Saturday, November 1, 2014

Radical Acceptance: Learning to Love the Dandelions

One of DBT's many distinguishing features is its use of metaphor to make its skills memorable and applicable to daily life. A metaphor that particularly stands out is learning to love the dandelions. There are several versions of this traditional Sufi story, but it generally goes something like this:

A young man named Nasreddin planted a flower garden, but when the flowers came up so did a great crop of dandelions among them. Wishing to eliminate the unwanted guests, Nasreddin consulted with gardeners near and far, but none of their solutions worked. 

Finally, Nasreddin traveled to the palace of the sheik to seek the wisdom of the royal gardener himself. But alas, Nasreddin had already tried all the methods the kind old man recommended to him for eradicating such troublesome weeds. Silently they sat together for a good long time. 

At last, the royal gardener looked at Nasreddin and said, "Well, then, the only thing I can suggest is that you learn to love them." 


The story illustrates what Tara Brach (and others) call Radical Acceptance, a conscious and deliberate decision to acknowledge the reality of the present moment rather than fight against it. This does not mean to stop working toward creating a different reality, one that better matches the life you want to live. It requires letting go of many judgments, those beliefs about how things "should" be. But radical acceptance allows us to focus on being effective -- on doing what works.

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