Tag Archives: Awakening

Stumbling Onto The Path of Awakening

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My path to awakening began in 2005, when during a time of major transition and deep personal sadness, my mother suggested I might find relief with yoga. She put me in touch with her friend, Grace, a yoga instructor at a fitness center in Indianapolis where I wound up taking my first yoga class. Five years later, on an afternoon lunch break, a co-worker introduced me to meditation for the first time. Yoga and meditation would continue to flow in and out of my life like waves in the ocean. I would dabble here and there and then get distracted and return to the way things had always been. These practices were nothing more than nice things to do sometimes if I was in the mood, but I didn’t feel connected to them in any meaningful way. They were more like novelties.

Two years passed by and in April 2012 I sought a Jyotish (Vedic astrology) reading from Swati Jr*. Her words didn’t make sense to me logically back then, but something about what she shared did feel true on an emotional level. Like she was whispering to parts of me that were hidden away from myself.

Six months later, on October 1st, I was lured into Moksha Yoga LA by a $40 special membership rate advertised in bright paint across the huge windows of their studio. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the heat on that first day, but I didn’t stop. I pushed through all of the sensations that come along with participating in a hot yoga class and left the studio feeling a bit out of body.

My general perspective of everything felt lighter and more expansive. It seemed to me like I was in on a secret and the people walking and driving by me didn’t appear to know what I now knew. I just felt a strange happiness that’s hard to explain in words and I couldn’t wait to go back. By my second or third class, I distinctly remember getting the sense that I was being pulled towards something that would change my life.

Thirty-one days after that first class, my life appeared to implode. Within the span of one month, my live-in boyfriend of two years ended our relationship, I was forced to find a new place to live and before I’d even had time to unpack the boxes, I was given the news that I was being laid off from my job. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Fuck. My. Life.

The main thing that kept me sane during this time was my then brand new yoga practice. I felt something when I was in the studio everyday. Something that told me to keep coming back. I listened to that feeling and stuck with a near daily practice.

During the five months I was unemployed, I took off on a lot of hikes through Griffith Park, abused my library card and booked a last minute trip to Bali and The Gili Islands, where I traveled solo for three weeks and experienced a sense of mindfulness for the first time in my life.

I didn’t know at the time that what I was experiencing was mindfulness, but when I look back, I recognize that that’s what it was. Slipping under the surface of the water off the coast of Gili Trawangan, snorkeling for the first time in my life and feeling rolls of amazement take over my being as I laid eyes on a fantastical underwater world. Willing myself to stay present in the indescribable perfection I was feeling in those moments. Overcome with gratitude as I experienced the feeling of something new, something absolutely, mind-boggling new, for the first time that I could ever remember in my adult life.

Sleeping when I was tired, eating when I was hungry, listening to my instinct and sharing myself with the people around me without thought or reservation. I traveled with a backpack and my yoga mat, stopping to breathe in the air around me, talk with strangers, wander without purpose and just be. I wrote and cried and listened and laughed and swam and kissed and danced and rode bikes and practiced yoga, but most importantly, I let go of time and other people and expectations. I just was.

When I came home to Los Angeles I felt different. Really different. And really good.

Then at the end of June in 2013, I began meditating everyday. A few weeks later, I participated in a 21-day meditation challenge hosted by Deepak Chopra and that’s when things really started becoming more clear for me. I was transitioning into a new awareness of my life and I have never felt more certain that I am living exactly the life I’m supposed to be living right now.

Since this time, I’ve devoted almost every energy to exploring the possibilities with meditation because I’ve become fascinated by the universe living inside me. Also, I feel as if someone wiped a layer away from my heart and now I’m capable of feeling the world instead of just living through it.

I read books, watch videos, seek out people who practice regularly, ask questions, sign up for seminars and classes, and look for opportunities to learn more about higher consciousness at every moment of the day. Discovering and understanding myself and the energy field we all exist within, make up, and move through, feels like it’s my reason for being here. It feels like I’m supposed to be collecting this information so that I can share it and talk about it and live it fully.

***

Aubrey is passionate about living life all the way and believes that a daily meditation practice can help anyone move into a totally engaged state of being alive. She published a book about her old life and is now busy living her new life so that she can write a follow-up about how awesome the world becomes when you’re finally able to slow down and feel into your body. She creates free guided meditations about once a week and you can connect with her on Twitter @MokshaDestiny

If you’re interested, I send out free guided meditations about once-a-week. Sign up here!

