Daily Reading Notes

We can't find happiness in possessions or achievements. Happiness lies in acceptance of our circumstances. In this book Tara Brach gives practical advice about how to do this no matter the situation.

October 28, 2019

Radical Acceptance

A perpetual state of not being good enough drives much of our day to day striving. We feel like we have to work harder, earn more, and look better.

The feeling of being unworthy alienates us from others by making us feel like we don't deserve their love. Not getting the love and attention that we naturally need causes us to drift further into unworthiness creating a vicious cycle.

People try to embrace many practices, including meditation, to run away from the feeling of inadequacy. But running away only temporarily relieves those feelings.

Western society makes us feel unworthy from the day we are born. Our parents want us to be healthy and successful. They push on us these standards in good faith, but they end up making us feel like we can never measure up to their expectations.

The idea of having something wrong with us if further perpetuated by the ingrained notion of original sin. We believe that we have to fix something about ourselves before we become worthy of happiness.

We create many techniques for dealing with these damaging feelings:

All these strategies treat ourselves as separate from the world, and make us believe that only we have these problems.

The first step to overcoming these feeling of inadequacy is noticing when we feel dissatisfied, and remembering that we are not alone in how we feel.

"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change." -- Cari Rogers

Acceptance requires clarity and compassion.
We start understanding who we are when we start to see our emotions clearly.
But we can't see clearly unless we have tender compassion towards the things that come up. Otherwise, we will just cover them up or run away getting to a deeper level.

"The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom."
We can only find lasting change once we accept our current situation
When we accept our limits, we get a clear view of what it will take to
overcome them or work around them.
Listening deeply to our cravings lets us see the underlying motivation for
them. Once we know these drivers, we can work with them to make better choices in the future.

Some situations require our careful attention and control. Others, require us to let go completely and just allow the moment to unfold.

We only see what's happening around us when we stop doing.
"By running from what we fear, we feed the inner darkness."
When we deny and defend against what someone said, we not only frustrate the other person, but we also keep ourselves from accepting the truth -- even if it's only partial -- and feelings that their comments brings up.

By embracing and welcoming our emotions as they are, we take away the extra power they gain from the stories surrounding them.

The pause brings the most benefit in the moment when it's the hardest to find. We must practice pausing in the face of anger, anxiety, and shame. Only then can we effectively work with our most difficult emotions.

Practice pausing by choosing one activity in your day and taking a few moments before starting it.

"Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond." -- Rumi, referring to our feelings

If we want to accept our emotions, we must drop the judgment and worries that surround them. Ask yourself "what demands your attention at this moment?" Let the rest fall away.

Naming your emotions can be enough to overcome them.
Treat yourself like you would a friend. Support yourself so you can fully feel
everything you are experiencing.

When we accept our experiences the way they are, we experience our life completely for the first time.

Practice acceptance by sitting with a negative experience and responding with only no to everything that comes up. Notice how your body feels. Then, after a few breaths, change your response to a yes. Notice how your body feels then, even if you're experiencing negative emotions.

When you are dealing with a major problem or failure in life, try to see what's true about the story that's playing in your head. Call out only the parts that are actually happening and this moment and sit with those. The rest may never come to pass.

"Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows." -- Henry David Thoreau

Your body experiences everything you feel. Start to notice the sensations that come up with the emotions that you feel.

Our mind tries to judge sensation that come up, but the sensations have many more layers than feeling good or bad.

"Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional."
Don't conflate painful or unpleasant experiences with wrongness. They are your
body's way of getting your attention, they don't always lead to something bad. If you try to understand them, they may lead to improvements in your life.

When we let our worries and stories of pain fill our attention, we ignore the many other sensations it can bring. Try to identify the exact feeling of your pain. It could be hot, sharp, dull, or tight. Really feel what your body is trying to tell you.

Traumatic experiences can manifest in the body as chronic pain or tightness, or as uncontrollable bouts during situation that trigger a memory of the experience.

Our bodily experiences guide us towards fixing not only our physical states, but also our mental states.

