Category Archives: Therapists

Being a Mirror of Goodness: An Intention for the New Year

Adapted from: Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN
Tara Brach, PhD

The medicine for our hurting world is love, and our loving becomes deeply healing when we see and reflect back the innate goodness of other beings. Jesuit priest and psychotherapist Anthony de Mello taught that the finest act of love you can offer is an act of seeing: “When you serve people, you help, support, comfort, alleviate pain. When you see people in their inner beauty and goodness, you transform and create.”

The Power to Transform

Being a mirror of goodness can help someone undo a lifetime of self-aversion or alienation. It can call forth their natural intelligence, creativity, courage and love. It can reveal our shared belonging with those of different races, religions and classes. And, beyond the transformative impact on us as individuals, our capacity for seeing the goodness is what will allow us to evolve our species consciousness in a way that serves a truly compassionate, just world.

We all need to be reminded of our intrinsic worth. Yet because we are so conditioned to judge or try to fix others, or to view them in a habitual way that assumes what they are like, we often don’t remember to take in their goodness. And when we do register the brightness and tenderness of their heart, we rarely let them know.

Three Essential Trainings

Being a mirror of goodness requires training in three key practices: learning to see beyond another person’s protective conditioning, attuning to how the sacred lives through them, and expressing our appreciation and love. We can start to break our patterning with those close to us (as well as those we don’t know well) by purposefully looking at them with a curious, receptive and fresh attention. One trick that works for me is to begin by looking into someone’s eyes with the intention of noticing what color they are. I then begin to wonder about who is looking through those eyes: Can I sense the light of awareness that is there? What does this person care about most deeply? What suffering does their heart bear? If they were gone, what about their living spirit would I remember and cherish?

Again, from Anthony de Mello:

Look for things in them that you might have missed because of familiarity, for familiarity breeds staleness, blindness, and boredom. You cannot love what you cannot see afresh. You cannot love what you are not constantly discovering anew.

In our personal relationships, being a mirror of goodness means letting others know what we most appreciate or love about them. It’s an intimate offering, one that can bring up self-consciousness, discomfort and/or the fear that what is shared won’t be welcome. Maybe we think we aren’t a significant figure in the other person’s life and that what we are noticing won’t really matter. Or perhaps it’s simply that we are shy, and it’s not our habit. Yet, expressing our appreciation has the power to transform lives.

Author and physician Rachel Naomi Remen tells a story about her grandfather, a rabbi, who called her Neshume-le, which means “little beloved soul.” His words gave her great comfort and trust in her place in the world. After he died, Rachel told her mother how much these blessings had meant to her. Her mother responded, “Rachel, I’ve blessed you every day of your life. I just never had the wisdom to do it out loud.”

Saying it out loud matters: Love becomes fully alive in the moments it is expressed. When you tell a dear one “I love you” with presence and sincerity, the energy of those words will soften and open and awaken the person’s heart. And as you speak, your own heart will also become more tender, vast and free.

What You Practice Grows Stronger

Loving kindness meditations can be a powerful ground for actively mirroring goodness. My own experimenting with this practice led to a reflection that I continue to this day. During supper one evening toward the end of a month-long silent retreat, I was touched by the gentleness and kindliness that emanated from an elderly man sitting nearby. I suddenly imagined that I was standing in front of him and we were looking into each other’s eyes; then he closed his eyes, and I kissed him lightly on the brow. That image brought an upwelling of tenderness, a sense of soul connection.

Since then, I’ve done this inner practice for dear ones, for people I don’t know well, and for those I’ve never met. I pause to see their goodness and then imagine offering some gesture of care—a kiss on the brow or sometimes a soft touch on their face or a gentle hug. Often I’ll include a phrase of well-wishing, sometimes silent, sometimes whispered. Always, I feel more connected.

This loving kindness practice reminds me to offer my blessings out loud. When I’m with a person I’ve been reflecting on, there’s a more immediate sense of intimacy. I’m more inclined to take in their basic goodness and, in some way, let them know.

