Tara Brach & Jack Kornfield on Space for Adversity

Dr. Jack Kornfield and Dr. Tara Brach show how to use Mindful Presence to help fill up The Hole in Me.  In fact this is key to emotional health for everyone, no matter how well we feel (or think we feel).

It’s our spiritual life that grows healthy new neurons to heal The Hole in Me — or heal any other emotional problem. That’s because when we establish a dialogue with a higher power, the dialogue gives us nurturing analogous to what a good parent would have given us.

When we establish a dialogue with a higher power, then we know someone loves us, even just the Universe, because we are made of stardust, both Tara and Jack say.  Someone loved us enough to create us! Then we can develop the strength to decide that we are important enough, that we can take the time to sit down and feel what we really feel inside.

Say that again: we can take the time for ourselves.  We’re worth it!  We can learn to sit quietly and become Present with Ourselves, Present with What is.   When we fear The Hole inside, instead of being present, we run from feelings. The Hole is too painful, so we medicate. But instead we can learn to Just Sit with our most horrible feelings, and feelings begin to heal.

If we have another mammal or mammals to sit with us, it goes a lot faster and better, as Tara says in her video in the second post below…

Tara Brach, “I Consent” vs “Dying 101”
[excerpt transcript I made from her audio:]

In the moments that we are Present with what is, we can begin to enlarge and inhabit a broader awareness.  I use an acronym for this: RAIN.

First R: Recognize what we are feeling, now. Begin by just saying what is happening inside right now.

Then A: Allow it. “Can I just let this feeling be here? Can I just be with this right now?” It’s allowing this present moment. Say yes to it. That doesn’t mean we like it – it means we acknowledge “This is reality.”

I: Investigate and also Intimacy. Investigate more fully what is going on. “Where do I feel it? What is really happening? What am I believing?” Get more in touch with what is there. But we also need an intimate attention. If there’s self-judgment, we can’t contact what really we feel. We need to investigate with self-kindness.

N: Not identified – Don’t identify with the badness. Say “No” to self-blame or guilt for our feelings.

I’ll share with you an example that really moved me. One woman came to a workshop I was teaching; her husband was dying. They were Catholic, but they had decided that rather than a priest, she would be accompanying him in his passing.
She was very, very anxious about it.She felt this was the most important thing in her life and she really wanted to do it right. She wondered if she should read the Tibetan book of Living and Dying? What else should she do?

“This is not a time for Dying 101,” I said, “it’s more of a time… to love him, to offer him your Loving Presence.” I taught her what I’d recently heard at a weekend on compassion with Father Thomas Keating. He said: when something is difficult, say, “I consent.” That’s like saying: “Yes,” or Allow the Feelings, the A of RAIN.

She went home to be with him and I heard from her weeks later. She described how initially she went home, and the strong feelings would come up – all the fear, the anxiety – and she would say, “I consent.” But she was still trying to be the perfect person accompanying someone dying.
One night her husband said, “I don’t think I have long.” Her response was, “Oh, Dear, you don’t need to think like that. Today was a very good day. Let me make you some herbal tea.”

In that moment, there was a silence, and they were a million miles apart. She was struck by how, again, she hadn’t been present.

Then, she prayed: “Please may I meet what arises with loving presence; may I really be here for him.”

After that she began practicing RAIN in a real way.
First she had to simply Recognize what was going on…instead of running around making tea, she had to sit down and face her deep sense of pain for his pain, and her bottomless grief.

Then she would say “I consent.” This is the Allow – in a very, very, deep way – letting the feeling be there, however horrible. It is so difficult to simply sit with that kind of deep pain and ferocious grief.

Then by paying attention, she was Investigating: “what is going on?” She would really feel each of the different layers within her and hold them with great kindness toward herself, self-compassion.

Incredibly, if we can simple be Present with some of the worst feelings, eventually they will dissipate.

Later, she told me, “Tara, when I allowed myself to pause and really come home to this full mindfulness, to Recognize what is happening, to Allow it… and so on?
Then, I really did know how to be with him. I intuitively knew how to offer him whispered words of love, caring touch and soft singing… I just knew how to be with him.”
She said that when she was practicing this way, she could open to the fullness of his spirit.

She said, “There was no longer a sense of him and me; rather we were a field of loving – total openness, warmth and light…
“He’s gone – but that living field of loving is always with me.”

I share that because there is really no limit to what is possible when we begin to train ourselves to come home to presence. We control what we can – but most of Life is out of our hands. How do we find a way of just being with what is out of control, that will tap us into the love and the awareness that really can hold this life?

Tara Brach, “Awakening Through Change and Loss” (11/19/14)
[Next is a video, listen especially to minutes 26-35:]

Our capacity to live and love fully is related to how we open to the truth of impermanence. We look at the mindful presence and compassion that open us to feel loss and grief, and reveal the loving awareness that is beyond birth and death.
Minute 26: Tara on how she accepted her own illness
Minute 32.30: Some feelings are too big to accept when we’re alone — we need others to be with us. Story of a woman whose cancer metastasized, but was unable to feel what she needed to feel, until her friend Anna came physically to be with her. “When you accept all the feelings involved with dying it’s a huge firestorm of feelings, but after we feel them, then it’s not hard to feel at one with God.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv0Fqz8cwfg

Jack Kornfield, “Finding Our Wise Hearts,” 11-7-12
[Transcript from his audio; can’t find youtube link just now:]

No matter what we do, we still will have pain and aging… When we see the truth of suffering, we can finally achieve freedom. We can deny these facts of life, and we can try to bury our feelings about it all — but to do that we have to keep moving, get busy, get addicted. But then we are tense and miserable.
One of the most beautiful things is showing that capacities for attention and presence can be trained… we get new neural connections and measurable new emotional capacities.

A surgeon can excise cancer but the body does the real healing. Just so, the psyche has this very deep capacity to heal that is trust-worthy. I can trust it because I’ve seen it a thousand times.

Honor your grief, accept it. Express it, dance it, show me what it looks like, let the tears wash through, move with it, write a poem, is it as big as a hurricane?
Find your way to give it full expression so that not only are you actually Present with it, but you are Accepting and Allowing it.

Be with your feelings of emptiness/depression sit and let them come, and look under for other feelings like grief. And then let it rip, let the hole fill your body, the room, the whole world.

People get frightened and say no, if I do that, I’ll be lost, I’ll never come back. People do that when they won’t let their anger out, they’re frightened they’ll just kill everything.

But I say, let’s just try it. Let it be as big as it is, a windstorm, a tsunami…

And what happens when you allow it to OPEN, is that it changes. At some point it shifts from being contracted, deficient state, into feeling spacious — it turns into its opposite, and there comes an experience of a larger space that can contain everything and allow it. There comes a sense of well-being.

If we resist it, we’re stuck feeling identified with it and we feel small.
But as we allow bad feelings and other things to simply Be, our feelings begin to move and to turn and change. I have learned to trust this a thousand times: when we turn toward what is difficult, and make space for it to open, then it will change and turn.

And when things open, there is a remarkable shift. If you have a bad contraction around desire for something or someone you can’t have, and you let your desire get really huge? It shifts, it changes into a desire to love and suddenly you feel a tremendous love.

The same with emptiness; a personal feeling of deficiency? If you let it be as big as it wants to be, it opens into a glorious emptiness that is the space from which everything is born.

And I trust this process of the reversal of experience from the small and contracted to that bigger space which we can inhabit and which connects us to others, because I’ve seen it over and over.

more to come as time permits…

Please post here if you find more of this!  I need it too, we all do!

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