Posts Tagged ‘Tara Brach’



I renewed a former passion of mine in hiking last year. Many of the pictures you see posted here lately are from these hikes. I am a forest lover through and through. But I had no idea that this time hiking would take me on a journey to healing a long standing fear that I’ve had since I was a teenager – the fear of being a woman, alone, and in a secluded area.

I start my hike and the fear comes up, it doesn’t just bubble up either, it’s right up close and personal. Then I stop and look around me and see how all life seems to support another – a “dead” tree becomes home to moss and mushrooms. A leaning tree finds another to hold it up, they begin to grow together. Everything is supported in one way or another. Maybe I am, too?

I walk further up the mountain, the fear is back. I consciously breathe, hand over heart, and let it be present, not with its story, just the pure, raw emotion. Let it be. Breathe, let it be. As Tara Brach says: permission to be here.

On this one particular day, my hike was my daily Facebook blessing, which I will share with you below. By the end of that hike I turned in gratitude before my descent. Where there was fear, I found comfort, and a space to allow the fear to come to rest.

Fear comes, it goes, big fears, little fears, doesn’t matter. Maybe everything, at it’s heart, is just calling us to simply be with it fully, whatever it is.

Blessings Day 665: so excited to get to the mountain today, I knew she’d be shrouded in mist! It’s as if Mother Nature turned the dial up on awe and amazing! Every step another awe-inspiring experience, so I could hardly keep my eyes to the trail. Deeper and deeper I strode into her mysterious, murky womb to know ever more – this place is holy. This place is sacred. This place is healing.


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These are two useful mindfulness tools from my “greatest hits” of 2014. I still practice both of these. The first is very calming, grounding and restorative, and useful also with nighttime wakefulness. The other is a great one from Tara Brach, helpful when thoughts are regretting the past or projecting into the future – it is an instant pivot! Finally, I conclude with something new, and equally impactful, from Byron Katie.

“Take your thumb and connect it with your pinky, take 5 deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth.  Do the same with your ring finger, then your middle finger, then your index finger.  Then finally, bring all 5 fingers together and take 5 deep breaths.” (excerpted from thespirtscience.net)

This last greatest hit from 2014, is just one simple question quoting the mindfulness teacher, Tara Brach. I put this question on one of my homemade “well being” cards. It’s a great reminder, and especially useful the moment you even start to dip a toe in the waters of suffering.

“Ok, what is actually happening right now?”

Deceptively simple, isn’t it? But incredibly powerful!

And lastly, I’ve appended the Byron Katie quote below. The last two sentences are especially helpful if you are arguing with what is, which is to say feeling like anything, whatever it is, should not be happening. That is the very heart of suffering, and that’s why I am committed to bringing you (and me) tools to help ease it. Be well and at peace, my friends.

“Things are happening to me. Stressful thought.

Things are happening for me. Positive thought.

Things are happening. Truth.”



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A few posts down I quoted some from Tara Brach, she illustrated the use of a question that I then used. Using that question became the pivoting point out of a dark place I was in at the time. The question was:

“Ok, what is actually happening right now?”

The ice bucket challenge is en vogue at the moment. Asking myself that question was like throwing a bucket of ice water on myself – it woke me up! I could see immediately how all my suffering was from past and future thinking.

And with that question, I followed the breath into the body and I let myself feel the breath move, feel where it got stuck, be with that, and continue breathing some more. A softening then begins to happen, because I’m inhabiting this moment fully present in the body, my home here on earth.

I don’t recall Tara’s exact words but it was something about those of us who have experienced a lot of wounding in our lives, benefit by a regular spiritual practice of some sort. Now that I’ve emerged from that dark place, I’ve taken her advice to heart. I’ve continued to practice this question many times a day, any time I recognize I am in a story. It’s a new muscle I am learning to develop and flex.

What I have found is, the question can so effortlessly turn my attention to right now. Yet, I noticed something else was temporarily at bay in the background. It, of course, was the story that jibed with wherever the breath got stuck.