Widening the Circles of Compassion

Being a mirror of goodness is not only the greatest gift we can offer to others, it has the power to awaken more understanding and compassion in our world. As we cultivate our seeing, we realize that the loving awareness we cherish shines through all beings everywhere—humans, non-human animals, this living earth. On a societal level, learning to see past the masks of those who are different from ourselves is the core ingredient for undoing the racial and other caste systems that are responsible for horrific violence and suffering.

These times of division and mistrust are calling on us to see basic goodness and to nourish the currents of love that can help heal our world. The place to start is right now, with someone close by—seeing what you love and sharing what you see, heart to heart. Your practice will evolve as you intentionally widen the circles of care to include those of difference, and all those you engage with. You can trust that by mirroring goodness, your loving will ripple out endlessly in a powerful, beautiful and mysterious way.


Take a few minutes to sit still, relax your body, and quiet your mind. When you feel present, bring to mind someone dear to you. Remind yourself of what you appreciate and love about them—perhaps recalling an affectionate look in their eyes, their brightness, humor, generosity, honesty. Feel the warmth of your appreciation in your body.

Now imagine being with them in person and telling them some of the specific ways you experience their goodness. How do they receive your mirroring? How do you feel, having offered it? How does this sharing affect your feelings of connection?

End by taking some moments to feel your intention to be a mirror of goodness for this being, and then more broadly, for others in your life.


Adapted from: Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN (Viking, 2019) by Tara Brach, PhD

Radical Compassion is now available in paperback at your favorite bookseller. Here’s where you can pick up your copy!

Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of R.A.I.N. – Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE: RAIN Creates a Clearing

Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life. ~ Martha Postlewaite

Tara Brach's New Book, Radical CompassionWe all get lost in the dense forest of our lives, entangled in incessant worry and planning, in judgments of others, and in our busy striving to meet demands and solve problems. When we’re caught in that thicket, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most. We forget how much we long to be kind and openhearted. We forget our ties to this sacred earth and to all living beings. And in a deep way, we forget who we are.

This forgetting is a part of being in trance—a partially unconscious state that, like a dream, is disconnected from the whole of reality. When we’re in trance, our minds are narrowed, fixated, and usually immersed in thought. Our hearts are often defended, anxious, or numb. Once you recognize the signs of trance, you will begin to see it everywhere, in yourself and others. You are in trance when you are living on autopilot, when you feel walled off and separate from those around you, when you are caught up in feeling fearful, angry, victimized, or deficient.

The good news is that we all have the capacity to free ourselves.

When we are lost in the forest, we can create a clearing simply by pausing and turning from our clamoring thoughts to become aware of our moment-to-moment experience. I call this wakeful and immediate awareness “presence.” It is also referred to as consciousness, spirit, Buddha nature, true nature, the awakened heartmind, and many other names. When we’ve reconnected fully to presence, we can open to what is going on inside us—the changing flow of sensations, feelings, and thoughts—without any resistance. This allows us to live our life moments with clarity and compassion. The shift from being lost in unconscious mental and emotional reactivity to inhabiting our full presence is an awakening from trance.

As we begin our journey together, the four steps of RAIN—Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture—will be our tool for arriving in presence. Simply put, RAIN awakens mindfulness and compassion, applies them to the places where we are stuck, and untangles emotional suffering. It is easy to learn the basics, and you can begin to use the steps right away. RAIN creates a clearing in the dense forest, and in this clearing you can recover your full heart and spirit.

In this chapter, I’ll walk you briefly through each step of RAIN and offer a simple form of the practice—a warm-up— that you can apply in everyday situations. But first, the story of an afternoon when I needed RAIN.


My dense forest hums with a background mantra: There’s not enough time. I know I’m not alone; many of us speed through the day, anxiously crossing tasks off the list. This often comes hand in hand with feeling beleaguered, annoyed at interruptions, and worried about what’s around the corner.

My anxiety escalates when I’m preparing for an upcoming teaching event. I remember an afternoon some years ago when I was in last-minute mode. I was madly searching through my very disorganized electronic files, trying to find material for a talk I’d be giving that evening on loving kindness. Much like the files, my mind was stirred up and muddy. At one point, my eighty-three-year-old mother, who had come to live with my husband, Jonathan, and me, popped into my office. She started to tell me about an article she liked from The New Yorker. But seeing me glued to the computer screen (and probably frowning), she quietly placed the magazine on my desk and left. As I turned to watch her retreat, something in me just stopped. She often came by for a casual chat, and now I was struck by the reality that she wouldn’t always be around for these companionable moments. And then I was struck again: Here I was, ignoring my mom and mentally scurrying around to compose a talk on love!

