Tara Brach

Every week, I hope these simple words may help you find some peace and happiness in your life. Whether it means embracing your fears, releasing some stress and anxiety or "radically accepting" yourself, may this blog invite you to find some moments to pause, breathe and nourish your heart and spirit. If you enjoy this Blog, please subscribe and share with others.
With loving blessings, Tara

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Deep Listening: Ear of the Heart

Photo Credit: aussiegall
Most of us consider listening a great virtue. We love having others listen to us with interest and care, and we hope to be good listeners ourselves. But for most of us, listening is hard. To listen well, we must become aware of the mental static that runs interference: our emotional reactivity; all the ways we interpret (and misinterpret) each other; our haste to prepare a response; how we armor ourselves with judgment.

Learning to listen involves stepping out of our incessant inner dialogue, and using what St. Benedict called the “ear of the heart.” This deep listening offers a compassionate space for healing and intimacy.

One of my meditation students, Kate, discovered the power of listening in her relationship with her mother, Audrey, a wealthy, successful, brilliant, and yet narcissistic woman. Those who knew Audrey well kiddingly referred to her as “the center of the known universe.” A well-known writer, Audrey treated other people as orbiting satellites, audiences to regale with stories; their role was to let her shine in her own reflected light.

Audrey could be lively and charming when holding forth, but she was exhausting to be around. As soon as they could, both of her daughters settled on the opposite coast. Kate’s older sister rarely returned for visits, and while Kate came for holidays, she kept her stays brief. Their step-dad loved his wife, but he and Audrey had drifted into a routine that lacked intimacy. Some of Audrey’s friends still tolerated being a captive audience, but as she aged she became increasingly isolated.

Kate came to one of my Conscious Relationship workshops to focus on her marriage, not on her mother. Yet, by the time she left, she’d become acutely aware of her mother’s woundedness, and of the possibility that deep listening might lead to healing. Her inspiration was the image of a fountain.

During the workshop, we envisioned our inner life and spirit as a fountain that becomes clogged with unprocessed hurts and fears. As we ignore our painful feelings or push them away, they impede our flowing aliveness and obscure the pure awareness that is our source. By not listening to our inner life, we cut ourselves off from reality. What remains is a diminished self, an unreal other.

However, when we confide in someone and they listen to us, really listen, the debris naturally begins to dissolve, and the fountain of aliveness is again free to flow. And, when we really listen to another, we help them come home to this same aliveness.

It’s important to remember that this process takes time. As we begin to listen, we often come face to face with the distasteful tangles—the jealousy or self-consciousness or anger that have been clogging the fountain. The conversation might seem superficial or dull, nervous or self-absorbed.

Yet, a dedicated listener hangs in there without getting lost in resisting or judging. This unconditional presence can be a healing balm that gradually helps the speaker’s tangled defenses relax so that his or her natural vitality and spirit can emerge. Perhaps you’ve noticed this when someone is really listening to you. You feel calmer, whole, “more like yourself”—more at home. Like an unclogged fountain, the deeper waters of humor, intelligence, creativity, and love begin to flow.

Kate left the workshop with the intention of experimenting, and when an opportunity to attend a professional training session near her mother’s home presented itself, she decided it was time to try deep listening with her. She made arrangements to stay for ten days, her longest visit with her mother since she’d left for college.

Now, Kate really listened during their time together. As we’d practiced, she listened inwardly to her own tension without judgment when she felt resistance, then reopened to whatever her mother was saying. In the same way, when she felt unimportant, impatient, bored, or judgmental, she brought mindfulness and kindness to her own experience. By doing so, she was able to bring that same open and clear space of presence to her mother.

Kate admitted that at first, it was hard. “I had a panicky sensation,” she told me. “It was like I would drown if I didn’t get away, if I didn’t find a way to have some of my own space. She takes up so much room!”

