Category Archives: Beliefs

From Human Doing to Human Being – Part 2



Like Sisyphus eternally pushing the boulder up the hill, we can spend many moments busily trying to manage our life. This two-part talk explores how we can awaken from our non-stop doing, including the incessant inner narrative, and discover the mystery, love and freedom that arises in Being.

Listen and watch Part 1: From Human Doing to Human Being.


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Blog: Looking Through the Eyes of Another – Transforming Separation into Shared Consciousness



Looking Through the Eyes of Another: Transforming Separation into Shared Consciousness

I often talk about how suffering arises from the unseen, unfelt parts of ourselves. Only when we become aware of what is here and bring presence to what we have been running from can we discover wholeness and freedom.

The same is true when we explore our relationships to each other and the world. We cannot be free if we are pushing anyone out of our hearts. If we are discounting, rejecting, or turning away, we are not living from our wholeness. It creates suffering. When we live in resentment, we have separated ourselves and pulled away from our belonging.

Trance of the Unreal Other

All life forms are designed to perceive separation. It is part of our evolutionary story. And in moments that we find ourselves stuck in reactivity or in some conflict or division, we create what I call an unreal other. Rather than a living, feeling Being with wants, needs and fears, another person has become an idea in our mind and is not subjectively alive or real to us. They are two-dimensional and flat. The more stressed we get, the less real they become. We are the protagonist of our own story and the other is like a puppet or a pawn. We begin to see them as something that can help us, hurt us, or as simply irrelevant.

We create an unreal other any time we begin to sense aversion and distance with another. There is the anger, blaming, and resentment that we sometimes feel in our close-in relationships, but there is also a level of pushing people out of our hearts on a larger scale, where our perceptions of ourselves and others are being filtered through stereotypes. Too often, we are not even aware that this is happening. We may have labeled a group of people as different, inferior, bad, or maybe even dangerous. Whether it is with a partner or a child, a political candidate, or even more global, when we are caught in aversive reactivity, we have created an unreal other.

The Suffering of Stereotypes and Predispositions

When we are in the narrow identity of perceived separation, we don’t have access to the more recently evolved parts of our brain that can be mindful and compassionate. We all have strong filters that differentiate us from others by defining us in terms of politics, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender-identity, socio-economic status, and physical appearance and we have all been in situations where we have been subjected to these biases – when people viewed us through a filter that was not true. When we are not aware of how we are shaped by these predispositions, they create separation and that sense is amplified by our culture and the society we live in through its standards, attitudes, and stories. Like fish in water, we are unaware of how much it shapes our reality. We are so accustomed to the judgment, yet it creates tremendous suffering.

Building Bridges is a program that has brought teens from different backgrounds — in this case, Palestinian and Israeli — to live together for a week or two and get to know one another. It’s an incredible experience based in mindfulness and compassionate listening.

In one group, a Palestinian girl shared her story about the Israeli soldiers that barged into her family’s house and beat everyone up and, after realizing they were at the wrong place, they left without apology.

The group facilitator then asked an Israeli girl to repeat the story in first person, as though it had happened to her, including the feelings – the rage and terror – that she might have felt. After listening to the Israeli tell her story, the Palestinian began to weep. She said, “My enemy heard me.” [1]

Looking Through the Eyes of Another

Opening up into a larger sense of Being always starts with sensing how we have turned on ourselves. If we are not able to open to the places of shame, fear and hurt inside our own bodies and hearts, we cannot have the courage and presence to be with the suffering of another.

The next step is to begin to explore looking through the eyes of those we might be feeling some distance with in our immediate circle: our partner who keeps going back on their word, our child who is behaving in a disrespectful way. This is the domain of our practice where we can notice when we are in the trance of separation and have created an unreal other and begin to deepen our attention. How are you doing? What is this like for you?

In Buddhist compassion teachings, this full presence is the grounds of Taking and Sending — a compassion practice that guides us in taking in the experience of another person, and then sending them care. This practice awakens us from the sense of separateness, and we can begin to live from the reality of our shared belonging.

I love the words of Henry David Thoreau:

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” [2]

You might take a moment to reflect: What would it be like, in this moment, to look through another’s eyes? To widen the circles of compassion and be part of the healing of our world?

From Trance of the Unreal Other — a talk given by Tara Brach, PhD on 9/5/2012

[1] Brach, T. (2012). True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

[2] Thoreau, H. D. (1910). Walden. London: Dent.

