“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.” –Tara Brach Radical Acceptance
What life do you want to live? Now that’s a deep question. Although it can be read many different ways yielding many different answers, it’s a question that usually evokes a strong initial reaction and in turn leads you to one of two feelings, anticipation or fear, depending on your current state of being.
When examining what will help us live our best life; it’s first important to identify what you believe is holding you back. What particular habit or characteristic most greatly impedes your chance to experience happiness? Now think about it by breaking it down into its parts— in what way does it negatively affect your life? How does it make you feel? How strongly do you wish to let those negative feelings go?
As we discussed in the first post of the Radical Acceptance series, regarding ‘Embracing Impermanence,’ many of our day-to-day decisions are based on not necessarily what is best for us, but, what is gratifying in the moment. Instead of focusing our attention on striving to truly experience every single sequence of life, we fill ourselves up with life’s empty calories and after the binge we again feel shame and guilt instead of peace and joy.
So what is that elusive path to peace and joy? It’s freedom. From worry, doubt and other negative feelings that affect the way we feel and the way we interact in the world and lead our lives. Freedom is the take away from breaking old habits. It’s the exhilaration of feeling complete contentment in a non-remarkable moment. It is understanding great suffering but still being able to experience great joy. It’s finding pleasure in places that you didn’t even know existed.
Now the big question! How do we begin to let that light of freedom shine within ourselves? You’ll be relieved to know, it’s simpler than you may think— we just have to flip the switch. Great change starts with small, positive steps every day. Look at each day, each experience we encounter, as an opportunity to illuminate our internal path to joy. And it gets even better than that. Positive change doesn’t just affect us internally—it affects every facet of our existence.
Each tinge of bliss, every fleeting ‘warm fuzzy feeling,’ isn’t just felt internally but is actually exuded out into our external lives. The light of positive change that we’re proud of improves our relationships, our mood and even our ability to continue to make decisions that lead us to happiness.
Next time an upcoming decision feels intrinsically negative, try and identify what would make you feel joy. It may not make you not make that decision, but the recognition that there is an alternative is so powerful and builds over time. Beginning to mentally process how to live a better life is huge progress— and as we become mindful of the practice—we’ll experience more peace and less pain. We become more tranquil and content; we may dance, sing or simply smile more. We become the people that others want to be around, and most importantly, the person that we so deeply wish to be for ourselves.