On Friday night I attended a stirring talk by Tara Brach. Tara is a meditation teacher who speaks directly to my heart. Her book, Radical Acceptance, exposed me to life-altering ideas. I appreciate the book title. In our culture, it's indeed radical to accept ourselves, as is. Self-love is so counter-culture that it's radical. Her new book, True Refuge, provides a heartfelt framework back to ourselves--dropping the false refuges and regularly connecting with our true refuge: our own inherent goodness.
From Tara I first heard the phrase, "trance of unworthiness." In her experience, most people suffer from this trance--living life with the constant hum of I'm-not-enough. I understand this trance well. I've lost swaths of my life in it. And I've also found my way back to myself. (See my previous post about shame and acceptance.)
My habituated reaction to difficult emotions is aversion--I push away. Through meditation practice I've learned it feels better when I allow for these emotions. It takes more energy to push away than to let them in. Still, my habits are well-grooved. But eventually I release from the trance. I allow for the sadness, anxiety, fear, and shame. Sometimes sitting with an emotion (e.g., sadness) releases it. Other times, the emotion is layered and sticky. In these situations, when I compassionately sit long enough, I typically find this root: something is wrong with me; I am not enough; I am unworthy. In these moments, if I place my hand on heart and say, "Joy, I'm sorry and I love you," I feel release. I feel connected to myself--my true, vulnerable self.
Tara names the common false refuges: striving, distracting, numbing, and judging. I understand every one of these. When I feel unnamed uneasiness, I often 1) try to prove myself via achievement, 2) distract myself with busyness and planning, 3) have a glass of wine and watch a movie, or 4) judge myself harshly (self-judgment is the background chatter of my mind)--or sometimes judge others harshly. These false refuges provide merely seconds of relief and must be reapplied. That is, they don't provide long-term refuge.
Uncovering my shame and loving myself through it has radically changed my life. I live many more moments not in trance. I'm more present to all of life and all of me. And once my heart opened to myself, it opened even bigger to the world. Imagine if we all healed ourselves with self-compassion; if we experienced life and others without protective armor; if we walked not in trance, but with open-hearted presence.