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, April 24, 2013

The Mystery of Who We Are

I heard a story when my son was in a local Waldorf school, and I loved it.

The children were in art class seated in different tables, working hard at their projects. One little girl was particularly diligent, so the teacher stood behind her and watched for a while. Then she bent over to ask her what she was drawing.

Very matter-of-fact the little girl said, "I’m drawing God”.

The teacher chuckled and said, “But you know hon, no one knows what God looks like.”

Without skipping a beat, without even looking up, the little girl responded, “They will in a moment!”
 
This made me wonder, what happened to our wildness? The wildness of God, of Spirit as John O’Donahue calls it. It’s as if we forget or disconnect from the spontaneity and joy that expresses our essential spirit.

Probably the deepest inquiry in any of the spiritual traditions, is the question, who am I? If we look behind the roles and images that our culture gives us, behind the ideas that we internalize from our family, who’s really here? Who is reading right now? Who is looking through these eyes?  Who is listening to sounds?
 
The Buddha said we suffer because we don’t know who we are, we’ve forgotten. We suffer because we are identified with a self that is narrower than the truth, less than the wholeness of what we are. We often live inside a role—parent, helper, boss, patient, victim, judge. We become hitched to our sense of appearance, to our body. We become hitched to our personality, our intelligence. We become hitched to our achievements. These facets constellate into the shape of our identity, of who we take ourselves to be. And that constellation is smaller than the truth. It is less than the awareness and love that is here, less than the sacred essence of what we are.
 
A friend of mine, a minister, told me about an interfaith gathering which began with the inquiry: What should we call Spirit or the Divine, what’s the name we should use?
 
Right away there’s a question:“Should we call it, God?”
 
“No way” responds a female Wiccan. What about Goddess?” she says.
 
“Hah,” remarked a Baptist minister and suggested instead, “Spirit.”
 
“Nope,” declares an atheist.
 
The discussion goes on like this for a while. Finally a Native American, suggested the Great Mystery and they all agreed. They all agreed because, regardless of the knowledge or the concepts of their faith, each of them could acknowledge it’s a mystery.
 
In the moments that we move through life realizing that we belong to this mystery, that this mystery is living through us, we are awake, alive and free.
 
Enjoy this video on: Entering the Mystery part 1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance (2003)

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

“I realized I don’t have to believe my thoughts.”

Our mindfulness practice is not about vanquishing our thoughts. It’s about becoming aware of the process of thinking so that we are not in a trance—lost inside our thoughts. That’s the big difference. To train in becoming mindful of thoughts can help us to notice when your mind is actively thinking, either using the label “thinking, thinking,” or identifying the kind of thought—“worrying, worrying,” “planning, planning.” Then, becoming interested in what’s really happening right here. Coming home to the sensations in your body, your breath, the sounds around you, the life of the moment.

As our mindfulness practice deepens we become more aware of our thoughts. This offers us the opportunity to assess them and notice that much of the time our thoughts are not really serving us. Many thoughts are driven by fear and lock us into insecurity. During our residential meditation retreats, one of the biggest breakthroughs people share with us is:

“I realized I don’t have to believe my thoughts.”

Training in mindfulness allows our minds to have a choice. At the moment in which you pause and realize that these thoughts are not really serving me, you have the option to come back to presence. This process of choosing becomes more powerful as you realize how thoughts can create suffering and separation. They create an “us” and a “them.” They create judgment and end up making us feel bad about ourselves.

In those moments when you’re lost in thought, what if you could pause and say, “OK, it is just a thought” That is revolutionary. That can change your life!

Now, the key is that we approach this with a gentleness and kindness. Each time we recognize thinking and come back into the present moment with gentleness and kindness, we are planting a seed of mindfulness. We are creating a new habit—a new way of being in the world. We quiet down the incessant buzz of thoughts in our mind. We take refuge in what is true—the aliveness and tenderness and mystery of the present moment—rather than in the story line of our thoughts.

“Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.”— Wu Men

Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance (2003)

Enjoy this short video on Catching Fear Thoughts

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Sacred Art of Listening – Nourishing Loving Relationships


To listen is to lean in softly
With a willingness to be changed
By what we hear   
        -Mark Nepo

What happens when there’s a listening presence? When we’re fully in that listening presence, when there’s that pure quality of receptivity, we become presence itself. And whether you call that God or pure awareness or our true nature, the boundary of inner and outer dissolves and we become a luminous field of awakeness.   When we’re in that open presence we can really respond to the life that’s here. We fall in love.

This state of listening is the precursor or the prerequisite to loving relatedness. The more you understand the state of listening– of being able to have the sounds of rain wash through you, of receiving the sound and tone of another’s voice– the more you know about nurturing a loving relationship.

In a way it’s an extremely vulnerable position. As soon as you stop planning what you’re going to say or managing what the other person’s saying, all of a sudden, there’s no control. You’re open to your own sadness, your own anger and discomfort. Listening means putting down control. It’s not a small thing to do.

We spend most of our moments when someone is speaking, planning what we’re going to say, evaluating it, trying to come up with our presentation of our self, or controlling the situation.

