Tara Talks: Listening with Ears of the Heart

When we really listen to another, they sense a space where they can speak authentically. Rachel Naomi Remen writes:

“The places we are seen and heard are holy places. They remind us of our value as human beings. They give us the strength to go on. Eventually they may even help us transform pain into wisdom.”

In the clip above, Tara explores the three steps of deep listening and how this deliberate practice can help us connect more intimately with others as we learn to listen with ‘ears of the heart.’

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Looking Through the Eyes of Another – Transforming Separation Into Shared Consciousness – Tara Brach


I often talk about how suffering arises from the unseen, unfelt parts of ourselves. Only when we become aware of what is here and bring presence to what we have been running from can we discover wholeness and freedom.

The same is true when we explore our relationships to each other and the world. We cannot be free if we are pushing anyone out of our hearts. If we are discounting, rejecting, or turning away, we are not living from our wholeness. It creates suffering. When we live in resentment, we have separated ourselves and pulled away from our belonging.

Trance of the Unreal Other

All life forms are designed to perceive separation. It is part of our evolutionary story. And in moments that we find ourselves stuck in reactivity or in some conflict or division, we create what I call an unreal other. Rather than a living, feeling Being with wants, needs and fears, another person has become an idea in our mind and is not subjectively alive or real to us. They are two-dimensional and flat. The more stressed we get, the less real they become. We are the protagonist of our own story and the other is like a puppet or a pawn. We begin to see them as something that can help us, hurt us, or as simply irrelevant.

We create an unreal other any time we begin to sense aversion and distance with another. There is the anger, blaming, and resentment that we sometimes feel in our close-in relationships, but there is also a level of pushing people out of our hearts on a larger scale, where our perceptions of ourselves and others are being filtered through stereotypes. Too often, we are not even aware that this is happening. We may have labeled a group of people as differentinferiorbad, or maybe even dangerous. Whether it is with a partner or a child, a political candidate, or even more global, when we are caught in aversive reactivity, we have created an unreal other.

The Suffering of Stereotypes and Predispositions

When we are in the narrow identity of perceived separation, we don’t have access to the more recently evolved parts of our brain that can be mindful and compassionate. We all have strong filters that differentiate us from others by defining us in terms of politics, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender-identity, socio-economic status, and physical appearance and we have all been in situations where we have been subjected to these biases – when people viewed us through a filter that was not true. When we are not aware of how we are shaped by these predispositions, they create separation and that sense is amplified by our culture and the society we live in through its standards, attitudes, and stories. Like fish in water, we are unaware of how much it shapes our reality. We are so accustomed to the judgment, yet it creates tremendous suffering.

Building Bridges is a program that has brought teens from different backgrounds — in this case, Palestinian and Israeli — to live together for a week or two and get to know one another. It’s an incredible experience based in mindfulness and compassionate listening.

In one group, a Palestinian girl shared her story about the Israeli soldiers that barged into her family’s house and beat everyone up and, after realizing they were at the wrong place, they left without apology.

The group facilitator then asked an Israeli girl to repeat the story in first person, as though it had happened to her, including the feelings – the rage and terror – that she might have felt. After listening to the Israeli tell her story, the Palestinian began to weep. She said, “My enemy heard me.” [1]

Looking Through the Eyes of Another

Opening up into a larger sense of Being always starts with sensing how we have turned on ourselves. If we are not able to open to the places of shame, fear and hurt inside our own bodies and hearts, we cannot have the courage and presence to be with the suffering of another.

The next step is to begin to explore looking through the eyes of those we might be feeling some distance with in our immediate circle: our partner who keeps going back on their word, our child who is behaving in a disrespectful way. This is the domain of our practice where we can notice when we are in the trance of separation and have created an unreal other and begin to deepen our attention. How are you doing? What is this like for you?

In Buddhist compassion teachings, this full presence is the grounds of Taking and Sending — a compassion practice that guides us in taking in the experience of another person, and then sending them care. This practice awakens us from the sense of separateness, and we can begin to live from the reality of our shared belonging.

I love the words of Henry David Thoreau:

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” [2]

You might take a moment to reflect: What would it be like, in this moment, to look through another’s eyes? To widen the circles of compassion and be part of the healing of our world?


Tara Brach: Evolving Beyond “Unreal Othering”

What motivates us – as individuals and a society – to build walls and knowingly hurt others? This talk explores the evolutionary roots of “unreal othering” and how when we are hijacked by fear, it can take over and disconnect us from the very real suffering of others. We then look at how meditative strategies awaken us from othering, and reveal our intrinsic belonging. Finally, we apply this to our own lives in a reflection that helps us respond to someone we have turned into “unreal other” with compassion and wisdom.

