Radical Acceptance


by Tara Brach
ISBN: 0553380990
Finished 1/30/16
Amazon page for details and reviews


Meditation teacher Tara Brach introduces many concepts of Buddhist teachings by relating them to our lives. The framework is meant to help awaken us from the “trance of unworthiness” through love and gentle introspection. When we accept ourselves and all life through Radical Acceptance, we can express our authentic self of love and kindness.

This delightful read combines storytelling – anonymous encounters with Brach’s clients and peers – with explanations of numerous concepts of Buddhism. Each section concludes with a guided meditation to reflect on the newly-presented material in our own lives.

There were instances in which I had to look up some of the terms separately in order to gain a clearer perspective. In addition, I feel that I might need to approach this book in the future with new eyes. Despite these caveats, I sensed that I was becoming more loving and caring as I progressed through this book, letting go of the trance of unworthiness.

Brach ensures us that “letting go” does not free us from responsibilities for our actions and our drive in life. However, it does release us from the self-hatred and over-competitive spirit that many of us struggle with. When we learn to truly accept ourselves and others, our drive to love and benefit all life is maximized.


She was not at inner peace, felt bad about herself and impulsive desires

Lived with the fear of letting someone down or rejected

Hiked with older (22 years) college friend. She was very open with her.

By facing this pain she felt she was opening the path to healing

Wanted to be kinder to self and others

Sought out the teachings of the Buddha

Buddha teachings also taught her she was not alone

Fear of being flawed and unworthy is common

Radical acceptance (RA) is willing to experience ourselves and lives as it is, to experience ultimate freedom

We always worry what others think, yearning for belonging
– “trance of unworthiness” (TOU)

Lived in an ashram for 12 years

Adam and Eve – sin is basis of western culture

Self-reliance and independence reinforces competitiveness, shame, and unworthiness

We all develop a blend of strategies to hide our flaws and continuously self-improve
– Always comparing ourselves to the ideal
– Causes us to live in the future, not present.
– Miss out on experiences
– Helps hide feelings of vulnerability and deficiency

Us vs. them

Buddha: suffering is universal

Existential sense of self – us separated from world

True freedom is being without anxiety about imperfection
– in ourselves and the world

As TOU weakens it loses power over our lives

When we get lost in stories, we lose sight of the present

RA is not resignation

When I accept myself as I am, then I can change

Whatever our circumstances, we deserve the freedom to live creatively and to love

RA does not make us passive, allowing racism, hunger etc.

We are powerfully moved to initiate through RA

RA is the first step in wise action

Immediate personal experience is genuine domain of RA

Mandela, Gandhi, etc. did not become angry but channeled love and devotion to reducing suffering

Self is a mental construct

RA is no longer trying to elinate pain but relate to suffering with kindness

RA becomes possible by pausing
– In pausing we become available to whatever life presents us

Siddhartha: during meditation, he turned temptations into flowers. Final traces of delusion vanished, and he was free

Pausing interrupts entrenched patterns of interaction, leading to wiser choices

In music, pauses are where the art resides

Pauses reflect the wholeness and truth of who we are.

Pausing is the first step toward RA

Buddha welcomes Mara with tea rather than fearfully driving him away

Inquiry into our body and thoughts can cut through our fears and reactions

Naming or noting is a great tool for when we are lost
– what is happening or what wants my attention

In RA, we stop denying our suffering

Say yes to fear, anger, hurtful experiences
– But not always advisable when reflecting on traumatic experiences. Talk to a professional

Smile throughout the day
– unconditional friendliness
– calms fight or flight response

Try not to compare to hidden standards

Mindfulness centered on the body is the key to awareness, knowledge, happiness, etc.

Thoughts and sensations linked

Meeting pain with RA is one of the most challenging and liberating practices

Pain should be met with awareness, not hidden by drugs or whatnot

We should not tell stories about pain but just accept it for what it is. Stories about pain can make it worse

Trauma replays over and over, and victims tend to dissociate

Dissociation creates suffering

When we are free of all mental concepts we are intimately connected with all of life

Buddha taught neither to indulge in nor reject desire

Substitutions (drugs, overworking, etc.) do not satisfy needs and we become lost

Most of us rely on work to combat fears of unworthiness but these never satisfy

To do what the deepest self likes takes some diving (presence)

When caught in the trance of fear, nothing else exists. But we can accept fear

Fear is natural reaction

Fear drives negative feedback

Ultimate loss is loss of life itself

So, fear necessary for survival, but often works overtime

3 Refuges:
– Buddha – taking refuge in the truth if who we are
– Dharma (teachings) – taking refuge in the truth that everything around us is subject to change
– Dharma is the law of nature. Existence is a sense of self
– Sangha – community of others walking the path

Depression and anxiety meds may be necessary for certain individuals
– hotly debated topic

Medication and meditation can work together (when needed)
– Medication to reduce biological fear
– Meditation to sort out thoughts and be less reactive

Leaning into fear

When we conjure fear from sensations we tend to create stories

Opposite of fear is freedom

Our deepest nature is awareness, and when we are freely aware, we can love fully

Stories can be a gateway to access feelings more fully. A tool but nothing more.

All you need is already within you, but you must treat yourself with reverence and trust

We cover fear and vulnerability with self-judgment

Compassion: be with, feel with, suffer with

Compassion toward ourselves leads to compassion toward others

Feeling compassion for ourselves does not free us from responsibility for our actions, but it does release us from feelings of self-hatred

To pay attention means to care, which means to really love

Compassion by recognizing shared suffering

Spiritual awakening is inextricably involved with others

Forgiving ourselves can take a long time, and is a continual process throughout life

Forgiving ourselves ultimately transfigures our lives

Ultimately blaming and hating ourselves leads to further harmful action

In Buddhism, we reflect on our own goodness. Trust in our goodness helps us benefit others

Sometimes the easiest way to appreciate ourselves is to see through the eyes of someone who loves us – even our pets

Forgiveness is a product not of effort but of openness

Forgiving doesn’t mean denying feeling angry or being passive. But we widen our minds to see the goodness in others

Every person, including ourselves, is new every moment

We ask “who are you, really?”

Fundamental human nature is of gentleness

Western view that Buddhism is insular but this is misguided. We can’t go it alone

When we look into awareness and see what is true, we relax, completely letting go into that reality

Empty awareness is full with presence, alive with life

All our emotions, especially grief, can be carried to the truth of the Heart Sutra through RA

Grief is our recognition that life is passing. But when we dig deeper, there is acceptance through awareness. This awareness is timeless and can never be lost, only forgotten

Natural expression of awareness is love