Yogi Book Club: Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, PhD

I’m a reader. My bedside table is never without a stack at least three books high that I am thumbing through every morning and night, and I am always packing another in my backpack, because you never know what’s going to happen. I have encountered books that I couldn’t get through, but for every one of those there were five that I couldn’t put down. And there have been many more books that I love and adore, whose presence on my shelf makes me happier, whose very spines I love to feel.

I’ve had books that I liked and books that I loved, but I have never had a book that has fundamentally changed me the way Radical Acceptance has.

Books have always been my window into other people’s experience, into other realms of knowledge. They help us to understand other people, other experiences, other concepts and ideas.

Radical Acceptance helped me to understand myself. It opened a window into my own experience. It pulled back the curtain on my own self doubt, my own delusions, and my own circular narratives about my own story.

And it helped me to understand my own goodness. That it is there, full and real and capable of opening to hold me and to hold the rest of the world.

Tara Brach is a meditation teacher and clinical psychotherapist, practicing for decades, and her book is about navigating life riding the waves of Radical Acceptance, the two-fold path of mindfulness and compassion.

The profound power in her work lies in her brave openness and transparency. She shares deeply about her own life and many of the difficult relationships and situations and failures she has navigated using the path of Radical Acceptance. She also draws on the stories of her therapy clients and meditation students, allowing us all to see the dark shadows of ourselves that we never share reflected somewhere, in almost every single story.

Yes, we are shown the shadows. But we are also shown the light.

Through this book we realize that it’s not just us – everyone has a buried belief somewhere that there is something uniquely wrong with them that everyone else has figured out. We realize that the truth is that we are not uniquely terrible. We realize that we are punishing ourselves over this idea that we are not good enough, and further that that punishment is not working to make us better.

We realize that we can get better – but it won’t be through self-punishment. We can get better by pausing, accepting the moment as it truly is, diving deeper into our pain to uncover its roots, nourishing ourselves with compassion for that pain, and sharing our true intentions and feelings with one another. It requires bravery. It requires honesty. And it requires time, practice, consistency, and a constant willingness to reassess.

In the foreword to this book, meditation teacher Jack Kornfield invites us to read the pages found within Radical Acceptance slowly, and I found that I had to. It was difficult to do so, because every chapter I read felt so fundamental to my life that I couldn’t imagine going another day deprived of the wisdom that was sure to be found in the next, but I needed to read with patience and give myself time to digest each chapter.

I made my way through Radical Acceptance over the course of about a month, and found that it incrementally transformed every facet of my life, and continues to do so. From helping me through sleepless nights, to helping me through anxious moments throughout the day, finally to helping me confront past traumas and improve my communication within my relationships.

As I was reading it, I found myself wanting to order a copy for every single person I know and love. I found myself feeling warmth and compassion for them all, and for myself, and for the whole of suffering humanity.

It is written with such tenderness that you will feel that reading it is a part of your spiritual practice, even if you don’t have one. Tara uses occasional Buddhist parables, but the book largely relies on lived experiences, steering clear of overtly spiritual language or logic, making it accessible to anyone.

This book is perfect for: EVERYONE. But especially people who are feeling a little stuck, yogis who have found that yogic meditation doesn’t quite do it for them, or those who are interested in the intersections of Western psychology and Buddhist mindfulness.

But seriously, everyone.