Sunday, June 9, 2013

True Refuge (recommended book), part 2 of 2
Imagine being a single parent, caring for a disabled child, caring for a parent with Parkinson's, finding out that your younger sibling has a brain tumor, or finding out that you're about to be evicted.  

OK, now imagine coping with all of that simultaneously.

I mention this not as a theoretical example, or even a composite, but as the all-too-real situation faced by a gentle, sweet guy I know.  (In case you're wondering, a few of us banded together so he can at least keep his house!)

As I mentioned in last week's post, I've been reading Tara Brach's new book True Refuge, hoping it will help me with bouts of sadness and helplessness in the face of so much suffering in the world at large and in my own little circle of friends and family.

I don't respond well to one-size-fits-all advice or formulaic affirmations, so I appreciate Brach's emphasis on experimenting with the words and gestures that feel most authentic, rather than worrying about the "right" way to pray or meditate.

She's also careful to indicate which practices are "best initiated when emotions are not intense" and when and how to seek help, especially when recovering from the trauma of war, natural disasters, devastating medical diagnoses, or various forms of abuse.

She recommends slowly and gradually building a practice that helps us to develop "a heart that is ready for anything,"  so, as one of her students put it, we can learn to "hang in there while all hell breaks loose."

The more we can open ourselves to feeling safe and loved and at peace, the more we can help ourselves and others when things get really bad.  

"Accepting what is does not mean passive resignation." It helps us develop "a courageous engagement with the reality of our experience" which will free us "to live fully what is here, and to respond wisely."  This, in turn, will enable us to "serve this imperfect world."

Obviously, this is a long-term process.  I'm going to keep working with the guided reflections and meditations in the book; I've already started to see glimmers of my sadness turning into compassion, my guilt into gratitude, and my anger into courage.

related posts:

True Refuge (recommended book): part 1 of 2

Self-Compassion (recommended book)

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