When I spin or spiral or go ‘sideways’, fear rolls over me like great waves and I am tossed about by the next crazy think that comes to my mind…
Consider this, however. Have you ever been at the ocean? Do you know what it’s like to drop below the waves and watch them from underneath? I have noticed that if you stay on the surface you can get pounded by wave after wave but if you drop a few feet below the surface, all you feel is a gentle tug.
This past weekend, I faced wave after wave of fears. I found that when I stayed on the surface, I was at the mercy of every memory and thought that rolled in but if I could drop down into myself and find a quite place, the ‘waves’ had no effect.
In her book True Refuge, teacher Tara Brach says this:
“I recently read in the book My Stroke of Insight by brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor that the natural life span of an emotion—the average time it takes for it to move through the nervous system and body—is only a minute and a half. After that we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression, or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue.” ~ True Refuge
One tool I used was to ‘pay attention’ to thoughts but journaling them in Evernote and most of ,u fears seemed to be appeased by the recognition of documentation. For the rest, I used Tara Brach’s RAIN acronym:
Investigate with Kindness
If only I could claim perfection! This approach, however, did help me ‘drop under the waves’ and become happier overall…
Tara Brach talked about this image in her recent podcast:
2014-02-19 – Part 2: Heart of Compassion – Most of us consciously value compassion, but move through much of life without access to the full capacity of our heart. This talk explores the self-compassion that is the very grounds of loving our world.
My superpower IS kindness, but I don’t ‘get into the phonebooth’ often enough, if you what I mean. I often don’t put on my ‘kindness costume’ when I need it most…
Does that make me a failure? No, I think it puts me on a path. It makes me human. HH the Dalai Lama says:
“I don’t know why people like me so much. It must be because I value bodhichitta [the awakened heart/mind]. I can’t claim to practice [it], but I value it.” We care about the awakened heart because, like a flower in full bloom, it is the full realization of our nature. Feeling loved and loving matters to us beyond all else. We feel most “who we are” when we feel connected to each other and the world around us, when our hearts are open, generous and filled with love. Even when our hearts feel tight or numb, we still care about caring.
Brach, Tara (2004-11-23). Radical Acceptance (p. 222). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
How can I, a fellow being who is much less awakened, condemn myself for not practicing?
My takeaway? Get into the phonebooth. Put on lovingkindness. Even when — ESPECIALLY WHEN — our hearts feel tight and numb…
I’m listening to a dharma talk by Tara Brach this morning that I’d like to share with you. She says…
It is our evolutionary and spiritual potential to release unnecessary habits of violating other tribes, individuals and unwanted parts of our own being. This talk explores three essential facets of the pathway to awakening: Leaving the fortress of aversive judgment, entering the wilderness of our embodied being and encircling this life with love.
Remembering Love (from IMCW Spring Retreat) – The habit of self-judgment not only causes emotional pain, it creates a trance that obscures the purity and vastness of our Being. This talk explores how a wakeful and forgiving heart can heal and free us…
May I recommend this audio podcast by Tara Brach? I especially liked the part about dogs toward the end:
While we all want to be happy, our habitual ways of pursuing happiness leave us dissatisfied. What prevents us from being happy? What is true happiness? How do we relax and open to the blessings of our life that are always and already here? Though these reflections we explore together our potential to live from a profound place of inner freedom, peace and happiness. Direct download: 2008-02-06-Gateways-to-Happiness-TaraBrach.mp3 via Tara Brach
You might reflect on someone important to you, and ask: “What is between me and loving fully?” Notice what happens. This talk explores the ways we create separations from others, and the power of inquiry and presence to awaken an unconditionally loving heart…
…when I take care of me! I love to wake up in the morning, make a pot of coffee and sit down at the computer for an hour while listening to a meditation from Tara Brach. However, I find that if I don’t exercise first thing in the day the chances that I’ll do it later decrease rapidly throughout the day so lately I’ve been making a few changes that seem to work well for me…
Instead of sitting down at the computer I put on my walking clothes, spend 5 minutes stretching and walk for 30 minutes while listening to my meditation. Then when I return home, I have a big glass of water before drinking coffee and I seem to need less to do more. I like eggs for breakfast but instead of eating them with butter and cheese I’m finding that hard-boiled along with some vegetables is a good way to go!