This wasn’t the first time I was jarred by forgetting what mattered. During that first year my mom lived with us, I repeatedly felt squeezed by the additional demands on my time. Often when we had dinner together, I’d be looking for the break in the conversation when I could excuse myself and get back to work. Or we’d be on errands or going to one of her doctor’s appointments, and rather than enjoying her company, I’d be fixated on how quickly we could get everything done. Our time together often felt obligatory: She was lonely, and I was the main person around. While she didn’t guilt-trip me— she was grateful for whatever time I offered—I felt guilty. And then when I’d slow down some, I also felt deep sadness.

That afternoon in my office, I decided to take a time-out and call on RAIN to help me deal with my anxiety about being prepared. I left my desk, went to a comfortable chair, and took a few moments to settle myself before beginning.

The first step was simply to Recognize (R) what was going on inside me—the circling of anxious thoughts and guilty feelings.

The second step was to Allow (A) what was happening by breathing and letting be. Even though I didn’t like what I was feeling, my intention was not to fix or change anything and, just as important, not to judge myself for feeling anxious or guilty.

Allowing made it possible to collect and deepen my attention before starting the third step: to Investigate (I) what felt most difficult. Now, with interest, I directed my attention to the feelings of anxiety in my body—a physical tightness, pulling and pressure around my heart. I asked the anxious part of me what it was believing, and the answer was deeply familiar: It believed I was going to fail. If I didn’t have every teaching and story fleshed out in advance, I’d do a bad job and let people down. But that same anxiety made me unavailable to my mother, so I was also failing someone I loved dearly. As I became conscious of these pulls of guilt and fear, I continued to Investigate. Contacting that torn, anxious part of myself, I asked, “What do you most need right now?” I could immediately sense that it needed care and reassurance that I was not going to fail in any real way. It needed to trust that the teachings would flow through me, and to trust the love that flows between my mother and me.

I’d arrived at the fourth step of RAIN, Nurture (N), and I sent a gentle message inward, directly to that anxious part: “It’s okay, sweetheart. You’ll be all right; we’ve been through this so many times before . . . trying to come through on all fronts.” I could feel a warm, comforting energy spreading through my body. Then there was a distinct shift: My heart softened a bit, my shoulders relaxed, and my mind felt more clear and open.

I sat still for another minute or two and let myself rest in this clearing, rather than quickly jumping back into work.

My pause for RAIN took only a few minutes, but it made a big difference. When I returned to my desk, I was no longer caught inside the story line that something bad was around the corner. Now that I wasn’t tight with anxiety, my thoughts and notes began to flow, and I remembered a story that was perfect for the talk. Pausing for RAIN had enabled me to reengage with the clarity and openheartedness that I hoped to talk about that evening. And later that afternoon, my mom and I took a short, sweet walk in the woods, arms linked.

Since then, I’ve done a brief version of RAIN with anxiety countless times. My anxiety hasn’t gone away, but something fundamental has changed. The anxiety doesn’t take over. I don’t get lost in the dense forest of trance. Instead, when I pause and then shift my attention from my story about getting things done to my actual experience in my body and heart, there’s a spontaneous shift to increased presence and kindness. Often I’ll keep working, but sometimes I decide to change gears, to step outside and play with my pup, make some tea, or water the plants. There’s more choice.


When I’m in the trance of busily speeding through the day, I’m typically lost in thoughts, disconnected from my body, and cut off from my heart. RAIN provides a way out of trance through what I call a “U-turn” in attention.

We are taking a U-turn whenever we shift our attention from an outward fixation—another person, our thoughts, or our emotionally driven stories about what’s going on—to the real, living experience in our body. It’s like being at a scary movie where we’re totally gripped by the story on the screen and then suddenly become aware: Okay, it’s just a movie. I’m watching it with hundreds of other people. I can feel the seat under me, feel myself breathing. And we’re back again, aware of our own presence, grounded in our real life.

