Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Tara Brach on The Power of Awake Awareness [retreat talk]

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[3 bells]

Good evening. It's nice to be here.

It feels very cozy.

The end of the first day has always got its own particular feeling like there is some

sort of a sense of bearing witness to like, wow, how did that first day go.

And for some there may have been a real stream of stillness and blissthat may be one

or two of youothers might be, you know, in thatI thought this was Club Med and

its not,” its completely different and many, many sittings and how much that

affects the body and its unfamiliar.

And so I wanted to just ask a few questions and actually look around as I ask for these

hand raises.

How many of you felt like you struggled with sleepiness today?

Can I see by hands?

Okay, look around, just see


How many restless, scattered, distracted?

I am seeing the same hands.


How many working with some physical discomfort or pain?



I am amazed you are all here.

I mean, you stayed.

Whats it like when you look around and see that maybe seventy-five percent of the

room has joined you in having these different experiences?

Does it change anything to see how many others?

How many, when you notice that, there is some shift in perspective?

Can I see hands?


I ask that harkening back to something often that especially in the old days we used to

play with at retreats which was to imagine as youre sitting there that all the thoughts

and feelings youre having are coming from the person sitting behind you, okay, and that

it starts being less personal when we realize that its not so muchmy sleepiness

as just the energy of sleepiness that is usually eighty percent of a group struggles with sleepiness

on the first day.

It really shifts our relationship to it.

And there is a universal illusion that turns unpleasantness to suffering and that is that

whats going on right now ismy fault,” thatI should be able to control this

andthat it should be different.

If you unpack thatin other words, if you dont add onThere is something wrong

with how its happening” – its unpleasant but its not suffering.

So theres a wonderful little quote I heard years ago from A.R.

Ammons and its, “The wind said, ‘You know, I am the result of forces beyond my


That whatever is happening is not something we sign up for or we can control.

We cant control the feelings that come up, we cant control that thoughts happen,

that restlessness happens, that distraction happens.

And if we can realize that its conditions playing out and not react, this space opens

up that makes it possible to be with it.

So what Id like to explore tonight as our theme is how we can discover freedom in the

midst of difficulty with this non-judging, openhearted presence that we keep pointing


And its really the theme of many dharma talks and well be building on it, like

really: How do we bring an openhearted and clear presence to whats here?

And I start tonight with one of my favorite stories from the Tibetan tradition.

This is the yogi Milarepa.

And in this story he returns to his cave after gathering firewood only to find that its

filled with demons.

In other words: they are cooking his food, they are reading his books, they are sleeping

in his bed, theyve totally taken over the joint, okay?

And so he has this sense that theyre really projections of his own mind.

But nonetheless, you know, all these unwanted parts of himself, its no fun, he wants

to get rid off them.

So his first strategy for getting rid of them in the story is that he decides to teach them

about spiritual path, you know, its basically cognitive, affirmations.

You dont have to be reactive right now, everything is changing, can relax in the midst

of things.”

So hes basically trying to talk himself cognitively into a better state of mind.

That falls flat.

That doesnt work.

Cant do it cognitively.

Next thing he does because the demons are still there is - he is really pissed off and

so he loses patience and he gets angry and he runs at them.

And that made them all laugh.

That didnt work either.

So finally he gives up.

And he sits down on the floor and he says, “Well, Im not going away, looks like

you are not either, so lets just live here together.”

And that works fairly well, most of them are gone, except for one and its the one thats

the real core issue - thats particularly vicious.

And we all know that one.

Some of us have a handful of them.

Its the feeling that this is reallythis is the stickler, its likeI keep

coming back to this one.”

And he doesnt know what to do, so he surrenders even further and he puts himself righthe

goes right up to the demon and puts his head in the demons mouth and he says, “Just

eat me up if you want to.”


The demon vanishes.

So the message of the story is that when the resistance is gone the demons are gone.

When the resistance is gone the demons are gone.

Unpleasantness, when we fight it, solidifies a sense of self; our sense of who we are gets

organized the not liking, an aversive self.

So you might have noticed today with restlessness or distraction or sleepiness or whatever the

demons were that, rather than just surrendering – “Okay, thats how it is” – there

was some sense that it shouldnt be this way.

And in those moments the equation is that pain times resistance equals suffering.

