Radical Acceptance: The Ultimate Sense of Self

September 2019

Recently my meditation group* got into a stimulating conversation about sense of self and how simple it was to achieve a state of being at ease with oneself, to end the seeking or having a goal for spiritual nirvana. I say it is simple because there’s no place to go, way to be or anything to do. It is simply accepting the experience of being yourself. 

I didn’t say it was easy; just simple!

Our conversation covered some of the supposed paths promising you will reach this state of acceptance, the processes being peddled by so many gurus making it seem like some magical path will open up to you if you do it just this way or follow this teacher or log this many hours doing this or that. 

zenSuch a plethora of books, workshops, teachers and processes can be dizzying for anyone who feels drawn to a spiritual life. So many options muddy the waters and have led to some of us believing that if we could only find the right Port Authority we could have that nirvana, that serenity being sought by millions around the world.

But what if all this seeking was actually impeding progress? British nondualist Rupert Spira** writes about the spiritual search: “…sooner or later, gradually or instantaneously, Consciousness comes to recognize that it is already precisely what it is looking for, and that it is the search itself that prevents realization.” This is completely counterintuitive; actually, it is better stated as counter-our conditioning. Ending the seeking, accepting one’s experience of oneself, yields the serenity one has been seeking.

As we sit with this idea of total acceptance we start to realize just how radical an idea it is. In a world where opinion and judgement are badges of individualism it seems revolutionary to accept everything without argument or taking exception. Who are we if not our positions, preconceived ideas and notions of what is right and how things should be?

As the conversation proceeded we recognized that holding these ideas and positions required tension and energy, like when we are grasping onto something. Whereas being in total acceptance requires no energy or tension; it is simply being with what is. 

When we identify with ideas and positions that require tension we create an artificial ego-identity outside of who we are. Adyashanti is an American-born spiritual teacher who talks about this tension as we hold onto these ego- identities in this short video.

As I wrote in a recent column for ThriveGlobal, holding the position that things should be different from how they are can be a source of personal suffering. I assert that it is the most widespread source of human suffering on earth. 

At one point during our meditation group conversation I realized that total acceptance of things as they are is unconditional. Unconditionally accepting things as they are, not how we think they should be, whether it is another person or conditions in the world, has for many years been my definition of love. 

So, here we are, back to love. To quote Spira once more, “Love is the natural condition of Consciousness when it is knowingly one with all things.”


*Meditation group led by Peter Russell meets regularly in Marin County just north of San Francisco. 

**The Transparency of Things, by Rupert Spira, Sahaja Publications, 2016

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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