Tara Talks: Guided Reflection on Inhabiting this Body

Published on Jun 6, 2018
Tara Talks: Guided Reflection on Inhabiting this Body

When we are not inhabiting our bodies, we are not experiencing our full aliveness. When pain arises, how much can you open to it and let it be as it is? Just like waves in the ocean, pain and unpleasant sensations are part of the larger space of our lived experience. Loving presence arises when we can say, “This belongs.”

The Wisdom of “It’s Not My Fault”: Finding Freedom When We are Caught in Self-Blame – Tara Brach

April 28, 2018

by Tara Brach: I sometimes think that the most basic truths are the ones that we most regularly forget, and one of them is: If we are turned on ourselves, we cannot love this life…
The turning on ourselves contracts us. In those moments, we are disconnected from our inner life and from each other. We move through the day with an undercurrent of I’m not okay, but are unaware of how much it’s affecting our capacity to relax and enjoy our moments.

In Buddhist teachings, the Buddha described two arrows. The first arrow is the natural experience that arises in this human animal that we are, for example: fear, aggression, greed, craving. The second arrow is self-aversion for the fact of the first arrow. We have the experience of being nasty, selfish or greedy, and we don’t like ourselves for that. That’s the second arrow. The Buddha says: “The first arrow hurts, why do we shoot the second arrow into us, ourselves?” And yet we do. He goes on to say: “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow; however, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.” The first arrow arises from causes and conditions beyond our control. But when we learn to release the judgment and self-blame that we experience in response to the first arrow, the second arrow becomes completely avoidable.

In order to be able to really bring compassion and friendliness to the first arrow, we must first understand that what is happening inside of us is a natural part of our survival conditioning. It is part of being human, and is really not our fault. Now, you might be thinking: Wait a minute! If I believe that it’s not my fault, how will I ever be accountable or responsible?

Causes and Conditions: Forces Beyond Our Control

The things that we most hate about ourselves are shaped by innumerable forces: They are conditioned by the primitive brain’s habits of aggression and craving, and amplified by genetic tendencies from past generations and the prevailing stories and mindset of our surrounding culture. We didn’t choose any of this. For instance, research is finding more and more that genetics affect a huge amount of our experience, right down to our “happiness quotient” and whether we are early or late risers. Other conditioning happens over the course of our life-experiences, whether we have been traumatized or abused or, perhaps, have suffered the less quantifiable kinds of deficits in attention, understanding, care and attunement from our care-givers. It’s very interesting to look at how the ways our parents or care-givers treated us are internalized and then that is how we end up treating ourselves.

Fifteen or sixteen years ago, I went shopping with one of my fellow teachers at the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. We wanted to have a Buddha for our meditation community. We found a lovely Buddha with a kind an androgynous look and you could see the feminine and the masculine archetypes. We fell for it, and were excited to bring it into our sangha. The first Wednesday night, I introduced everybody to it and afterwards, I noticed that people were standing and, as they were looking at it, they were leaning a bit to the left. One person came over to me and she said, “Tara, it’s beautiful, but the cast is to the left. It’s leaning.” And so it was. It was an imperfect Buddha—a leaning Buddha. And I thought it was one of the coolest, most helpful teachings for our meditation community. This Buddha, that is still part of our community today, is a lovely Buddha, and it is subject to conditions that are beyond its control—somebody made a leaning cast. It’s not the Buddha’s fault.

>So, there are all of the forces at play that are completely out of our control, but we take them personally, like they are our fault. There is a stuck place, where our primitive brain and body activity—fear, aggression, craving—becomes my fear, my aggression, my craving.

Rather than being universal wiring in our nervous system, we get this feeling that what we are experiencing is uniquely ours. But when these experiences of anxiety, fear, jealousy, resentment, anger, aggression and so on arise in us, if we can get even a glimmer of understanding that it’s part of the human condition—it’s not my fear, it’s the fear—that shift can create the willingness, flexibility and gentleness that makes space for very deep healing to occur.

The Wisdom of It’s Not My Fault

When we can say,”It’s not my fault”, it actually enables us to be more responsible and more accountable. It’s the self-blame that actually locks us into repeating the patterning. Realizing that the first arrow is out of our control and releasing self-blame is the beginning of bringing forth the awareness that can free us from the pain of the second arrow.

You might bring to mind some situation that brings up self-blame, something that is hard to accept or hard to forgive. Some place where you’re caught in disliking yourself.

