
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,204 followers
Read
August 3, 2019
I listened to this after Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed and they went together really nicely. Brach is a therapist, but she's also a follower of Buddhism and weaves spiritual lessons and understandings with western therapeutic practices. I was really into this -- not all of it was new to me, and in fact, not much was because of my own background in this arena -- but it became outstanding when Brach talked about why there's a false dichotomy when people assume mental health medication means you can't practice things like meditation or seek enlightenment honestly. They're not related at all.

A must-read for those who practice yoga, especially the off-the-mat stuff. No need to be Buddhist, but rather, be open to better understanding the philosophies behind it.
Profile Image for Nicole.
367 reviews23 followers
June 5, 2020
I've been studying Buddhism since I went to India in 2006 to learn from Geshe Sonam Rinchen at the Tibetan Library and Archives in Dharmasala, India, and with the Dalai Lama at a mass teaching. Translating a religion from one culture to another is an immense task, and one that has been happening seriously for Buddhism the only in the last fifty years or so.

I first came to Buddhism because I was raised by an atheist and a new ager, and wanted to be part of an organized religion but felt uncomfortable with God and the Bible. Yet as much as I loved Buddhist philosophy, the spiritual communities that have sprung up around it here in the US can be difficult to navigate. The intense hierarchy of a collectivist based culture such as Tibet translates poorly into the individualistic one of the West, and both teachers and students here can easily loose their way. I was able to scratch the surface, but there was much that was lost on me. With our American drive for excellence and superiority, it's easy to be pretentious and competitive in one's quest for spiritual understanding, and all I can say for myself is that I'm very glad I am open to being mistaken.

Western teachers such as Tara Brach are vitally important in this work of culturally translating Buddhism. This book brings clarification to practicing Buddhism as a westerner, and it makes sense that it is psychologists who are also practitioners that are able to be the most effective at this. Brach spells out insights for us in a way that is relatable and full of humility. Meditation isn't disconnecting into a realm apart from the self, it's about connecting with the self and riding through the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings we have until we're able to address the baggage they contain. Compassion is entwined completely with accepting oneself, warts and all, so that we can accept others as they are, warts and all. We all have Buddha-nature. Uncovering it is not the work of a moment, but a continual effort of quieting ourselves in a sea of uncertainty and hardships.

I don't know if I read this work earlier in my life if I would have gotten as much out of it as I have now. I could have easily dismissed it in my need to see myself as intellectual and discerning. Brach liberally blends lineages within both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, and uses the format of a self-help book. But what is spirituality but self-help? Religion and philosophy should ultimately be practical everyday ideas that help us live a better life. Buddhism strives to help us realize that we have the answers within us right now, and Brach is doing the same thing. The Dharma comes in many formats, from the Unitarian Universalist ministry I currently attend, to this book. We just have to be open to receiving it.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
143 reviews4 followers
October 15, 2010
Full marks for the gist and low marks for the execution. A little too self-helpy and over-written, yet the idea of bringing radical acceptance/compassion to ourselves and others is pretty much the only hope for emotional sanity in this world. But for content, economy, and grace, I'm finding Ezra Bayda's "Being Zen" to be a huge improvement. Let's just say Bayda's book is going on my shelves when I'm done. Brach's book is going to half.com.
Profile Image for Ihor Kolesnyk.
366 reviews
November 19, 2020
Багато гарних моментів, прикладів, тез. Багато мудрості терапевтки, яка пройшла не один ретрит із власними страхами. Багато досвідів вчительки, яка допомагає іншим.
Гарна книга, яку варто прочитати.

Для мене було забагато "духовності", посилань на релігію, різних поетів та письменників, містиків і мудреців. Мені би більше методики і менше води, але мабуть для когось із читачів саме це і потрібно - більше "духовної" води і трохи пафосу.