Finding the Hugger in Me

sometimes, a hug is all what we needI am not a hugger.

I probably just failed Spirituality 101 by making an “I am” statement that includes a negative, but the truth is, I’m not a big hugger. Even though it’s a negative, it’s a true negative, so there. I’ll hug my children and my close friends, but I am not one of those touchy-feely, hold your hand at a weekend seminar where we literally just met kinds of people. And don’t get me started on those weekend retreats where everyone sits on cushions and shares stories. Oh God, help me. Not sharing!

Really, do I have to sit here and listen to some person go on and on about how they feel about their husband leaving them (“Honey, he left…move on!” is all I can think of to say) and then hear them whine about how they just want to get their power back? I’ll tell you get your power back: you go out and bang the first 27-year-old hottie you can find…trust me, your ex-husband is! On and on these people go, talking about sh** I just don’t understand, like they left their body and were soaring like an eagle and saw the world as an apple and picked at the apple until it was nothing but a core, and they realized the apple was them and they were empty and filled with the seeds of love. WTF?

This is why I have always avoided these events like the plague. I have often been invited to these “Find your Inner Goddess” weekends or “Dream Your New Reality Night” at the local new age bookstore, and I would politely say no thank you. It all just seemed freaky to me; all this out-pouring of love and light. I’m good with you holding your own light and I’ll take care of mine, thank you very much. Yes, I know I made WHAT THE BLEEP and all, and these are supposed to be my people, but I never quite actually felt I fit in.

Probably because I am not a big hugger. And I don’t want to tell you my deepest darkest secrets about how shitty I feel about myself and how afraid I am and hurt I feel. So I didn’t. Instead, I took on the role of documenter of the transformation instead of participant. That was safe for me. I sort of liked watching, like a peeping tom at the awakening of humanity. I could set up cameras and watch, but join in on the circle of light? Nope, not me.

And then the shit hit the fan and my outwardly perfect, very safe looking, carefully crafted charade of a life took a big nose dive out of the sky. Clearly, I wasn’t channeling my inner eagle, and I realized that I was divorced and unhappy, alone in my un-huggable bubble. The truth was, I wanted to actually experience an authentic life which meant, well, I was gonna have to learn to hug and share. Because the truth is, transformation, awakening, or simply realizing happiness, isn’t something that rubs off on you by watching. You have to participate.

So I did.

I went to a Goddess Dream weekend in Mexico and had my mind blown. It wasn’t just about the hugging, although it turns out I’m pretty good at that. It was about me, showing up for myself, listening to what was in my soul and sharing it, not only with myself but with others. Then, finally feeling not alone, and actually feeling that love and light everyone talks about. But not in some fake, glazed over, blissed out because that’s what we think we’re supposed to be kind of way. It was real, authentic and it didn’t come from hiding how I felt and pretending everything was cool. It came from good old-fashioned honesty, hugging and sharing. Boy, did I share. I was the annoying one; I was the one crying about my past and my hurt. And suddenly, it was released. And I finally understood all that love and light.

So now, when someone approaches me to hug me, I practically leap into there arms. I am happy to admit I am a damn good hugger and if you’ve got something to share, I’m here to listen too, with all the love and light I can muster.

It’s You.

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 Isn’t that a lovely stick? Inspiring and uplifting and what not? Truly a stick worth posting. Yet it begun like this:

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Yup. This is how I felt the last few days, the last few weeks, the last few months, the last few … well, all my life, likely. Though there were times of clarity and times of denial, times of unconsciousness and times of presence. Lately I experience times of my trauma being up in my face so strongly, so clearly, so harshly that nothing but facing it is a possibility. So I am facing.

I am facing and I see pain that dates to my birth. I saw some pain from before that, hidden all the way back in the shadowy endings of the previous life but that’s irrelevant here. What is relevant is that what happened when I was one day old comes to light and demands to be seen.

There is pain there. Pain caused by neglect and fear and loneliness and … well, pain. The pain I was born into. The pain of my parents that made it impossible for them to surround me with nothing but love. There was no love. There was no love at the very beginning of my life and I look at it (again) and see how quickly it became my fault, how quickly I became unlovable and how that burden of blame and guilt crushed me, and then I realize that…

… that it was not my fault. It was not my fault that there was no love waiting to receive me when I was born. But it was my responsibility. It was my responsibility.