Now begin to shine the light of awareness on the edginess, the tightness around the heart, by sensing: Is this really my fault? See if you can sense that, like the leaning Buddha, there are conditions that you didn’t sign on for: the fears, anger and wants shaped by genetics, culture, life-experiences. And then see if you can open to the possibility that the first arrow—the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are driven by these feelings—is just part of this human inheritance. You didn’t choose this.

When we are not caught in self-blame, we are free to love this life. Opening to the possibility of It’s not my fault creates space for true intimacy with our world and deep inner freedom. When our actions arise from this openhearted presence, they naturally bring healing and nourishment to others.

Source: Tara Brach

Tara Brach: From Head to Heart

 Published on Apr 6, 2018

Tara Brach: From Head to Heart (2018-04-04)

If we are suffering, we are believing an interpretation of reality that is limiting and untrue. At these times we are imprisoned in a painful looping of fear-driven thoughts and feelings. This talk explores the ways our practices of mindfulness, compassion and loving presence can guide us from addictive thinking to perceiving life with a wise heart.

My Religion is Kindness, Part 2 – with Tara Brach

My Religion is Kindness, Part 2 – with Tara Brach (2017/12/20)

Authentic kindness must include the life within us. These two talks examine the movement from an armored to a free and loving heart. The first looks at how we can awaken from the trance of unworthiness and establish a genuinely caring relationship with our inner life. In the second we explore how self-kindness awakens us to the heartspace that naturally includes all of life.

This talk is dedicated especially to youthful listeners on this solstice evening.

My Religion is Kindness, Part 1 – with Tara Brach

Authentic kindness must include the life within us. These two talks examine the movement from an armored to a free and loving heart. The first looks at how we can awaken from the trance of unworthiness and establish a genuinely caring relationship with our inner life. In the second we explore how self-kindness awakens us to the heartspace that naturally includes all of life.

Winds of Homecoming ~ How Intention Frees our Heart

Published on Jan 12, 2018

Tara Brach: Winds of Homecoming ~ 

2018/01/11

The Buddha taught that we live our lives on the tip of intention, it is the seed of our future. This talk explores the difference between “limbic” intentions driven by grasping or fear, and intentions that are the call of our awakening heart. You will learn how to identify and shift from a “limbic” to wise intention, and several different ways you can more readily and regularly access your deepest aspiration.

Three Gateways to Peace and Freedom with Tara Brach

Published on Jan 8, 2018

Three Gateways to Peace and Freedom with Tara Brach (01/03/2018)

This talk explores the three archetypal refuges of truth, love and awareness. We look at the outer and inner aspects of each refuge, and then through guided reflections and a Refuge Ritual, deepen our commitment to the pathways that awaken our minds and free our hearts.

Radical Acceptance Revisited ~ Tara Brach [Updated Nov 17, 2017]

Radical Acceptance Revisited (08/12/2015)

One of the truths we most regularly forget is that if we are at war with ourselves, we can’t feel love and connection with our world. This talk looks at the genesis of the “Trance of Unworthiness” and how the wings of mindfulness and heartfulness can dissolve the trance and reveal the loving awareness that is our essence Being.

Discovering the Gold: Remembering Our True Nature By Cultivating Mindfulness And Compassion

Posted on November 13, 2017
by Tara Brach: I remember when I was on a book tour for Radical Acceptance… one of the places I stopped was the Buddhist university, Naropa. They had a big poster with a big picture of me and, underneath the photo, the caption was: Something is wrong with me.

The Trance of Unworthiness: Forgetting Who We Are
I wrote about the Trance of Unworthiness in Radical Acceptance 14 years ago, and I’ve found, over the years, that it is still pretty much the most pervasive expression of emotional pain that I encounter in myself and in those I’ve worked with. It comes out as fear or shame — a feeling of being flawed, unacceptable, not enough. Who I am is not okay.

A core teaching of the Buddha is that we suffer because we forget who we really are. We forget the essence — the awareness and the love that’s here — and we become caught in an identity that’s less than who we are.

When we are in the trance of unworthiness, we’re not aware of how much our body, emotions, and thoughts have locked into a sense of falling short and the fear that we’re going to fail. The trance of unworthiness brings us to addictive behaviors as we try to soothe the discomfort of fear and shame. It makes it difficult to be intimate, spontaneous and real with others, because we have the sense that, even if they don’t already know, they will find out how flawed we really are. It makes it hard to take risks because we’re afraid we’re going to fall short. We can never really relax. Right in the heart of the trance, there is a need to do something to be better, to avoid the failure lurking right around the corner.