Profile Image for Tara Brach.
Author 37 books1,482 followers
May 24, 2012
An excellent supplement to the book, Radical Acceptance. The meditations from the end of each chapter are read aloud.
Profile Image for April.
506 reviews8 followers
November 5, 2020
I wanted to highlight this whole book! So much that resonates for me and that I can relate to. This is one for me to own so I can continue to go back to it. Applying Radical Acceptance in my life has been healing.

“Radical Acceptance reverses our habit of living at war with experiences that are unfamiliar, frightening or intense. It is the necessary antidote to years of neglecting ourselves, years of judging and treating ourselves harshly, years of rejecting this moment’s experience. Radical Acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves and our life as it is. A moment of Radical Acceptance is a moment of genuine freedom.” pg. 4

“Those who feel plagued by not being good enough are often drawn to idealistic worldviews that offer the possibility of purifying and transcending a flawed nature. This quest for perfection is based in the assumption that we must change ourselves to belong. We may listen longingly to the message that wholeness and goodness have always been our essence, yet still feel like outsiders, uninvited guests at the feast of life.” pg. 10

“The message of ‘original sin’ is unequivocal: Because of our basically flawed nature, we do not deserve to be happy, loved by others, at ease with life. We are outcasts, and if we are to reenter the garden, we must redeem our sinful selves. We must overcome our flaws by controlling our bodies, controlling our emotions, controlling our natural surroundings, controlling other people. And we must strive tirelessly—working, acquiring, consuming, achieving, e-mailing, overcommitting and rushing—in a never-ending quest to prove ourselves once and for all.” pg. 12

“Rather than relaxing and enjoying who we are and what we’re doing, we are comparing ourselves with an ideal and trying to make up for the difference.” pg. 15

Strategies to Manage the Pain of Inadequacy
- We embark on one self-improvement project after another.
- We hold back and play it safe rather than risking failure.
- We withdraw from our experience of the present moment.
- We keep busy.
- We become our own worst critics.
- We focus on other people’s faults.

“The painful truth is that all of these strategies simply reinforce the very insecurities that sustain the trance of unworthiness. The more we anxiously tell ourselves stories about how we might fail or what is wrong with us or with others, the more we deepen the grooves—the neural pathways—that generate feelings of deficiency. Every time we hide a defeat we reinforce the fear that we are insufficient. When we strive to impress our outdo others, we strengthen the underlying belief that we are not god enough as we are. This doesn’t mean that we can’t compete in a healthy way, put wholehearted effort into work or acknowledge and take pleasure in our own competence. But when our efforts are driven by the fear that we are flawed, we deepen the trance of unworthiness.” pg. 17

“Wanting and fearing are natural energies, part of evolution’s design to protect us and help us to thrive. But when they become the core of our identity, we lose sight of the fullness of our being. We become identified with, at best, only a sliver of our natural being—a sliver that perceives itself as incomplete, at risk and separate from the rest of the world. If our sense of who we are is defined by feelings of neediness and insecurity, we forget that we are also curious, humorous and caring. We forget about the breath that is nourishing us, the love that unites us, the enormous beauty and fragility that is our shared experience in being alive. Most basically, we forget the pure awareness, the radiant wakefulness that is our Buddha nature.” pg. 20

“The renowned seventh-century Zen master Seng-tsan taught that true freedom is being ‘without anxiety about imperfection.’ This means accepting our human existence and all of life as it is. Imperfection is not our personal problem—it is a natural part of existing. We all get caught in wants and fears, we all act unconsciously, we all get diseased and deteriorate. When we relax about imperfection, we no longer lose our life moments in the pursuit of being different and in the fear of what is wrong.” pg. 21

“As you go through your day, pause occasionally to ask yourself, ‘This moment, do I accept myself just as I am?’ Without judging yourself, simply become aware of how you are relating to your body, emotions, thoughts and behaviors. As the trance of unworthiness becomes conscious, it begins to lose its power over our lives.” pg. 23