To the degree that you were at war with reality, with how it was, thats the degree of suffering.

And of course the same equation goes pain times zero resistance equals ultimately liberation,

you know, no suffering.

I remember at my first Buddhist retreat that the take away from the whole retreat was that

the boundary to what we accept is the boundary to our freedom.

And that was my take away; that it didnt matter what it waswhether it was not

liking my thoughts or not liking the food in the dining room or not liking what a teacher

was saying or what another yogi was doingthe boundary to what I could accept was

the boundary to my freedom.

And hand-in-hand with that is that meditation basically undoes our resistance.

Meditation isnt a doing.

Actually in those moments of presence were undoing our habits of resisting reality.

Does that make sense?

We all have these different ways that were running away.

I kind of think of it like we have this bicycle and we are peddling away from presence and

the more stressed we get the faster we peddle.

And we all have different strategies for how were getting away, for how were resisting.

And meditation actually undoes those strategies.

The challenge is that its a very deep patterning in all of us whatever your particular mode

of resisting is.

And were going to look at the different ways we resist.

Theyre deeply grooved in, you know, like in those neuropathways we keep doing the circuits:

we have a certain thought and then we do our tensing against things and then we have a

feeling and then we have more thoughts and we lock into our way of resisting.

So it takes a really strong intention.

And each one of you is here because in some way you have a deep motivation to be free,

a deep motivation to step out of the squeeze of those patternings.

You might not know how and you might feel like you dont have the discipline or whatever

it is but there is some longing.

The challenge is we get caught because we

I think George Carlin said it best, he says, “Im not into working out.

My philosophy is: no pain no pain.”

So heres the problem with that which is that, if we dont work out, if we dont

learn to be with the pain, we actually increase the pain.

Carl Jung describes it this way, he says, “Whats not brought to consciousness comes

to us as fate.”

So whatever were resisting, you know, whatever demon is active that were in some way either

trying to fight or judge away or hate ourselves for not doing anything but whatever way were

resisting, as long as we resist it kind of locks in our future, it locks in a kind of

patterning that keeps us trapped.

So one of the images I have always loved that describes the beauty of facing the demons

is when theyre described as animal-headed goddesses.

And in the Tibetan tradition you see them in lots of art work: you see them in the mandalas

that, you know, you have to go through them to the center of the mandala where theres

freedom or if youre entering the temple, a sacred temple, you have to go through the

animal-headed deities to get to sacred space, through the rage and through the lust and

through the anger and through the fears, its not like we get to that awakened space because

thats not there, its the alchemy of engaging with presence with the demons that

frees us.

And I like the Tibetan tradition because demons are not bad, demons are energies that by engaging

with presence we free up our natural intelligence and aliveness and spirit.

Its like that phraseno mud no lotus.”

Its the nutrients that actually let us bloom.

So our motivation for facing the demons is because there is a love for truth and there

is a love for aliveness and a love for love.

I mean, if you really check in youre motivated to stay present or stay with whats here

because in some way you love life.

And the first step of staying present is noticing how youre leaving.

Im just going to go through some of the most common ways we leave.

Like any animal with a limbic system we leave by fighting, by fleeing, by freezing.

Freezing happens when we are traumatized and there is just that confusion and paralysis,

we leave that way.

Flight or fleeing is really common, the most common way that we flee here, just thinking,

thinking, thinking, thinking

Its our mental control tower, we kind of escape into it.

We talk to ourselves a lot.

We flee in relationships when we, instead of feeling the feelings that are there, we

pretend to feel a certain way or we divert attention with our intellect or humor or where

we accommodate or where we withhold.

We flee online regularly.

I mean, have you noticed that how much fleeing from vulnerability or angst, how many times

we go and just check our email or whatever?

And texting, you know, for so many people texting replaces other forms of contact.

One writer from the New Yorker described who when his son turned twelve they kind of lost

their closeness.

His son just was constantly texting and just grunted, you know, didnt really communicate.

So he decided finally that well he would just text too.

And he started catching on to some abbreviations from his son.

And he wrote, “One my son did not have to teach me because it was so self-evident was


I knew right away it meantlots of lovebecause he put it at the end of every message

he sent me.”

