Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. –Rumi
I don’t even know how to start this except to say that this weekend I got to experience something I never imagined I would be able to: I met Tara Brach in person.
In case you’re not familiar with her, Tara Brach is a psychologist, author, and meditation teacher who has a weekly podcast about spiritual healing and emotional awareness. I’ve listened to her weekly podcasts for a couple of years now and have also read both of her books: Radical Acceptance and True Refuge.
Here’s where I am going to be a nerdy fan and gush for a minute… I absolutely adore Tara. She is as beautiful on the outside as the inside and I am so honored that I was able to attend her weekend training in Tucson on Nourishing Loving Relationships. Being able to sit in her presence and have the chance to briefly speak to her still takes my breath away.
This two-day training was focused on opening our hearts and rewiring our brains for loving connection. I think it’s a topic that a lot of us could benefit from exploring. I know I won’t be able to convey the power and energy of this weekend through the internet, but my hope is to share some of the wisdom that I learned in case it may resonate with you as well.
Tara began the weekend with the idea that at the end of our lives, the thing that we will remember the most will be moments of loving connection.
The amazing thing is that through meditation and presence, we can actually evolve our brains and we can choose to wake up our hearts and minds… but in order to open our hearts, we have to be willing to be vulnerable.
She then asked us: What is it you’re unwilling to feel?
I spent a lot of time meditating on this question and each time it landed somewhere around the loss of connection. One of my greatest fears is being alone in this world and yet, it may actually be scarier for me to be close to someone because it is in these intimate relationships that we are most vulnerable and open to being hurt.
Tara then spoke about the paradox of relationships: we long for love and yet we tense against it.
It’s completely natural, but it’s also funny how we defend ourselves against the thing we want most. She said this comes from the primal need to separate yourself out of fear. Our brains are wired to think that something could go wrong at any moment so we naturally develop these defenses as a response.
So, how can we overcome this natural fear response? We have to start by being present in our bodies and accepting this moment. The more aware we become, the more we’re able to open and our heart becomes ready for anything.
And this is what becomes the ability to love freely and love without resistance.
The second day of the training was focused heavily on emotions, conflict, and empathy. One of the things that resonated with me the most is the idea that conflict is feedback that there’s unmet needs that need attention. Tara walked us through an exercise to help us get deeper behind the feelings in conflict and develop greater awareness.
In this exercise, we began by sharing the facts of a conflict and the person we were sharing with reflected back to us what they believed to be how we felt in that situation and our need behind it. Then we took it a bit deeper and examined the situation through the perspective of the person we were in conflict with.
One of the things that I struggle with most is conflict and when I experience conflict with someone, I tend to obsess over every single detail of the situation. I think this stems from my subconscious hope that if I can figure out exactly what caused the conflict then I can fix it, and it will go away. In the past I would take conflict very personally and believed that if someone was upset with me, then it must be because I’ve done something bad and even deeper than that, on some level I think I’ve believed that conflict means I am bad.
I love this idea that every feeling is based on a need because it’s helping me to be able to look at conflict more constructively. After all, conflict is inevitable and anger is a necessary, intelligent, and natural emotion.
One of the last things that Tara shared is how we get hijacked into suffering and the key when we’ve been triggered is to pause.
When we’ve been hurt by someone, pain causes us to harden our hearts in blame and lose sight of a fully dimensional being. And, when this happens, we need to sense our armor and soften our hearts by developing empathy for ourselves and the other person. The act of judging and blaming keeps us stuck in this trance and in order to get out of it, we have to first be aware that we are in it. This starts with a pause.
I began the weekend with the hope that I could use this time to release old pain and develop the space within myself to be vulnerable and present in all of my current and new relationships. As the weekend came to a close, I used the final meditation to send peaceful wishes and love to those around me and to everyone in the world. I spent a few moments sending specific wishes to people in my life and then finished with a heart meditation for myself.
My hope is that I live with an open heart and the full capacity to give and receive love. I know this will be an ongoing journey and I’m grateful to everyone on this journey with me.
If any of this resonates with you, I highly recommend you check out Tara Brach’s work. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this incredible woman and the strength, healing, and spiritual guidance I’ve gained from her wisdom. You can find her books Radical Acceptance and True Refuge online and her free weekly talks and podcasts can be downloaded on iTunes.