Category Archives: Beliefs

Real But Not True: Freeing Ourselves from Harmful Beliefs



Thoughts and beliefs are navigational maps that are not inherently true. Rather, some serve us and others cause feelings of separation, self-aversion and/or blame of others. We can free ourselves from harmful beliefs by investigating them with a dedicated, mindful and courageous presence. This talk guides us in mindful investigation through an illustrative story, an outline of steps, and a guided meditation that addresses limiting beliefs surrounding interpersonal conflict.

Reflection: Waking Up from Limiting Beliefs (8 min.) – Enjoy a guided reflection that addresses limiting beliefs surrounding interpersonal conflict – from the ending of this talk.

photo: Jonathan Foust


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Bodhichitta – The Awakened Heart – Part 1



While the brightness and warmth of our hearts is always here, like the sun when blocked by clouds, our intrinsic love can be obscured. These two talks explore how we become arrested in a confining story of separate self, and how remembering love releases us from this trance. The first talk emphasizes inner pathways of freeing our heart and the second talk explores awakening bodhichitta actively in relating with each other.

“Exploring what allows the heart to wake up…”

“…being loved into being more who we are is a moment of blessing. What is a blessing? A blessing is a reminder or homecoming into more realness – more love. We’re blessed when we remember.”

Enjoy the heart meditation from the end of this talk: “Blessings of Love.”

Free download of Tara’s new 10 min meditation: “Mindful Breathing: Finding Calm and Ease” when you join her email list.

Your support enables us to continue to offer these talks freely. If you value them, I hope you will consider offering a donation at this time at www.tarabrach.com/donation/.

With thanks and love, Tara


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Relating Wisely with Imperfection



Our survival brain reacts to perceived imperfection with aversion and anxiety, and if we are habituated to this reaction, we become imprisoned in the identity of a flawed separate self. This talk explores the healing and transformation that is possible as we learn to regard imperfection with mindfulness and compassion.

photo: Shell Fischer


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Releasing Limiting Beliefs



If we investigate patterns of emotional suffering or “stuckness,” we’ll discover that under our pain is a fear based belief. Until these beliefs are brought into the light of compassionate awareness, they control and confine our lives. This talk reviews key steps of inquiry and mindfulness that help us realize the freedom that comes with awakening from the grip of beliefs.


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Radical Acceptance Revisited


  CC   ~ One of the truths we most regularly forget is that if we are at war with ourselves, we can’t feel love and connection with our world. This talk looks at the genesis of the “Trance of Unworthiness” and how the wings of mindfulness and heartfulness can dissolve the trance and reveal the loving awareness that is our essence Being.


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Healing Self-Doubt



CC ~ Siddhartha Gautama’s last challenge before enlightenment was doubt, and to some degree, most of us live with limiting beliefs about our own worthiness and goodness. This talk looks at the tenacity of self-doubt and the power of mindfulness, investigation and compassion in releasing its grip.


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Blog: Loosening the Grip of Core and Limiting Beliefs



I’ve gotten free of that ignorant fist that was pinching and 
twisting my secret self. 
The universe and the light of the stars come through me.
—Rumi

Our core beliefs are often based on our earliest and most potent fears—we construct our strongest assumptions and conclusions about life from them. This conditioning is in service of survival. Our brains are designed to anticipate the future based on the past; if something bad happened once, it can happen again.

Our brains are also biased to encode most strongly the memories of experiences that are accompanied by feelings of endangerment. This is why even a few failures can instill feelings of helplessness and deficiency, which many later successes may not be able to undo. As the saying goes, “Our memories are Velcro for painful experiences and Teflon for pleasant ones!” We are very inclined toward building our core beliefs out of experiences of hurt and fear, and holding on to them (and the underlying fears) for dear life.

Imagine that you are a child trying to get your mother’s attention: You want her to look at your drawing, to get you a drink, to play a game with you. While she sometimes responds to your needs, at other times she explodes in anger at being disturbed. She yells at you to leave her alone and threatens to spank you.

