How I Learned Coronavirus is a Just a Challenge in Acceptance

Social distancing through the lens of Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance, and an opportunity for growth in a difficult time.

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Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

With every day comes a barrage of news updates. These are anxious times, with any number of reasons to be and stay fearful.

30 Days ago, I was afraid. Fearful is my default setting. Now that I’m starting to ease into what is becoming the new normal for the foreseeable future, I’ve been pondering a lot about acceptance.

Before having to stay home, I was struggling a lot with my too-busy lifestyle. I had a lot of trouble accepting things happening in my life and felt like I needed to fix them. When I don’t accept something, I take it upon myself to control it–which invariably makes the situation worse. Control is my response to fear. Control, rather than faith.

Radical Acceptance

Recently, I started reading Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. Brach writes about how the principles of “Radical Acceptance” are twofold: First, you must acknowledge the situation as it is. Second, you must welcome the situation with an open heart.

Acknowledging the Situation

I’ve heard the concept of acceptance thrown around in most of the circles I frequent. Yet, I’ve never heard it explained like this. You see, as she explains, you can’t have Radical Acceptance with only one of those tenets. Simply acknowledging the situation can raise feelings of frustration or anger-turned-inward.

For me, control is a byproduct of that anger-turned-inward. My therapist calls it “whipping myself into shape” when I don’t meet my own expectations of managing a situation.

Welcoming with an Open Heart

Instead of whipping things into shape or fixing things that appear to be broken, Brach suggests welcoming the situation with an open heart. With love, compassion, and empathy. Self-acceptance and openness to the situation. She argues that only until you can lovingly welcome things as they are, can you begin to change it in a practical, productive way.

Otherwise, you’re just distracting yourself.

Moving Forward with Acceptance

There’s so much we can’t control here. I’m not too good at taking my advice, but, these days, I am better at seeing when I’m supposed to to quiet down, be grateful for what I have, and accept–with an open heart–my current situation. Being forced into this stay-at-home experience has made it so much easier to let go of those things that I can’t control so I can focus on what I can.

Since I turned the corner with my anxiety and my acceptance, I’ve found this experience to be so much more enjoyable than I’d initially thought. I’m actually, dare I say, loving it. I’ll probably cherish these few weeks as one the best, freest experiences of my life.

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