Category Archives: Compassion-Self-Others

Compassion – Part 2 of Present Heart: The Universal Expressions of Love



Part 2: Compassion – the tender resonance of heart – awakens as we allow ourselves to be touched by our shared vulnerability.

This series reflects on four primary expressions of an awake, wise heart: lovingkindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. In each talk we explore the habitual patterning that blocks our full realization of these innate capacities, and the understandings and practices that nurture their unfolding.

From the talk:

When you witness vulnerability, really feel it in you – let yourself be touched – and when the tenderness comes, when the real visceral tenderness comes, feel it for 15 seconds, 20 seconds, and let yourself marinate in the feeling of tenderness.

As we begin to get more tender and to look and to respond, it’s contagious to people around us. They get touched and then they act that way more. Just the way there’s limbic contagion when people are angry or upset, there’s compassion contagion.

“Just Like You”
(Inspired by the Dalai Lama)
Walk gently on this earth with purposeful steps
You share this space with seven billion human beings
And countless other precious life forms
Just like you
They all want to be happy
Just like you
They all need love
We’re not going to survive unless we walk
Gently on this earth together,
Until we touch something in others that
Feels just like the shards of our own pain,
The fluttering warmth of our own joy,
Until we sew their wounds into our hearts
And seal it with our own skin
~ Anon

Also enjoy Guided Meditations: Meditations that Free the Heart.


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Remembering and Choosing Loving Presence (retreat talk)



We are conditioned to go into a limbic trance—an emotional reactivity to life within and around us—that keeps us identified with a limited, separate sense of self. This talk helps us to identify the flags of trance, and to bring a healing attention that frees us to live our moments with creativity, wisdom and love. Includes the RAIN of Self-Compassion. (from the 2017 IMCW New Year’s Retreat)


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Meditation: Awakening Compassion with Tonglen (11:35 min)



Our hearts awaken as we let ourselves be touched by the suffering within and around us. They shine as we respond with care to what has touched us. This meditation uses the breath to guide us in letting in and contacting suffering, and offering out our love. With practice this meditation enables us to realize the truth of our connectedness and the luminous love that is intrinsic to awareness [a favorite from the archives].


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From Dragons to Schmoos – Meeting Life with Compassionate Presence



The trance of unworthiness is sustained by our aversion to the dragons – the difficult emotions and related behaviors that are a deeply conditioned part of the human experience. In this talk we explore the awakening that is possible as we recognize our reactive patterns and instead of judgment, offer a loving and healing presence (a favorite from the archives).

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke


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Blog: Discovering the Gold – Remembering Our True Nature by Cultivating Mindfulness and Compassion



Discovering the Gold: Remembering Our True Nature by Cultivating Mindfulness and Compassion

I remember when I was on a book tour for Radical Acceptance, one of the places I stopped was the Buddhist university, Naropa. They had a big poster with a big picture of me and, underneath the photo, the caption was: Something is wrong with me.

The Trance of Unworthiness: Forgetting Who We Are

I wrote about the Trance of Unworthiness in Radical Acceptance 14 years ago, and I’ve found, over the years, that it is still pretty much the most pervasive expression of emotional pain that I encounter in myself and in those I’ve worked with. It comes out as fear or shame —  a feeling of being flawed, unacceptable, not enough. Who I am is not okay.

A core teaching of the Buddha is that we suffer because we forget who we really are. We forget the essence — the awareness and the love that’s here — and we become caught in an identity that’s less than who we are.

When we are in the trance of unworthiness, we’re not aware of how much our body, emotions, and thoughts have locked into a sense of falling short and the fear that we’re going to fail. The trance of unworthiness brings us to addictive behaviors as we try to soothe the discomfort of fear and shame. It makes it difficult to be intimate, spontaneous and real with others, because we have the sense that, even if they don’t already know, they will find out how flawed we really are. It makes it hard to take risks because we’re afraid we’re going to fall short. We can never really relax. Right in the heart of the trance, there is a need to do something to be better, to avoid the failure lurking right around the corner.

Space Suit Strategies: How We Manage in a World of Severed Belonging

Entering this world is difficult. Due to their own wounds and fears, a lack of attunement from caregivers is common. Depending on severity, this can create a core wounding of severed belonging: if I am not enough or if I fail, I won’t belong anymore. It starts early, and we internalize the messages relayed through our families: Here is how you need to be to be respected and/or loved.

