My Saturday Without Tara Brach

Saw the ad in Tricycle Magazine, and booked this event immediately, fully four months ago, feeling so lucky to have gotten news of it before it sold out. So proud of myself for planning ahead. Such a smart girl, me.

When I originally bought my ticket, I didn’t know that when the day finally came for this event, my 87-year-old mother-in-law would be in the hospital with her second broken hip. This has reverberated through the family—Mrs. T is the last standing member of her generation, and a beloved elder. My wife and I are her sole day-to-day caretakers (Elena shoulders the lion’s share of responsibility), so it’s a fairly big deal that this has happened. Stressed and tired, but undaunted, I left for the Friday evening session that preceded the all-day Saturday event, certain that these teachings were exactly what I needed to get me through the coming six months.

Tara Brach is such an interesting human being. Her insights are profound, and she has a wry sense of humor. In one exercise, just as she’s starting, she actually asks everyone to turn ON their cell phones and beepers—which become little mindfulness bells, opportunities to practice, later on in the talk. She also has an incredibly calm and steady voice. But it doesn’t have much dynamic range. It’s almost hypnotic if you combine it with stress and fatigue. Upon hearing her speak, all I wanted to do was find a comfortable place to lie down and sleep. It was so strong, this desire. I called it resistance. I called it lack of commitment. I called it laziness, all kinds of nasty names.

And then I started listening to what she was actually saying. I started listening to her words. They moved my life, quietly, almost invisibly, in the direction of true compassion. A compassion that took a very unexpected turn. This is what happened.

There’s an acronym she uses: RAIN. Recognize (what’s happening, what you’re thinking/feeling), Allow (let it be so, whatever it is), Investigate (look more deeply into the underlying elements of what you’re thinking/feeling), and Non-identification (or nonreactivity—don’t resist anything you find in that investigation. Just rest in natural awareness).

So just for grins, I decided to apply this to my attitude. I recognized I was sleepy. Then I allowed it to be so, stopped calling myself names about it. As I investigated the underlying elements of my state of being, it dawned on me quietly that there is un undercurrent of “not enough” that drives much of what I do, including this. Including coming to the city for yet another spirituality workshop, because *I’m not there yet. I need more training. I need someone else to tell me I’m all right. Or show me how to be all right.*

What followed was a dance between my keener sense of fatigue, and noticing and allowing all the thoughts around it. I was aching with exhaustion. And right away my mind was judging, declaring I had no right to such fatigue, there were people out there with real fatigue and I was not one of them. And while we’re at it, (mentally smacking myself upside the head) PAY ATTENTION! You’re at a Tara Brach teaching, for cryin’ out loud. Stop whining about being tired. So it was useful to notice that inner diatribe. I let it go over and over, returning to my body. Bone deep fatigue. Diatribe. Allowance. More fatigue. Diatribe, noticing, allowance. Fatigue. Etc.

The closing meditation came, and I ran for the subway, which eventually screeched into Penn Station just in time for my train home. Wondered if I’d gotten anything out of the evening, but was too tired to worry about it much.

The next day was the all day training.
I awoke and every molecule in my body wanted to be home, with my wife and my dogs. I lay quiet for a while, listening, not bolting into automatic motion the way I do sometimes.

The little bit of RAIN that had fallen the night before in my consciousness had miraculously silenced the yapping nazi within. I watched the birds bickering at the feeder near our bedroom window on Saturday morning, and felt the freedom to actually really listen to my body, listen to my connection with my life and my wife and my dogs, allow all of that to be however it was, and just…stay home.

Many might argue that there would have been a way to bring awareness to my process and still go to the teachings. And for some, it might have been more fruitful to do this—to push past the fatigue, to practice non-identification with it, and go into the city to receive the exact medicine waiting for them there. But for one who has been tyrannized by perfectionism, who has lived a lifetime of ignoring her body’s cries for rest, and who has run away from her family and the present moment to dive into some imagined “hard work,” this opening into another way was the miracle. I stayed home, in more ways than one. Saturday morning, snuggled in with my family, I Recognized where I was, Allowed it to be so, Investigated further, and experienced a tiny bit of Non-identification with it…and actually, for a good while, felt free.

So my Saturday without Tara Brach was the full fruit of her teaching the Friday night before. May this and greater freedom continue to expand in my awareness. May all sentient beings everywhere feel it for themselves, and benefit. Namaste.

More about Tara Brach: 
“Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha,” 
“True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.”