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Instructional Post for Writing 201: How to on Radical Self-Acceptance!

What is radical self-acceptance? Really it is pretty simply exactly what those words mean. For something that easy, it is pretty hard for many adults to practice Radical Self-Acceptance.

Try saying out loud: “I accept myself completely as I am right now.” It sounds simple, but remember, it means you accept everything about yourself in this exact moment: your physical body, your emotional body, your mental, creative and spiritual bodies, not the way you might have looked or felt or been several years ago or as you think you “should be” right now or how you want to be in some future time. This means you accept your whole body, for example, you can’t just accept your head and pick apart which parts of your body are acceptable and what isn’t. It’s all or nothing. As one of my patients once told me, “You cannot receive something in parts or somewhat, you have to receive it completely or not at all.”

So the challenge is, can you receive yourself and accept yourself in this present moment, no matter what you are feeling, how you are looking, what is going on with you and your life. I posted a while back about this kind of self-acceptance. I took a piece I read about yoga “not caring”, which had a lot in it about yoga not caring what you know, how flexible you are, how you eat, etc., and turned it into a challenge to not “care” what state of affairs your life, body, career or lack thereof, apt or lack of home, family or no family, etc. is and to just care that you have showed up to your life in this moment. The link to the post is:

http://natashashapiroarttherapy.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/just-show-up-and-be-here-now-getting-through-difficult-times-like-the-holidays/

Here are a few of the sentences:
“I don’t care what color my skin is or what gender I choose to love or what gender or non gender I am. I don’t care about others’ appearance, sexual orientation, gender, etc. either. We all share similar struggles and pain.

I don’t care how much money I have, what house or space I live in, what car I drive, or if I have to live on the streets right now.

I don’t care what my apartment, house, living space etc. looks like right now. It doesn’t matter; what matters is that I am still here anyway.

I don’t care if I smoke cigarettes, drink, use substances that are illegal, eat too much, binge and purge, starve myself, or am addicted to sex or other things or whether I hoard things in my abode. I’m still here and I showed up to this new day and that is enough.

I don’t care if I am single, with someone, with several people, in a messy relationship, stuck in a difficult relationship or anything else.”

To take these ideas into radical self-acceptance, we would not use the words “I don’t care”, but instead, “I accept that…”. For example, I accept myself as I am right now, including what I am doing right now, even if I am drinking, smoking, binging. I accept myself as I am right now, that I live alone in a tiny apartment and am in terrible debt and unemployed. I still can accept myself as I am in this moment, even though I need to lose 20 pounds and my house is a mess…

I first read about the concept of “Radical Self-Acceptance” in a DBT workbook. DBT is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, first discovered and invented by Marsha Linehan.
Here is a link to a description of the concept: http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/radical_acceptance_part_1.html

Here is something from that article: “So what’s Radical Acceptance? What do I mean by the word ‘radical’? Radical means complete and total. It’s when you accept something from the depths of your soul. When you accept it in your mind, in your heart, and even with your body. It’s total and complete.

When you’ve radically accepted something, you’re not fighting it. It’s when you stop fighting reality. That’s what radical acceptance is.”

So there is the importance of sort of surrendering to the reality of yourself and your life as it is, not as you would like it to be. The word “Radical” may sound extreme but it is just the right word to really pin down this concept, the idea of complete and total acceptance.

There is this too: “Often when you’ve accepted you have this sense of letting go of the struggle. It’s just like you’ve been struggling and now you’re not. Sometimes, if you have accepted, you just have this sense of being centered, like you feel centered inside yourself somehow. “

So as this article says, this is an interior process but I disagree that it is hard to describe, as it is really very simple. The sense of struggle versus letting go gets at it. It reminds me of the feeling you have when you tense up part or as much of your body as you can and then release. That moment of release is what this is about. Radical Self-Acceptance is a bodily sensation as well as a verbal affirmation. It is what goes on when you focus on your breathing in and out. When you let the breath out, you let go; that is what goes on with this process. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then release it. There is a kind of metaphorical holding of the breath that people engage in during times of stress. Studying for law school exams and saying, I will attend to my body and get a massage and relax after the exams. That is holding your breath till you’re done. Taking care of yourself while going through some kind of big stress like this is a kind of radical acceptance. Accepting that you have no control over what might happen tomorrow, much less a week from now in the exam room is part of this process, for example.

When you are not calm, not grounded, not relaxed, not liking yourself, not using “healthy coping skills”, that is a time to practice this kind of self-acceptance. I accept that I am a mess, that I messed up, that I was doing great at “fill in the blank”, not picking my skin, not binging and purging, not getting drunk, whatever, and now I’m back in the muck, out of control, disgusting, ashamed, whatever. BUT, I can just stop, breathe and accept myself even in this moment of complete “failure”.

I have sat with very smart, very put together, very successful adults and asked them to say the words, “I accept myself as I am in this moment, right now, completely.”, and had them respond that they cannot do it. I press them to just say it out loud even if they do not believe it. Just getting someone to say that out loud is a huge struggle; for some, it is way more challenging than doing stuff that seems impossible, they can run a marathon, write and publish a book, etc. etc., but to say those words can feel impossible. Say them anyway, say them as if your life depended on it, because in a way, it does.