So he said, “Its such a safe way to express love, such a beautiful, telegraphic abbreviation

for the twentieth century, its like a little arrow of love you can send out to anyone you


And he describes how for the next six months he had this infatuation with texting and he

texted everyone he knew, you know.

He said his sister was getting divorced and he wrote to her, ‘Were all behind you

and beside you.

LOL, your brother’,” you know.

His father got ill and he sent him, “Get well soon, LOL in Canada’.”

He said, “Everybody I knew at work, at home, everyoneI sent themLOL’.”

Here is the coming to truth: He was texting his son from the airport saying he hates being

away but he had to travel to make moneycause its tight these days, signed offLOL.”

His son responds, “Dad, what exactly you thinkLOLmeans?”

Well lots of love obviously.”

And of course his son set him straight and his world crumbled and he had a lot of emails

to write to explain himself to other people why he had LOLd them in the midst of their


But I bring it upits fun, its cuteand also that our fleeing-approaches,

ways we remove ourselves and create distance, really make it so that we are unable to see

who is there, we are not really communicating, and thats a deep part of fleeing whether

were doing it through pretending or withholding or in some way getting lost in our thoughts

we are no longer connected with our hearts.

Second big way: fighting.


And thats where were resisting some vulnerability thats going on in our lives

by saying, “This shouldnt be happening, Im bad, youre bad.”

Thats the kind of fighting thats going on.

And its when life is not working out the way we want it.

Instead of being with that, there is a lashing out or lashing inward.

And as I describe these, just sense where you notice this for yourself.

In one story a new business was opening and one of the owners friends wanted to send

him flowers for the occasion.

So they arrive at the new business site and the owner reads the card and it says, “Rest

in peace.”

So the owner is angry and calls the florist to complain.

He tells the florist the obvious mistake and how angry he is, the florist replies, “Sir,

I am really sorry for the mistake.

But, rather than getting angry, you should imagine this: Somewhere there is a funeral

taking place and they have flowers with a note saying, ‘Congratulations on your new


So blaming and judging is the big one.

And you can notice it at retreat.

Again, think of it that this is a way of resisting the demons that you may have gone through

thinking, “I am not doing this right, I am not doing this day right.”

So, rather than just being with how it was and the feelings of it, its just this blaming

oneself or you may be blaming others – “This person is too noisyorThis person in

some way is taking my spaceor blaming the way somebody might be eating or walking

or something in the group.

And what we find - whether its here or you probably have better examples at home

where relationships get more charged - that whenever there is blaming its whatever

we practice grows stronger.

And the more we blamewe are resisting the demonsthe less access we have to

the vulnerability thats behind the blaming.

The more we blame the less access to the vulnerability behind the blaming.

Okay, so there is the fleeingusually into our thoughtsthere is the blaming

often towards ourselvesand then the last piece to mention the ways that we resist

is by grasping.

And you can watch it here, you know, the kind of the graspingOh!

Gosh I want a nap!” or the grasping afterI want the food to be different or more

or something but not how it is!” or graspingI want to go online and just check something!”

and you can see it.

Or as one person described today the grasping after the sound of the bell at the end of

the sitPlease, oh please, I want the bell!” you know, its likePlease may it end!”

its grasping for something different.

And then through our lives we have different ways of leaving by grasping around consuming.

Most people have some way of resisting how this moment is by consumingcould be food

or sugar or alcohol.

One story a friend gave me that I love: A man goes to a bar and orders a drink.

Bartender gives it to him and then the man pushes it off to the side, orders another


Bartender gives it to him.

This time he drinks it.

And the bar tender says, “Well, what gives?”

Well you go to AA meetings and you hear regularly: Its the first drink that leads

to trouble.

So we go ahead and grasp and then we in some way make it okay to ourselves.

But the reason Im really reviewing these is to have you look at your own lives mostly

here right now, while you are here, but also at home and sense if you can begin to see

how you resist the present moment.

Begin to see how the mind moves away from the present moment, how your body might tighten

against the present moment, how your activities might keep you from the present moment.

Because if resistance, the way we leave, is below the line

And by below the line I

We often talk about Joseph Campbells circle of awareness and there is a line going through

and anything that is below the line is outside of our awareness and anything above the line

is in the light of awareness and the more we meditate were bringing life into awareness

which gives us freedom because if its below the line were identified, if we are resisting

we are identified, what you resist youre identified with, you get hooked to it.