And this is when the strings, the cords and strands of trauma loosen up a bit and I see that it was all me, from the very beginning. It was all me. And it still is.

And then I see that the trauma that binds me and traps me is there because I keep it there, because I believe it, because I mistake it for reality. I mistake it for life. I mistake it for the world. And then I see that this trauma’s purpose is to create life that it wants me to have. The pain wants me to create more pain. The fear wants me to create more fear and the lack of love, the loneliness, wants me to be alone.

And when I see that — the bounds fall off. They do not disappear, no, but they lose their power over my choices. They lose their power over my perceptions. I can see them for what they are now and they can no longer blind me and mystify me. They can no longer pretend to be real.

And then they leave. They are not needed anymore and I am left in the world where there is love because I am love. I am left in the world of my own creation, designed by me in the process of loving, of accepting, myself.

Peace Like Never Before: Awakening to Joy with Mark Nepo

Mark Nepo Final Front Cover Reduced to JoyThe things we need arrive at the right time, and so it has been with Mark Nepo and his work. For those of us on a spiritual path, Mark’s writings possess the power to immediately move us into connection with a subtle and powerful awareness at the deepest, most soulful level. Though Mark Nepo‘s writing has been with us for a while, it wasn’t until Oprah received a copy of Mark’s Book of Awakening through one of her staff assistants that it came to the notice of millions. This all happened at a critical time.

I first interviewed Mark around the time he’d just lost his day job and faced some health problems. At what seemed like one of his darker hours, Oprah also discovered Mark’s work, and that darkness turned to light as his book, which he’d written some ten years earlier, became a New York Times bestselling book. Oprah recently did two more interviews with him for upcoming shows from her home in Hawaii. Regarding all the success, Mark remains grateful but unfazed by the recognition of his work, and he continues to teach and practice presence in much the same way as before. I asked him to share some his recent experiences, as well as tell us more about his latest book, Reduced to Joy. He’s also offered us one of the poems from his book at the end of this post.

Debra Moffitt: You have written about awakening, silence, and finally joy. Reduced to Joy, your latest book of poems, feels like a culmination of your many years of spiritual connection. Are joy and bliss the final experiences that arrive on the spiritual journey?

Mark Nepo: I’m not sure there is any final experience to this mysterious journey. I think we continue to be brought closer and closer to the aliveness we carry. For me, joy is different than happiness. While happiness is a fleeting mood, joy is larger and more lasting than any one feeling. If each feeling is a wave of emotion, then joy is the ocean that holds all feelings. As I get older, I’m coming to realize that joy is central to our knowing peace. It’s one deep way that we access Oneness. I’m also beginning to see that joy is the hum of Oneness. It’s the sensation of being connected to life itself. Another way to speak of joy is to say that it’s the reward for facing our experience. Often, what keeps us from joy is the menacing assumption that life is happening other than where we are. So we are always leaving, running from or running to. What keeps us from joy, then, is often not being where we are and not valuing what is before us.

 Debra Moffitt: How did Reduced to Joy come into being?

Mark Nepo: Poems come slowly. They break surface like dolphins after long stretches of going under. So writing a book of poems for me is different than writing my other books. I have to sit when I’m able and try to make heart-sense of what life has been doing to me and with me. Like wringing out a sponge, I squeeze what matters onto the page, let it dry, and see what’s there the next day. One by one, they gather into an instructive whole. All this is to say that by trying to make sense of my own experience, I’ve discovered a theme to the journey, that we are all reduced to joy, worn away of all excess. To survive this, we often need to hold each other up in order to discover and return to what matters. This book explores these essential relationships, which keep shaping me.

Debra Moffitt: I love the title of your book. As your poem, “Where is God?” expresses, it seems that once all is stripped away there’s nothing more to obscure joy. Can you speak more to what joy is and is not and how we might know the difference? 

Mark Nepo: After all these years, I’m beginning to see that tranquility is the depth of being that holds what we think and feel, not the still point after we’ve silenced what we think and feel. Serenity is the depth of being that holds difficulty, not the resting point after we’ve ended difficulty. And peace is the depth of being that holds suffering and doubt, not the raft we climb on to avoid suffering and doubt. This leads us to joy, which is much deeper and larger than any one feeling. Happiness, fear, anxiety, contentment, doubt, regret, unworthiness, anger, despair—all these and more are the waves that rise and fall in the sea of being.