Pure listening is a letting go of control. It’s not easy and takes training. And yet it’s only when we can let go of that controlling that we open up to the real purity of loving. We can’t see or understand someone in the moments that we are trying to control what they are saying or trying to impress them with what we are saying. There’s no space for that person to just unfold and be who they are. Listening and unconditionally receiving what another expresses, is an expression of love.

The bottom line is when we are listened to, we feel connected. When we’re not listened to, we feel separate. So whether it’s the communicating between different tribes or religions, ethnicities, racial groups or different generations, we need to listen. The more we understand, the less we fear; the less we fear, the more we trust and the more we trust, the more love can flow.

Isn’t it true to that to get to know the beauty and majesty of a tree
You have to be quiet and rest in the shade of the tree?
Don’t you have to stand under the tree?
To understand anyone, you need to stand under them for a little while
What does that mean?
Its mean you have to listen to them and be quiet and take in who they are
As if from under, as if from inside out.

Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance (2003)

Enjoy this talk on: Listening with an Awake Heart


For more information, visit www.tarabrach.com

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Emptiness Dancing


This entire living world--including these forms we call self-- is a creative arising and dissolving of empty awareness. I love the Zen phrase “emptiness dancing,” because it recognizes the inseparability of formlessness and form, of the awake space of awareness and its expression in aliveness.

Sometimes, when I teach about the ultimate freedom of realizing selflessness and emptiness dancing, students ask if this means turning away from personal growth and service. Is this just another way to devalue the life we are living here and now? If we find inner freedom, will we still be interested in healing ourselves and our world?

Whenever these questions come up, I usually recall Mari, who started attending meditation classes when she realized she was burning out after working more than a decade as a fund-raiser for a large human rights group. At that time, the political environment had gotten increasingly nasty, rival factions were vying for control of the organization, donors were scarce, and she was questioning the ethics of some of her colleagues. When I met her, Mari had given notice and wanted nothing to do with politics or activism. She was done.

Over the next four years, Mari worked at a sporting-goods store, attended meditation classes and retreats, and found the time to reconnect with a former passion: bird-watching. After a meditation class, she told me, “It’s during those walks, during the early morning hours of watching and listening, that I come home to silence, to my own presence.” In that attentive silence, Mari’s love affair with birds deepened. “They are not something outside of me,” she told me, “they are part of my inner landscape.” As she grew more alarmed about habitat loss, though, Mari realized her activist life was not over.

As we explored this together in a counseling session, Mari began to trust that this time around, things would be different. So, she agreed to fund-raise for an environmental group, even while  knowing that there would be conflicting egos within this organization, and that she would inevitably have bouts of discouragement. Mari had found refuge; she knew she could reconnect with the awareness that gives rise to birds and trees, to egos and discouragement, to the entire play of life. She could remember the wisdom of emptiness dancing, and serve this imperfect world.

Spiritual teacher Adyashanti, who wrote a book called Emptiness Dancing, suggests that as we move through the day, we ask: “How is emptiness or awareness experiencing this (eating, walking outside, showering, talking)?” I also like to ask myself, “How is this empty, awake heart experiencing what’s happening?”

It’s illuminating to step out of our story of self, and simply receive sensations, feelings, and sounds from the perspective of heart and awareness. We’re not in opposition to anything, or resisting or evaluating anything; we’re just letting life flow through us.

Whenever I pay attention like this, I’m not at all removed from life. Rather, without the self-focus, I become part of the flow of aliveness. Just as the river knows how to flow around rocks, I can then respond intuitively to life’s unfolding. I’m more spontaneous in the moment, more naturally clear and caring in my response to what’s around me. I’ve seen this happen with others too. Whether we’re serving or savoring, whenever there’s an awareness of emptiness dancing, we become wholehearted in how we live. This is true even in the face of inevitable loss.

A few years ago, I read a memorable story about violinist Itzhak Perlman. Perlman had polio when he was a young child, and at each of his performances he makes a slow entrance on crutches, sits down, unclasps the braces on his legs, then prepares to play. He did this as usual at a 1995 performance at Lincoln Center in New York. On this occasion, however, he’d only played the first few bars when one of the strings on his violin broke. The whole audience could hear the crack when it snapped. What will happen next, they wondered. Will he have to put on his braces, make his way across the stage, find another violin?

He sat still, closed his eyes, and paused. Then he signaled for the conductor to begin again. Perlman reentered the concerto, playing with an unimaginable passion, power, and purity. Perhaps some of those watching could sense him modulating, changing, reconfiguring the piece in his head, so deep was his immersion in creating. When he finished there was an awed silence. Then came the outburst of applause as people rose and cheered from every corner of the hall.

Perlman smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, and raised his bow to quiet the crowd. Then he spoke, not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone. “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

Recently I was disappointed to learn that this story has been called into question, but the message stays with me. We weigh down our lives with memories of how it used to be and fears of what we have yet to lose. Yet when we surrender into the living moment, we, like Perlman, become emptiness dancing—a part of the creative flow. We respond with a tender heart to our world’s pain and beauty. We make music with what we have left.

Adapted from True Refuge (2013)

Enjoy this talk on The Freedom of Yes


For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com