Radical Self-Acceptance?

Via Yogi Michael Boyle
on Apr 15, 2011
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Yogis have mapped the entire cosmos into twelve “stages” of consciousness. As humans our journey towards wholeness, which is the prime directive of our lives, follows this twelve stage progression, relatively speaking. Stage 1 is basically unbridled hedonism where we act on impulse and get/consume what we want in the most immediate, uncensored way possible. Stage 2 is where we “wake-up” to feeling like we are out of control with our impulses so we exert control over our appetites. This stage often employs moral codes and laws that are characteristic to religions and societies.

Stage 3 is “radical self-acceptance.” We are completely at ease with our desires – including our “dark/shadow” impulses – of stage 1. We are so aware and accepting of these desires that they no longer compel us to automatically act on them. Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t. But at stage 3 indulgence or avoidance are conscious choices, not compulsions. And at stage 3, when we do refrain from diving into a particular desire it is not because we think it is wrong or bad and it is not because we are repressing/controlling some urge… that is stage 2 mentality and behavior. Rather, in stage 3 choosing to do, or not to do, is based upon what is appropriate for that person, in that particular time-space situation.

The stage 1-2 cha-cha-cha may be fun, exciting, dramatic, and riveting - but the "push me, pull me" pattern is one of intense suffering. Photo: Jax Dance Alliance

Stage 3 is called “radical” because it is a huge step from stages 1 and 2. Many people live life doing what my teacher, Dharmanidhi, calls the “stage 1-2 cha-cha-cha.” We dance back and forth between “letting our hair down” and blowing off some steam, and “getting our act together” and “getting back on track.” Many people do not ever achieve the TOTAL self-acceptance of stage 3, which is requisite to having total acceptance of others, and therefore unconditional love (which is no small feat!).

The multitudes that live at stages 1/2 go to their death beds filled with some degree of inner conflict, guilt, and shame for what they did or didn’t do, should have done, or should not have done. This is not a good way to die. It is useful to contemplate this scenario in order to inspire the motivation to do the work that it takes to experience the total, radical self-acceptance of stage 3.

I will reference Stephen Cope’s, “Yoga and the Quest for a True Self” for its ability to bridge the gap between yogic spirituality and modern psychology. He writes about self-acceptance and the polarities of life:

“The problem is that we human beings tend to choose for one side of the polarity and against the other side, artificially attempting to split life down the middle. We choose the mountaintop and eschew the valley. We cling desperately to pleasure and attempt to banish pain. We chase frantically after gain and run from loss. Or perhaps we do it the other way around, choosing the ‘dark side’ of the polarity – hate over love, fear over wish, dread over hope, loss over gain.”

“Whichever way we attempt to split the polarities of life, one thing is certain: we will suffer when we do. Life lived from one side of a polarity is extremely difficult. It takes an enormous amount of energy to continually push away the denied aspect of the polarity. For what we deny inexorably intrudes into the convenience of our life. Whatever aspect of reality we split off from awareness will continually be presented to us by life. And more often than not, it will come to us, as Jung said, as fate – an unwanted and feared intruder. The more energy we have used to suppress it, the more powerful will be its reemergence in our lives.”

Law & Order is necessary in stage 1-2 societies. Photo: tamdotcom

“Most religion and spiritual systems attempt to work with the poles of opposites by suppressing one side, using the sledgehammer of willpower, morality, and ‘the law.’ Yogic philosophy and practice, however, offer a way of to work directly with the daily visceral experiences of opposites, harnessing the energy of ‘both ends of the stick’ for the creation of the fully alive human being.”

Much of the work of Energy of Mind: A Sauhu Therapy is designed to help people accept the energetic polarities of stages 1 and 2, in order to arrive at stage 3. When stage 3 is home base then psychology is finished – the complete path of yoga is truly a whole new stratosphere.

Personal suffering is finished at stage 3! That’s what I mean by radical. How many of us are done with suffering? This doesn’t mean there aren’t difficulties – they just aren’t ever experienced as problematic. Many people consider this experience of a totally integrated and healthy personality that no longer experiences personal suffering to be enlightenment. But, as radical a departure as this state of being is from the common experience, it is only stage 3 of 12 in the total human journey.