 Debra Moffitt: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers? 

Mark Nepo: These poems have been retrieved and shaped over the last thirteen years. They have been my teachers about the nature of working with what we’re given till it wears us through to joy. My hope is that the poems in this book will serve as a threshold to an underlying connection to the greater life we are all a part of. I hope the book will be a resource for you when faced with the difficulties of living. I hope the poems will confirm that, no matter the struggle you find yourself in, you are not alone. May these poems be honest companions on the journey to joy.

A Poem from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo reprinted with his permission.

Where is God? 

 It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.
It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.
* * *
Debra Moffitt is the award winning author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life and “Garden of Bliss: Cultivating the Inner Landscape for Self-Discovery” (Llewellyn Worldwide, May 2013). A visionary, dreamer and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices, writing and creativity in the U.S. and Europe. More at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.

How to Awaken Through Anger

Awakening

One evening after my Wednesday night meditation class, Amy, a member of our D.C. meditation community, asked if we might talk for a few minutes about her mother, a woman she often referred to as “a manipulative, narcissistic human.” Amy’s mother had recently been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, and as the only local offspring, Amy had become her mother’s primary caretaker. So, there she was, spending hours a day with a person she’d been avoiding for decades. “I can’t stand myself for having such a hard heart,” Amy confessed.

Amy and I agreed to meet privately to explore how she might use her practice to find more freedom in relating to her mother. At our first session, she told me difficult early childhood memories had recently been emerging. In the most potent of these, Amy was three years old. Her mom yelled upstairs that she’d prepared a bath for her and that she should get in the tub. But when Amy went into the bathroom, what she found was a couple of inches of lukewarm water. What had flashed through her three-year-old mind then was: “This is all I’m going to get. No one is taking care of me.”

Amy’s mom had always been preoccupied with her own dramas, perpetually reacting to perceived slights from friends, struggling against weight gain, and berating her husband for his shortcomings. Little attention was paid to the physical or emotional needs of Amy or her siblings. “She doesn’t care about anyone except herself,” Amy told me. “She’s a self-centered bitch … it really pisses me off. I got gypped out of having a mother, and now I’m here catering to her.” As she was speaking I asked her to pause, and investigate what she was most aware of in the moment. After a long silence, Amy said “There’s so much rage, I can barely contain it.”

Part of the process of softening our hearts includes learning to recognize and allow whatever we’re feeling—even intense rage. But this isn’t always simple, or easy. When I asked Amy if she could allow the rage to be here, she shook her head. “I’m afraid if I really make space for this rage, it will destroy every relationship I have. I’ve already hurt people I love.”

When anger is buried, like Amy’s was, the energy gets converted and expressed in many different ways. Yet, anger is a natural survival energy that wants our attention, that needs to be allowed to be felt. However, “allowing” doesn’t mean we let ourselves be possessed by our anger. Rather, we allow when we acknowledge the stories of blame without believing them, and when we let the sensations of anger arise, without either acting them out or resisting them.

I encouraged Amy to check in with her fear. Was it willing to let this rage be here? Could the fear step aside enough so that she could be present with this rage? Amy nodded. Now, she could begin to investigate the emotional energy beneath the blame. I knew that for her to do this, she’d first need to step outside of the seductive sway of her resentful stories. We’d talked about the stories, respecting them as windows into her pain. But the anger also lived deeper in her body—in a place beyond thought. The next step was for Amyto widen and deepen her attention so she could fully contact these embodied energies.

I asked Amy to notice what she was feeling in her body, and she closed her eyes and paused. “It’s like a hot pressured cauldron in my chest,” she said. What would happen, I asked, if she said yes to this feeling, and allowed the heat and pressure to be as intense as it wanted. “It wants to explode,” Amy said. Again, I encouraged her to let be, toallow her experience just as it was.