What I love about the theory of the “Dialectic” in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, is the idea of two opposing things being true at the same time inside a person. That includes radical self-acceptance alongside the desire to change behaviors. It turns out you can’t change much until you completely accept yourself as you are now, in the bad, unchanged messy state. You can feel sad and self hateful and want to die and still accept yourself right now, and it is the only route to ever living at all.

Radical Self-Acceptance happens right now, but it is also a work in progress. I can say that I radically accept myself as I am now, and most of me not believe it and say it isn’t true, but when I say it, it is true.

It is 11:11. I should have done my yoga practice and be getting ready to go to sleep. I should have written this article last week as it is not this week’s assignment. I haven’t done the first assignment, the interview yet. My mouth tastes lousy and I should brush my teeth. I think I missed going to the dentist and probably haven’t flossed enough. Now that I focus on it, my teeth are too yellow. My body feels uncomfortable from eating too much heavy food a few hours ago. I am behind on some bills and not budgeting. That could lead me to my issues with money. There’s the graphic novel I started in 2000, 14 years ago, and ten pages of it that I misplaced in my own house/apt. I won’t go to the apartment and what kind of state it is in right now, versus how it should look. There’s my studio too, in disarray. I could go on and on about all the ways I am disorganized, not good enough, my little private addictions, like shopping for stuffed bunnies and old Betsey Johnson jewelry on Ebay, during a month when I am buying holiday gifts and have no business buying crap for myself. I will say, I accept myself anyway, as messed up as I could portray myself. I am vain about my hair, but I accept that it doesn’t look like it did ten years ago, and I accept my gray hair and my age.

None of this stuff matters. What matters is that I am trying to accept myself anyway, just like the rest of humanity. I still mostly can believe in my own inner goodness, good intentions, caring, alongside my grandiosity and selfishness, petty jealousies, etc.

I accept myself completely as I am right now. Can you say this too? Of course you can! Just do it, just say it. Look in the mirror and say it every day.

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Small Works Group Exhibition at the 440 Gallery!

It is a great feeling to see one of one’s artworks up on a gallery wall, whether with others by other artists in a group show or in a solo show. This was a juried art show. I submitted multiple pieces. The juror chose the artists and one piece from each artist, which is one way to approach a group show like this where the common thread is Small Works (under 12 x 12 inches).

I am including other work that I liked at the show that was hanging near my piece in the less crowded room. It is also great to be in a group show with others and enjoy other people’s work and get a chance to see what’s going on outside my artist brain!

Here are some photos from the show:
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20 Creative Quotes on Courage, Hope, & Possibility

Natasha Shapiro, ATR-BC, LCAT:

some great quotations to meditate on. I will choose some to add to my favorite quotations page! Thank you Gretchen Miller!

Originally posted on creativity in motion:

Creativity in Motion:  20 Quotes on Courage, Hope, & Possibility
Here are 20 quotes about creativity, courage, hope, & possibility that I have been collecting- some are favorites, some are new discoveries, but each affirming & inspiring:

We have no hope of solving our problems without harnessing the diversity, the energy, and the creativity of all our people. - Roger Wilkins

The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.  -Ben Okri

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Another word for creativity is courage.  – George Prince

Nature is infinitely creative. It is always producing the possibility of new beginnings. – Marianne Williamson

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will. ― George Bernard Shaw

Creativity is…

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The Artist Identity: Showing and Selling!

I am happy to have a piece from my “White” Mixed Media series in this year’s 440 Gallery Juried Small Works Exhibition.
It is important for me as a professional artist to exhibit my work on a regular basis, so I am pleased to be part of this juried group exhibition in Park Slope, Brooklyn, at a great gallery. The exhibition runs from Dec. 11, 2014-Jan. 11-2015.
Here is a link to the Gallery website page about it:

http://www.440gallery.com/Exhibitions#upcoming

The gallery has started a Facebook People’s Choice Award on their Facebook page. If you can, please vote for my picture for the Small Works Show. Just go to this link and you will see my art work; click “like” to like my piece! Thank you.

I also continue to sell my work on a regular basis as part of my nurturing my identity as an artist and also, I make my work to get rid of it! As soon as I have completed a piece, it is “available” and for sale. I recently sold a group of works from my “Inner Landscape” mixed media collage series to be installed in the Crafty Kids Studio on their wall. Here are some photos of the pieces of my most recent sale. It is great to sell to businesses, and know that lots of people will see my work. For more info on the Crafty Kids, their website is:

http://thecraftykids.com

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Inspiring Poem

This poem echoes my post about not caring about what and how and doing and accepting the imperfections, what is true and real…

The Ponds,
by Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapping light crowding the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them—
the muskrats swimming
can reach out and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.

But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided–
and that one wears an orange blight–
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away–
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled–
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing–
that the light is everything–that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.
And shouldn’t we all?