Finding the Ground, Feeling the Fear
Note: the author received this audio course for free in return to review the said offering. That said, she says what she wants—good or bad, happy or sad.
This live Internet based audio course Releasing the Grip of Fear, was offered through Sounds True. The course consisted of four 90 minute sessions and one question and answer session was added due to technical difficulties during the first session.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take this course with Tara Brach. Though I have never met her, I live in the area where she teaches. As a yoga teacher, I am always teaching when she is. However, I listen to her audio podcasts almost every day.
I consider her a mentor and teacher who teaches about human nature, life and faith using the precepts and ideas of Buddhism as her guide. She is a meditation teacher and clinical psychologist, embracing the best of Eastern and Western thought.
Tara is a gift. She is not dogmatic, righteous or pretentious.
Releasing the Grip of Fear was bountiful in ways to approach fear. Every session Tara connected with the students with a meditation and by setting an intention. She reviewed main points from one week to the next and ended every class with a meditation. Every session included a time for questions that students had written in to Sounds True.
In the first session, “The Safety in What is Right Here,” she offers tools of what to do when in fear. These include feeling the connection to the earth as well as placing a hand on the heart with breath awareness. All three of these help place an individual in the parasympathetic nervous system, or, as Tara calls it, that part of the individual that wakes the nervous system to tend and befriend, versus fight, flight or freeze.
Tara shares that the core of fear resides in the innate feeling of separateness, which we all experience. By building connection within the self and remembering in any moment everyone experiences fear, we feel less alone and less separate.
At one point, the moderator noted how Tara must have dealt with her fears. Tara answered that she reckons with fear, like everyone else, every day. She keeps herself open, is transparent and does not pretend to be beyond any of it. As we know, it is only through her own experience that she is able to have the insight and compassion to understand how fear operates.
She was adept at drawing the lines for trauma survivors and cautioning care and support as necessary. When entering into a meditation she would recommend approaching a fear that the student could handle within the dynamic of the course.
In the second session, “What is Happening? Can I be With This?” she focused on the need to change how one relates to fear. Fear is not going anywhere. Fear will not disappear. Fear is integral to survival. So the key to find empowerment is by how one relates to it. For Tara, meditation has been integral in developing her relationship to fear and she suggests developing a practice to her students. She calls looping when one gets stuck in a pattern of thought or behavior, a loop, and meditation as key to bringing awareness into a loop to find a way out.
As Tara often says, “Where attention goes, energy flows.”
In session three, “Calling on Loving Presence In Relating to Fear,” she teaches us to hold the self with kindness and compassion. She also does a Metta Meditation, or meditation on loving kindness and talks about R.A.I.N. She returns to R.A.I.N. many times.
R.A.I.N. is a mindfulness technique she developed to help us: Recognition of where we are with feelings and thoughts, to allow what we recognize to flow, to investigate what it is we see and experience so a natural opening to being, so a knowing can follow.
She talks about this in depth several times. The key as always is awareness and R.A.I.N. is an integral tool in any moment to develop that.
There were questions and answers throughout but the fourth session was only Q&A. Here she addressed trauma in depth. She said that for some trauma survivors meditation may not be the best method as it can bring on flashbacks and memories that require more support than one might have alone in meditation. She addressed this throughout, asking students to use awareness of their history and be responsible by not putting themselves in a situation that would cause triggered responses. She explained trauma relates to experience that could not be processed in the body or the mind when it happened. She talked about the need for support. She returned to her tool kit of feeling the earth, putting a hand on the heart and breathing with attention to the inhale and exhale.
She shared another of her sayings: “Neurons that wire together, fire together.”
And she told a story about an incest survivor who made a connection to the Divine Mother as a child through an imaginary fairy, and how this survivor carried the Divine Mother through the trauma and she helped her heal as an adult.
One of Tara’s many gifts is her innate ability to tell a story. As I said, I have listened to her podcasts online, some several times, and each time I hear a story, whether it is new or old, I learn. She uses certain stories in different contexts to illustrate her point and support her theme and I must say I never grow tired of them. She also uses humor effectively.
In the last session, “Remembering Mindfulness and Kindness in Daily Life,” she reviews all the tools, the grounding exercise and R.A.I.N. The meditation I liked a lot, the Smile meditation: we imagine the sky smiling into us as we merge our mind with the sky to make room for all that is, hear the heart and connect with intention.
She built community throughout, and acknowledged there were people listening from all over the world. She asked us to think of each other, to feel the community. She did this every session. During the second session she admitted to her apprehension to participate in online learning but learned community can be felt and built with effort and strong intention.
I highly recommend anything Tara Brach offers, because she offers so much. She has one book on the market, also available as CD, Radical Acceptance, and her second book, True Refuge, will be on the market in January and can be pre-ordered now. Our reviewer Jay Winston will be offering his review on her book.
Tara’s beauty resides in her honesty and openness. She is vulnerable and speaks from her own experience. I am amazed that I have never heard an impatient or unkind word from her and I have listened to all her talks from 2006 to today. I have listened to other Buddhists and had this notion that because it was Buddhism, I would not encounter the same narrow-minded attitudes I encounter at times in other organized religions, but I was wrong. However, Tara’s mind and heart are big and she does not care whether you practice Buddhism or Christianity or Judaism or Islam or nothing at all.
Her teaching is all inclusive. If you want to understand yourself better, or are struggling with loops of your own or are challenged by a situation or relationship, I’d bet you anything that adding Tara Brach to your life will help you help yourself.
Tara Brach is a leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation. Tara is the senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. A clinical psychologist, Tara is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha and the upcoming book, True Refuge: Finding Peace & Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart (Bantam, February 2013). For more information on Tara go to:www.tarabrach.com.
I am a full time yoga teacher, trained at City Fitness in Washington, DC, and Willow Street Yoga Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. I have been writing poetry since I was 9 years old. Poetry is my first love and yoga continues to feed my heart. I write because I love it. I teach because I love it. I tell my students all the time: do it because you can. That works for me. I believe in creating opportunity. I believe in helping my self and others. I think faith is the most important gift of life, because when we lose everything else we still have that in our heart. I believe the natural state of being is happiness, or bliss, or Ananda. Life is a celebration. Poetry and yoga help me celebrate. My blog and website: Edie Yoga.
Ed: Brianna B.
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