Space Suit Strategies: How We Manage in a World of Severed Belonging
Entering this world is difficult. Due to their own wounds and fears, a lack of attunement from caregivers is common. Depending on severity, this can create a core wounding of severed belonging: if I am not enough or if I fail, I won’t belong anymore. It starts early, and we internalize the messages relayed through our families: Here is how you need to be to be respected and/or loved.

In order to navigate this difficult environment, we don spacesuits — our ego survival strategies — to make it through. The suffering is that we become identified with the spacesuit and forget who is looking through the mask. We forget the tender heart that longs to love without holding back.

The sense of unworthiness gets dramatically amplified depending on our culture. Western culture is very individualistic and there’s not an innate sense of belonging. Fear of failure is really big. Every step of the way, we have to compete and prove ourselves and we have a profound fear of falling short. Messages of being inferior are particularly toxic for non-dominant populations. In different degrees, for those that don’t fit the dominant culture’s standards, there is an accentuated sense of not being enough.

So, we all develop our “space suit” strategies to manage ourselves so that we will “belong.” You probably know the ways you go about getting other people to pay attention, or to love you, or to respect you. For many of us it’s striving and accomplishing and proving ourselves. For some, there’s a habitual busyness. For others, there are addictive behaviors that numb and soothe the feelings.

The Golden Buddha: Remembering Our True Nature
One of the stories I’ve always loved took place in Asia. There’s a huge statue of the Buddha. It was a plaster and clay statue, not a handsome statue, but people loved it for its staying power. A number of years ago, there was a long dry period and a crack appeared in the statue. So the monks brought their little pen flashlights to look inside the crack — just thought they might find out something about the infrastructure. When they shined the light in, what shined out was a flash of gold — and every crack they looked into, they saw that same shining. So they dismantled the plaster and clay, which turned out to be just a covering, and found that it was the largest pure solid gold statue of the Buddha in all of southeast Asia.

The monks believed that the statue had been covered with plaster and clay to protect it through difficult years, much in the same way that we put on that space suit to protect ourselves from injury and hurt. What’s sad is that we forget the gold and we start believing we’re the covering — the egoic, defensive, managing self. We forget who is here. So you might think of the essence of the spiritual path as a remembering — reconnecting with the gold . . . the essential mystery of awareness.

Radical Acceptance: Awakening from the Trance of Unworthiness
The practice of meditation, or coming into presence, is described as having two wings. The wing of mindfulness allows us to see what is actually happening in the present moment without judgement. The other wing is heartfulness or love — holding what we see with tenderness and compassion. You might think of it as two questions: What is happening right now? and Can I be with this and regard it with kindness? These are the two wings that we cultivate to be able to wake up out of the trance of unworthiness — out of the spacesuit self — and sense that gold that’s shining through.

I’d like to invite you to take a moment to check in and just to feel into the inquiry: Is there anything, right this moment, between me and feeling at home in myself, at home in who I am? What is here, right now? Can I be with this? Can I regard this with kindness?

Source: Tara Brach

TaraTalks: A Bridge to Homecoming

Published on Nov 7, 2017

TaraTalks: A Bridge to Homecoming – with Tara Brach

When suffering hits, if – instead of trying to get away – we can take the risk to stay with it; call upon a loving friend in our heart; and offer ourselves some gesture of kindness… a shift can occur that truly changes our life.

Tara Brach on Your Future Self – Turning Towards Your Awakened HeartMind

Our lives are shaped by our evolutionary past – the fears and wants that arise from a separate self sense – and the pull of our evolutionary potential – our awakened heart and mind. This talk explores the power of these pulls, and the teachings and reflections that make us most available and responsive to the calling of our future self.

Tara Talks: Not Enough Time – with Tara Brach

Published on Oct 10, 2017

Tara Talks: Not Enough Time – with Tara Brach

The more stressed we are, the more likely it is that we’ll mistake the needs of someone we care about for “an interruption.”

Aside

Tara Talks: What You Practice Grows Stronger


Published on Sep 26, 2017

Tara Talks: What You Practice Grows Stronger – with Tara Brach

We may be very “loyal” to habits of anxiety and vigilance that evolved to ensure survival, but now exceed what’s needed and prevent us from enjoying life. We can undo this negativity bias by intentionally calling on more recently evolved parts of the brain and orienting in another direction.

TaraTalks: Mirroring the Gold in One Another

Published on Sep 19, 2017

TaraTalks: Mirroring the Gold in One Another – with Tara Brach

In our relating with others, how do we deepen our attention so that a place in us regularly scans for “What do you need right now? How can I respond in a way that reminds you that you belong?”

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