Archive for November, 2012



I’ve been listening to Tara Brach’s podcast entitled “Hands Off the Controls”.  Tara Brach is also the author of Radical Acceptance (highly recommend!).  I love her completely non-judgmental stance.  So many teachers use labels that inherently carry judgment.  Tara, particularly in her book, refers to the shadow.  Some of you may be familiar with this Jungian term also.  The shadow is only and ever those unloved parts of ourselves.  To reject the shadow, is to enable its presence even further.

In the podcast, Tara gives some concrete steps for dealing with suffering on any level.  I am going to detail them below.  If you listen to the podcast, I am not quoting verbatim, so you may hear things differently.  Certainly, it’s also a small piece of the podcast, so if you get a chance to listen to the whole of it, I don’t think you will regret it.

She recommends using these tools for the big stuff, when the sh*t really hits the fan, but I think it’s good practice to even start out with small things.  Then when the stuff really does hit the fan, you’ve already got a toe hold in something you’ve lent some practice to.

1) Resourcing: This is designed to calm the nervous system.  It also brings you instantly into the present moment.  Begin consciously breathing focusing longer on the in breath and extending the out breath, too.  Do this several times, consciously.  Now feel your feet on the floor, the weight of your body in a chair, or lying in bed.  This is about grounding yourself to the earth.  Now from here, ask: May I offer “metta” or loving kindness to self, or others? (You may choose whichever or both if it applies, but suggest offering loving kindness first to self.)

2) Letting go of controls: Explore not doing and just being with what comes up.  You can say (and this is a direct quote):

“This is suffering…other people experience it, too.  May I be kind.”

She also mentioned a version of a quote most of us have heard as Christians, but this is a unique version of it:

“Not my will, but my [awakened] heart’s will.”

3) Beyond not doing: Having completed the first two steps, now as the need arises, take the action steps that are necessary.  These steps now are being taken from a state of presence, rather than a reactive or fear-based stance.

J. Krishnumurti was once quoted as saying: “Life has an astonishing way of taking care of you when you no longer mind what happens.”  I would change that, because truly often we do mind what happens to us.  Life has an astonishing way of taking care of you, when you no longer try to control what happens.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  May peace and loving kindness enter your heart each and every breath of all your days.

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I want to leap for joy every time I hear someone say — I had an amazing childhood!  Yet, I can count on a couple of fingers how many times I have heard that expressed.  I’m not one who falls into the amazing childhood category.  Frankly, if I was, this blog probably would never have come into existence.  It’s been in my journey to heal, that I’ve thought to inspire others with what has inspired me.

Now, at this juncture in my life, I genuinely want to heal the relationship with my Mom.  However, I found myself in the proverbial should-ing.  If I have a loving, open heart I “should” love her.  The should puts me on the hamster wheel of self-rejection.  Self-rejection never leads to lasting, genuine change.  And, the rejection of my Mom, is also a self-rejection.  If I were a tree, cursing part of my roots, ultimately I am rejecting self.

It all started with a process of moving beyond the should-ing.  With hand on heart, I ask myself…can I invite the spirit of my Mom into my heart.  Maybe the answer is “no”, today.  That’s ok, a little softening occurs just in asking the question.  It’s not a banging self over the head with the should hammer, it’s simply a soft inquiry.

Next I discovered, I could use this tool for so much more, and not just around my Mom.  Hand on heart, breathing consciously, I ask gently:

Can I allow forgiveness for this?
Can I invite acceptance for this?
Can I make room for compassion right now?
Can I make room for kindness?
Is there a place for unconditional love, in:
this passing thought
this brief experience
this temporary feeling

In the should-ing I bind myself to the experience with layers of judgment.  In the spaces of softening and allowing, it is all passing, temporary, brief, and most of all … mutable.

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Can I accept this moment exactly as it is?

Really taking a moment to stop and breathe, amidst thoughts and feelings and sensations in my body …

Can I accept this moment exactly as it is?

Inherently, what I am really asking:

Can I accept myself in this moment exactly as I am?

It’s not something I answer with a literal yes or a no.  I lean into it with a breath, a release, a letting go.

My new practice is to ask it again and again as I move about my day, as I sense the familiar habit of judging, labeling, and pushing against, creeping back in.  It’s not that old habits die hard; it’s that new ones need nourishment to take root and thrive.  Mindful, compassionate awareness is that nourishment.

Can I accept this moment exactly as it is?

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Do Not Be Ashamed

You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one. And you will know
that they have been there all along,
their eyes on your letters and books
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
“I am not ashamed.” A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.

~Wendell Berry
Collected Poems: 1957-1982

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