If you are resisting your loneliness, youre identified with it.

If youre resisting your anger, youre identified with it.

So the first step is to start noticing what were resisting because our resistance is

like wearing a mask, - you know, whether we are withdrawing and thats where we are

in our withdrawn-mask or avoiding or controlling and we start to consider ourselves a controlling

person, a withdrawn person, a scared person - we identify with the mask and we forget

who we really are.

The more we resist.

So a story to give an example of kind of shining a light on strategies of resistance is something

that really came forward a pattern with Jonathan and myself.

For most of the time weve been together, weve a kind of a twice a week meditation


And during that meditation we check in.

And its a chance to feel what were grateful for and also to look and sense well is there

anything really thats getting between us, is there anything going on, any pattern thats

keeping us open-hearted, loving and caring.

And personality wise I have been the one thats more intent on making sure we communicate

about things that might create separation justcause thats the way its happened


And also its been part of my temperament to feel like youre not really willing to

go where I want to go and talk about such and such.

So, one day, this was a long time ago in our relationship, were way past this now, but

Wed done our meditation and wed pretty much talked about everything but our relationship.

So before we ended, you know, I paused us and I said, “So how are we doing?

Is there anything you feel would be good for us to pay attention to?”

And then I kind of sat back to listen really kind of self-satisfied that I had kind of

framed the inquiry in a positive invitational way.

We were on my turf basically, you know.

And just so you know: I had nothing really on my mind, I didnt have a complaint, I

was just on some way wanting him to remember that it was important that we talk about things.

Jonathan squirmed a bit and kind of looked towards me to give him a clue, was there something

I had on my mind, ‘cause he was afraid he had missed something, you know, it wasnt

our anniversary or anything like that, but he was afraid that there was some right answer

he should be coming up with.

So he did look at me hopefully and I just kind of sat silent.

And it really was a deer in the headlights look to him.

So then he got a mischievous look and he pulled out his iPhone and he asked Siri, “How do

you respond when your wife asks, ‘How are we doing?’”

Within moments he got an answerAnd I swear this is the truthSiri said, “I

am okay, youre okay and this is the best of all possible worlds.”

Really, he showed it to me.

And of course I instantly gave up and, you know, it lightened up everything and we didnt

talk but we went on and had fun.

But what we did at other times is point out the patterning that was playing in that dynamic.

And the patterning was and the way it comes down to is that for me if I feel unattended

to like he doesnt want to be intimate or close or whatever, then my way of reacting

to that feeling, rather than just being with that feeling of going down to that deep, deep

early place ofI am not lovable or wantedmy way is to then be judging and blaming trying

to control.

So I was being aggressive so, you know, I was trying to put him on the spot.

And his way of resisting the demons is when he feels insecure or threatened, rather than

sitting and feeling it, he will either accommodate me or do something to distract or humor or

whatever but not just sit in that fire.

So, you know, there is a learning that comes out of it that he really needs to cooperate

with me more… [laughter] I am actually sharing on purpose about us

because whether its in relationship with another person or in our own relationship

with ourselves catching on to our pattern – “Oh when I feel unlovable I then judge

somebody” – catching on to those rather than just staying present is the beginning

of being able to undo the patterns, is the beginning of freedom.

And so Id like to invite you

Well do a couple of reflections

The first reflection is demons reflection number one.

If you will just to take a moment to close your eyes.

So this is coming up with a situation in your life where its like Milarepa entering the

cave, where the demons are active.

It may be somewhere where its in a relational context where you get triggered.

It might be hurt, anger, fear.

And as if you are bearing witness to Milarepa trying out his different strategies, you might

sense that when you get caught in this, whats your strategy initially at least for resisting

or reacting.

How do you try to leave the vulnerability of the moment and control things.

Do you withdraw?

Do you get controlling and blaming?

Do you try to numb it in some way?

Do you try to talk yourself out of it?

Give yourself a dharma talk?

And if you could keep exploring a little that wonderful question: What are you unwilling

to feel in those moments?

What are the demons that are there that youre in some way avoiding?

And just to sense: Whats the experience of yourself when youre in some way avoiding

those demons, playing out your resistance or your reacting, in other words if youre,

instead of just feeling whats here, youre blaming yourself or youre blaming someone

else or youre withdrawing from the situation or youre trying to control.