Amy was absolutely still for some moments.“The rage feels like it is bursting flames, like a windstorm spreading in all directions,” she said. “It’s blasting through the windows of this office.” In a low voice, she went on: “It’s spreading through the East Coast. Now it’s destroying all life forms, ripping through the continent, oceans, earth.” She continued, telling me about the rage’s fury, how it was spreading through space. Then she became very quiet. Speaking in a soft voice, she finally said, “It’s losing steam,” before sitting back on the couch and letting out a tired sigh. “Now there’s justemptiness. No one is left in the world. I’m utterly alone, lonely.” In a barely audible whisper, she said, “There’s no one who loves me, no one that I love.”

Amy began weeping. Inside the rage, she’d found an empty place, a place that felt loveless. Now what was revealing itself was grief: grief for the loss of love in her life. When I asked what the grieving part of her most needed, she knew right away: “To know that I care about this pain, that I accept and love this grieving place.” I guided her to gently place her hand on her heart, and offer inwardly the message her wounded self most needed. She began repeating the phrase, “I’m sorry, I love you.” This wasn’t an apology. Rather, it was a simple expression of sorrow for her own hurt.

As Amy whispered the phrase over and over, she began rocking side to side. “I’m seeing the little girl in the bath,” she said, “and feeling how uncared for she feels, how alone. I’m holding her now, telling her ‘I’m sorry, I love you.’” Then, after a few minutes, Amy sat upright and looked at me with a fresh openness and brightness. “I think I understand,” she said. “I’ve been angry for so long that I abandoned her—the inner part of me—just like my mom abandoned that three-year-old.” She paused, then continued. “I just have to remember that this part of me needs love. I want to love her.”

Offering a compassionate and clear attention to her vulnerability had connected Amy with a vastness of being that could include her pain. This natural awareness is the fruition of an intimate attention. When we’re resting in this presence, we’re inhabiting the refuge of our own awakened heart and mind.

Some weeks later, Amy read me her morning’s journal entry: “There is more room in my heart.” The night before, after her mother had complained for the third time that her soup still wasn’t salty enough, Amy felt the familiar rising tide of irritation and resentment. She sent the message “I’m sorry, I love you” inwardly to herself, giving permission to the annoyance, to the edginess in her own heart. She felt a softening, a relaxing of tension. Looking up, she was struck by her mother’s grim, dissatisfied expression. Then, just as she’d learned to inquire about herself, the thought came:“What is my mom feeling right now?” Almost immediately, she could sense her mother’s insecurity and loneliness. Imagining her mother inside her heart, Amy again began offering caring messages. “I’m sorry,” she whispered silently, “I love you.”

She found herself feeling genuine warmth toward her mother, and the evening was surprisingly pleasant for both of them. They joked about her mom doing a “mono diet” of potato chips, went online and ordered a bathrobe, and had fun watching The Daily Show together.

At our last meeting Amy told me how, several days earlier, her mother had woken up in the morning hot and sweaty. Amy took a cool cloth to her mother’s forehead and cheeks, arms and feet. “Nobody’s ever washed me,” her mom had said with a wistful smile. Amy immediately remembered the little girl in the bathtub, and felt tears in her eyes. She and her mom had both gone through much of life feeling neglected, as if they didn’t matter. And right now, each in her own way was tasting the intimacy of care. They looked at each other and had a moment of uncomplicated love. It was the first such moment Amy could remember, one she knew she’d cherish long after her mom was gone.

Adapted from True Refuge (Jan. 2013)

Enjoy this video:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_PXgXn2PX8]

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

photo by: Lady-bug

Tara Brach: Planting Ourselves in the Universe

Here in this body are the sacred rivers: here are the sun and moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body. —Tantric song

When I meet with people at retreats or in counseling sessions, some will tell me they feel numb, lost in thoughts, and disconnected from life. Others might tell me they are overwhelmed by feelings of fear, hurt, or anger. Whenever we are either possessed by our feelings or dissociated from them, we are in trance, cut off from our full presence and aliveness.

In Buddhist meditation training, awakening from trance begins with mindfulness of sensations. Sensations are our most immediate way of experiencing and relating to life. All our other reactions—to thoughts, to external situations, to people, to emotions—are actually in response to physical sensations. When we are angry at someone, our body is responding to a perceived threat. When we are attracted to someone, our body is signaling comfort or curiosity or desire. If we don’t recognize the ground level of sensation, we will continually be lost in the swirl of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that make up our daily trance.