I listened to another talk by Tara Brach “The Freedom of Yes”, and I heard her respond to the story with this statement:

“I give myself permission for this. Permission for this. Permission for this.”

The next time I had an opportunity to use that original question – “Ok, what is actually happening right now?”, I followed the breath into the body and I felt the familiar tightening right in the solar plexus. Being with it and breathing, I gave the tightness a name and gave it permission to be there:

“I give this struggle permission to be here.”

I did not go into the attendant thoughts that match struggle, I’m still staying present in the body, and breathing slowly and consciously, repeating – permission to be here, permission to be here.

If you try this, observe how it softens, how you start to relax, a truce has come, the inner struggle is dissipating because it’s being met with at last, acceptance. Struggle is defined by our unwillingness to be with whatever arises. When the unwillingness is dropped, that’s the sweet spot.

My dear friend has always said: “whatever you can let yourself have, you can let yourself release.” I’ve heard these principles said dozens of times in different ways, but until someone could mentor the way in for me (Tara Brach), it looked good on paper, but was a nebulous concept just the same.

I hope this was as useful for you, as it was for me, and a deep bow to Tara Brach for the wisdom, support, and inspiration!


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I was having days of really being lost in old stories.  I could hear the old voices, they have nothing new to say, but the more I struggled to get out of it, the more unbearably entangled I became. It wasn’t until I listened to this Tara Brach audio podcast, that I began to see shades of light again.

I have transcribed some of it below, but highly recommend listening to the whole thing in its entirety. Her voice, for one, is so soothing; she is the absolute voice of compassion, and loving kindness.

You’ll learn how even spiritual masters like Ram Dass could be completely lost at his time of greatest need, and what it took for him to find a way back to presence. This was humbling to hear, and helped me see how even spiritual masters are vulnerable, too.

She’ll also go into great detail on the how-to of coming back to alignment with our pure, essential nature. I love that about her. So many teachers can talk it, but then don’t have any real advice on how to live that. These podcasts are offered freely to help others; I really cannot say enough good things about Tara Brach’s work.

Click here for the complete audio podcast.

“Cultivate the skill of coming back right to this moment.  If you are very, very stirred up and you can say – ok, what is actually happening right now? It’s almost like you are nailing your attention to this moment.  It’s really, really close in and stay and stay and stay, you discover some freedom.  How come?”

My note – consider using this question she offers the next time you are overwhelmed with anything:

Ok, what is actually happening right now? It woke me right up out of the thoughts that were fueling fear and anxiety – it was 99.9% based on regret, past thinking (shoulda, woulda, coulda), and future thinking of worry and fear projections.

“The only way your emotions can keep going and stay fairly static is if you keep fueling them with thoughts.  If you truly step out of the story line and keep anchoring your attention to this squeeze, this tightness, to this feeling of pounding, to this emptiness, to the soreness, to the sadness, or whatever it is, if you keep staying with your senses, so that the stories aren’t feeding the emotions, they change.

We start sensing – is there something beyond this changing nature?  We start sensing as we stay and stay, the presence that’s here, that alert stillness, as all the weather systems are moving through, there’s a shift in identity.

This is is the power of mindfulness.  A mindfulness awareness notices what happens in the moment, and instead of continuing to fuel that cycle of feeling/thought, feeling/thought, feeling/thought, we relax into the presence that’s observing and touching and feeling.  And the who we are gets larger, we start belonging to the aliveness and the presence vs. the person, the narrative, that’s a victim of a feeling.

So this is touching the ground, touching the ground of what’s actually going on right here, very powerful gateway back into the garden.”

So this is one of the ways I “touch the ground”, I become more rooted, more deeply connected to everything and everyone, including all of you reading. I share what has inspired me, so that if you are at all suffering, perhaps how I began to lift myself out of it, might be a doorway for you, too.




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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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