Whats the felt sense of self that comes with that?

In other words: Whats your small self-identity?

If this is a deep pattern, itll feel very familiar, itll feel like a very familiar,

unseen, withdrawn self or a very familiar controlling self or a very familiar blaming


This is the mask.

This is the mask that we get identified with when we are resisting, when we are doing anything

but presence, and it starts developing very early on as a way to help us navigate, but

its a way of resisting reality and it creates the sense of a separate, not okay self when

we do anything but real presence with the feelings that are there.

James Baldwin writes, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without

and know we cannot live within.”

Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live


He goes on to say, “I used the wordlovehere not merely in the personal sense but

as a state of being or a state of grace, not in the infantile American sense of being made

happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

So this last part of our exploration together were going to go further into this surrendering

of the mask - whatever our mask is the controlling mask or the blaming mask, the avoiding or

withdrawing mask - that we fear we cant live without it, we dont know how to operate

without it, it seems scary to drop it and yet we cant live within it because it keeps

us as that small, unreal, separate, not okay self.

So as Baldwin says we need that love thats a courageous love to stop withdrawing, to

stop controlling, to stop the judging and to open to whats here.

So if youd like to open your eyes its fine.

One of the ground levels of our training together is to recognize that if we are lost in thought

we are fuelling the mask.

If were lost in thoughts, our thoughts are going to keep on triggering the emotions

that loop back to the thoughts and were going to keep on looping and being identified

with the mask.

So one of the first things we do in meditation training is just what we are doing here: is

come into these bodies, come into the senses, come to the breath so we can begin to sense

the difference between being lost in a thought which is a virtual reality that keeps the

mask going and being right here which is the undoing of resistance.

We start undoing the resistance by waking up from thoughts.

Carlos Castaneda writes, “You talk to yourself too much.

Youre not unique in that.

Every one of us does.

We maintain our world with our inner dialogue.

A man or woman of knowledge is aware that the world will change completely as soon as

they stop talking to themselves.”

I really love that because of course we dont stop talking to ourselves forever, there is

a certain amount of thinking that actually is necessary to survive and can be profoundly

creative, but we need to know the difference between thinking which is virtual and hereness.

In fact, one of the most powerful little ways of practicing you can do as you are here is

when you notice youve been thinking wake up from the thought, you know, just thinking,

thinking and notice the difference from being inside the thought and this living reality,

just notice the difference.

And the more you get the knack of noticing the difference between virtual and real the

more there is almost a gravitational kind of pull to live in the immediacy of whats

right here.

So part of the training is that we over and over again wake up from our thoughts.

I love the way Veronica Tukoleva puts it, she says, “We speak about losing our minds

as if its a bad thing.

I say: Lose your mind.

Do it purposefully.

Find out who you really are beyond your thoughts and beliefs.”

We cant find out who we are beyond the mask if we dont wake up out of our thoughts.

Does that make sense?


Wes Niskar - good buddy of many of us, dharma teacher - talks about the relationship with

our minds.

He saysand he talks about his relationship with his own mindhe says, “We are still

friends and we still live together but Im no longer co-dependent.”

So how do we now practice when we become aware the demons are in the cave, we become aware

that weve been throwing at them every strategy we have, weve been blaming ourselves and

blaming them or trying to control or huddling in some way or trying to go to sleep and give

up, how do we practice?

And this is where we will take the RAIN acronym and just explore when youre caught in the

cave and the demons are really activated, how can you use mindfulness and self-compassion

to wake up?

And Id like to check here and say: How many of you have never worked with the RAIN

acronym before?

Can I see by hands to give me a sense?

Dont be shycause its an ever-deepening process.

Thank you.

So RAIN, the acronym, is Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture.

And then there is what I call After the RAIN, which is noticing the shift, the waking up

from the small identity.

And RAIN is a way of doing what you might think of as a U-turn that when there is demons

going onwhen there is feelings of insecurity or self-doubt or restlessness or angerour

tendency is to fixate on them and either fight them or fixate them but run the other way

but either way we are hooked.

With RAIN we are making a U-turn and bringing our attention to whats underneath, to the

actual felt sense thats going on behind that resisting.