Beyond stage 3, if interested, one is then primed for the deeper work of authentic dharma traditions that are adept at guiding people all the way to stage 12. It is said in these traditions that the base starting off point of inner yogic alchemy practice must be stage 3. Without such a healthy and appropriately permeable sense of self it is not possible to succeed at the advanced work of inner yoga. Until then, albeit important, that which we call yoga is really preliminary work to help us achieve stage 3. The higher stages of work are concerned with dissolving one’s sense of individuality and experiencing oneself as the entire Universe. These are not allegorical, but very literal teachings and experiences.

The trishula represents the totality of human experience: Shiva, Shakti, Nara, and the unity that is beyond these three and simultaneously the same as well. Photo: Dave Kleinschmidt

It has become popular to say, “Before you can experience no-self, you must have a very strong sense of self.” The best systems of psycho-spiritual work are ones that are born from a view of this totality of human potentia, our ultimate standard. In these systems one can either work their personal “issues” as prerequisite to further inner work, or the system can stand for itself as complete – having stage 3 as a final goal, which, as mentioned, is nothing to scoff at.

If one is interested in making a full journey of the human experience, Sauhu and other systems like it can help that person build the kind of foundation that will more easily dovetail into a path that traverses the higher stages of human consciousness. The foundation of radical self-acceptance that I speak of can be the base of all non-dual spiritual traditions like Kashmir Shaivist Tantra, Dzogchen, Bon, some schools of Buddhist Tantra, some schools of Zen, orthodox Doaism, Stav , etc.

Stage 3 radical self-acceptance is an amazingly good result where life is a very beautiful, nourishing and wonderful experience. In fact, it is rare that people live from this place and those that do have definitely “got something going on.” Ultimately, it is wonderful to understand that “there is no goal”, the path is not linear, suffering is a projected illusion, etc. But, we should not get lost in spiritual ideals that are not yet practical for us and only serve as buffers to narcotize us from our actual situations. Relatively speaking it is worth all the hard work and “effortful surrender” required to reach the stage 3 plateau because life at stages 1 and 2 is rife with tremendous amounts of suffering.

Stage 3 is a humongous, “ahhhhh…” a radical shift from our normal experience of life as a struggle.


About Yogi Michael Boyle

Michael Boyle, also known as Yogi, is training to be a DHARMA INC Acarya as student of Dharma Bodhi (Adi Yoga). Yogi is a graduate of DHARMA INC's , seven year, “Tantrik Yoga Studies Program” as well as JFK’s masters psychology program. He is a certified Sauhu Therapy Counselor, Primal Ayuveda Health Advisor, Śakta-Śaiva Dharma Teacher and Adi-Yoga Teacher. In 2010, he founded Energy of Mind Holistic Counseling, which offers counseling through the lens of yoga, ayurveda, meditation, etc. all within the context of psychological insight and understanding.


25 Responses to “Radical Self-Acceptance?”

  1. Great blog, Michael. And how can you go wrong quoting my very favorite Yoga person, Stephen Cope. That book is one of the most amazing things one will ever read, and it's what set me off on my course of Yoga seeking.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  2. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  3. linda buzogany says:

    funny how he came up again, huh Bob?

  4. Moondancemaria says:

    You have my attention. I still cha cha.

  5. Wonderful Linda. My teacher, Dharmanidhi, studied/apprenticed for a long time in the Hawaiian spiritual tradition. I am very fond of their approach. Best of luck with that leap!

  6. Thanks, Bob. Yeah, that book is great. My teacher recommended it to me for insight into bridging the gap between yoga and psychology in my counseling work… but, I had never heard of it until just a few months ago. Since then it has inspired a few articles, a few suggestions to clients and even a poignant letter to my brother! Good stuff, for sure. Thanks, again!

  7. You have my attention. I still cha cha, too… but only when I want to 🙂

  8. My eBook, YogaDemystified.com began as a direct attempt to see if I could explain the startling stuff I had just read in Yoga and the Quest for the True Self to myself in my own words.