Years later, you may not remember most of these incidents, but your brain registered her anger and rejection, and your hurt and fear. Over time, these encoded memories may constellate into negative beliefs about yourself and what you can expect from others: “I’m too needy . . . people won’t love me”; “If I bother someone, I’ll get punished”; or “Nobody really wants to spend time with me.”

The greater the degree of early life stress or trauma, the greater the conditioning, and the greater the likelihood of deeply entrenched fear-based beliefs. If you grew up in a war zone, your survival fears would ensure that you automatically distinguish between “us” and “them,” and you would easily classify “them” as bad and dangerous. If you were sexually abused as a child, any intimacy might seem dangerous, a setup for abuse. Alternately, you might be drawn to aggressive and domineering people, because the connection feels so familiar or even “safe.”

If you are an African American male, you might believe that you will be seen as inferior, held back no matter how hard you try, or unfairly targeted as a criminal. If you were poor and went hungry, you might believe that there will never be enough, that you will never be secure, no matter how rich you become.

Although they’re rooted in the past, our core beliefs feel current and true. The thoughts and feelings associated with them filter our experience of what is happening right now, and they prime us to respond in a certain way.

The Buddha taught that if your mind is captured by the fear and misunderstanding of limiting beliefs, “trouble will follow you as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.” Traditional translations of Buddhist texts speak of the mind as “impure,” but this can be understood as “distorted,” “colored,” or “tainted.” As the Buddha put it, “With our thoughts we make the world.”

If we pay close attention, we can see how our beliefs about ourselves and the world give rise to the very behaviors and events that confirm them. If you believe that nobody will like you, you’ll behave in ways that broadcast your insecurities. When people pull away, your sense of rejection will confirm your belief. If you believe that others are waiting to attack or criticize you, you’ll probably act defensive or aggressive. Then when people push back, your fears will be justified.

We loosen the grip of these beliefs by training ourselves to recognize the fear-thinking in our minds.  In the moments of mindfully noting fear thoughts (you can mentally whisper “fear-thinking”) there is a little space between us and our beliefs. This space gives us the opportunity to discover that the thoughts and underlying beliefs are “real but not true.”  They are real- they are appearing, they come with a very real and painful experience of fear or hurt or shame in our bodies.  But they are interpretations of reality, mental images and soundbites we have produced that represent the world and entrap us in a confining trance. They are not truth itself.

If, rather than subscribing to beliefs as truth we can connect with the actuality of our present moment experience, we directly weaken this trance. We take refuge in presence by moving our attention from thoughts to the felt sense of our body’s experience. As we rest our attention in our moment to moment experience, our aliveness, intelligence and innate compassion naturally shine through.  Each time we move in this way from fear thoughts to our embodied experience, we are increasingly able to see past the confining stories we tell ourselves about our own unworthiness, badness, unlovableness.  They are real but not true.  With practice, the veil of beliefs that has confined our lives dissolves and our trust in our true nature guides us in living and loving fully.

Adapted from True Refuge (January 2013)

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com



Blog: Suffering: The Call To Investigate Beliefs



“Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it.” -Byron Katie

Can you imagine understanding, even loving, someone who belongs to a group of people responsible for killing your father, brother, or best friend? Can you imagine growing close to someone whose people have driven you from your home, humiliated your family, and turned you into a refugee in your own country?

Twenty-two teenage girls from Israel and Palestine were flown in to a camp in rural New Jersey, where they would live together in the face of these questions. As part of a program called Building Bridges for Peace, these young people were called upon to examine beliefs that seemed central to their identity, beliefs that had fueled estrangement, anger, hatred, and war.

Even though they had volunteered for the program, the girls were initially mistrustful of each other, and sometimes overtly hostile. One Palestinian teen drew a line in the sand right from the start: “When we’re here, who knows, maybe we’re friends. When we return, you are my enemy again. My heart is filled with hatred for the Jews.” In another exchange, an Israeli girl told a Palestinian: “You expect to be treated as a human being, but you don’t act like one. You don’t deservehuman rights!”

