An Excerpt from a
Get the Applications in One Easy-to-Use Guide
by Ruth Buczynski, PhD
with Tara Brach, PhD
1. Discovering false refuge
Habits like substance abuse, overeating, and sacrificing our own happiness in order to prevent conflict are false refuges. They are ways that help people avoid risk. Tara Brach explains how we can help clients recognize these false refuges and move past them.
“Usually, people will come to me and they will say, ‘I’m really dissatisfied with my life,’ or ‘I’m spending a lot of time feeling anxious,’ or ‘I’m not really feeling like I can be intimate with others.’
We will start looking at what is it that is driving that – we want to get down to some core beliefs and feelings, and often one of them is: ‘Something’s wrong with me.’
Them, we start looking at how, out of that belief that ‘Something’s wrong with me,’ the person is living their life, and that is where we see the false refuges.
False refuges come from the fear that, ‘I will never be loveable.’ False refuges come out of the feeling of, ‘In some way I’m defective.’
Then, from that fear, we start seeing, ‘Well, when I’m with others, I assume that they won’t really value me so I try to ask for very little or go along with whatever I think that person wants.’ We start seeing that accommodating isn’t just a nice way of being – it is coming out of fear.
It is the same thing with not taking risk – playing it safe. Of course, we all want to survive and we don’t want to be in danger, but we’re talking here about when there is a real tension around not being willing to put out a new idea because we are afraid other people will jump on it, or not being willing to draw if we feel artistic because we are afraid of other people’s judgment.
In both cases we are playing it so safe that we are binding our own creativity – we are not being spontaneous.
Then, we start seeing, ‘That’s a false refuge that is stopping me from living my life.'”
2. Two simple questions for reducing reactivity
When people feel threatened or uncomfortable, their first instinct might be to react with frustration or anger. Here, Tara gives two simple questions we can all ask ourselves in order to prevent this reactivity.
“Meditation is a training ground for seeing the ways that we go into reactivity during the day.
I will give you one example for myself, which happened yesterday. I got an email from someone asking me to do something that somebody else was already supposed to have taken care of in our organization.
I felt oppressed, and I felt the demand and the tension of it, and so my chain reaction was, ‘Wait a minute – that was somebody else’s job . . .’ I immediately started putting together an email that was rather brisk.
Then I paused – because I could sense that same reactivity of the unpleasantness of feeling the demand and the way my mind went into it.
I paused and I took about two minutes – which is a long pause, actually – where I just breathed and I asked two questions – and these are the key questions.
One is: ‘What is happening inside me right now?’ I could feel the tension and I could feel the speeding, circling thoughts.
The second question is: ‘Can I just be with this? Can I just let it be, without doing something?’
In that space, where I was just letting it be and breathing, it unwound itself. I got in touch, underneath the annoyance, with the fear of, ‘Oh, no – I’m never going to catch up. I’m going to fall short on all the things I’m supposed to do.’
Of course, I didn’t send that email – I wrote a much different kind of email – the behavior was shifted.
I went from the offended, annoyed, reactive, egoic person to a space of presence and kindness, which felt more like home – it was a refuge. It was a place that really felt like I was where I want to live.”
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