In order to navigate this difficult environment, we don spacesuits — our ego survival strategies — to make it through. The suffering is that we become identified with the spacesuit and forget who is looking through the mask. We forget the tender heart that longs to love without holding back.

The sense of unworthiness gets dramatically amplified depending on our culture. Western culture is very individualistic and there’s not an innate sense of belonging. Fear of failure is really big. Every step of the way, we have to compete and prove ourselves and we have a profound fear of falling short. Messages of being inferior are particularly toxic for non-dominant populations. In different degrees, for those that don’t fit the dominant culture’s standards, there is an accentuated sense of not being enough.

So, we all develop our “space suit” strategies to manage ourselves so that we will “belong.” You probably know the ways you go about getting other people to pay attention, or to love you, or to respect you. For many of us it’s striving and accomplishing and proving ourselves. For some, there’s a habitual busyness. For others, there are addictive behaviors that numb and soothe the feelings.

The Golden Buddha: Remembering Our True Nature

One of the stories I’ve always loved took place in Asia. There’s a huge statue of the Buddha. It was a plaster and clay statue, not a handsome statue, but people loved it for its staying power. A number of years ago, there was a long dry period and a crack appeared in the statue. So the monks brought their little pen flashlights to look inside the crack — just thought they might find out something about the infrastructure. When they shined the light in, what shined out was a flash of gold — and every crack they looked into, they saw that same shining. So they dismantled the plaster and clay, which turned out to be just a covering, and found that it was the largest pure solid gold statue of the Buddha in all of southeast Asia.

The monks believed that the statue had been covered with plaster and clay to protect it through difficult years, much in the same way that we put on that space suit to protect ourselves from injury and hurt. What’s sad is that we forget the gold and we start believing we’re the covering — the egoic, defensive, managing self. We forget who is here. So you might think of the essence of the spiritual path as a remembering — reconnecting with the gold . . . the essential mystery of awareness.

Radical Acceptance: Awakening from the Trance of Unworthiness

The practice of meditation, or coming into presence, is described as having two wings. The wing of mindfulness allows us to see what is actually happening in the present moment without judgement. The other wing is heartfulness or love — holding what we see with tenderness and compassion. You might think of it as two questions: What is happening right now? and Can I be with this and regard it with kindness? These are the two wings that we cultivate to be able to wake up out of the trance of unworthiness — out of the spacesuit self — and sense that gold that’s shining through.

I’d like to invite you to take a moment to check in and just to feel into the inquiry: Is there anything, right this moment, between me and feeling at home in myself, at home in who I am? What is here, right now? Can I be with this? Can I regard this with kindness?

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Adapted from: Radical Acceptance Revisited – a talk given by Tara Brach on August 12, 2015



Radical Compassion – Part 2 ~


Radical Compassion – Part 2 –

Compassion is the medicine we most need as individuals and a species to heal suffering and free our spirits. The essence of compassion for ourselves and others – what I call Radical Compassion – has three key elements: it is an embodied experience (a felt sense of tenderness), it is inclusive all beings, and it naturally moves us to act from a caring heart. This two-part talk explores the alchemy of Radical Compassion and guides us in awakening this intrinsic expression of our evolutionary potential.

image: Sonnenstrahl/Pixabay.com


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Radical Compassion – Part 1 (retreat talk)



Radical Compassion – Part 1 –

  CC   ~ Compassion is the medicine we most need as individuals and a species to heal suffering and free our spirits. The essence of compassion for ourselves and others – what I call Radical Compassion – has three key elements: it is an embodied experience (a felt sense of tenderness), it is inclusive all beings, and it naturally moves us to act from a caring heart. This two-part talk explores the alchemy of Radical Compassion and guides us in awakening this intrinsic expression of our evolutionary potential.

  • talk given on 4/30/2017 at the IMCW Spring Retreat

image: pexels.com


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Your Awake Heart Is Calling You


Your Awake Heart Is Calling You ~

As individuals and societies, we are pulled by both the insecurity of our evolutionary past, and by our awake heart, our capacity for mindfulness and compassion. This talk explores the ways we can listen to and respond to the call of our awake heart, by training ourselves to open to vulnerability (our own and others) and widen the circles of compassion.


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The RAIN of Self-Compassion



This talk explores three key features of the trance of unworthiness and introduces a guided meditation based on the acronym RAIN that awakens self-compassion and de-conditions the suffering of being at war with ourselves.