  9. Funny, the book that turned me on (as it has many others) was Yogananda's "Autobiography of a Yogi"… and considering the play on my given name, Yogi, I have in the works a first book with the unoriginal title… "Autobiography of Yogi"…. thanks for sharing this, Bob. I look forward to checking out. (mine is a long time coming:))

  10. Ben_Ralston says:

    Lovely piece Yogi.
    Great to see writing from experience about grounded, practical spirituality.
    Love, Ben

  11. Yes, KL… the 12 stage view teachings are some of the most profound I have ever received… They were given to my teacher on a train in India – literally written on a piece of scrap paper – by his teacher/guru brother, Niranjanananda Saraswati. Since then, my teacher, Dharmanidhi, has given the teaching yearly and it is not to be missed. It is soon available on cd – if you are interested let me know.

    Thank god, as you say, for the reference points – those breaths of fresh air that are the "higher stages" visiting us in our ordinary lives.

    And, thanks for your comments.

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  13. linda buzogany says:

    Well Michael, it seems this keeps churning around in my mind (to me, Stage 3 is still a concept vs. a way of being); Analogous to stage 3 consciousness, I'm reminded of the chasm between chakras 3 and 4; the development of a psychic center, or Self, in Jungian psych; and the creation of the philosopher's stone in alchemy, which describes that this is a great accomplishment and you may rest here, but there are many many more levels if one chooses.

    Does the radical shift happen suddenly and all at once?

  14. Great Lindsey, I am inspired that the article is stirring things up for you. First a comment before I attempt to answer your direct question: The awareness that you have of stage 3 as a concept rather than a state of being is excellent. That’s where most of us are, but don’t care to admit it, or aren’t able to notice it. Like I said in the article… stage 3 is a huge paradigm shift – it is radical. But, the awareness of it is key because one of the mottos of our teaching is, “what you contemplate on you become” (Sanskrit = yad bhavati, tad bhavati).

    The Sanskrit, as usual, gets at some deeper meanings than the English translation. The root word, bhava connotes a feeling-based way of being. Thus “contemplating” really means “reaching in” and discovering the feeling of what you seek to experience. It is through a recognition that all experience dwells within that makes this possible. So, while the motto “what you contemplate on you become” is right on the mark and super powerful, it is so only if practiced in a way that is not a mental exercise.

    You know, I am not a Christian, and many poke fun at this calling it calling corny, but the practice, “What would Jesus do?” is really brilliant. In this scenario we can apply it to “stage 3”. What would radical self-acceptance feel like? What thoughts would I entertain if I was already at stage 3? What notions would I dismiss as not worth my time and energy? What habits would I continue if I was living from this state of being? What would I let go of? How would it really feel in my heart to radically self-accept, and how would that feeling show up in the world in my real life, moment to moment? By keeping this awareness with you throughout your days and then acting as if it was already so, you build a bridge from conceptual understanding to experiential being.

    I know you didn’t ask for all that, but like I said I am inspired… I don't mean to preach but maybe it will assist you or someone else if you already have heard something like it.

    Now, for your question: this is a millennia old debate in spiritual/philosophical schools… is enlightenment, (or stages of development) gradual or sudden? The teachings I have received say that both are extreme views and that reality is not that simple. So, the answer I have been given to your question is yes, and yes. It is gradual in that we peel the onion of our karmic package layer by layer and it is sudden because some layers octave us into a different dimension of awakening in an exponential fashion.

    But, an important point that has always been stressed by my guru is that it is an illusion to the think the work is ever done. Enlightenment as a final result doesn’t exist and only fools claim to have reached this pie in the sky.
    On the contrary, it is an enlightening realization to recognize that we are always growing and evolving and that growth in this plane always includes discomfort and humility. There is no one-moment where we finally tip the scale and cease to have difficulties or challenges. That said, there is an “enlightened” way to experience this constant flux in which we don’t personally suffer – a.k.a. stage 3.

    But, quite often in spiritual work even people who truly “get” what I am saying here are still unconsciously to some degree searching for a “heavenly” moment, or nirvana where all of a sudden there will be no more pain. This is a collective conditioning of the matrix most of us inhabit, especially those of us from cultures dominated by salvation-based religions. This is so prevalent that Chogyam Trungpa coined the brilliant term, “spiritual materialism.” I am regularly surprised at how many layers of this particular false notion there are in my particular onion of samskara (psychic impressions). So, it is nothing to be discouraged about, but something to be aware of with “radical self-acceptance.”

  15. Dace says:

    When we try to control -ourselves or others, there is a limiting action involved. When we live without the desire to control, we actually make much better choices because we tune in with the universal laws that guide us to good life.

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