Only by purposefully bringing attention to our inner experience can we move from trance toward healing. We need to become aware of the circling anxious thoughts, the habitual tightness in our shoulders, the pressure from being in a rush. Then we can begin to turn from our stories—about someone else’s wrongness, about our own deficiencies, about trouble around the corner—to directly feel our fears, hurts, and vulnerability, and ultimately the tender wakefulness of our heart. This all-important shift unfolds progressively through the steps of RAIN. But the key is, we have to first realize we’re in trance!


an image created by Joseph Campbell: a circle with a line through itIn teaching about awareness, I often use an image created by Joseph Campbell: a circle with a line through it.

Above the line is everything we are conscious of, and below the line is everything outside our conscious awareness—a hidden world of fears, aversion, conditioning, and beliefs. To the degree that we’re living below the line, we’re in trance. Being in trance is like being in a dream. We’re unaware that there’s a larger, living reality. And awakening from trance is like waking from a dream. We become self-aware, directly experiencing our inner life, the world we belong to, and the space of awareness itself. Living above the line is living in presence.

Presence has three primary characteristics: wakefulness, openness, and tenderness or love. Many spiritual traditions describe presence as an open, sunlit sky. When presence is full, like the sky it is luminous and boundless, and it provides warmth and nourishment for life. All kinds of weather systems pass through it—happiness, sorrow, fear, excitement, grief— but like the sky itself, presence can hold them all.

We’ve all touched presence. We’re resting in presence in the moments before sleep when we become still and relaxed, listening to the rain on the roof. There’s a background of presence when we gaze in wonder at a star-filled sky. We open to presence in gratitude for someone’s unexpected kindness. We may never forget the presence we feel as we witness a birth or a death. Past and future recede, thoughts quiet, and we’re aware of being right here, right now.

In contrast, trance encloses us in a virtual reality of thoughts and emotionally charged stories. We’re trying to solve problems, satisfy desires, get rid of discomfort, or make our way to a future when things might be better. We are at the mercy of unconscious beliefs, feelings, and memories that drive our decisions and reactions to life. Not only that, but our unconscious wants and fears shape our deepest sense of who we are. When we’re in trance, we usually feel separate or alone, threatened, and/or incomplete.

Our daily trance can feel ordinary and familiar, wrapping us in a cocoon of habit. It can carry us in pleasurable fantasy, immerse us in obsessive thinking, and tumble us in waves of painful emotion. But whatever the content of our trance, we are cut off from ourselves and cut off from our capacity to connect authentically with those around us. We’re just not all there!

How do we know when we’re in trance? We often don’t know. But I’ve heard many people describe how they woke up to their particular versions of being under the line, in trance.


  • I realize I’ve just gone through a whole bag of trail mix.
  • Everybody’s the bad guy today – my kids, my boss, my partner – I’m finding fault with the world.
  • I catch myself sizing up other men to see who’s the most dominant.
  • Even the small stuff seems like “just too much.”
  • I’m listening to someone, and planning how to go outside for a cigarette.
  • I lose an hour following links online.
  • My neck starts hurting, and I realize my shoulders are up and knotted and that I’ve been anxious for hours.
  • I notice the inner voice (my mother’s) saying, “Can’t you do anything right?”
  • I’m walking through a store and suddenly realize I’m comparing my body with every other woman’s I see.
  • I’m rushing around trying to get things done, and I hurt myself or break something or make a stupid mistake.

Recognizing our flags helps us to step out of trance. For me, this means that when I catch myself anxiously rerunning my to-do list, or feeling guilty about letting someone down, I become more alert. These wake-up calls help bring into consciousness my fear of falling short and the physical tension I’m carrying. Then I can remember that my fearful beliefs aren’t truth and that I have more choice as to how to spend my time.

unconscious—below the line conscious—above the line
asleep, in a dream wakeful, lucid, aware
caught or possessed by emotions emotions witnessed mindfully
dissociated in contact with feelings
heart defended or numb heart caring and tender
reactive to experiences responsive to experiences
grasping or resisting balanced, open, and discerning

Ask yourself, “Right now, what is my experience of presence?” or “Is there anything between me and presence?” Even these simple inquiries can alert you to trance and begin to awaken your awareness.