Yet from this harsh beginning, some of the girls left camp having formed deep bonds, and for most, it became impossible to see each other as the enemy. What allowed for this change of heart? The girls contacted the truth of each other’s pain and the truth of each other’s goodness. Reality, when we let it in, dismantles the iron grip of our beliefs. As one Israeli girl put it, “If I don’t know you, it’s easy to hate you. If I look in your eyes, I can’t.”

The Buddha taught that ignorance—ignoring or misunderstanding reality—is the root of all suffering. What does this mean? He surely didn’t mean to deny the inevitable pains and losses in our lives, but he wanted his followers to grasp how their beliefs about what is happening—their thoughts about themselves, others, and the world—represented a contracted and fragmented view of reality. This distorted view, described by the Buddha as a dream, fueled the cravings and fears that confined their lives.

The Buddha also told an ancient teaching story that we still repeat to our children. A king instructs a group of blind men to describe an elephant. Each man feels one part of the elephant’s body—the tusk, leg, trunk, tail. Each gives a detailed—and very different—report about the nature of the elephant. Then they come to blows about who’s right. Each man is honestly describing his immediate and real experience, yet each misses the big picture, the whole truth.

Every belief we hold is a limited snapshot, a mental representation, and not reality itself. But some beliefs are more fear-based and injurious than others. Like the teens in Building Bridges, we may believe that certain people are evil. We may believe that we can’t trust anyone. We may believe that we’re fundamentally flawed and can’t trust ourselves.

These beliefs all arise from the primary fear-based belief the Buddha identified: that we are separate from the rest of the world, vulnerable, and alone. Whether our beliefs arouse self-loathing, trap us in self-destructive addictions, ensnare us in conflict with a partner, or send us to war with an enemy, we’re suffering because we’re mistaken about reality. Our beliefs narrow our attention and separate us from the living truth of how things are. They cut us off from the full aliveness, love, and awareness that is our source.

The sage Sri Nisargadatta teaches “illusion exists . . . because it is not investigated.” If we are attached to untrue beliefs, it’s because we have not examined our thoughts. We have not met them with mindful investigation; we have not asked whether they truly represent our current, living experience of reality.

Suffering is our call to attention, our call to investigate the truth of our beliefs. For the teenage girls in Building Bridges, the call to investigate was the hatred tearing at the fabric of their lives and society.

For a parent, the call might be the stranglehold of worry about a child’s welfare. For a social activist, it might be exhaustion and despair in face of seemingly endless war and injustice. For a musician, it might be the disabling terror that accompanies performance. Wherever we feel most endangered, most separate, most deficient—that is where we need to shine the light of our investigation.

Adapted from True Refuge

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com



Beyond the Prison of Beliefs



Most of us have core fear beliefs that obscure our true nature and bind us in repeating patterns of painful emotions and behavior. This talk looks at the beliefs that limit us and the freedom that is possible when we investigate them with a kind, mindful awareness.



Blog: Creating an Unreal Other



It is easy to be untouched by stories we read in the newspaper, on the Internet or watch on the news about people suffering from unemployment, loss of loved ones, war or natural disasters. More and more, in our world, we have a sense of “unreal others.” Unless we are really awake, we don’t see the person we’re reading about as a real subjective being. We don’t have a sense of “the one who is looking out through those eyes or feeling with that heart.” The other is not real to us, and our hearts don’t respond with authentic compassion.

Only when someone is real to us and we recognize what they are living through, do we open to our natural caring and generosity.  How do “unreal others” become “real” to us? One practice that really helps us awaken is to talk with people who are different from us. We start recognizing that behind our varied masks, the one who is looking at us experiences the same fears and yearnings, the same deep, deep longing to love and to be loved. Our vehicle in recognizing this is deep listening. What happens when there’s a listening presence? When we’re fully in that listening presence, when there’s that pure quality of receptivity, we become loving presence itself. And whether you call that God or pure awareness or true nature, the boundary of inner and outer dissolves. In that open presence, the other is part of our heart, the other becomes “real”.

Also read: The Trance of Unreal Other