Tag Archive: Tara Brach


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

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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.

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.

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.”


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.

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?”


Three Blessings in Spiritual Life – Part 3: A Mirror

08/09/2017 This 3- part series explores three capacities we all have, that when cultivated, bring spiritual awakening and serve the healing of our world. Drawing on an ancient teaching story from India, we explore together the power of a forgiving heart, the inner fire that expresses as courage and dedication, and the inquiry of “who am I” that reveals our deepest nature. From the talk: “These are three qualities often described as the essence of awareness: wakeful, open, tender.” And a blessing: “May all beings everywhere remember and trust the loving awareness that is our source. May all beings everywhere live in natural and great peace. May we touch true joy in living. May all beings everywhere awaken and be free.”


Three Blessings in Spiritual Life – Part 2: Inner Fire

This 3-part series explores three capacities we all have, that when cultivated, bring spiritual awakening and serve the healing of our world. Drawing on an ancient teaching story from India, we explore together the power of a forgiving heart, the inner fire that expresses as courage and dedication, and the inquiry of “who am I” that reveals our deepest nature.


This 3- part series explores three capacities we all have, that when cultivated, bring spiritual awakening and serve the healing of our world. Drawing on an ancient teaching story from India, we explore together the power of a forgiving heart, the inner fire that expresses as courage and dedication, and the inquiry of “who am I” that reveals our deepest nature.


We do need to have certain narratives about the world that alert us to real danger. We also need to recognize when those stories are taking over, blinding and separating us from our hearts, our awareness, and each other.

Omega... In recent months there has been significant unrest in various parts of the country as a result of racially charged conflict between civilians and police…
What is the path to healing for a society with such deeply rooted racism, fear, and anger?

Tara: During the Baltimore riots I was reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., “But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

The first step in responding to strong emotions—our own or others’—is to seek to understand. What is the suffering giving rise to this anger? If we can pause, and instead of reacting or judging, look to see the suffering, our heart’s response will be compassionate and wise.

For those of us in the dominant culture, it’s challenging yet essential that we respond to the hurt and anger that has built up through generations of violence against people of color. The legacy of slavery requires that we in the dominant culture take responsibility for participating in a society that rewards us for our whiteness. Taking responsibility means seeking ways of reparation, ways to address the institutionalized injustice and inequities leading to one out of three African American men being imprisoned in their lifetime, twice as many blacks as whites unemployed, and median income of black households at less than 60% of white ones. And the inequities are widening!

As individuals in the dominant culture we need to start by educating ourselves to white privilege and stay present with our own reactivity to what’s happening—looking at our own fears and confusion, bringing an honest, kind, clear attention to our own experience. This certainly doesn’t mean believing our beliefs, it means bringing mindfulness to our own emotions. If we can be present and kind toward our inner states, we will start seeing how we create separation from others. This will enable us to be more clear and wise in bearing witness to others’ ways of expressing pain.

As communities, the deep, transformative healing can arise from collective dialogue. This means same race groups would look into their own wounds and blind spots with the intention of deepening self-understanding. Small interracial groups would form so that those of us who have locked into ideas of other as “enemy,” or “inferior,” or “wrong” can practice speaking and listening together with mindfulness and compassion and learn to see through each other’s eyes.

For instance, we need circles made up of police and civilian families who have been violated by police. These and other mixed race circles require a safe container, guidelines on communicating, and a commitment to stay, speak truthfully, and listen with as much heart as possible. There are a growing number of models for these processes of reconciliation—dialogue is happening in this country and elsewhere.

This domain of honest dialogue creates the groundwork for healing and awakening from the painful trance of separation. It can reconnect us to our sense of interconnectedness and caring. And importantly, it energizes action to relieve suffering. There will be no healing until those of us in the dominant culture join in solidarity with people of color to end institutionalized racism. This means confronting the ongoing discrimination against people of color—be it in the domain of education, employment, housing, or the judicial system.

Omega: How is your sangha (Buddhist community) addressing the issue of racism?

Tara: Much of our community is white, so we are exploring our own blindness around white privilege. Through a yearlong white awareness group, we’re looking at the ways we create separation, because as long as there is separation none of us is free. Most of our community’s white senior teachers and white board members are involved.

We have equity and inclusivity trainings, and experienced facilitators to help us look honestly at how we’ve gotten caught in certain perspectives and behaviors. We’ve created scholarships for people of color to participate in our activities and retreats. We have several teachers of color and leaders of color in our community and are looking to expand the number. We regularly bring in guest teachers of color. Our organization supports affinity groups within our community, and the People of Color group is flourishing. A small group of us are participating in a diversity sangha (community) dedicated to deepening our understanding and affiliation. And as individuals we’re engaging in solidarity with groups in the larger community that are dedicated to ending racism.

At the upcoming buddhafest.org event in DC on June 14, I’ll be part of a panel with Rev. angel Kyodo williams and others to talk about this work and its challenges.

Omega: Are there resources you would recommend for other groups looking to work with the issues of racism and white privilege?

Tara: A good place to start is with the three-part documentary Race: The Power of An Illusion. Watching this video can be a powerful way to begin to understand how racial dominance has been established and maintained. I also liked the book We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know by Gary Howard. Even though it focuses on education, it gives a great context for understanding white dominance, and outlines how we can create a positive, socially transformative white identity. You can also find resources and Dharma-based support for developing a racial awareness program at whiteawake.org.

Source: The Huffington Post


Published on Aug 8, 2017

Tara Talks: Reflection on Impermanence – with Tara Brach

This guided practice helps us live from the realization of life’s ever-changing stream with a sense of love and wisdom.


Published on Jul 4, 2017

Tara Talks – Soul Recognition: Reflection – with Tara Brach

A practice of seeing and acknowledging the sacred that lives through ourselves and all beings in every moment.


Published on May 4, 2017

Relaxing the Over-Controller – Part I (4/26/2017)
We all have conditioning to do what we can to protect and promote our wellbeing. Our suffering arises to the degree that our life and identity become organized around controlling our experience. These two talks look at the emergence of the fear based “over-controller,” and explore a wise way of witnessing the suffering that comes with over-controlling, and awareness practices that naturally relax and awaken us to our whole and natural Being.


Published on May 2, 2017

Tara Talks – What Are You Unwilling to Feel? with Tara Brach

When we spiritually re-parent ourselves, we commit to staying with our inner experience, no matter what it is, as we get in touch with what those hurting places really want or need.

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