I am very happy to bring you and interview with Tara Brach again. If you missed the last interview on Radical Acceptance you can view it here.  Tara Brach is a clinical Psychologist who has been integrating mindfulness and psychotherapy for many years. She is author of the popular book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, the CD Radical Self-acceptanceand her newest CD, which I highly recommend, Meditations for Emotional Healing: Finding Freedom in the Face of DifficultyShe is also working on a new book calledTrue Refuge (Bantam, early 2011). Tara has weekly podcasts from her Wednesday night sitting groups that address forgiveness and compassion and is senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington.  She really embodies and emphasizes the importance of acknowledging our aversions in life and cultivating compassion for oneself and others as a means toward mental health.

Question:  Tara, you put a lot of work out there that incorporates mindfulness and psychotherapy. Your newest being the upcoming CD Meditations for Emotional Healing: Finding Freedom in the Face of Difficulty From all of these, can you give us 5 key elements emphasized in emotional healing and spiritual freedom?

  1. Aspiration – The entire spiritual path arises out of our sincere aspiration to awaken. As one Zen master put it, “The most important thing is remembering the most important thing.”  We each have our own way of sensing what is most important.  It may be to be present, to know who you really are, to love without holding back, or to help others be free of suffering. Try to begin the day by reflecting in a fresh way on your aspiration, and pause through the day to remember what matters. This remembering will wake you up from the daily trance and energize your unfolding towards freedom.
  2. Daily practice – A daily meditation practice is a gift to your spirit.  Even if it is for a short time, take the time and space to intentionally be intimate with your own experience.  This will create a remembering through the day, more moments of presence and freedom. Click here to get Tara’s free EBook, How to Meditate.       
  3. Recognizing Thoughts – The trance of feeling separate and deficient is sustained by thought.  An essential part of spiritual training is to become mindful of thinking.  This does not mean eliminating thought-the mind is a precious, creative, and a wondrous part of what you are.  But when you are regularly lost in thought, you lose access to your own vitality and the mystery you are part of. During formal meditation and throughout the day, have the intention to recognize thinking and make yourself at home in the actual experience of your senses.  Become deeply aware of the difference between any thought, and living presence.
  4. Community – The spiritual path is not a solo endeavor.  In fact, the very notion of a self who is trying to free her/himself is a delusion.  We are in it together and the company of spiritual friends helps us realize our interconnectedness.   If you are not in an area where there are ready-made meditation groups, try to find a few people who are sincere about awakening and would like to meditate together and support each other on the path.
  5. Self-Compassion – There are two key ingredients in self-compassion.  The first is a willingness to directly feel the suffering you are living with.  By this I mean to contact the actual physical sense of “ouch” undiluted by thoughts like “I deserve this” or “Others have it much worse.”  The second is offering care to the place of woundedness.  It can be powerful and healing to put your hand gently on your heart and send a message of care inward.  If it is hard to offer yourself care, imagine someone that loves you beholding the suffering and sending compassion to your heart. Gradually you will sense that compassion as part of your own Being.

Thank you so much once again Tara for your wisdom and insights to support us in our health and well-being.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions create a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.