The plants showed me in a medicine session that there is a tremendous healing power in the act of self-acceptance. This accepting is not about signing on to the agenda of the most eccentric or angry parts of me, it is simply accepting that they are there. Self-acceptance is the act of admitting this truth, and it is done with a simple, direct action of the heart and will. It does not come with the word “because.” Because conversations require a reason, and reasons for automatically generate the opposite pole, the reasons against, and there you are again, back down the rabbit hole of self-conflict. 

According to the plants, the way to do the self-acceptance is simple. With clear internal speech, you deliberately say the words, “I accept you,” to whatever thought or feeling comes along. You should say it clearly inside yourself, the same as you would with a prayer or an affirmation. You say this over and over to the next thing and the next, so that acceptance starts to penetrate the places inside where no love is. In sending this message with the force of your will, the heart opens a little – the opposite action of our usual automatic self-talk of fear, doubt and criticism. And the internal saying of this sentence, without elaboration, is the key to change.

By acknowledging what is there, the hidden, rejected parts of me start to come back into view and be alive again. But I soon notice that my capacity for self-acceptance is actually very small. My lifetime’s habit is to not accept myself, and lots of my parts revolt against the very idea of it. My heart just won’t open – at least not to myself. And that’s where personally I would have stayed stuck, but the medicine had a clever answer. Accept that too. It pisses me off that I am so bad at self-acceptance – accept this. It’s boring and pointless, I’ve tried it a thousand times before, and now I want to give up. Accept this too, and then the next thought, and the next one. Steadily accepting, as each thing comes along, not evaluating what is “acceptable” and what is not. Fear, I accept you, despair, I accept you. Doubt – you too. There is no place where accepting needs to stop. That was the release. 

It is from the lost, hidden places where no love lives that the trouble comes. It is not sustainable to live long-term without nourishing love, so we react to the pain of the unloved places with all kinds of substitutes, from the many and varied addictions, to massive consumption, to status-seeking, to violence, to all the social games we play, and the self-destructive madness in our modern culture. And then we hate those flawed solutions because of all the awful things they do, we condemn them, and find them “totally unacceptable.” Our ego was shaped by the pain of no love, and paradoxically, the greater the pain in there, the harder it is to let go, but acceptance is the tunnel that can let love back in.

What came up next was information about our frame of vision. When I look at myself, the core beliefs of ego are not only what I see, they are also the lens through which I do the seeing. There is always a challenge to widen the lens, so I can get a fuller scope of the unnoticed assumptions inside me. A core inherited belief that seems embedded in this ego lens is that I am a worthless piece of shit who will die. Our personalities are based around hiding this terrible belief from ourselves and from everybody else. That’s why rich, successful, talented people often remain driven and can’t sit back and enjoy – the piece of shit belief is still in charge. 

This piece of shit belief can evade my notice just because it is so all-encompassing. It’s like the fish, able to notice everything but the water it lives in. But once we notice the piece of shit idea, we can send acceptance to it. Accept every twist and turn the ego has to offer, in the end, although it plays powerfully, it has a fairly limited repertoire. Accept even the part of me that scoffs at all these fine ideas. Living as who I am means including every bit of me, and this is the way back towards my original wholeness.

This next thought is not from plant medicine, it is from me -- I think this piece of shit feeling though deeply rooted, is not natural to us. I believe it was made especially strong in our empire building culture where people are needed to do what they are told, march in straight lines, show up for work at 9:00, cross on the green not the red, and write inside the box on your tax form. A mass of quirky, original people following their own drumbeat is lousy material for an army, a bureaucracy or a school. In order to make the machinery of empire work, we had to close down large parts of ourselves, and shame away our bright, intuitive selves for very real socially defensive reasons. Plant medicine also runs counter to the empire culture, because it demands that we take a vacation from the linear world and let go to spirit. 

The work is on our shoulders to burn off this legacy of pain, and we do this by more and more accepting the deep, young places where love does not yet reach; and the parts of us that get addicted and numb out; and the parts that judge and condemn them all. I don’t have to figure this out with my mind, I just repeatedly say, “I accept you,” to the next pain-bearing thought. This does not make us vulnerable to the extreme things these parts of ourselves would have us do, in fact once they feel acceptance they start to soften out of their extreme positions. If doubt, fear and shame are like a trapdoor to your well-being, acceptance is the firm floor under it. Acceptance will always reach the dark places where no love lives.