Yet, Kate found that if she kept a sense of humor about it, she could breathe, forgive her own reactions, and keep coming back. Then she would coach herself to deepen her presence: “Now … what is happening? My mother is talking, and I am quiet. There is endless time. I hear it, every word. And what is beyond the word? . . . I hear who she is.”

As Kate listened for what was behind her mother’s words, it got easier for her. She began to hear desperation, as if her mother was insisting over and over, “I’m here, I matter.” Taking in her mother’s pain, Kate felt her heart soften with care.

Through her own quiet, steady presence, Kate communicated, “You are here, you matter.” And her mother started to relax. Kate knew this, because there were longer pauses between the stories and commentary—her mother sat back more in her chair, looked out the window, slowed down, and seemed more reflective.

Several days before Kate was scheduled to leave, her mother began to tell her that she felt alone and unappreciated. Kate was able to respond with sincerity, gentleness, and honesty. “Mom,” she said, “it’s because you don’t listen to people.”

Her mother froze, but to Kate’s surprise, didn’t get defensive. Kate had been so truly present, and had offered such uncritical sympathy, that a trust had emerged—this was not an attack, but a caring reflection of truth.

Her mother wanted to know more: “Please tell me, I need to know.” And Kate told her. She explained how it had been for her sister, for their dad, and now, for her step-dad. “When you don’t listen, people feel like they don’t matter, that they’re not known. And it’s true—you can’t know them if you don’t listen. You can’t be close.”

Audrey looked at her daughter with a sorrow and understanding that pierced Kate’s heart. And in that moment, something changed. Maybe the pain of alienation had broken through her defenses, or maybe this was simply her time, but Audrey started to listen.

Others noticed, too. After her sister’s next visit with her mother, she told Kate, “For the first time in my life I felt like I was a real person to her … that I existed!” The change was most poignant with Kate’s stepfather, who began to enjoy the long dinners and evening walks that had been abandoned shortly after their marriage.

Audrey was no longer speaking to demand the world’s attention. She was speaking and listening in order to belong with other people, to share their lives. Because Kate had listened and let her heart be touched, her mother’s fountain had begun to unclog. Her life could once again flow from its source.

Adapted from TrueRefuge (2013)
Enjoy this video on Finding True Refuge
For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Learning To See Past The Mask

Photo Credit: alicepopkorn
My friend Richie and I met when we were juniors in college. A shy, thoughtful African American man, he was known for carrying his camera everywhere, listening as others poured out their stories to him, and running through the snow wearing gym shorts. We’d lost touch after graduation, yet nearly fifteen years later, he called and asked to consult with me on an upcoming visit to Washington, D.C.
Now a photojournalist living in New York, Richie had recently married Carly, a Caucasian woman he’d met at a meditation class, and he wanted to talk with me about her family. “I knew what I was getting into … country club, conservative, the whole nine yards … but I had no idea it would be this hard.”

“From the start,” he told me when we met, “Sharon [his mother-in-law] was dead set against me and Carly getting together.” While Carly’s father seemed willing to support his daughter’s choice, her mother had fought the marriage vehemently. “She warned Carly that we were too different, that we’d end up divorced and miserable. Well,” he said grimly, “we love each other deeply, but she’s succeeding in making us miserable.”

On their third and most recent visit, Sharon had refused to attend a community theater production with them. She later told Carly she couldn’t bear to encounter her friends from the club: “As soon as I’d turn my back, they’d start gossiping about you and Richie.” At dinner Sharon ignored Richie’s compliments about the salmon, and gave vague, noncommittal responses to his questions about a recent trip to Italy. When Carly confronted her mother privately upstairs, Sharon acknowledged her behavior. “I admit it, I’m being awful. But I can’t help it, Carly. He’s a good person, an intelligent person, but you’re making a terrible mistake.”