Once we accept the feeling in our body and become comfortable in them, our body becomes a home base against the turmoil of the outside world.

Our emotions and bodily sensations never stop changing -- just like the rest of nature.

Our suffering comes from trying to control our flow of emotions by holding on or pushing away. If we want to experience life fully, we must allow sensations to flow freely.

Become familiar with your body by scanning it from head to toe. Give a longer pause to any area of intense sensation, or areas lacking sensation. Get to know everything that's happening in your body at the moment.

Practice accepting your pain by digging deeper and trying notice exactly what the pain feels like. Allow the sensation to spread through your entire body. The more it spreads the less instance it becomes. Notice how this effects others parts of the whole body.

"Men are not free when they are doing just what they like. Men are only free when they are doing what the deepest self likes. And there is getting down to the deepest self! It takes some diving."

-- D. H. Lawrence
At the root of our desires lies the pathway to happiness and love.
Desires guide us towards satisfying our needs. When they are simple, we can easily satisfy them. The problem comes when we layer on expectations and want the unattainable.

When we can't directly satisfy a deeper desire, as circumstances often dictate, we reach for substitutes. These provide a temporary relief, but never satisfies the deep desire.

The substitutes we use to satisfy our desires get woven into our personality. That's how damaging habits and addictions form.

The manifestations of our desires consumes more of our lives the more we struggle against them.

When we put up a callous exterior or taboo the thoughts about the impulses we shouldn't act on, we miss the beauty in the world. The things that stir our desires have a good part to them as well, otherwise we wouldn't want them. We can appreciate the good and avoid acting on the bad.

After noticing that our desires come and go, changing from moment to moment, we free ourselves of the belief that they are our fault.

What come into our mind is outside of our control. We can only control what we do about it.

"We suffer when our experience of desire or craving defines and confines our experience of who we are."

Allowing desire to flow freely opens us up to loving ourselves and everything around us. It lets us look for what we need outside of the singular focus that craving gives.

Practice working with your desire by picking a single activity or habit you want to stop. When you notice the urge to do it come up, pause and bring your attention to what you want, how it's making your body feel, and what emotions come up in that moment. If you still want to proceed with the activity after the pause, toss away any judgment and savor the act by doing it slowly and deliberately.

Get to know your desires by asking yourself what you want. Then pausing to listen to everything that comes up while you relinquish control and judgment. Then repeat the process and see if it takes you to a simpler, deeper, purer desire.

We all have a choice when we experience fear. We can run from it forever or face it head on and let it pass over us.

Fear is required for our survival. It keeps us out of dangerous situations. The problem arises when we get caught in a spiral of fear caused by trauma or persistent worry.

Fear engulfs our entire world when we feel isolated from others and unloved by ourselves.

We can't handle everything life throws at us without the help of others. That's why relationships are critical to mental health.

When fear become overwhelming, we can find refuge in three places:

Meditation isn't a cure-all. Medication can help in your practice, especially when dealing with past trauma.

By widening our lens of attention to take in more than just our fear we realize that there is room for the fear and other emotions. We learn to live with our feelings.

Fear can open us up to greater growth by forcing us to face challenges. After dealing with fear, we often come out stronger and better able to relate to others.

Fear will always be with us. We can't try to eliminate it from our lives. We have to learn to welcome fear and provide enough awareness to allow fear to live with rest of our emotions.

In our competitive society, it's second nature to harshly judge yourself. We become so busy blaming ourselves for failing to reaching an unattainable standard that we forget to notice everything we have accomplishing.

You should relate to yourself like you would a friend. You wouldn't let a friend pile on responsibility when they are in a tough situation. Don't treat yourself any differently.

Sometimes your situation becomes so overwhelming that you can't handle it anymore. That's when you need to reach to a power greater than yourself. Ask for help with your suffering.

When we share our burden it we can experience all our emotions without needing to hold the whole weight on our own.

To practice holding your suffering, sit in meditation and start notice your suffering, your fear, your anger. Let it freely flow and feel it intensify throughout your body. Then, ask with compassion to be free from it. You can ask a higher power or just to yourself.

