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August 11, 2022

Self-Acceptance as a Pathway to Compassion

A Lifelong Practice

Our deepest yearning is for connection: to love and be loved. Paradoxically, we often veer away from exactly what we most want. Our unresolved wounds and narratives cause us to doubt our worth, our value, our sense of belonging, and to question whether we deserve to be loved.  Often this pain is so great we cannot bear to hold the fullness of our experience. As a result, we reject parts of ourselves. 

It is in the mundane moments of everyday life that we can start tracking these patterns of self-rejection and make different choices.  

This past weekend, I hosted a family brunch. I have always opened my home to friends and family, creating a space where everyone feels welcome. I felt joy being surrounded by loved ones, until I saw on the dining room table a box of chocolates which had been purchased  for another occasion. I instantly felt invaded. “Who took those from the cabinet and put them out?” In a flash, I went from feeling connected and loving to feeling my body constricted in an animal-like protective stance.  My first instinct was to find the person who “did it.” I could feel blame arising and the need to know where to direct my anger. It was destabilizing to shift from feeling expansive to feeling constricted. 

In an attempt to gain composure, I glanced in the direction of my friend, who was by now enjoying the chocolates.  At the sight of this, and to my shame, my body constricted further. Conflicting forces collided inside me.  The deep desire to be generous battled with the experience of being disrespected and invaded.  

I was having trouble breathing and recognized the familiar experience of losing connection to my heart. This is the moment when I know that what I want most, to be connected, is at risk. This is the choice point: Either I will be consumed by my internal battle of self-judgment and anger, or I will accept the reality that both pain and love can and do co-exist within me.  The truth is there is no contradiction, there is no conflict, there is no deficiency.  

Not abandoning any part of myself, no matter how difficult, is the path of true self-acceptance.

Can you hold with tenderness the tensions within you? Can you imagine holding all the feelings you have without trying to eliminate any part of your experience? 

When thoughts and emotions seem irreconcilable, take a deep breath, feel your feet on the ground, and imagine creating spaciousness in your body.  It is in this space, when the mind quiets and the body relaxes, that your heart can contain all you are experiencing. Invite all that you are in this moment to be here. Notice the parts you might want to reject.  Honoring our many truths is the practice of self-acceptance and a life-long journey on the path to radical compassion.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

– Rumi (from the Guesthouse)

A Self-Acceptance Practice

Take a moment to pause with Deep Living Facilitator Lara Heller. 
During this short grounding practice, you are invited to allow all of your experience, to be fully present and held.

Read the transcript of this practice.


  1. Marcia Hyatt says:

    Beautiful example of being present, aware and choiceful. Thanks Lara!

  2. Kim Jellicoe says:

    Thank you Lara for the wonderful grounding. I loved hearing your calming voice and wise words. And I recognize that I must accept the reality that while I do wonder what happened with your chocolates, I also know that that is not the point! 🙂 Thank you for sharing that very relatable story.

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