And the way we do it is to begin by noticing okay, the demons are here, Recognizing and

Allowing the different mix of the thoughts and the feelings, just let it be there.

The Investigating is primarily somatic.

Im going to give you an example but I want to just point out right now that when you

investigate the biggest misunderstanding about investigation is that were trying to figure

something out, its not like, “My parent basically gave me the message that I was never

good enough and then when I tried to do this I internalized it…” its not that.

Its checking and finding in your body whats there and how it feels knowing that our issues

are in our tissues really bringing that gentle investigation into the body and then nurturing

with kindness.

By way of exampleId like to give stories of how different people use RAINand because

its the holiday season and some people are coming from the rawness of what happens

in the relational field or the rawness of lacking a relational field I thought I would

share a story about a womanthis took place around the holidaysshe is really

estranged from her daughter-in-law and growingly estranged from her own son, she felt very

pushed out of their lives especially boundaried around the grand-children.

And the dynamic had been that she would express her opinions rather forcibly and her daughter-in-law

really just did not want to put up with a controlling mother-in-law and then, you know,

got an allay in her husband and from her perspective she had told me she asked things like, “Well,

are the children getting enough protein?” – because the parents are veganor shed

bring to them, you know, “What about music lessons?

Its supposed to develop…” you know.

But they didnt want that from her.

And she started to become more restrained but it seemed like anything she would say

was a violation.

And so she did RAIN with that.

And we got together and she would think of her daughter-in-law and get very angry and

shed basically blamed her daughter-in-law as the main one that was keeping her from

her family.

And she felt like her daughter-in-law hated her and, “No matter what I say or do she

doesnt want me in their…” you know, and so on.

So we started there.

Recognize and Allow: There is anger.

These are the thoughts and these are the feelings that are swirling around.

And allow doesnt mean we like it, doesnt mean we want to stay with it for very long;

allow is like pausing with something, saying: Okay, were just going

Im not going to resist right now.

Im not going to negate it.

Im not going to fight it.

Just going to let it be here.

Because unless we pause and create some space there is no way we can investigate and get

intimate with whats underneath.

So there is recognizing and allowing.

And then she began to Investigate.

And I helped her by saying, “Let that anger be as big as it wants to be.”

And she felt like it was exploding through the room that she was in.

And then she felt like it was exploding through the east-coast and exploding through the whole

United States and the globe and everything was going to bursting into flames and exploding.

It was big anger, okay.

And she kept let it getting bigger and bigger.

And then she got quiet and she said, you know, “Nothing is happening.

I said, “What are you aware of?”

And she said, “Well, I am alone.”

I said, “Yeah.”

She said, “Well, I am alone and Ive been pushed away, Im not wanted and there is

no one here.”

And so there is this feeling of complete abandonment and being alone.

And as she opened to that and really let herself feel it she started weeping.

And that was when she could begin Nurturing.

And Ive often found that if we investigate and investigate and really get down to where

the vulnerability is there is a natural sense of care or tenderness that comes.

And I often have people put their hands on their heart.

And the final question for investigatingor one of the most powerful onesis, “What

does this place most need right now?

How does it want you to be with it?” you know, but to really sense the need.

And for her it needed to know that she wasnt leaving, that she was staying.

Because when we feel other people are always leaving us or abandoning us if we look close

there is often a sense that we have left and abandoned our self.

And so she found that her nurturing was just to say, “Im not leaving.

I care.

Im not leaving.

I care.”

And thats the nurturing.

And then After the RAIN is just to sense whats there.

And she said, “All I can feel right now is that there is this kind of that space thats

kindness and there is a hurting inside it.

But what that means is that her sense of her own being was larger than the hurting.

And this is the shift in identity that really is at the heart of all dharma practice: that

when we stop resisting and instead of resisting the demons there is a presence with which

is a surrendering, were surrendering the resistance, that presence actually becomes

a space, a tender space, like an ocean that has room for the waves.

And there is a sense of freedom with that.

So for her many, many rounds.

This was a deep wound.

And it took many rounds of RAIN till she got more and more familiar with being that kind

of space of kindness that was holding the young child that felt abandoned.

That was more the truth of who she was than that self that felt pushed away, unloved and

really was very angry about that.

During this time, she was having, you know, email contact and so on with her son and with

her daughter-in-law.

And it was pretty uneventful.

