The ageless dilemma of the human condition

This week’s multimedia selection is Audio Archives of Tara Brach’s Dharma talks at the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW) here in Washington, DC. Each week there is a 40-60 minute talk about practicing Buddhism in the modern world, and then Tara leads the group in a 20-25 minute meditation. I’ve listened to several of these talks, and they are outstanding, insightful pieces of devotional thought. I come from a Protestant church tradition, my father was a pastor and I have heard a few sermons in my day. But Tara is not preaching. She has an intimate tone of voice that draws you into the narrative. It’s almost as if she is talking to you over the breakfast table, even though she is addressing hundreds of people. Her cadence and timber prepare you for the formal meditation that follows.

Tara Brach is the founder and senior teacher at IMCW. She wrote Radical Acceptance — Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha (Bantam Dell, 2003). I read the book a few months ago, and had been meaning to put up some comments about it. The book is a dialogue between her practice as a psychotherapist and the wisdom that comes from Buddhist Dharma. Although her patients’ life stories provide many opportunities for insight into the human condition, she also draws on her own experiences. I found a lot of useful ways of looking at life’s dramas and tragedies. The “radical acceptance” that Brach is talking about is the act of freeing ourselves from the self-inflicted pain of feeling that there is something wrong with us (rather than use the “royal we,” I should probably speak in the first person). This is more simply said that done, which is why Brach needs a whole book to just scratch the surface. This issue is one of my own personal traumas — a deep sense of inadequacy, lack of self-worth and self-esteem, all of which poison my experience. I find myself being pulled back to re-read sections and chapters to review key points to her calm grasp of what it means to be human and how to get beyond the trap of human suffering to live life to its fullest potential.

So you can listen to audio files or read the book, either way you’ll appreciate the reassuring message of hope.