Or look back on your day and scan for the times when you were under the line. Can you identify some of the flags of trance for you? Sometimes in trance there’s just enough consciousness to recognize that you’re struggling, conflicted, shut down, or anxious. These wake-up calls let you know you need the healing—the sunlit sky—that is available above the line. This is when you call on RAIN.


Four years after moving in with Jonathan and me, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. One afternoon six months later—about three weeks before her death—I sat by her bedside reading from a book of short stories we both love. She fell asleep as I was reading, and I sat there watching her resting easily. After some minutes, she woke up and mumbled, “Oh, I thought you’d be gone; you have so much to do.” I leaned over, kissed her cheek, and continued to sit with her. She fell back to sleep, a slight smile on her lips.

I did have a lot to do. I always have a lot to do. I flashed on being too busy to pause and talk about that New Yorker article, and all those times I’d rushed through our shared dinners, felt dutiful about spending time together and guilty when I saw her walking outside alone. But my practice of RAIN had changed something. In our final years together, I was able to pause and really be there. I was there for making our supersized salads, for walking our dogs by the river, for watching the news, for chatting long after we’d finished a meal.

Twenty minutes later, my mother woke up again and whispered, “You’re still here.” I took her hand and she soon drifted off. I began crying silently, and something in her was attuned because she squeezed my hand. Oh, I’d miss her terribly. But my tears were also tears of gratitude for all the moments we lived together. And for the clearings that made this possible. On the day of her death, I was filled with immense sorrow and love, but no regrets.

Learning to create a clearing gives us our life. It is what opens us to the unfolding of radical compassion. When we’re in trance, we can’t really listen as our child shares excitedly about what happened at school. We can’t pick up that a colleague is acting uptight because they are struggling with self-doubt and fear. We miss out on sunsets, chances to play, openings for intimacy, attunement to our own loneliness or longings. The practice of RAIN brings us above the line and lets us reconnect with presence and our naturally caring hearts.


You might consider this a warm-up to practicing RAIN, something you can explore when you’re stressed, rushing, and anxious. This simple reflection can reconnect you with a sense of inner resourcefulness, self-compassion, and choice as to how you live your days.

Experiment with the U-turn at a time when you realize you’ve been lost in thought—perhaps obsessive worrying or planning, judging or fantasizing. Begin by pausing, sitting comfortably, and allowing your eyes to close. Take a few deep breaths, and with each exhale let go of any obvious tension in your mind and body.

Now shift your attention fully away from any remaining stories or thoughts, and notice your actual present-moment experience. What sensations are you aware of in your body? Are there any strong emotions present? Do you feel anxious or restless as you try to step out of your mental stories? Do you feel pulled to resume your activity? Can you simply stay right here, for just these few moments, and be with whatever is unfolding inside you? What happens if you intentionally regard your experience with kindness?

When you resume activity, notice if you sense any shift in the quality of your presence, energy, and mood.



Is it possible to experience presence when you’re angry?

Yes! You are in a state of presence (above the line) when you’re aware of the blaming thoughts and physical experience of anger. During these moments, in addition to the anger, there’s a sense of witnessing the anger and some choice in how you respond. In contrast, you’re in trance if you’re lost inside the cycling thoughts and feelings of blame, with no sense of choice or control.

Do you have to follow a particular spiritual path to work with RAIN?

RAIN is a tool that can be used by anyone seeking to deepen self-understanding, self-compassion, compassion for others, and emotional healing and spiritual awakening. There is no requirement to hold a particular set of religious or spiritual beliefs. Whatever your beliefs, RAIN will enhance your direct experience of being awake and open, present and kind.

I have a regular mindfulness practice. Is RAIN a substitute for this? Or do they fit together?

They naturally weave together. The first two steps of RAIN, Recognize and Allow, are the foundation of mindful awareness and compassion. The second two steps, Investigate and Nurture, deepen mindfulness and directly activate compassion.

RAIN can be your tool for bringing mindfulness and compassion to a particular challenge. To explore this, continue with your regular mindfulness practice until you feel caught in a difficult emotion. In that moment, call on RAIN to guide you in systematically offering a mindful and kind attention directly to the emotional tangle. Once the tangle has loosened, return to your regular practice of moment-to-moment mindfulness.

