Tara Brach’s latest book was released Tuesday: True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.
Tara is an internationally revered meditation teacher and clinical psychologist. Her first book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha won the Books for a Better Life award; it is one of the first books I recommend to clients caught in “the trance of unworthiness.”
I’ve included the description of True Refuge from the jacket, a link to Tara talking about the book, and an exercise from the book on “Remembering the Most Important Thing.”
May these be useful to you and yours.
Beneath the turbulence of our thoughts and emotions exists a profound stillness, a silent awareness capable of limitless love. Tara Brach, bestselling author of Radical Acceptance, calls this awareness our true refuge, because it is available to every one of us, at any moment. In this beautiful and powerful book, Tara responds to our universal longing for homecoming with a fresh understanding of the three archetypal gateways to liberation: Truth (of the present moment), Love, and Awareness. These gateways come alive as she shares her own unfolding journey, guided meditations, and inspirational stories of people who have found strength and balance during times of great struggle.
Find out more and view a video at: http://www.tarabrach.com/truerefuge.html.
Guided Reflection: Remembering the Most Important Thing
We turn toward the refuges of truth, love, and awareness by listening to the call of our heart. Beyond any meditative technique, it is remembering what most matters to us that awakens and frees our spirit. Again, as Zen master Suzuki Roshi taught, “The most important thing is remember the most important thing.” For most people, realizing and connecting with our deep aspiration takes time and attention. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, we may unfold layers of more immediate wants and fears before we arrive at the source, the light of pure aspiration. As we inhabit this aspiration, it becomes the compass of the heart that guides us home.
Find a comfortable way of sitting, and allow yourself to relax and be at ease. With a receptive presence, become aware of the state of your heart. Is there a sense of openness or tightness? Of peace or anxiety? Of contentment or dissatisfaction? If there is something of particular concern or importance going on in your life, or simply a strong emotion, allow that to express itself. Perhaps at first you will be aware of wishing your partner would treat you differently. You might find that you are wanting to get past a particularly demanding stretch at work. You might long to be free of chronic pain. You may be wanting one of your children to feel more secure and confident.
Whatever arises, allow it to be there, and with interest, ask yourself’ “If I got what I wanted, what would that really give me?” Perhaps you imagine if you were treated differently, you’d be less reactive and free to be more loving. Or if you were relieved of chronic pain, you would then be able to relax and enjoy your life more fully.
Continuing you inquiry you might now ask directly, “What does my heart really long for?” It can also be helpful to ask, “What most matters in this life?” Or, “If I was at the end of my life looking back, what would be most important about how I lived today…this moment?” As you pose these questions, sense that you are addressing your inquiry directly to your heart.
After asking, simply listen and be aware of any words, images, or feelings that arise. Try to be patient – it can take some time for the mind to open out of its habitual ideas about life and connect with what is most alive and true. You may need to repeat, several times, some version of “What does my heart long for?” and then listen in receptive silence to what arises. As you listen, stay in touch with feelings in our body, and particularly in your heart.
Your aspiration will probably express itself differently at different times. You might feel a longing to love fully or to feel loved, to know truth, to be peaceful, to be helpful, to be free of fear and suffering. There is no “right” aspiration. Sometimes you will land on an immediate intention that supports your aspiration. For example, you might become aware of the yearning to write poetry or paint. This would be in service of the deep aspiration to live a creative vital life. What is important is attuning to what is most true for you in this moment.
The signs of arriving at a clear intention or deep aspiration are a felt sense of sincerity, innocence, energy, or flow. Some people describe an inner shift that gives them fresh resolution, openness, and ease. If there is no real sense of connecting with what matters, that’s fine. You might sit quietly and open to whatever naturally arises, or choose to continue this exploration at another time.
If you sense you’ve arrived at what feels like a pure and deep aspiration, allow yourself to inhabit the fullness of your longing. Feel the very essence of your longing in a cellular way as it expresses through your whole body and being. Let your aspiration be the prayer of your awakening heart.
You can practice reflecting on your aspiration at the beginning and end of each day, and at the beginning and/or end of a meditation sitting. In addition, as you move through the day, try to pause periodically and inquire as to what most matters to you. In any moment that you remember what you care about, you have opened your heart to the blessings of true refuge.