“Perhaps the biggest tragedy in our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns. Entangled in the trance of unworthiness, we grow accustomed to caging ourselves in with self-judgment and anxiety, with restlessness and dissatisfaction. . . We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small. . . we can learn to recognize when we are keeping ourselves trapped by our own beliefs and fears. We can see how we are wasting our precious lives.” pg. 25

“The way out of our cage begins with accepting absolutely everything about ourselves and our lives, by embracing with wakefulness and care our moment-to-moment experience. By accepting absolutely everything, what I mean is that we are aware of what is happening within our body and mind in any given moment, without trying to control or judge or pull away. I do not mean that we are putting up with harmful behavior—our own or another’s. This is an inner process of accepting our actual, present-moment experience. It means feeling sorrow and pain without resisting. It means feeling desire or dislike for someone or something without judging ourselves for the feeling or being driven to act on it.” pg. 25

“As we lean into the experience of the moment—releasing our stories and gently holding our pain or desire—Radical Acceptance begins to unfold. The two parts of genuine acceptance—seeing clearly and holding our experience with compassion—are as interdependent as the two wings of a great bird. Together, they enable us to fly and be free.” pg. 27

“As I opened to pain without resisting it, everything in my experience softened and became more fluid.
In my mind a new voice arose: I want to accept myself completely, even if I am as flawed as my teacher claimed. Even if my striving and insecurity meant I was ‘caught up in my ego,’ I wanted to hold myself warmly, honor myself, not condemn myself. Even if I was selfish and critical, I wanted to accept those aspects of myself unconditionally. I wanted to stop the ceaseless monitoring and criticizing.
I found myself praying: ‘May I love and accept myself just as I am.’ I began to feel as if I were gently cradling myself. Every wave of life moving through me belonged and was acceptable. Even the voice of fear, the one that told me ‘something is wrong with me,’ was acceptable and could not taint this deep and genuine caring.” pg. 35

“Over the years, I’ve come to see my experience at the desert retreat less as a betrayal by my teacher than as a window into how much I had betrayed myself. In the face of his attack, my habitual defensive strategies crumbled, and I hit bottom. While I was plunged into excruciating pain, it served to reveal the pain of unworthiness I had been living with for years. Fear of being a flawed person lay at the root of my trance, and I had sacrificed many moments over the years in trying to prove my worth. . . I inhabited a self-made prison that stopped me from living fully. Radical Acceptance of all my feelings and fears of imperfection was the only way I could free myself. By attending to the bandaged place—embracing the pain I had been running from—I began to trust myself and my life.” pg. 37

“But Radical Acceptance also means not overlooking another important truth: the endless creativity and possibility that exist in living. By accepting the truth of change, accepting that we don’t know how our life will unfold, we open ourselves to hope so that we can move forward with vitality and will. As so beautifully modeled by actor Christopher Reeve after her was paralyzed in a riding accident, we can throw our full spirit into recovery—we can ‘go for it’ in physical therapy, in sustaining rich relationships with others, in growing and learning from whatever we experience. In fact, through his efforts Mr. Reeve has discovered a level of recovery formerly deemed impossible. By meeting our actual experience with the clarity and kindness of Radical Acceptance, we discover that whatever our circumstances, we remain free to live creatively, to love fully.” pg. 39

“It [meditation geared toward cultivating a state of peacefulness, energy or rapture] was a valuable training, but I found that when I was in emotional turmoil, these meditations at best only temporarily covered over my distress. I was manipulating my inner experience rather than being with what was actually happening. The Buddhist mindfulness practices, on the other hand, taught me to simply open and allow the changing stream of experience to move through me. When a harsh self-judgment appeared, I could recognize it simply as a passing thought. It might be a tenacious and regular visitor, but realizing it wasn’t truth was wonderfully liberating. . .I was no longer striving to rid myself of pain, rather I was learning to relate to the suffering I felt with care. From the very start, these practices carried me to a loving, open and accepting awareness that felt like my true nature.” pg. 43-44