These are relatively minor changes but they make a massive difference in how much energy I have the rest of the day. How about you? What one positive thing could you do that would make a major impact in your life if you started doing it now? What one negative thing could you drop that would have a positive impact in your life?
I have a new friend that I am getting to know. I discovered not too long ago that she had begun reading my favorite book Siddhartha. I asked her recently what her takeaway was and she started “in life you pass through different phases…”. Just recently, I had exactly the OPPOSITE reaction, that in life, different phases pass through us! This is one of the things I love about this book. In some ways, it’s more like a mirror than a book and if you read it mindfully over again, you will find the book is different each time you read it. I recently re-read it earlier this summer via Audible after spending a lot of time with Brené Brown, Kristen Neff and Tara Brach and I remember hearing this part while I was out clearing the pasture and it almost knocked me over like a bolt out of the blue:
“Listen well, my dear, listen well! The sinner, which I am and which you are, is a sinner, but in times to come he will be Brahma again, he will reach the Nirvana, will be Buddha and now see: these ‘times to come’ are a deception, are only a parable! The sinner is not on his way to become a Buddha, he is not in the process of developing, though our capacity for thinking does not know how else to picture these things. No, within the sinner is now and today already the future Buddha, his future is already all there, you have to worship in him, in you, in everyone the Buddha which is coming into being, the possible, the hidden Buddha. The world, my friend Govinda, is not imperfect, or on a slow path towards perfection: no, it is perfect in every moment, all sin already carries the divine forgiveness in itself, all small children already have the old person in themselves, all infants already have death, all dying people the eternal life. It is not possible for any person to see how far another one has already progressed on his path; in the robber and dice-gambler, the Buddha is waiting; in the Brahman, the robber is waiting. In deep meditation, there is the possibility to put time out of existence , to see all life which was, is, and will be as if it was simultaneous, and there everything is good, everything is perfect, everything is Brahman. Therefore, I see whatever exists as good, death is to me like life, sin like holiness, wisdom like foolishness, everything has to be as it is, everything only requires my consent, only my willingness, my loving agreement, to be good for me, to do nothing but work for my benefit, to be unable to ever harm me. I have experienced on my body and on my soul that I needed sin very much, I needed lust, the desire for possessions, vanity, and needed the most shameful despair, in order to learn how to give up all resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in order to stop comparing it to some world I wished, I imagined, some kind of perfection I had made up, but to leave it as it is and to love it and to enjoy being a part of it. These, oh Govinda, are some of the thoughts which have come into my mind.” Siddhartha bent down, picked up a stone from the ground, and weighed it in his hand. “This here ,” he said playing with it, “is a stone, and will, after a certain time, perhaps turn into soil, and will turn from soil into a plant or animal or human being. In the past, I would have said: This stone is just a stone, it is worthless, it belongs to the world of the Maja; but because it might be able to become also a human being and a spirit in the cycle of transformations, therefore I also grant it importance. Thus, I would perhaps have thought in the past. But today I think: this stone is a stone, it is also animal, it is also god, it is also Buddha, I do not venerate and love it because it could turn into this or that, but rather because it is already and always everything and it is this very fact, that it is a stone, that it appears to me now and today as a stone, this is why I love it and see worth and purpose in each of its veins and cavities, in the yellow, in the gray, in the hardness, in the sound it makes when I knock at it, in the dryness or wetness of its surface. There are stones which feel like oil or soap, and others like leaves, others like sand, and every one is special and prays the Om in its own way, each one is Brahman, but simultaneously and just as much it is a stone, is oily or juicy, and this is this very fact which I like and regard as wonderful and worthy of worship. But let me speak no more of this. The words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes a bit different , as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly yes, and this is also very good, and I like it a lot, I also very much agree with this, that this what is one man’s treasure and wisdom always sounds like foolishness to another person.”
