Tara Brach Is Inspiring Calm and Compassion Across the World
“Pausing, finding a quiet space, and opening up to the present moment exposes us to our unlived life.”
Every week in Maria’s publication The Sunday Paper, we honor individuals who are using their voices, their hearts and their minds to Move Humanity Forward.
This week, we honor Tara Brach as our Architect of Change of the Week.
Tara Brach has been helping people find their inner peace for over 40 years. As author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge, and through classes and workshops in the United States and Europe, Tara has not only guided many people toward finding acceptance, freedom and love within themselves. She has also encouraged them to set out and share that compassion with the greater world. We honor her today for the way her teachings are helping to Moving Humanity Forward.
1.) How does embracing a state of nothingness help our minds wander and be more creative?
When we are busy and task oriented, our attention narrows and our thinking becomes more repetitive, closed and rigid. It’s only when we intentionally stop “doing”—when we are willing to relax back and simply be—that our minds open to fresh perceptions and understandings. This takes some courage, as our “doing” gives a false sense of control and initially, letting go can leave us feeling unsettled, anxious or bored. Yet that’s temporary. It’s the space and quietness of non-doing that gives rise to creativity and true wonder.
2.) People often view meditation as simply a way to calm the mind, but what other benefits exist when it comes to play, spontaneity, creativity, and imagination?
We delight in children’s playfulness and spontaneity, and might wonder, what happens to squelch it? When we are busy managing our life—consumed by non-stop worries, planning and anxious thoughts—we are in a trance that covers over the mystery that is always here. Meditation awakens us from trance by quieting distracting thoughts, and opening us to the aliveness of our senses. Rather than living in a virtual reality, we are present to feel the warm embrace of a loved one, play tug of war with our pup, take creative risks at work, dance, serve and savor this precious life.
3.) Especially in this digital age, too many of us struggle with the idea of turning off and being alone. What is the value in finding time to be alone and with ourselves?
One sage advised that we ask ourselves a revealing question: “What am I unwilling to feel?” Pausing, finding a quiet space and opening to the present moment, exposes us to our own unlived life. We might contact the unfelt fear or loneliness we’ve been running from, or the sadness or passion. In this pause we also open to the deep vitality and love and intelligence that gets buried when we are plugged into the endless noise and speed and drive of our culture. We are not just pausing for our own sanity and well-being. If we can’t open to our vulnerability, we won’t feel compassion for others. It’s through contacting and embracing our inner life that we can then respond to those around us with increasing wisdom and kindness.
4.) In your book True Refuge, you write that there is a place of silent awareness that exists beneath our thoughts and emotions. What are the benefits of tapping into that inner self, and what is one thing a person can do today to get closer to that place?
After being with thousands of people at their deathbed, one palliative caregiver described the greatest regret of the dying: “I didn’t live true to myself.” We live according to other’s expectations and our own should’s and fears. Our thoughts and emotions perpetuate the sense that something is wrong with us, a trance of unworthiness that prevents us from relaxing, taking risks and trusting we are loveable. Meditation—training our attention—allows us to discover who we are under the surface waves, who we are beyond the sense of an unworthy self. A simple meditation, what I call a “Pause for Homecoming” helps us get a taste of the wakefulness, love and openness that is at the source of our Being.
Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for 3 to 5 minutes, and sit in a way that allows you to be alert yet comfortable. Experiment with bringing a slight smile to your lips:
Closing your eyes, take 3 long, full, deep breaths, matching the length of the inhale with length of the exhale. You might count to 6 breathing in, and 6 breathing out.
Let the breath resume its natural rhythm, and become mindful of the present moment: What is it like to listen to sounds? To feel the sensations throughout your body? To sense the emotions or mood of your heart? What is the experience of the presence or awareness that is here?
Sense what your deepest wish is for yourself (e.g. May I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I accept myself just as I am, may I love without holding back…) and offer that wish to yourself. If you like you might explore gently putting your hand on your heart as you do this.
As you move back into daily activity notice whatever might have shifted in your sense of your own being.
5.) How do you hope your work will continue to Move Humanity Forward?
Training in mindfulness and compassion creates the grounds for a more peaceful, loving, just world. Children who have taken mindfulness classes have a way to center, communicate what they are feeling and cultivate self-confidence. Inmates talk about how a meditative pause gives them the choice not to act out of fear and anger. Business leaders describe how mindfulness helps them bring the best out of others, and align their work with their deepest values. Those dialoguing in mixed racial groups become aware of unseen bias and of the essential goodness in each other. The dying can take refuge in timeless loving presence, and earthlings awaken to cherish their larger body, this earth. The hope in sharing these practices, and in training new teachers to do the same, is to contribute to this movement of healing and freedom.
For more information on Tara Brach, go here.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Foust
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