One of our amazing volunteer teachers, Rita, shares her experience of Radical Acceptance, and what it means to her!
“Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what we call Radical Acceptance.” Tara Brach
My starting point for sharing my experience of radical acceptance is offering a solid definition, which comes from one of my favorite teachers, Tara Brach, who wrote an entire book on the subject. Learning about the concept of radical acceptance has been a paradigm shift for me. I offer one example of what that looks like in the context of my Living Yoga teaching.
I have been teaching yoga monthly to teen girls who have survived sex trafficking and are now living in a residential program. When I started teaching there I was taken aback by the way the girls interacted with each other, the staff and us during the yoga class. I observed an environment that felt frequently chaotic and sometimes mean. There was swearing, throwing props and sometimes unkind words, the kind that only teen girls know how to dish out. Raised in a strict Catholic home full of rules (and love), along with sometimes harsh enforcement of rules, my initial reaction was to recoil with judgement and a desire to impose order. I got to sit with these feelings and reflect with compassion on my upbringing, as well as the lives that these girls have experienced. I thought about how I could offer ground rules to these girls in a way that is both loving and empowering. To model that the words we speak and the way we use our bodies can embody kindness, and to shift away from my own early experience of rules.
So I offer ground rules framed with that intention of creating kindness and spelling out what it looks like for me (as their teacher) and asking them for their thoughts and ideas. This is how it goes at the start of each class: “our class is a time for kindness. To ourselves and one another. What that looks like for me is: no touching one another, no throwing, no swearing or yelling. These ground rules also apply to those who are not practicing yoga, but in the room. Are there other ground rules you would like to have for our yoga class?” These ground rules help set the tone of each class, which has shifted to a more respectful and kind energy, grounded in my own care and love for them. For me holding this space for my students is what Living Yoga is all about.