There is no moment outside of this one! I cannot be better than I already am! “in the robber and dice-gambler, the Buddha is waiting; in the Brahman, the robber is waiting.” I can only choose to be more mindful and be more in touch with my buddha nature. This moment “is already and always everything” and like the old native-american story of the two wolves, it is the wolf I feed in this moment that wins…
Einstein says the most important question we will ever ask ourselves is, “Is this universe a friendly place.” Do we trust that there is something essentially benevolent or good about this universe? That we are essentially good? These two talks explore what it means to trust basic goodness, and how this trust naturally emerges through cultivating a meditative presence…
A ‘quote*’ from Tara Brach’s meditation “From Story to Presence”…
“The reality is each one of us has caused hurt to other people and each one of us has been hurt by other people. But if we keep running the story of “You hurt me; you’re bad” or “I hurt you; I’m bad” all that happen is a looping that creates separation. What if instead we say the story is that I hurt you and we let that story be there, we don’t put it aside too quickly…
We let it be there and we feel what it feels like in our body. The very presence with that vulnerability awakens compassion. Now the trick — because this is where there can be more suffering is to take the story “I caused you suffering” and to get stuck on the “I’m bad, I’m bad, I’m bad”. We’re wedded to the story and we don’t have access to deeper presence…
So the pathway I am describing to you, and it takes a real sensitivity, is that when stories arise in our mind — to not to quickly go ‘it’s just a story, back to the breath’ because that is just another form of aversion and denial — is to let it be there a bit, but not to believe the story.”
She goes on to say “the story behind some of the more drama stories is really the story of Self. As we open to this presence, we wake up out of that core story that keeps us separate”.
You can hear the whole talk here:
*I tried to transcribe it as best I could; this is NOT an official transcription…
A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: ‘Talking Dog For Sale ‘ He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.
The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.
‘You talk?’ he asks.
‘Yep,’ the Lab replies.
After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says
‘So, what’s your story?’
The Lab looks up and says, ‘Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA.
In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping.’
‘I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals.’
‘I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I’m just retired.’
The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.
‘Ten dollars,’ the guy says.
‘Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?’
‘Because he’s a liar. He never did any of that shit.
Being desired is such a basic craving. We all want to be desired: by our family, by our friends, by a lover, by our coworkers. What happens when we don’t desire ourselves?
I’m beginning to realize that I don’t like myself very much. All these years of feeling like I couldn’t raise the eyebrow or pique the interest of an attractive man might actually stem from the fact that I’m exuding the pheromones of one who feels unworthy of being loved and therefore thinks he’s undesirable to all. Could it be that simple? I’m sure I’m not the only gay man — or person — who feels or has felt this way. Do you have to love yourself before you can love someone else or be loved by someone else? Is that a myth?
I keep wondering if I’ll ever love myself enough to be loved by another person. I hate being vulnerable, but vulnerability is key to opening one’s heart to another person. For years I’ve told myself, “When the right person shows up, I’ll know, and my heart will automatically open.” Is that utter bullshit?
A few years ago, I would not have touched the HuffingtonPost with a 10 foot mouse [now I have 100 fans there!] and I certainly would not have curated an article by a gay man. In the time between, however, many thinks [intentional] have changed. “We all want to be desired: by our family, by our friends, by a lover, by our coworkers.” This desire makes us all human and should unite, rather than divide…
Over 10 years ago, The Telegraph reported:
Whether you hail from Surbiton, Ulan Bator or Nairobi, your genetic make-up is strikingly similar to that of every other person on Earth, an analysis concludes today.
Although scientists have long recognised that, despite physical differences, all human populations are genetically similar, the new work concludes that populations from different parts of the world share even more genetic similarities than previously assumed.
All humans are 99.9 per cent identical and, of that tiny 0.1 per cent difference, 94 per cent of the variation is among individuals from the same populations and only six per cent between individuals from different populations.
Nonetheless, the team found that tiny differences in DNA can provide enough information to identify the geographic ancestry of individual men and women.