One of the best instructions I’ve heard for meditation practice was given by Thai Buddhist teacher Ajahn Buddhadasa: “Do not do anything that takes you away from your body.” The body lives in the present. When you are aware of the body, you are connected with living presence—the one place where you can see reality, see what is actually happening. Awareness of the body is our gateway into the truth of what is.

This gateway to refuge was crucial to the Buddha’s own awakening. When Siddhartha Gautama took his seat at the base of the bodhi tree—the tree of awakening—he resolved to stay there until he found full freedom. He began his meditation by collecting his attention, quieting his mind, and “coming back” to a full and balanced presence. But then, as the story is told, the demon Mara appeared, accompanied by a massive army, and with many deadly weapons and magical forces at his disposal. Mara is a tempter—his name means “delusion” in Pali—and we can also see him as Gautama’s shadow self. Mara’s intent was to keep Gautama trapped in trance.

Throughout the night Mara hurled rocks and arrows, boiling mud and blistering sands to provoke Gautama to fight or flee, yet he met these attacks with a compassionate presence, and the missiles were all transformed into celestial flowers. Then Mara sent his daughters, “desire, pining, and lust,” surrounded by voluptuous attendants to seduce Gautama, yet Gautama’s mind remained undistracted and present. Dawn was fast approaching when Mara issued his final challenge—doubt. What proof, Mara asked, did Gautama have of his compassion? How could he be sure his heart was awakened? Mara was targeting the core reactivity that hooks and sustains the sense of small self—the perception of our own unworthiness.

Gautama did not try to use a meditative technique to prove himself. Rather, he touched the earth and asked it to bear witness to his compassion, to the truth of what he was. In response, the earth responded with a shattering roar, “I bear you witness!” Terrified, Mara and his forces dispersed in all directions.

In that instant of acknowledging his belonging to the earth, Gautama became the Buddha—the awakened one—and was liberated. By claiming this living wholeness, he dissolved the final vestiges of the trance of separation.

For us, the story of the Buddha’s liberation offers a radical and wonderful invitation. Like the Buddha, our own healing and awakening unfolds in any moment in which we take refuge in our aliveness—connecting with our flesh and blood, with our breath, with the air itself, with the elements that compose us, and with the earth that is our home. Whenever we bring our presence to the living world of sensation, we too are touching the ground.

In the early part [CE1] [TB2] of the last century, D. H. Lawrence found himself in a society devastated by war, a landscape despoiled by industrialism, and a culture suffering from a radical disconnect between mind and body. Written in 1928, his words have lost none of their urgency:

It is a question, practically of relationship. We must get back into relation, vivid and nourishing relation to the cosmos and the universe. . . . For the truth is, we are perishing for lack of fulfillment of our greater needs, we are cut off from the great sources of our inward nourishment and renewal, sources which flow eternally in the universe. Vitally, the human race is dying. It is like a great uprooted tree, with its roots in the air. We must plant ourselves again in the universe.

When we disconnect from the body, we are pulling away from the energetic expression of our being that connects us with all of life. By imagining a great tree uprooted from the earth, we can sense the unnaturalness, violence, and suffering of this severed belonging. The experience of being uprooted is a kind of dying.

Some people tell me about the despair of not really living, of skimming the surface. Others have the perpetual sense of a threat lurking around the corner. And many speak of being weighed down by a deep tiredness. It takes energy to continually run away from pain and tension, to pull away from the life of the present moment. Roots in the air, we lose access to the aliveness and love and beauty that nourish our deepest being. No false refuge can compensate for that loss.

Yet, like the Buddha touching the ground, we can reclaim our life and spirit by planting ourselves again in the present. This begins by connecting with the truth of what’s happening in our body. Then, when we’re finally in direct contact with the felt sense of that aliveness in our own being, we can fully experience this mysterious field of aliveness we call home.

Adapted from Tara’s upcoming book, True Refuge – Finding Peace and Freedom in your Own Awakened Heart (Bantam, Feb, 2013)

For more information on Tara Brach go to: www.tarabrach.com
photo by: Scott Teresi

Tara Brach: The Radiant Awareness Living Through Us

Sometimes you hear a voice through
the door calling you, as fish out of
water hear the waves, or a hunting
falcon hears the drum’s come back.
This turning toward what you deeply love
saves you …
—Rumi

Soon after his enlightenment, the Buddha set out to share his teachings with others. People were struck by his extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. One man asked him who he was. “Are you a celestial being or a god?” “No,” responded the Buddha. “Are you a saint or sage?” Again the Buddha responded, “No.” “Are you some kind of magician or wizard?” “No,” said the Buddha. “Well then, what are you?” The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

I often share this story because it is a reminder that what might seem like an extraordinary occurrence—spiritual awakening—is a built-in human capacity. Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha’s birth name) was a human being, not a deity. When Buddhists take refuge in the historical Buddha, whose name literally means “one who is awake,” they are drawing on the inspiration of a fellow human who was able to realize his inner freedom.