Carly wanted to stop visiting—they could just skip Thanksgiving and Christmas, she said—but Richie insisted on hanging in there. “It’s not that I’m trying to martyr myself,” he told me. “Sharon’s a racist, self-centered asshole, and it might do her some good if Carly refused to go home. I’d be gratified. I’m way pissed. But something in me feels like she’s reachable.”

As part of his meditation practice, Richie had recently taken “bodhisattva vows” with his teacher. These express a basic commitment to let whatever arises in our life awaken compassion, and to dedicate ourselves to actively bringing this compassion to all beings. For Richie, these vows had a very specific meaning. “I don’t want to give up on anyone, give up on who they can be,” he told me. But Richie knew that before he could approach Sharon, he needed to connect with his own anger, and what was behind it.

“That’s what I wanted us to focus on, Tara,” he said. “I wouldn’t be so pissed if I didn’t feel insecure. It’s that basic issue of being worthy—she’s telling me I’m not worthy enough for her daughter.”

“Is that feeling familiar?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. This has been the kind of thing I’ve told myself ever since my dad left. Back then it was that I’m not enough to make my mom happy.” He sat quietly for a few moments then went on. “I thought I was supposed to fill his shoes and I couldn’t. She was always depressed, always anxious.”

Richie sat back in the chair, deflated. “It’s always this same feelingthat I’m the kid who can’t make the grade, who doesn’t deserve good things.  And it didn’t help going to that vanilla college of ours …” he flashed me a smile, “or working in a white profession. I know this unworthiness thing’s in the culture, Tara … but that kid still feels like he’s young, and just not cutting it.”

“As you pay attention, can you sense what that kid who feels unworthy most wants from you?”
He was quiet, then nodded. “He just wants me to see him, to notice him and to be kind.”

“What happens if you offer your kindness inward?” I asked. For a few minutes Richie sat silently, then said: “I guess this part of me needs some reassurance, some care. Just now I felt like I was looking through a camera at this kid who was failing at an impossible task. There’s no way he could make things okay for his mother.”

We talked about their upcoming Thanksgiving visit, and how Sharon might activate his insecurities. Richie came up with a plan: “I’m bringing my camera. I’ll keep my eye on the kid inside, and on Sharon, both of us with kindness.”

I heard from Richie again right after Thanksgiving weekend. Sharon had treated him with polite formality—everyone else was family, he was a guest. “But I kept imagining I was looking at her through a camera viewfinder,” he told me, “and I saw she was in pain. Behind that coldness was a scared, tight heart.” He had a freeing realization: “It isn’t really me she’s afraid of. It’s of Carly being unhappy.”

A day or so later he e-mailed me two standout photos, both of Sharon. Carly’s sister had just had a baby, and he’d caught Sharon cradling her new granddaughter, looking down adoringly at the infant. The other was of a playful moment when her husband had pulled her down to sit with him and she’d toppled over on him. Richie took the shot just as they were looking at each other and laughing.

Then came Christmas. Early on Christmas Eve, Carly’s dad (playing Santa) placed two boxes in front of Richie. Sharon had ordered some socks for him online (too large) and had wrapped a box of chocolates (he rarely ate sugar). Sometime later, Sharon opened her gift from Richie. She found the two photos he’d taken weeks earlier, simply and elegantly framed. Sharon started trembling, then sobbing. Her husband and Carly came over to see what was wrong. There were the pictures of Sharon with her granddaughter and her husband, looking radiant, loving, and happy. And here she was weeping. When she calmed down, she still couldn’t speak and she waved everyone on to continue the gift giving.

