May 24, 2013

tara-brachThis is one of my favorite little stories:

One afternoon, a tired-looking dog wandered into my yard and followed me through the door into the house. He went down the hall, lay down on the couch and slept there for an hour.

Since my dogs didn’t seem to mind his presence, and he seemed like a good dog, I was okay with him being there, so I let him nap. An hour later he went to the door motioned for me to let him out and off he went.

The next day, much to my surprise, he was back. He resumed his position on the couch and slept for another hour.

This continued for several … Read more »

It’s not what’s happening…it’s how you respond

May 6, 2013

tara-brachOne of my favorite stories took place a number of decades ago when the English had colonized India and they wanted to set up a golf course in Calcutta. Besides the fact that the English shouldn’t have been there in the first place, the golf course was not a particularly good idea. The biggest challenge was that the area was populated with monkeys.

The monkeys apparently were interested in golf too, and their way of joining the game was to go onto the course and take the balls that the golfers were hitting and toss them around in all directions. Of course the golfers didn’t like this at all, so they tried to control the … Read more »

The mystery of who we are

April 25, 2013

tara-brachI heard a story when my son was in a local Waldorf school, and I loved it.

The children were in art class seated in different tables, working hard at their projects. One little girl was particularly diligent, so the teacher stood behind her and watched for a while. Then she bent over to ask her what she was drawing.

Very matter-of-fact the little girl said, “I’m drawing God”.

The teacher chuckled and said, “But you know, hon, no one knows what God looks like.”

Without skipping a beat, without even looking up, the little girl responded, “They will in a moment!”

This made me wonder, what happened to our wildness? The wildness of God, … Read more »

“I realized I don’t have to believe my thoughts.”

April 18, 2013

tara-brachOur mindfulness practice is not about vanquishing our thoughts. It’s about becoming aware of the process of thinking so that we are not in a trance—lost inside our thoughts. That’s the big difference. To train in becoming mindful of thoughts can help us to notice when your mind is actively thinking, either using the label “thinking, thinking,” or identifying the kind of thought—“worrying, worrying,” “planning, planning.” Then, becoming interested in what’s really happening right here. Coming home to the sensations in your body, your breath, the sounds around you, the life of the moment.

As our mindfulness practice deepens we become more aware of our thoughts. This offers us the opportunity to assess them and … Read more »

The sacred art of listening – nourishing loving relationships

April 10, 2013

tara-brachTo listen is to lean in softly
With a willingness to be changed
By what we hear
-Mark Nepo

What happens when there’s a listening presence? When we’re fully in that listening presence, when there’s that pure quality of receptivity, we become presence itself. And whether you call that God or pure awareness or our true nature, the boundary of inner and outer dissolves and we become a luminous field of awakeness. When we’re in that open presence we can really respond to the life that’s here. We fall in love.

This state of listening is the precursor or the prerequisite to loving relatedness. The more you understand the state of listening– of being able … Read more »

Emptiness Dancing

April 3, 2013

tara-brachThis entire living world–including these forms we call self– is a creative arising and dissolving of empty awareness. I love the Zen phrase “emptiness dancing,” because it recognizes the inseparability of formlessness and form, of the awake space of awareness and its expression in aliveness.

Sometimes, when I teach about the ultimate freedom of realizing selflessness and emptiness dancing, students ask if this means turning away from personal growth and service. Is this just another way to devalue the life we are living here and now? If we find inner freedom, will we still be interested in healing ourselves and our world?

Whenever these questions come up, I usually recall Mari, who started attending meditation … Read more »

Happy for no reason

March 28, 2013

tara-brachFor years I’d heard that qigong was an ideal meditation for physical healing, and when I first experimented with it, I did find that the practice helped me feel more embodied and energetically attuned. Qigong is based on a Chinese system of still and moving meditation. At its heart is the understanding that this world is made of chi, an invisible field of energy, the dynamic expression of pure awareness.

When my health hit a new low in the summer of 2009, I decided to explore the practice more deeply by attending a ten-day qigong healing retreat.

During the third day, I remember sitting at the retreat while our teacher was guiding us: “Send chi … Read more »

The three qualities of awareness

March 21, 2013

tara-brachAbout 2,600 years ago, when Siddhartha Gautama (the soon-to-be Buddha) sat down under the bodhi tree, his resolve was to realize his true nature. Siddhartha had a profound interest in truth, and the questions “Who am I?” and “What is reality?” impelled him to look even more deeply within and shine a light on his own awareness.

As a Zen story reminds us, this kind of inquiry is not an analytic or theoretical exploration. One day a novice asks the abbot of the monastery, “What happens after we die?” The venerable old monk responds, “I don’t know.” Disappointed, the novice says, “But I thought you were a Zen monk.” “I am, but not a dead … Read more »

The backward step

March 13, 2013

tara-brachTibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa once opened a class by drawing a V on a large white sheet of poster paper. He then asked those present what he had drawn. Most responded that it was a bird. “No,” he told them. “It’s the sky with a bird flying through it.”

How we pay attention determines our experience. When we’re in doing or controlling mode, our attention narrows and we perceive objects in the foreground—the bird, a thought, a strong feeling. In these moments we don’t perceive the sky—the background of experience, the ocean of awareness. The good news is that through practice, we can intentionally incline our minds toward not controlling and toward an open attention.… Read more »

I’m nothing, yet I’m all I can think about

March 8, 2013

tara-brachWriting and speaking about the nature of awareness is a humbling process; as the third Zen patriarch said, “Words! The way is beyond language.” Whatever words are used, whatever thoughts they evoke, that’s not it! Just as we can’t see our own eyes, we can’t see awareness. What we are looking for is what is looking. Awareness is not another object or concept that our mind can grasp. We can only be awareness.

A friend who is a Unitarian minister told me about an interfaith gathering that she attended. It opened with an inquiry: What is our agreed-upon language for referring to the divine? Shall we call it God? “No way” responded a feminist Wiccan. … Read more »