Resting one’s heart on what is true.

“Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it. Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worthy of rescue.” ~ Martha Postlewaite

Sometimes, you hear exactly what you need to hear.

I’ve been extremely busy lately, logging nearly 60 hours each week at my day job, trying to keep up with my writing, trying to spend time with my daughter and my husband, trying to keep the house from falling apart. I’ve been stressed out and stretched thin, and tonight while I was listening to podcasts and settling down to get more work done, I heard this Zencast episode, where Tara Brach talks about Taking Refuge. And it was exactly what I needed to hear right now.

There are many wonderful things in this episode, but I want to highlight a few things that spoke most deeply to me, and how I felt these were applicable to things in my life right now.

The focus of Tara’s talk is the idea of refuge. At the beginning of this talk, she begins by outlining the many “false refuges” that we tend to be drawn to due to a misunderstanding of what really can heal us. She stressed that as we looked at each “false refuge,” we should not look at it as a reflection of “bad personhood” or to judge ourselves for being drawn to these refuges. So, as I explore these “false refuges” that so often distract me, I know that I should keep an attitude of interest and friendliness towards it.

Here are some examples of the most common false refuges, and the way I see myself caught up in these refuges every day:

Busyness: Busyness is often numbing, and it gives us a sense of productivity, but it also distracts us from the truth of ourselves. I continually find myself falling into the pattern of 50+ hour work weeks at my corporate office job. I am beginning to accept that I am seeking this pattern out as a distraction from the truth of myself.

Drive to accomplish: Accomplishing things can be extremely positive; however, sometimes we’re just trying to prove we’re okay. If within about five minutes of accomplishing something, you are already moving on to what next needs to happen, then this may be a distraction instead of a real sense of accomplishment. This definitely describes me. One of my biggest struggles is going over my to-do list in my head during my meditation time in the mornings.

Grasping on to and chasing after pleasantness: The nice things that we have in our lives, and we always seem to need just a little bit more, to the point where it becomes an addiction. For the most part, this is not the “false refuge” I escape to most often — but I also recognize that I’m always striving for the financial “padding” which never seems to be enough.

Substances: Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, overdoing food. This is probably by #1 go-to false refuge. Cramming as much junk food into my mouth as possible is my immediate reaction to incredible amounts of stress. Even when I’m not stressed, I recognize that my delighting in indulgent behaviors (eating rich foods, etc.) is something that is healthy if done in moderation. Making these moments more sparse and special would probably be a good idea.

Looking good and getting approval: How many times to I post pictures of outfits I wear to work to my Twitter and Facebook? I think that demonstrate my need for affirmation.

Thinking mind: Planning, worrying, over-analyzing, trying to figure out what’s next. I always like to have a plan, and I always want to know what’s going to happen next. A lot of my mindshare is spent on trying to plan my next steps, or in analyzing my behavior. As Tara suggests, I often end up spinning my own wheels.

Judging: It’s easy to get caught up in judging others as well as ourselves. I struggle with this every day. I judge myself harshly all of the times, and I find myself slipping into the habit of judging others.

These “false refuges” give us temporary comfort and ease, and they give us comfort on the earth plane that is not harmful. We have to question whether or not these refuges are keeping us in a small sense of self — a fearful self, an avoidant self. What are we paying attention to? If the refuge does not satisfy our deepest longing to be at peace, to have connection with others, then we must be aware of that fact, and work towards finding a true refuge. I can definitely say that my own false refuges have distracted me from these deepest places in myself, and this podcast was a nice wake-up call to the fact that I need to focus my attention on what’s more important.

Tara suggests that there are three true refuges — places to go to sit in the truth and love of oneself.

1. Refuge in Awareness
2. Refuge in The Path
3. Refuge in Loving Relatedness and the Truth of our Belonging.

She succinctly describes these refuges as awareness, truth, and love.

What does true refuge mean to me? What can I bring my attention to that brings healing and freedom? Tara reminds us that there is a sanctuary within every one of us, that we can tap into that source and live in that space. My goal is to focus my intention on the awareness, truth, and love within myself — to sit quietly for at least a few minutes out of every day reflecting on refuge, awareness, truth, and love.

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