Richie had truly “seen” Sharon—her vulnerability and spirit, and he’d expressed his care by mirroring her goodness. It took another year and a half for her to tell him what those gifts had meant to her, and to apologize. But because he hadn’t given up on her, a thaw had begun. She too was able to see more truly, and come home to her heart. The following evening Carly’s sister asked Richie for a lesson in swing dancing, and he showed her some steps to the jazz music on his iPod. She caught on quickly, and the others applauded as she and Richie spun happily around the living room. Carly glanced over at her mom, who was standing behind the others in the doorway. She was watching with a slight smile, her eyes wet with tears.
Adapted from True Refuge (Jan. 2013)

True Refuge is now available for purchase

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Awakening Through Anger

One evening after my Wednesday night meditation class, Amy, a member of our D.C. meditation community, asked if we might talk for a few minutes about her mother, a woman she often referred to as “a manipulative, narcissistic human.” Amy’s mother had recently been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, and as the only local offspring, Amy had become her mother’s primary caretaker. So, there she was, spending hours a day with a person she’d been avoiding for decades. “I can’t stand myself for having such a hard heart,” Amy confessed.

Amy and I agreed to meet privately to explore how she might use her practice to find more freedom in relating to her mother. At our first session, she told me difficult early childhood memories had recently been emerging. In the most potent of these, Amy was three years old. Her mom yelled upstairs that she’d prepared a bath for her and that she should get in the tub. But when Amy went into the bathroom, what she found was a couple of inches of lukewarm water. What had flashed through her three-year-old mind then was: “This is all I’m going to get. No one is taking care of me.”

Amy’s mom had always been preoccupied with her own dramas, perpetually reacting to perceived slights from friends, struggling against weight gain, and berating her husband for his shortcomings. Little attention was paid to the physical or emotional needs of Amy or her siblings. “She doesn’t care about anyone except herself,” Amy told me. “She’s a self-centered bitch … it really pisses me off. I got gypped out of having a mother, and now I’m here catering to her.” As she was speaking I asked her to pause, and investigate what she was most aware of in the moment. After a long silence, Amy said “There’s so much rage, I can barely contain it.”

Part of the process of softening our hearts includes learning to recognize and allow whatever we’re feeling—even intense rage. But this isn’t always simple, or easy. When I asked Amy if she could allow the rage to be here, she shook her head. “I’m afraid if I really make space for this rage, it will destroy every relationship I have. I’ve already hurt people I love.”

When anger is buried, like Amy’s was, the energy gets converted and expressed in many different ways. Yet, anger is a natural survival energy that wants our attention, that needs to be allowed to be felt. However, “allowing” doesn’t mean we let ourselves be possessed by our anger. Rather, we allow when we acknowledge the stories of blame without believing them, and when we let the sensations of anger arise, without either acting them out or resisting them.

I encouraged Amy to check in with her fear. Was it willing to let this rage be here? Could the fear step aside enough so that she could be present with this rage? Amy nodded. Now, she could begin to investigate the emotional energy beneath the blame. I knew that for her to do this, she’d first need to step outside of the seductive sway of her resentful stories. We’d talked about the stories, respecting them as windows into her pain. But the anger also lived deeper in her body—in a place beyond thought. The next step was for Amyto widen and deepen her attention so she could fully contacttheseembodiedenergies.

I asked Amy to notice what she was feeling in her body, and she closed her eyes and paused. “It’s like a hot pressured cauldron in my chest,” she said. What would happen, I asked, if she said yes to this feeling, and allowed the heat and pressure to be as intense as it wanted. “It wants to explode,” Amy said. Again, I encouraged her to let be, toallow her experience just as it was.

Amy was absolutely still for some moments.“The rage feels like it is bursting flames, like a windstorm spreading in all directions,” she said. “It’s blasting through the windows of this office.” In a low voice, she went on: “It’s spreading through the East Coast. Now it’s destroying all life forms, ripping through the continent, oceans, earth.” She continued, telling me about the rage’s fury, how it was spreading through space. Then she became very quiet. Speaking in a soft voice, she finally said, “It’s losing steam,” before sitting back on the couch and letting out a tired sigh. “Now there’s justemptiness. No one is left in the world. I’m utterly alone, lonely.” In a barely audible whisper, she said, “There’s no one who loves me, no one that I love.”