And she kept doing the practice the way she described itand a Tibetan teacher used

these wordsshe kept meeting her edge and softening with RAIN.

She would meet that edge of that anger and just soften by investigating and holding herself


And that phrase really helped her.

And Im sharing it with you because I found it helpful too.

You can do a very brief RAIN: you meet your edge and there is some softening and opening

to whats here.

Well, she went and last yearthis was during the holidays last yearwent and

visited again.

And this was afterit may have been two hundred rounds of RAIN.

So she had done a lot of working with that anger.

And as it turned out her daughter-in-law was kind of under the weather, you know, kind

of sickly when she came and so she got to step in and she had kind of sensed who her

daughter in law just worked herself ragged, she really cared about her kids and she worked

herself ragged, and so she was kind of

It was really felt good to her.

And she went ahead and made those, you know, Beyond Burger, vegan burgers and the vegan

lasagna and she did everything the way her daughter-in-law wanted it.

And before leaving her son kind of hugged her and said, “Thanks for showing up, we

really, really needed you.”

Her daughter-in-law walked her out.

She had an Uber taking her to the airport.

Walked her out to the Uber and she said, “I really needed a mom around.”

And for this woman she gone to her Uber and just broke down but it was a good breakdown

because she felt that belonging.

And she told me, “What let me feel that belonging is I met my edge and softened so

much I was just soft enough to belong.”

And that just stuck with me: soft enough to belong.

So the final commentary Ill make on this is that when there is a deep wound, many,

many rounds of RAIN, the key piece that often is forgotten is that after doing some nurturing

to pause and notice the difference between who you werethe masked person who began,

the identified person, the controlling person, the hurt person, the fearful person, and whatever

the sense of your being is in those moments - notice the difference, because the difference

is pointing to who youre really becoming.

Sometimes we cant directly open to whats there when were doing RAIN.

This is a topic thats too big for right now.

Sometimes before we can even begin to recognize and allow and investigate, we simply need

to do a lot of metta to make it safe enough because we can retraumatize by going directly

into the vulnerability.

So the point is not that you always should put your head in the demons mouth, thats

not the teaching, okay.

The teaching is that were leaning in that direction and that we have to do a lot of

kind of self-nurturing almost to build the kind of stability in our nervous system to

be able to fully surrender.

So Im just putting that out as a reminder.

And lets go back to the cave again, okay?

Demons cave.

So if you willclosing your eyes.

What were doing now is just a very brief RAIN that I invite you to expand on your own.

Again a situationrelational situationthat can bring up the demons whether its

fear, hurt, anger or shame.

The demon might be aversion, hatred.

See if you can go to the most challenging part of that situation so that you can remember

whats going on, see the persons face, where the setting is, the room you are in,

see if you can get yourself in touch with what its like when this comes up and perhaps

notice the way you might habitually resist or reactbe defensive or withdraw, blame.

Instead you can make the U-turn and recognize and allow as much as you can notice about

whats going on inside you.

It helps when you are recognizing and allowing, sometimes just to sayThis belongs, this

is a wave in the ocean right now, this is the way it is.”

Just to let it be there.

Its like sayingYes, this is reality right now.”

Its the beginning of undoing the resistance.

And then to deepen attention with Investigating.

Just to feel in your body.

You might even put your hand on your body where you feel most feelings and that helps

to connect and just notice: What does it feel like?

Where do you feel it?

What does it feel like in your body?

There may be a belief that goes with this about how other people are perceiving you

or you, maybe that youll always be the same or a belief that youre failing or


Just to notice the belief and then how that feels in your body.

And sense deep into where you feel most vulnerable what that part of you that is vulnerable most


What does it need?

Exploring just in these moments any gesture of kindnessand if youre touching your

heart you can just send energy and care through your handit could be, you know, “I

see this suffering and I careor, “I am not feeling,” it could be, “Trust your

goodness,” sending some message of kindness.

And then relaxing back a bit and just sensing if there is any shift from the self that was

in reactivity, kind of identified with the mask, caught in that small self, and the space

right now of care and presence, a sense of who you are is shifting.

The whole trajectory of our path is not getting somewhere as much as relaxing back to discover

this presence, this tenderness, this kind of empty radiance of being thats who we

really are.