Like us, Siddhartha experienced bodily pain and disease, and, like us, he encountered inner distress and conflict. For those who follow the Buddha, reflecting on his courageous investigation of reality, and his awakening to a timeless and compassionate presence, brings confidence that this same potential lies within each of us.

In a similar way we might reflect on Jesus or on teachers and healers from other traditions. Any spiritually mature, openhearted human being helps us trust that we too can awaken. You may have already touched upon this outer refuge with a caring and wise teacher or mentor.

My eighty-six-year-old aunt, a specialist in childhood blood diseases, traces her love of nature and her determination to be a doctor to a science class in junior high school. Very few women entered medical school at that time, but her teacher, a woman of passionate intellect,conveyed a pivotal message: “Trust your intelligence and let your curiosity shine!”

An African American friend who leads corporate diversity trainings found refuge and inspiration in his minister, a leader in the civil rights movement and an exemplar of generosity, humor, and wisdom.

I found refuge in my first meditation teacher, Stephen: His great love of meditating, and his own unfolding clarity and kindness, helped awaken my devotion to the spiritual path.

We respond to our mentors because they speak to qualities of heart and mind, qualities of awareness, that are already within us. Their gift is that they remind us of what is possible and call it forth. Much in the same way, we are drawn to spiritual figures that help connect us with our inner goodness.

About ten years ago I began experimenting with a simple self-guided meditation. I would call on the presence of the divine mother (the sacred feminine) and over the next minute or so, I would begin to sense a radiant openness surrounding me. As I imagined the mind of this awakened being, I could sense vastness and lucidity.

Then, as I imagined the heart of the divine mother, that openness filled with warmth and sensitivity. Finally, I’d direct my attention inward, to see how that tender, radiant, all-inclusive awareness was living inside me. I’d feel my body, heart, and mind light up as if the sunlit sky was suffusing every cell of my body and shining through the spaces between the cells.

I’ve come to see that through thismeditation, I was exploring the movement from outer refuge to inner refuge.By regularly contacting these facets of sacred presence within me, I was deepening my faith in my own essential being.

Realizing who we are fulfills our human potential. We intuit that we are more mysterious and vast than the small self we experience through our stories and changing emotions. As we learn to attend directly to our own awareness, we discover the timeless and wakeful space of our true nature.

This is the great gift of following a spiritual path: coming to trust that you can find a way to the true refuge of your own loving awareness, your own perfect Buddha nature. You realize that you can start right where you are, in the midst of your life, and find peace in any circumstance. Even at those moments when the ground shakes terribly beneath you—when there’s a loss that will alter your life forever—you can still trust that you will find your way home. This is possible because you’ve touched the timeless love and awareness that are intrinsic to who you already are.

Adapted from Tara’s upcoming book, True Refuge – Finding Peace and Freedom in your Own Awakened Heart (Bantam, Feb, 2013)

For more information on Tara Brach go to: www.tarabrach.com
photo by: laineybugger

A Gift of Inspiration

To me spirituality is about more than simply ‘self realization’.  It also involves ‘self expression’.  The art of awakening is to both ‘know yourself and show yourself’. When we wake up to the wonder of life, there is a deep ‘love of being’ that demands to be expressed by bringing love into the world … by contributing to the collective through being creative.

I have worked all my life in the arts and as a spiritual philosopher, so I have always been keen to combine the two.  I love conveying deep ideas through books, music, performance and so on. So I was delighted to have the opportunity this year to create a short film with director Nick Ralph exploring the experience of awakening in a simple, vivid and experiential way.

My hope is that we have created a poignant little film that will touch both those who have an interest in ‘spirituality’, and those who don’t see themselves as ‘spiritual’ at all. I feel this is important if we are to share the possibility of awakening with as many people as possible in mainstream culture.