Amy began weeping. Inside the rage, she’d found an empty place, a place that felt loveless. Now what was revealing itself was grief: grief for the loss of love in her life. When I asked what the grieving part of her most needed, she knew right away: “To know that I care about this pain, that I accept and love this grieving place.” I guided her to gently place her hand on her heart, and offer inwardly the message her wounded self most needed. She began repeating the phrase, “I’m sorry, I love you.” This wasn’t an apology. Rather, it was a simple expression of sorrow for her own hurt.

As Amy whispered the phrase over and over, she began rocking side to side. “I’m seeing the little girl in the bath,” she said, “and feeling how uncared for she feels, how alone. I’m holding her now, telling her ‘I’m sorry, I love you.’” Then, after a few minutes, Amy sat upright and looked at me with a fresh openness and brightness. “I think I understand,” she said. “I’ve been angry for so long that I abandoned her—the inner part of me—just like my mom abandoned that three-year-old.” She paused,then continued. “I just have to remember that this part of me needs love. I want to love her.”

Offering a compassionate and clear attention to her vulnerability had connected Amy with a vastness of being that could include her pain. This natural awareness is the fruition of an intimate attention. When we’re resting in this presence, we’re inhabiting the refuge of our own awakened heart and mind.

Some weeks later, Amy read me her morning’s journal entry: “There is more room in my heart.” The night before, after her mother had complained for the third time that her soup still wasn’t salty enough, Amy felt the familiar rising tide of irritation and resentment. She sent the message “I’m sorry, I love you” inwardly to herself, giving permission to the annoyance, to the edginess in her own heart. She felt a softening, a relaxing of tension. Looking up, she was struck by her mother’s grim, dissatisfied expression. Then, just as she’d learned to inquire about herself, the thought came:“What is my mom feeling right now?” Almost immediately, she could sense her mother’s insecurity and loneliness. Imagining her mother inside her heart, Amy again began offering caring messages. “I’m sorry,” she whispered silently, “I love you.”

She found herself feeling genuine warmth toward her mother, and the evening was surprisingly pleasant for both of them. They joked about her mom doing a “mono diet” of potato chips, went online and ordered a bathrobe, and had fun watching The Daily Show together.

At our last meeting Amy told me how, several days earlier, her mother had woken up in the morning hot and sweaty. Amy took a cool cloth to her mother’s forehead and cheeks, arms and feet. “Nobody’s ever washed me,” her mom had said with a wistful smile. Amy immediately remembered the little girl in the bathtub, and felt tears in her eyes. She and her mom had both gone through much of life feeling neglected, as if they didn’t matter. And right now, each in her own way was tasting the intimacy of care. They looked at each other and had a moment of uncomplicated love. It was the first such moment Amy could remember, one she knew she’d cherish long after her mom was gone.

Adapted from True Refuge (Jan. 2013) 

Enjoy this video on effectively dealing with anger: Causing No Harm
For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Entrusting Yourself to the Waves

I was drawn to my first Buddhist mindfulness retreat during a time when my son, Narayan, was four, and I was on the verge of divorce. During a slow, icy drive through a winter snowstorm on the way to the retreat center, I had plenty of time to reflect on what most mattered to me. I didn’t want a breakup that would bury the love I still shared with my husband; I didn’t want us to turn into uncaring, even hostile, strangers. And I didn’t want a breakup that would deprive Narayan of feeling secure and loved. My deep prayer was that through all that was happening, I’d find a way to stay connected with my heart.

Over the next five days, through hours of silent meditation, I cycled many times through periods of clarity and attentiveness, followed by stretches when I was swamped in sleepiness, plagued by physical discomfort, or lost in a wandering mind. Early one evening I became inundated by thoughts about the upcoming months: Should my husband and I hire lawyers or a mediator to handle the process of divorce? When should we move to separate residences? And, most importantly, how should I be there for our son during this painful transition?