“Many times since then, especially when I’ve been caught up in tension or self-judgment, I have stopped and asked myself, ’What would it be like if I could accept life—accept this moment—exactly as it is?’ Regardless of which particular mental movie has been playing, just the intention to accept my experience begins to deepen my attention and soften my heart. As I grow more intimate with the actual waves of experience moving through me, the running commentary in my mind releases its grip, and the tension in my body begins to dissolve. Each time I begin again, wakefully allowing life to be as it is, I experience that vivid sense of arriving, of reentering the changing flow of experience. This ‘letting be’ is the gateway to being filled with wonder and fully alive.” pg. 44-45

“As author Storm Jameson puts it:
There is only one world, the world pressing against you at this minute. There is only one minute in which you are alive, this minute here and now. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.” pg. 45

“On this sacred path of Radical Acceptance, rather than striving for perfection, we discover how to love ourselves into wholeness.” pg. 45

“Taking our hands off the controls and pausing is an opportunity to clearly see the wants and fears that are driving us. During the moments of a pause, we become conscious of how the feeling that something is missing or wrong keeps us leaning into the future, on our way somewhere else. This gives us a fundamental choice in how we respond: We can continue our future attempts at managing our experience, or we can meet our vulnerability with the wisdom of Radical Acceptance.” pg. 52

“The image of the Buddha seated under the bodhi tree is one of the great mythic symbols depicting the power of the pause. Siddhartha was no longer clinging to pleasure or running away from any part of his experience. He was making himself absolutely available to the changing stream of life. This attitude of neither grasping nor pushing away any experience has come to be known as the Middle Way, and it characterizes the engaged presence we awaken in pausing. In the pause, we, like Siddhartha, become available to whatever life brings us, including the unfaced, unfelt parts of our psyche.” pg. 60

“We practice Radical Acceptance by pausing and then meeting whatever is happening inside us with this kind of unconditional friendliness. Instead of turning our jealous thoughts or angry feelings into the enemy, we pay attention in a way that enables us to recognize and touch an experience with care. Nothing is wrong—whatever is happening is just ‘real life.’ Such unconditional friendliness is the spirit of Radical Acceptance.” pg. 75

“When we offer ourselves the same quality of unconditional friendliness that we would offer to a friend, we stop denying our suffering. As we figuratively sit beside ourselves and inquire, listen and name our experience, we see Mara clearly and open our heart in tenderness for the suffering before us.” pg. 81

“We bring alive the spirit of Radical Acceptance when, instead of resisting emotional pain, we are able to say yes to our experience. Pat Rodegast (representing the teachings of Emmanuel) writes, ‘So walk with your heaviness, saying yes. Yes to the sadness, yes to the whispered longing. Yes to the fear. Love means setting aside walls, fences, and unlocking doors, and saying yes . . . one can be in paradise by simply saying yes to this moment.’ The instant we agree to feel fear or vulnerability, greed or agitation, we are holding our life with an unconditionally friendly heart.” pg. 82

“It’s also easy to mistakenly consider yes as a technique to get rid of unpleasant feelings and make us feel better. Saying yes is not a way of manipulating our experience, but rather an aid to opening to life as it is. While we might, as I experienced on retreat, say yes and feel lighter and happier, this is not necessarily what happens. If we say yes to a feeling of sadness, for instance, it might swell into full-blown grieving. Yet regardless of how our experience unfolds, by agreeing to what is here, we offer it the space to express and move through us.” pg. 83

“When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is.” pg. 86

“While fear of pain is a natural human reaction, it is particularly dominant in our culture, where we consider pain as bad or wrong. Mistrusting our bodies, we try to control them in the same way that we try to manage the natural world. We use painkillers, assuming that whatever removes pain is the right thing to do. This includes all pain—the pains of childbirth and menstruating, the common cold and disease, aging and death. In our society’s cultural trance, rather than a natural phenomenon, pain is regarded as the enemy. Pain is the messenger we try to kill, not something we allow and embrace.” pg. 105