The results of the study, published today in the journal Science, have implications for understanding ancient human migrations and for resolving an ongoing debate about the use of family histories in medical research, said Prof Marcus Feldman of Stanford University who led the team.
Because so many of us grew up without a cohesive and nourishing sense of family, neighborhood, community or “tribe,” it is not surprising that we feel like outsiders, on our own and disconnected. We learn early in life that any affiliation—with family and friends, at school or in the workplace—requires proving that we are worthy. We are under pressure to compete with each other, to get ahead, to stand out as intelligent, attractive, capable, powerful, wealthy. Someone is always keeping score.
After a lifetime of working with the poor and the sick, Mother Teresa’s surprising insight was: “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of not belonging.” In our own society, this disease has reached epidemic proportions. We long to belong and feel as if we don’t deserve to.
D.H. Lawrence described our Western culture as being like a great uprooted tree with its roots in the air. “We are perishing for lack of fulfillment of our greater needs,” he wrote, “we are cut off from the great sources of our inward nourishment and renewal.”
Lo, these many years I turned to ‘tribes’ — Christian Fundamentalists, The Republican Party, The Green Bay Packers — to make me feel right inside when in truth everything inside me was screaming at me from the mirror that everything inside me was wrong, and to compensate for the lack of a cohesive, nourishing sense of belonging. By learning about and practicing self-compassion, however, I am making progress in making peace with myself, my past, my present and my future…
Thank you for your post, Michael, and for giving me pause to think about this topic. I agree that thinking our hearts will ‘automatically open’ is utter bullshit but, that if we practice self-compassion our hearts may slowly and gently open to the possibility of healthy interdependence and my hope is that when we are able to give ourselves at least the same amount of love, compassion and acceptance we seek from others, the craving to be desired may pass away. Namasté!
All of us live with fear. Whenever fear takes over, we’re caught in what I call the trance of fear. As we tense in anticipation of what may go wrong, our heart and mind contract. We forget that there are people who care about us, and about our own ability to feel spacious and openhearted. Trapped in the trance, we can experience life through the filter of fear, and when we do, the emotion becomes the core of our identity, constricting our capacity to live fully.
This trance usually begins in childhood, when we experience fear in relating to our significant others. Perhaps as an infant our crying late at night may have frustrated our exhausted mother. When we saw her frowning face and heard her shrill tone, suddenly we felt unsafe with the person we most counted on for safety. Our arms and fists tightened, our throat contracted, our heartbeat raced.
This physical reaction of fear in response to disapproval may have happened repeatedly through our early years. We might have tried out something new—putting on our clothes all by ourselves and gotten them backwards. We might have poured a cup of grape juice—but spilled it on the living room carpet. Each time our mother’s disapproving look and tone of frustration were directed at us, we felt the same chain reaction of fear in our body.
…it’s easier to be present than others — today is one of those days…
I awoke at 5 this morning to the sound of birds carried by a pleasant cool breeze. I listened to a meditation by Tara Brach as I rode my bike along Lake Michigan the 3.3 miles to work in 69 degree temps with no wind and stopped along the way to take this picture…
As a teacher I’m often asked: What does it mean in Buddhist practice when you agree to “take refuge” in the Buddha? Does this mean I need to worship the Buddha? Or pray to the Buddha? Isn’t this setting up the Buddha as “other” or some kind of god?
Traditionally, there are three fundamental refuges are where we can find genuine safety and peace, a sanctuary for our awakening heart and mind, a place to rest our human vulnerability. In their shelter, we can face and awaken from the trance of fear.
The first of these is the Buddha, or our own awakened nature. The second is the dharma (the path or the way), and the third is the sangha (the community of aspirants).
In the formal practice of Taking Refuge, we recite three times: “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the dharma, I take refuge in the sangha.” Yet, even though there is a formula, this is not an empty or mechanical ritual, but a practice meant to expand our understanding and intention.
With each repetition, we allow ourselves to open ever more deeply to the living experience behind the words. As we do, the practice leads to a profound deepening of our faith: The more fully we open to and inhabit each refuge, the more we trust our own heart and awareness. By taking refuge we learn to trust the unfolding of our lives.