As each anxious thought surfaced, I wanted to really dig in and work everything out in my mind.
Yet something in me knew I needed to stay with the unpleasant feelings in my body. A verse
from Ryokan, an eighteenth-century Zen poet, came to mind: “To find the Buddhist law, drift
east and west, come and go, entrusting yourself to the waves.” The “Buddhist law” refers to
the truth of how things really are. We can’t understand the nature of reality until we let go of
controlling our experience. There’s no way to see clearly what’s going on if on some level we’re
attempting to ignore or bypass the stormy weather.

During the last few days of the retreat I tried to let go, over and over, but felt repeatedly stymied
by my well-worn strategy for feeling better—figuring things out. Now Ryokan’s verse was rife
with possibility: Perhaps I could entrust myself to the waves. Perhaps the only way to real peace
was by opening to life just as it was. Otherwise, behind my efforts to manage things, I’d always
sense a lurking threat, something right around the corner that was going to cause trouble.

My old habits didn’t give up easily, though. As soon as I’d contact some tightness in my chest,
I’d flip right back into worrying about my son’s new preschool, carpooling, or about how to find
a baby-sitter with more flexible hours. Then I’d become hypercritical, harshly judging myself for
“wasting” my retreat time. Gradually, I recognized that my heart was clenched tight, afraid to let
the intensity of life wash through me. I needed help “entrusting.”

Each afternoon, the teachers had been leading us in a lovingkindness meditation. I decided to
try weaving this into my sitting. The classical form of the meditation consists of sending loving
prayers to ourselves and widening circles of other beings. I began to offer kind wishes to myself: “May I be happy and at ease; may I be happy and at ease.” At first, repeating the words felt like a superficial mental exercise, but soon something shifted. My heart meant it: I cared about my own life, and becoming conscious of that caring softened some of the tightness around my heart.

Now I could more easily give myself to the waves of fear and sorrow, and simply notice the
drifting thoughts and physical sensations—squeezing and soreness—that were coming and going. Whenever the worries that had been snagging me appeared, I sensed that they too were
waves, tenacious ones that pressed uncomfortably on my chest. By not resisting, by letting the
waves wash through me, I began to relax. Rather than fighting the stormy surges, I rested in an
ocean of awareness that embraced all the moving waves. I’d arrived in a sanctuary that felt large enough to hold whatever was going on in my life.

After my retreat, I returned home with the intention of taking refuge in presence whenever I
was irritated, anxious, and tight. I was alert when the first flare-up occurred, a week later. My
ex-husband called to say he couldn’t take care of Narayan that evening, leaving me scrambling
to find a baby-sitter. “I’m the breadwinner, and I can’t even count on him for this!” my mind
sputtered. “Once again he’s not doing his share, once again he’s letting me down!”

But when I was done for the day, I took some time to pause and touch into the judgment and
blame lingering in my body, and my righteous stance softened. I sat still as the blaming thoughts
and swells of irritation came and went. Underneath the resentment was an anxious question:
“How will I manage?” As I let the subterranean waves of anxiety move through me, I found a
quiet inner space that had more breathing room—and more perspective. Of course I couldn’t
figure out how the future would play out. The only time I had was right now, and this moment
was okay. From this space I could sense my ex-husband’s stress about finding a new place to
live, working out our schedules, and more deeply, adapting to a different future than he had
imagined. This helped me feel more tolerant and kind. It also revealed the power of entrusting
myself to the waves. My husband and I continue to be dear friends. With him and in countless
instances with others, this gateway to presence has reawakened me to a space of loving that feels like home.

