First, Accept.

I recently spent some time away with my partner at a beautiful retreat center in the Ozarks, Ananda Kenan. While there, we had some wonderful conversations with the manager on the nature of yoga, the human spirit, and shadow work. During one of those talks, I realized one of the most underlying and healing components of the annual women’s retreat I attend, and the community it encourages its members to maintain throughout the year between the retreats: Unconditional acceptance.

The Power of Acceptance

This group of women espouses a culture of unconditional acceptance – no matter your path or tradition, whatever your baggage, or sexual orientation, or level of physical, mental, or emotional ability, the community wraps around us and meets us right where we are.

In order to transform our inner selves in any way, we have first to see and accept ourselves – clearly – exactly where we are. Self-acceptance is one of the hardest things for a human. Even our best and most admirable desires to change start with aversion, a feeling that something is lacking in ourselves, or wrong, or needs to be improved. That noble desire may be the start of seeing ourselves clearly, but that judgement can also be a catalyst, locking our personal energy into a pattern that causes the thing we most wish we could change to loop into a repeating cycle. But when someone you respect reaches out and says “I see you and I love you, right where you are”… well, you start to think maybe you can, too.

Self-Defeating Patterns

Whatever we judge, we emphasize… and it becomes easier to see the negative than the positive. As the cycle continues, so does our self-judgement as we desire to change while not changing. I snap at my family, I judge myself for being judgmental and short-tempered, I want to change. But even if I make a change in my response to a similar situation the next time, or the next ten times… eventually, there’s a day when I am tired or sad or unprepared, and I snap again.

Then I have an example – proof, to my judgmental side – that I have not progressed or changed, that I’m the same crabby person I’ve always been. We continue to judge and desire in a cycle that can stilt our development and lead into depression, addiction, or the decision (conscious or unconscious) to give up on the hard work of self-improvement. That’s why self- acceptance is such a vital key.

Radical Self-Acceptance

So what happens when you give and receive permission to accept, love, and even enjoy yourself right where you are, reveling in the process of discovering what you can be? What kind of re-drawing effect might that have on our internal judgments, as we respond to this situation, this moment, instead of to our entrenched patterns? How might we change our interactions as we realize the gift and transformative power of giving someone radical acceptance, right where they are in an imperfect moment?

Nothing in this life is certain, but accepting our own natures, and reveling in that uncertainty of the journey can help reconnect to our own Divine core. And that core acts on love and understanding, in accordance with connection to a Universal Love. And that Universal Love includes the love of YOU. Right where you are, and just as you are today.

Start there, with that radical level of acceptance of self. Then, there is nothing within yourself that you cannot shift.

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