It was just pain, not wrong, and I could open up and accept it.
Being alive includes feeling pain, sometimes intense pain. . . .Given the very real relationship between pain and loss, no wonder we add on the belief that pain means ‘something is wrong.’ No wonder we respond with fear and compulsively try to manage or eliminate our pain.” pg. 106

Book: borrowed from SSF Main Library.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jenn "JR".
433 reviews75 followers
December 14, 2018
These days, it feels like emotional reasoning and unchecked emotional responses are endorsed and increasingly seen as the default or "right" way of behaving. We are encouraged to indulge in whatever we want and feel as being our right and the best way of being in the world. I can't help but think that's not right -- and all the books I have read about leadership, emotional development, connecting with people and meditation recommend a higher level of self awareness and just taking a pause before reacting emotionally.

Tara Brach has a very excellent writing style -- this book isn't emotionally or intellectually heavy, and there is some repetition but it's all done with very clearly written and engaging examples from cases studies of actual people and mythology.

I especially appreciate the recurring theme of "Mara" as the demon of fear/shame. Step into that fear and accept and experience it -- and you'll find that you defuse the power of that as soon as you choose to do so (vs giving it power by running and hiding from it).

The key points for me in this book are of mindfulness -- just being present, learning to expand your awareness to feel greater compassion for others and yourself, appreciating the current experience and being open to more choices about what is available. And - the illusion of "self" - we all share the same desires and fears.

The basic orientation of Buddhist belief is that all people want to feel loved and belong -- I wish I could believe that is true of all people, but there are so many examples in my life that run counter to that belief.

One of the most powerful stories is shared early in the book -- about a woman who is visiting her dying elderly mother: "One morning before dawn, she suddenly opened her eyes and looked clearly and intently at her daughter. “You know,” she whispered softly, “all my life I thought something was wrong with me.” Shaking her head slightly, as if to say, “What a waste,” she closed her eyes and drifted back into a coma. Several hours later she passed away."

This is the struggle -- all people feel we are doing it wrong, something is wrong with us and we make ourselves feel separate from others. Especially in our culture - and not helped by social media - we are surrounded by messages that we're all doing it wrong, rather than inspiring us to connect, it leaves us feeling incomplete - making our culture the strongest practitioner of "divide and conquer."

Really a good book - I may buy a paperback copy as a keeper for an annual re-read!
Profile Image for Eric Sutton.
349 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2021
I find it difficult to read/listen to Buddhist or healing texts in big gulps - it's almost too overwhelming conceptually to process - so I slowed this one down and listened periodically when I needed a boost, and I think that was the way to go. Usually when I read books in this genre I end up putting them down and not returning to them, but it was easier to step away and re-enter with an audiobook. Future food for thought. Radical Acceptance was recommended to me by an old friend whom I trust and for whom it proved worthwhile. It's a concept I've been working on within myself for the last few years - sometimes successfully, often not. I've had a tendency throughout my life, based on the various relationships I've had, to be overly self-critical and push myself in the service of others (not that this didn't contain its own form of selfish behavior or martyrdom on my part), whether physically or emotionally, bearing weight that nearly crushed me. Accepting this part of myself - my failure to act or speak up alongside the lack of belief in myself - has been very difficult. Essentially, it's telling yourself that you're okay when you're constantly not feeling okay. It can be a near-impossible mindset to attain when you're so attuned to thinking otherwise. Tara Brach presents different scenarios in her text, supplemented by the teachings of famous Buddhists or authors, wherein radical acceptance is the healing path forward. Some of the scenarios I could resonate with, some I couldn't. It's hard sometimes to identify with such hard-core practitioners - those who are attending workshops, reading spiritual texts all the time, etc. - when I'm just trying to navigate my everyday life of work and chores and relationships, but it was a nice part of myself to check in with once and while. I need to do it more often. I'd say it's not an introductory text for those who are embracing an Eastern philosophical way of living in a Western world, but it is a good reminder to accept myself for who I am and where I am now, for better or worse.
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