Awakening from the Trance

Radical Acceptance:  Enhancing your Life with the Heart of the Buddha (pp 24-48)

Escaping from being trapped in the trance

Tara uses the example of a tiger caged for many years suddenly given a much larger open area.  The tiger would not venture outside of a corner of the larger area due to habitual behavior.  This is similar to our being trapped in the trance of unworthiness and not being willing to venture out of the trance.  “The way out of the trance begins with accepting absolutely everything about ourselves and our lives, by embracing with wakefulness and care our moment to moment experience.”  This is applying mindfulness, paying attention moment to moment to what is.  And doing so in a nonjudgmental, compassionate manner.

Tara calls this escape route, Radical Acceptance: “clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind, and loving heart.”  This is quite different from what our mind wants us to do.  Our mind wants us to keep playing the story and using the strategies described in the last chapter, The Trance of Unworthiness.

The Wings of Radical Acceptance

The two components of Radical Acceptance are mindfulness and compassion.  Both are necessary and they complement each other.  Mindfulness is the way we can truly see our condition.  Compassion is the intention to relieve the suffering of others and ourselves.  In other words, mindfulness leads us to the correct diagnosis and compassion leads us to the cure.  “The very nature of our awareness (mindfulness) is to know what is happening.  The very nature of our heart (compassion) is to care.”

Mindfulness without compassion is knowing the problem and not taking the steps to freedom.  Compassion without mindfulness is not knowing the problem and feeling self-pity

Common Misunderstandings about Radical Acceptance

What Radical Acceptance is not:

  1. Radical Acceptance is not resignation that we will never change. We can and do change but only if we first accept the way we are.  “Our deepest nature is to awaken and flower.”
  2. Radical Acceptance is not withdrawing from life. On the contrary, once we accept the way we are, we are in a much better position to meet life’s challenges
  3. Radical Acceptance is not denying free will We can and do change from awareness which is the only way to make choices.
  4. Radical Acceptance is not accepting a permanent self that will never change. We accept the way we are in the present moment knowing that the concept of self is always changing.  “By accepting the truth of change, accepting that we don’t know how life will unfold, we open ourselves to hope so that we can move forward with vitality and will….we discover that whatever our circumstances, we remain free to live creatively, to love fully.”

Discovering the Freedom of Radical Acceptance

“Rather than trying to vanquish waves of emotion and rid ourselves of an inherently impure self, we turn around and embrace this life in all its realness- broken, messy, mysterious, and vibrantly alive. By cultivating an unconditional and accepting presence, we are no longer battling against ourselves, keeping our wild and imperfect self in a cage of judgment and mistrust.  Instead we are discovering the freedom of becoming authentic and fully alive.

When we are trapped in the trance, we, like the tiger, have set our own boundaries.  Through the process of radical acceptance, we become aware though mindfulness of those boundaries and through compassion, we develop caring intention to dissolve them.  What would it be like if all boundaries were dissolved and you just let life live through you?


  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.  What are your boundaries?  When you are caught up in tension or self-judgment, ask yourself, what would it be like if you could accept life – accept this moment – exactly as it is?”  What did you experience?


  • Meditate as usual in your daily practice with concentration and mindfulness.

Next: The Sacred Pause Previous: The Trance of Unworthiness