Enjoy this podcast titled: Attend and Befriend

Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance

My new book True Refuge  is out January 2013

For more information visit www.tarabrach.com

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Letting Life Live Through Us

Many years ago, after several years of experiencing a long chronic illness, I attended a six-week Vipassana meditation retreat. Given my struggles with sickness, I looked forward to this time entirely dedicated to sitting and walking

I was out of my body and into my mind: “Whoa … I still really feel sick.” OnceThe first few days went smoothly. Yet, towards the end of the week, I started having stomach aches and felt so exhausted I could barely motivate myself to walk to the meditation hall. At this point it was a matter of making peace with discomfort. “Okay,” I figured a bit grudgingly, “I’m here to work with…unpleasant sensations.”

For the next twenty-four hours I noted the heat and cramping in my stomach, the
leaden feeling in my limbs, and tried with some success to experience them with
an accepting attention. But in the days that followed, when the symptoms didn’t
go away, I found myself caught in habitual stories and sinking into a funk of fear,
shame and depression. “Something’s wrong with me … with the way I’m living
my life. I’ll never get better.” And under that, the deep fear: “I’ll never be happy.”
The familiar trance threatened to take over, and I took that as a signal to deepen my

On a clear and brisk afternoon at the beginning of the second week of retreat, I
took off into the woods and walked until I found a patch of sun. Wrapping myself
in a warm blanket, I sat down and propped myself against a tree. The ground,
covered with leaves, offered a firm, gentle cushion. I suddenly felt at home in
the simplicity of earth, trees, wind, sky, and was resolved to attend to my own
nature—to the changing stream of sensations living through my body.

After taking some moments to release any obvious tension, I did a quick body
scan, and noticed aches and soreness, a sinking feeling of tiredness. In an instant
again I watched my mind contract with the idea that something really was wrong.
Taking a deep breath, I let go of these thoughts about sickness and just experienced
the sheer grip of fear, which felt like thick hard braids of rope, tightening around
my throat and chest. I decided that no matter what experience arose, I was going to
meet it with the attitude of “this too.” I was going to accept everything.
As the minutes passed, I found I was feeling sensations without wishing them
away. I was simply feeling the weight pressing on my throat and chest, feeling
the tight ache in my stomach. The discomfort didn’t disappear, but something
gradually began to shift. My mind no longer felt tight or dull but clearer, focused
and absolutely open. As my attention deepened, I began to perceive the sensations
throughout my body as moving energy—tingling, pulsing, vibrations. Pleasant or
not, it was all the same energy playing through me.

As I noticed feelings and thoughts appear and disappear, it became increasingly
clear that they were just coming and going on their own. Sensations were
appearing out of nowhere and vanishing back into the void. There was no sense
of a self owning them: no “me” feeling the vibrating, pulsing, tingling; no “me”
being oppressed by unpleasant sensations; no “me” generating thoughts or
trying to meditate. Life was just happening, a magical display of appearances.
As every passing experience was accepted with the openness of “this too,” any
sense of boundary or solidity in my body and mind dissolved. Like the weather,
sensations, emotions and thoughts were just moving through the open, empty sky
of awareness.

When I opened my eyes I was stunned by the beauty of the New England fall, the
trees rising tall out of the earth, yellows and reds set against a bright blue sky. The
colors felt like a vibrant sensational part of the life playing through my body. The
sound of the wind appeared and vanished, leaves fluttered towards the ground, a
bird took flight from a nearby branch. The whole world was moving—like the life
within me, nothing was fixed, solid, confined. I knew without a doubt that I was
part of the world.

When I next felt a cramping in my stomach, I could recognize it as simply another
part of the natural world. As I continued paying attention I could feel the arising
and passing aches and pressures inside me as no different from the firmness of
earth, the falling leaves. There was just pain … and it was the earth’s pain.

Each moment we wakefully “let be,” we are home. When we meet life through our bodies with Radical Acceptance, we are the Buddha—the awakened one—beholding the changing steam of sensations, feelings, and thoughts. Everything is alive, the whole world lives inside us. As we let life live through us, we experience the boundless openness of our true nature.

Adapted from Radical Acceptance 
Enjoy this talk on Attend and Befriend
For more information visit www.tarabrach.com