"It's not our anger, it is not our pain. Everyone lives with anger, with fear, with grief."

Noticing the life around us is the most basic form of loving it. As we spend more time noticing, we can grow to love even the bugs that scared us at one point.

If we take the time to think through a situation where someone made us angry or ashamed, we start to see that the person who hurt us is suffering like we are.

When we see someone as other or different, we block out the rest of their humanity. If instead, we look for similarities, we will find them much more like us than different.

Even if we don't like someone, or disagree with their ideas, if we start to see their humanity we can understand them. This will facilitate better conversation and could lead to compromises and solutions that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

When our heart shuts down to others, we only see the manifestations of their wants and suffering. We can't help them by trying to fix the surface level problems. To help someone, we have to understand what they want at a fundamental level.

The only way to understand someone's situation is to see it through their eyes. Someone blaming or berating you could be out of care or their own helplessness. You won't know until you take their perspective.

Kindness is the basic goodness in the world. When you spend time with others, new or familiar, ask yourself "How can I be more kind?"

Our circle of influence is smaller than we like to believe. We can only hope to help the person we are with right now.

"We can do no great things -- only small things with great love." -- Mother Teresa

To build you compassion you have to feel the grief of yourself or others. Sit with your breath and bring forward a painful experience you went through, or an experience you saw someone else struggle with. When you breath in, touch the suffering and allow yourself to feel it completely. When you breath out, release the suffering into the wide open space with a prayer for relief.

Our basic nature is goodness. Our flaws cant stamp it out.
Our first line of defense against admitting a mistake is blaming others. When
we feel shame or guilt, we want to lash out. We want to rid ourselves of the responsibility.

Before we can forgive anyone else, we must first forgive ourselves.
If we can't find any goodness inside us on our own, we should look at
ourselves through the eyes of our family, our friends, or even our pets. All of them find something to love in us. We can do the same.

When we start to forgive our more intense emotions, our guilt and shame, we uncover the underlying fear. Once we get deep enough, we discover that we just want to find happiness and to avoid suffering.

Once we see the root of our wants, we can start seeing the same in others. This allows us to connect with the actions of others and find ways to forgive them too.

Forgiving someone doesn't mean letting them walk all over you, or absolve them of responsibility. Forgiving someone only requires giving them a chance to make it back into your good graces. They still need to correct their behavior, and you need to stay safe.

We can grow our sense of love and kindness by expanding who we can feel love and kindness for. Start with the people we easily care about, expand it to the people we might dislike or hate, and finally include every living being in our heart.

Once we can see the goodness in everyone, we stop living a guarded life and open up the door to cooperation.

"I Sought my god, my god I could not see I sought my soul, my soul eluded me I sought my brother and found all three" -- Anonymous

We can only unlock our full potential through the relationships we build with others.

A conversation, a party, or even an argument all present an opportunity to practice mindfulness. In fact, the more mindful we become throughout our relationships, the stronger our relationships grow.

When we listen to the troubles of others, we realize that we are not alone. Everyone is going through similar struggles as us. No one is perfect.

Sometimes a person can only change when they feel accepted for who they are today. You can give them that acceptance.

To remain mindful in conversations, follow these steps:

When we seek happiness outside ourselves, we miss all the potential for greatness we have inside us.

Frustration or losses of our temper can make us doubt our good nature, but they hold little truth. When given time and compassion they quickly fade.

To loosen attachments about the doubt of our nature, we can ask ourselves "Who is aware of this?" This will open us to seeing that the only permanent thing is the sense of awareness itself.

"Seeing pure awareness without engaging lovingly with our life is a daydream. Living in this relative world is a nightmare." -- Japanese Proverb

To live a fulfilling life, we need to loosen our attachments and engage in daily life at the same time. Inside this delicate balance lies calmness and happiness.

Cherish every step you take in a difficult situation. Even the smallest nudge forward represents progress that will compound over time.

Copyright © Artem Chernyak 2020