For more: Evolving Beyond “Unreal Othering” – 6/27/2018



Evolving Beyond “Unreal Othering”



What motivates us – as individuals and as a society – to build walls and knowingly hurt others? This talk explores the evolutionary roots of “unreal othering” and how when we are hijacked by fear, it can take over and disconnect us from the very real suffering of others. We then look at how meditative strategies awaken us from othering, and reveal our intrinsic belonging. Finally, we apply this to our own lives in a reflection that helps us respond to someone we have turned into “unreal other” with compassion and wisdom.

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.

~ “Red Brocade,” Naomi Shihab Nye


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Three Domains of Formless Presence – Landlocked in Fur (retreat talk)



While we have evolved to experience a defining sense of separate self, our potential is to awaken to the formless dimension – the pure awareness is our shared source. This talk explores how we can undo the identification with thoughts, emotions and feelings that keeps us landlocked and unable to trust and live from our naturally loving and radiant essence. (a favorite from the archives – given at the 2014 IMCW New Year’s Retreat in Reisterstown, MD)

Poem at start of talk: “Landlocked in Fur” ~ by Tukaram

I was meditating with my cat the other day
and all of a sudden she shouted,
“What happened?!”

I knew exactly what she meant, but encouraged
her to say more – feeling that if she got it all out on the table
she would sleep better that night.

So I responded, “Tell me more, dear,”
and she soulfully meowed:

“Well, I was mingled with the sky. I was comets
whizzing here and there. I was suns in heat, hell-I was
galaxies. But now look-I am
landlocked in fur.”

To this I said, ”I know exactly what
you mean.”

What to say about conversation between
mystics?

“Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West” (Ladinksy, 2002)


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From Human Doing to Human Being – Part 1



Like Sisyphus eternally pushing the boulder up the hill, we can spend many moments busily trying to manage our life. This two-part talk explores how we can awaken from our non-stop doing, including the incessant inner narrative, and discover the mystery, love and freedom that arises in Being.

Listen and watch Part 2: From Human Doing to Human Being.


Play

From Head to Heart



If we are suffering, we are believing an interpretation of reality that is limiting and untrue. At these times we are imprisoned in a painful looping of fear-driven thoughts and feelings. This talk explores the ways our practices of mindfulness, compassion and loving presence can guide us from addictive thinking to perceiving life with a wise heart.


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Namaste: Seeing the Truth of Who We Are



A gift of evolving consciousness is the capacity to recognize and honor the sacred awareness that lives through our own and all beings. This capacity is blocked by our identification with our “mask” or ego self, and not seeing past other people’s masks. In this talk we reflect together on some key filters of superior/inferior and good/bad that shape the trance of a narrowed identity, and then explore how mindfulness and kindness free us to inhabit the vastness of our natural awareness. We close with tasting the possibility of bringing the spirit of Namaste to ourselves, others and all beings.

Rumi writes: ““Are you searching for your true self? Then come out of your own prison. Leave the little creek and join the mighty river that flows into the ocean. Like an ox, don’t pull the wheel of this world on your back. Take off the burden. Whirl and circle, and rise above the wheel of the world. There is another view.”


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Trusting Who We Are (retreat talk)



The sign of spiritual freedom is a deep trust in our essential nature, and in the light of awareness that lives through all beings.  This talk explores the conditioning that entraps us in a trance of separation and believing in a limited self.  We then explore the evolutionary shift in identity that is possible as we deepen our attention and presence to the life that is here, and the loving awareness that is the source of existence.


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Part 3 of 3 – Freedom from Othering: Undoing the Myths that Imprison Us



A primary source of our suffering is the conditioning to create “bad other,” or “inferior other.” This same conditioning leads us to creating a bad self and turn on ourselves. These three talks explore how we subscribe to societal myths and beliefs that perpetuate this “bad othering,” and “bad selfing.” They then guide us in bring a healing attention that can reveal the goodness that lives through all beings, and our innate connectedness. A core teaching is, “the boundary to who we include in our hearts is the boundary to our freedom.”


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Part 2 of 3 – Freedom from Othering: Undoing the Myths that Imprison Us


Ram Dass A primary source of our suffering is the conditioning to create “bad other,” or “inferior other.” This same conditioning leads us to creating a bad self and turn on ourselves. These three talks explore how we subscribe to societal myths and beliefs that perpetuate this “bad othering,” and “bad selfing.” They then guide us in bring a healing attention that can reveal the goodness that lives through all beings, and our innate connectedness. A core teaching is, “the boundary to who we include in our hearts is the boundary to our freedom.”

Freedom from Othering: Undoing the Myths that Imprison Us – Part 1


photo: Janet Merrick


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