In addition to including RAIN in the midst of a meditation sitting, you can pause anytime during the day when you feel stuck or challenged and call on RAIN to assist you.

Sometimes when I’m doing yoga, strong emotions like fear, anger, and self-doubt will come up. Can RAIN help at these times?

It’s quite natural to experience strong emotions during a range of body-mind practices like yoga, tai chi, chi gung, breathwork, Reiki, guided imagery, and biofeedback. Many people have found that integrating a pause for RAIN opens the way to profound emotional healing and brings a powerful synergy to their path.


Chapter One from Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Ourselves and Our World with the Practice of RAIN, Tara Brach (Viking, 2019).

Brach, T. (2019). Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of Rain. New York, NY: Viking Life.

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 (a favorite from the 2017 archives).

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Reflection: Bringing RAIN to the Wanting Mind (11:01 min.)

Most of us have spent a lifetime fixating our desires on external objects. But if we learn to really trace them back, we discover that they are the voice of loving awareness calling us home.

We begin the meditation by briefly scanning through the body and sensing awareness of being here. We scan our life and use the acronym RAIN to Recognize a feeling of wanting, Allow it to be there, and Investigate how we’re holding the experience in our body. Then as we trace back to our longing for belonging, we Nurture a feeling of belonging as warmth, openness and tenderness that’s already here.

This is the final meditation from the full talk given on March 3, 2020, Desire and Addiction (Part 1): Voices of Longing Calling You Home.

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The Four Remembrances

When we attune to the reality of impermanence and death, we remember what most matters to us. But in daily life we can lose precious swaths of time in a reactive trance, on our way somewhere else, and lost in problem solving, judgment and worry. This talk reflects on four remembrances or practices – Pausing, Yes to life, Turning toward love, and Resting in awareness – that help us awaken from trance and live true to the loving presence that is our essence.

May death be an advisor.
May the wisdom of impermanence help us to remember to live
this moment, this day, from loving presence.
May we all awaken these hearts and minds.
May all beings everywhere be free.

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Part 2: Impermanence – Awakening Through Insecurity

From the view of the separate self, this existence is inherently uncertain, and we are profoundly vulnerable. Our habitual reaction to insecurity fuels separation, and limits our capacity to live and love fully. These two talks explore the blessings of wisdom, love and freedom that naturally arise as, instead of resisting, we learn to open directly to the insecurity of impermanence. (a favorite from the archives)

This Cup Is Already Broken:
“You see this goblet?” asks Ajahn Chah, Thai meditation master. “I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When the sun shines in, it reflects the light beautifully. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. Yet for me this glass is already broken. When the wind knocks it over, my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.”

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

—Mary Oliver

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Part 1: Impermanence – Awakening Through Insecurity

From the view of the separate self, this existence is inherently uncertain, and we are profoundly vulnerable. Our habitual reaction to insecurity fuels separation, and limits our capacity to live and love fully. These two talks explore the blessings of wisdom, love and freedom that naturally arise as, instead of resisting, we learn to open directly to the insecurity of impermanence.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Rainer Maria Rilke – Book of Hours, I 59

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Guidelines: Introducing Meditation Practices to Psychotherapy Clients

Guidelines: Introducing Meditation Practices to Psychotherapy Clients

~ Tara Brach

Meditation practices increase mindfulness and openheartedness in daily life. They can also facilitate bringing difficult experiences into awareness and re-processing, i.e., re-experiencing “stuck” emotions with a healing and wise presence. For a basic introduction to the mindfulness meditation practices that inform these guidelines, please see How to Meditate and How to Meditate FAQ.

Prerequisites for therapists:

Your capacity to guide your clients in meditation is based on your own depth of practice. This grows through:

  • Retreats and daily practice (formal and informal); guidance from experienced teachers
  • Mindfulness practice during therapy sessions: Embodied awareness, physical anchor, noting thinking, meeting inner discomfort with yes/kindness
  • Heart practices during therapy sessions. Look to see vulnerability and goodness in clients.
Tools that support clients in formal practice (arriving, quieting the mind and collecting the attention):
  • Set aspiration for each meditation (presence, openheartedness, etc.)
  • Identify what anchor/home base works (e.g., breath; body; sounds; words)
  • Practice recognizing thoughts and returning to primary anchor
  • Use primary anchor to concentrate attention. Collect and settle mind, deepen stability and presence.
Basic elements in practice of mindfulness: Recognition (direct contact) and Allowing (accepting)
  • Developing capacity for recognition: (Emphasize when dissociated.)
    • Embodied Awareness, senses awake: Body scan, yoga, mindful walking, listening
    • Noting or naming what is noticed
    • Inquiry: “What is asking for attention/acceptance?” Pay particular attention to throat, chest, belly.
    • Invitation: “Let it be as big as it is…”
    • Feel predominant experience directly as sensations in the body. Breathe with experience – focusing on either the center of intensity or full area. Notice how experience changes.
  • Developing capacity to “allow” by widening the field: (Emphasize when flooded, possessed.)
    • Say “Yes,” or “I consent,” or some other word(s) that communicates acceptance
    • Attention to sound; relax body (especially hands, eyes); smile
    • Let difficult energy ‘float in awareness.’ Attention to space around pain or unpleasant sensation. Attention to neutral or pleasant sensations in other parts of the body. Attention to sounds. Attention to what is seen in surrounding area.
Practices and reflections for awakening the heart:
  • Loving kindness: Seeing goodness and offering care (words, images, touch)
  • Compassion: Seeing vulnerability and offering care (words, images, touch)
  • Forgiveness: Seeing vulnerability and offering forgiveness
  • Safe container/refuge: Discover what person, place, spiritual ally or archetype is an expression of wisdom and compassion (i.e., the beloved or divine) and develop pathway or internal sensory anchors for invoking (images, words, feelings, gesture or body posture). Draw on client’s past experience, religious/spiritual affiliations in identifying a refuge.
Applying mindfulness to difficult emotions – RAIN:

R – Recognize what is going on
A – Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
I – Investigate with interest and care
N – Nourish with self-compassion

NOTE: for in-depth explanation and guided meditation, see The RAIN of Self-Compassion

Informal practices:

Pausing, noting through day, embodied presence, using anchor when distracted, heart practices whenever inclined, remembering aspiration whenever possible.

Trauma guidelines:
  • Safe refuge: Develop reliable internal anchor for safety; develop safety/trust in therapeutic relationship.
  • Grounding: Bring attention to feeling of pressure/warmth where bottom contacts chair, where feet contact ground; feel gravity and connection with earth.
  • Draw on heart meditations in deepening sense of safety.
  • When anchors and sense of safe refuge have been established, practice with difficult emotions by intentionally recognizing & allowing (being with) during therapy sessions, but not alone outside session until you deem your client is ready. Affect tolerance develops in a gradual way and it is important to avoid re-traumatizing.
  • Home practice: Experiment to see what feels safe and healthy. Explore short sittings with silent practice using safety anchor to quiet mind and relax. Possibly include readings, prayers, CD’s with guided meditations. Create environment of peace, beauty, inspiration. Set aspiration regularly.
Functioning as both therapist and meditation guide:

Introducing meditation tools can be shame inducing for some clients (e.g., “Meditating is important to Tara, I can’t get myself to do it every day, I don’t do it right.”). This is a challenge in recommending any technique. It is fine to have your clients work with another meditation teacher and explore with you how to integrate the techniques into your therapy process or, if you feel it’s appropriate, offer instructions and guidance yourself.  If you do:

  • Frame as experiment as to what best serves healing and awakening. Client collaborates in designing a daily practice (e., explore together what anchor might work, how long to practice, whether noting is helpful, use of heart meditations.)
  • Make sure that your client has clear and simple guidelines to follow for home practice. Encourage meditation classes if available and appropriate.
  • Discuss how easily meditation can become a domain of judgment. Include self disclosure about your challenges in practice (striving, judging how it’s going).
  • Attitude is key – approach meditation with a relaxed, interested, friendly attention. Remind your client that meditation is not another grim “to do.” It is a pathway for living and loving fully.
For more information regarding Tara Brach and her teaching schedule, please go to

Meditation and Psychotherapy: Online Video Course for Integrating Mindfulness into Clinical Practice
Guided meditations:
Talks in audio and video:
Books and CDs:
Twitter: @tarabrach