And, for most humans, it involves engaging with the demons, with the different energies

of fear, hurt, anger; rather than resisting being willing to face them.

And were talking on an individual levelthe importance of facing the demons to

really wake up to our true beingbut its also the same shift in consciousness that

we really need as a world on a group level.

We can behold our world and sense the demons of fear and when we dont face them what


How our group survival brain goes into fight-flight-freeze, we are in a group limbic hijack that creates

an unreal self and unreal others, leads to demeaning and violating.

You can open your eyes if youd like but just take a few more moments here to say that

we talk a lot about how were practicing and its not just for individual freedom,

its a practice that that really is for the evolving consciousness in this species.

And on the group level, if we dont face our fears, we live in a sense of inferior/superior,

good/bad violation.

Even with each other, any moment there is comparing mind, any moment there is comparing

mind, you cant see the purity of beingness thats here, you lose track of your own

essential goodness and anothers.

And what science shows now is the brain when its afraid, when the brain is afraid, it

locks into superior/inferior.

Our survival brain does not perceive the innate worth of all beings; our survival brain doesnt

do that.

So were waking up from our survival brain here individually and we also are learning

to wake up on a group level through ways of having dialogue with those that weve locked

into unreal othering with.

And I want to share an example of thatof going beyond the mask kind of in a group way.

One of the bridge builders that I watch out there who's doing that a lot is Van Jones

and he brings groups together so that they can see beyond the mask.

And I saw a spontaneous video of him that I want to tell you about that I think is a

really amazing example of waking up out of the habitual ways of defending and aggressing.

This was right before the election of President Trump when some supporters of his who were

white supremists confronted Van Jones.

He is a CNN commentator, he wroteThe Messy Truthand as I mentioned he brings groups

of difference together.

And they confronted him calling him a racist saying that, “What about the white policeman

that was just killed?” and they are really angry at him.

Theyre also videoing his response.

So this is like he is on the spot being kind of attacked verbally by these guys and its

really high energy.

And he keeps talking to them and talking to them and asking them about their feelings

and experience and so he actually treats them really respectfully and he listens.

And this is what he said at the end, he said, “If you cried just as much when that black

man died in that police car and I cried just as much when that horrible big-head shot down

the police, if youre crying and Im crying just as much and were crying together,

then we can find a way to get our cops better and our kids better.”

And he is speaking and this young manyou know, just to watch it was amazingis

nodding and they end up hugging.

Now theres a reason that in talking tonight we started very muchspent most of the

time on individual, but I wanted to name this because every time you make that U-turn and

are willing to face your own vulnerability and fears, you wake up out of a small identity

that createsotherand you become enlarged and more and more living with an inclusive


When you include your own vulnerability, you start including others more and more.

And I think its such a powerful and important question for us to ask ourselves: Who dont

we cry for?

You know, we know we cry for some but who dont we cry for?

Who do we makeless thanorotherand then not cry for them?

Can we cry for the earth?

Its like when we are not facing the demons, we are not in touch with vulnerability, can

we really cry for the earth?

Because if we are not crying for the earth, we are not going to save her.

Do we cry for the billions of animals that are tormented each year and killed to feed

humans, the cruelty of that, do we cry for them?

Do we cry for the people that we work with when

And when I saycry forI meancare for,” “cry for, care forbecause our

hearts open.

So we end tonightI invite you to close your eyes one last time,

last time in the cave.

We explored tonight really the masks that we wear to avoid the demons, how we identify

with those masks.

The masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.

And it takes intention.

And our intention, what motivates us, is love.

To make the U-turn, over and over again, not just when theres major issues and we need

to meet our edge and soften but in any moment, can we choose to be here?

So I invite you in these last moments right now to perhaps sense: Is there anything between

me and an awake, open-hearted presence?

And with whatever you notice, can you meet that edge and soften with a kind attention?

Can you sayyesto whats here, “this belongs?”

From Danna Faulds, the poet, “In the shared quiet an invitation arises like a white dove

lifting from a limb and taking flight.

Come and live in truth.

Take your place in the flow of grace.

Draw aside the veil you thought would always separate your heart from love.

All you ever longed for is before you in this moment

if you dare draw in a breath and whisperyes’.”

Thanks to each of you for your presence and attention.


The Description of Tara Brach on The Power of Awake Awareness [retreat talk]