Listen to Meditation: The RAIN of Self-Compassion included at the end of this talk.

Please visit www.tarabrach.com/selfcompassion1/ for a written description of the RAIN practice.

Note: poem, “She Dreamed of Cows” is by Norah Pollard.


More Resources on RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture

 

photo credit: Jon McRay


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Blog: Reaching Out For Compassion



At a weekend workshop I led, one of the participants, Marian, shared her story about the shame and guilt that had tortured her. Marian’s daughter, Christy, in recovery for alcoholism, had asked her mother to join her in therapy. As their sessions unfolded, Christy revealed that she’d been sexually abused throughout her teen years by her stepfather, Marian’s second husband.

The words and revelations Marian heard that day pierced her heart. “You just slept through my whole adolescence!” her daughter had shouted. “I was being violated and had nowhere to turn! No one was there to take care of me!” Christy’s face was red; her hands clenched tight. “I was afraid to tell you then, and now I know why. You can’t handle the truth. You can’t handle me. You never could. I hate you!”

As she watched her daughter dissolve into heaving sobs, Marian knew that what she’d heard was true. She hadn’t been able to handle her daughter’s involvement with drugs, her clashes with teachers, or her truancy and suspensions from school, because she couldn’t handle anything about her own life.

At this point, compassion for herself was not only impossible, Marian was convinced it would have been wrong: the horror that Christy endured was her fault; she deserved to suffer.

We’ve all harmed others and felt as if we were bad because of our actions. When we, like Marian, face the truth that we’ve hurt others, sometimes severely, the feelings of guilt and shame can tear us apart. Even when the damage isn’t so great, some of us still feel undeserving of compassion or redemption.

At times like these, the only way to find compassion for ourselves is by reaching out to something larger than the self that feels so small and miserable. We might for instance take refuge by calling on the Buddha, Divine Mother, God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Shiva, or Allah – reaching towards a loving awareness that is great enough to offer comfort and safety to our broken being.

As a Catholic, Marian had found moments of deep peace and communion with a loving God. But, in her despair, she now felt alone in the universe. Sure, God existed, but she felt too sinful and wretched to reach out to him.

Fearing she might harm herself, Marian sought counsel from an elderly Jesuit priest she had known in college. After she’d wept and told him her story, he gently took one of her hands and began drawing a circle in the center of her palm. “This,” he said, “is where you are living. It’s painful—a place of kicking and screaming and deep, deep hurt. This place cannot be avoided, let it be.”

Then he covered her whole hand with his. “But, if you can, try also to remember this: there is a greatness, a wholeness that is the kingdom of God, and in this merciful space, your immediate life can unfold. This pain is held always in God’s love. As you know both the pain and the love, your wounds will heal.

Marian felt as if a great wave of compassion was pouring through the hands of the priest and gently bathing her, inviting her to surrender into its caring embrace. As she gave her desperation to it, she knew she was giving herself to the mercy of God. The more she let go, the more she felt held. Yes, she’d been blind and ignorant; she’d caused irreparable damage, but she wasn’t worthless, she wasn’t evil. Being held in the infinite compassion of God, she could find her way to her own heart.

Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance. The priest wasn’t advising Marian to ignore the pain or to deny that she’d failed her daughter, but to open her heart to the love that could begin the healing.

Now, rather than being locked inside her tormenting thoughts, Marian could remember the possibility of compassion. When remorse or self-hatred would arise, she would mentally say, “Please hold this pain.” When she felt her anguish as being held by God, she could face it without being ripped apart or wanting to destroy herself.

Two weeks later, when she and her daughter met again in therapy, Marian admitted to Christy – still acting cold – that she knew she’d failed her terribly. Then, gently and carefully taking her daughter’s hand, Marian drew a soft circle in the center of her palm, and whispered the same words the priest had whispered to her.

Upon hearing these words, Christy allowed herself be held, wept, and surrendered into the unexpected strength and sureness of her mother’s love. There was no way either of them could bypass the raw pain of yet unhealed wounds, but now they could heal together. By reaching out and feeling held in God’s mercy, Marian had discovered the compassion that could hold them both.

Whenever we feel held by a caring presence, by something larger than our small frightened self, we too can begin to find room in our own heart for the fragments of our life, and for the lives of others. The suffering that might have seemed “too much” can now awaken us to the sweetness of compassion.

Photo by: Wonderlane
© Tara Brach

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