So in this blog I want to do more than give you just words. I want to offer you a feast of ideas and images by sharing our short film … as a gift of inspiration. Let me know your reactions. If you enjoy it please share the film with your friends and social media. Love is only truly love when it is shared.

Deep love

T!M

Two Faces of Grace

The experience of the gift of life, of the grace of life, is a mysterious blessing we celebrate and bow to. Grace is the answer to our prayers, and yet it is free of our bidding. How joyous to bask in even an instant of surprising good fortune. How sweetly humbling to be delivered from misfortune.

We most easily and delightedly recognize grace in its form of deliverance. Yet it has another, equally humbling, equally mysterious face. The horrific face of grace can fill us with dread and fear when it appears, but if we are willing to welcome it — as we welcome the good news of the grace of bounty — it too brings us home. In whatever form it presents itself, grace reveals home as free and at peace. Grace is the messenger of the silent core of us, regardless of any tumult on the surface.

Who can truly comprehend what we each have to experience in our lives? We know of horrible experiences, diseases, wars, loss and degradation that many have to go through. And we also hear from many of the surprising grace present with the loss and pain: grace’s horrific face.

This is not the face of grace that we want. We want grace that is easy and beautiful and flowing. We usually — at least initially — resist grace that is ugly and painful. You must have experienced certain events, however they have shown up, as unwanted. If you are still resisting some unwanted event in your life and are willing to open to it now, you can find the grace in that very moment.

Grace does not require you to want something that you do not want. What is required is that you tell the truth about what simply and irrevocably is. What is required is that you stop fighting and hiding from what is. When these utterly simple and deeply challenging requirements are met, the innate grace of your own consciousness naturally reveals who you are and what you can bear.

We have many ideas about what we can bear. These ideas are the reflections of our fear. We doubt our capacity to meet what life and the changes in life give us. But when the willingness to tell the truth in open stillness comes, capacity is discovered.

Part of the horrific grace of being a human being is the knowledge that non-existence is at the end of the arc of our lifetime. We avoid death — other’s or our own — but when death comes close, the possibility is just as close for the discovery of great horrific grace. We don’t want to die. It may sometimes seems dying would be easier than meeting the challenge of living, but you wouldn’t be reading this if you hadn’t chosen life. And yet death will come.

In the horrific knowledge that what we don’t want (death, loss) will come regardless of our desires, there is an indescribable grace that is available. The fact that you have the gift of a human life with reflective consciousness allows you to open your consciousness, rather than to engage in the usual habitual strategies of denial.

The Tibetans speak about this precious human life. I used to doubt the preciousness of a human life because it seemed that the cows, in their unconsciousness of inevitable death might actually have a better life. But what are the cows doing in the pasture? They are waiting for the slaughterhouse. Even the lilies of the field, though not doing anything, simply living and being beautiful, are dead soon enough. We too are headed for the slaughterhouse, we too will be dead soon enough. And because of the horrific grace of consciousness we can meet that inevitability.

If we stop at the horror, if we try to find something to cover it or fix it or distract ourselves from it, we deny ourselves the grace of it. When there is enough willingness to face what has been avoided, the preciousness of every moment of every limited life form is celebrated and welcomed. Facing the horror of changes and endings allows us to fully participate in both what is inherently transitory and what is changeless.

Precious human life. Precious life form. Precious moment of every life — the cow’s life until it is slaughtered or the lily’s life until it wilts — how precious it is to be conscious of being and not being.

This blog is adapted from a talk given by Gangaji at Kripalu Center, MA in September 2011. Gangaji’s new book Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story, was published in September 2011 by Tacher/Penguin. In this life-changing book, Gangaji uses the telling of her own life story to help readers uncover the truth in their own. Publisher’s Weekly said, “This gently flowing but often disarming volume invites readers to examine the narratives that shape them, and is a call to pass beyond personal stories to find a deeper, more universal self.” In April Gangaji will be offering meetings and weekends in Mill Valley and San Diego, CA, Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. She will be holding a Silent Retreat at Fallen Leaf Lake, South Lake Tahoe, CA, beginning May 29. Visit www.gangaji.org for more information about Gangaji and her upcoming events, including the monthly Webcast / Conference Series, With Gangaji, which is currently undergoing an in-depth study of Hidden Treasure.

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photo by: shashish