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Short-cutting the unfolding of love…

I was speaking with my friend and Sounds True author Tara Brach a few weeks ago about the many ways spirituality can serve a defensive function, resulting in the avoidance of unresolved emotional wounding. During our conversation Tara used a phrase “premature forgiveness,” where she was pointing to how in the rush to do the right spiritual thing – sending love, kindness, compassion, or forgiveness to a person who has deeply hurt us – we can act prematurely, before we’re ready to do so in a deeply embodied way. We to want to replace our yucky feelings of aggression, anger, and hatred with those noble qualities of love, kindness, and understanding. We want to transform the negative into the positive. This is so natural, of course. None of us want to hold these darker energies in our hearts, in our psyches, and in our bodies.

But when we move straight to forgiveness, compassion, or kindness, without first metabolizing those feelings of hurt, shame, pain, and grief which are inside us, perhaps we shortcut the unfolding of love. When we are able to first digest the deep hurt we have felt, resisting the temptation to transcend it or even heal it, we cut into a lifetime’s organization of turning from immediate, embodied experience. We see that we can begin to make a commitment to becoming deeply intimate with all parts of ourselves that seek our attention, holding them closely as guests of our hearts, as potential messengers from beyond. We do not need to ostracize our pain, orphan it, and send it away as part of our spiritual journey, for all is welcome here. There is no timeline, but only the one that our own hearts reveal. We can discover that what we are is an open, luminous, holding environment of awareness, a capacity to allow ourselves to be touched and transformed by whatever appears. It is not always easy, rarely fun, oftentimes terrifying; but we might come to see that by meeting these energies directly, they are able to show us the way Home; that, in fact, at the core of every emotion, every sensation, and every feeling that could ever be is the substance of love itself, the nature of awakened consciousness.

sunrise_mountainsThis energy or movement of forgiveness, which is of course an important and noble one, has a way of arising naturally, on its own, when our pain, grief, and hurt is metabolized in our hearts and bodies, when we allow it to be touched by the light of our awareness. In this sense, forgiveness is not so much a “practice” that we do or even the result of an intention that we’ve made; it lives and breathes and moves outside of the conceptual world entirely. We see that it is a somatic process, one that is effortless in a sense. As our pain and grief is processed, in a deeply embodied way, according to a timeline that is unique to each human heart heart, forgiveness may naturally be there waiting for us on the other side. Forgiveness, then, may not be something that we “do,” or try to do, and is no longer seen as evidence that we are a “spiritual” person and so forth. Many people that I speak with have concluded that they have “failed” because they have not forgiven, they feel shame that they are not good spiritual practitioners, that somehow the mere presence of sensations and feelings such as anger or rage or grief indicate that they are lost, unspiritual, and unworthy of love.

Forgiveness is not something we need to take on as a project. We come to see that there are times when forgiveness is not actually the energy that is being called forth in a particular situation and may not be the most skillful or, ultimately, the most loving or the most kind. It is very important to explore this. Setting boundaries, taking space, honoring the call of the body, listening to the heart, being angry – the total mandala of our situation may be calling for a different response. This call can be acknowledged and honored, and in this way these other responses can be just as “spiritual” as forgiveness; in actuality, more so, especially if the forgiveness is “premature.” It is possible the anger that is there, the shame, the hurt, the embarrassment, the jealousy, the grief, the terror, the fear – that these feelings, sensations, and qualities are inviting us to explore them deeply, to touch them, to hold them, to allow them all the way in; to honor them. Often, in our rush to forgive them away, to be good spiritual people, we lose touch with their essence, intelligence, and the gifts they may have to offer, thereby losing touch with our own hearts.

For those of you who are interested in the areas of self-compassion, working with shame, self-acceptance, and self-love, I really recommend Tara’s work for those who may not be familiar with it. Her audio programs – Radical Self-Acceptance, Finding True Refuge, and Meditations for Emotional Healing – are important and ones I recommend often. I’m really happy to note that Tara will be joining us at this year’s Wake Up Festival!

Sounds True Radio

Come on by and take a listen to Sounds True Radio! –

Our free, 24-hour-a-day, streaming radio station offers music for yoga, meditation, relaxation, and inspiration; audio teachings from bestselling and highly respected authors; and insightful and provocative interviews with spiritual teachers and authors on the cutting edge. We also have a new channel which provides selections from many of our new releases. Sounds True Radio is an easy (and free!) way to connect with our authors and to immerse yourself in heart-opening and life-changing wisdom. Through the station, you can also access our our acclaimed Insights at the Edge podcast.

Whether you’re interested in mindfulness, personal growth, emotional healing, awakening and the spiritual journey, creativity, meditation, mantra, sacred chant, brainwave and other healing music, kirtan, or world music of all kinds, you’ll be sure to find something to inspire and open you to the preciousness of the journey that we share together. We look forward to connecting with you at Sounds True Radio soon!


Your Cells Are Listening

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Sondra Barrett, a nationally recognized speaker on mind-body medicine and a medical scientist whose cutting-edge research on cancer cells led to new healing strategies for children and adults with life-threatening illnesses. With Sounds True, Dr. Barrett has written a new book, Secrets of Your Cells: Discovering Your Body’s Inner Intelligence. In the first half of a two-part interview, Tami speaks with Dr. Barrett about how we can look at our cells from a scientific and sacred perspective, how our body’s intelligence resonates in the fabric of the cell’s cytoskeleton, and the life lessons she has learned from our cells—which she calls our greatest living ancestors. (60 minutes)

Do you know what you want? … with Adyashanti



One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves on the spiritual journey, according to Adyashanti, is: What is it that I really want? Spending some time sitting quietly and contemplating this question – allowing it to take us into the depths of being – is a practice that each of us can do to learn more about what it is that is really inspiring and driving us at the deepest levels. Many of the world’s great wisdom traditions suggest a similar inquiry, and consider this question the foundation of any authentic spiritual life.

So, friends, what is it that you really want? When all is said and done, what is your heart calling out for, where are you being pulled, what is pushing you, what will this life sweetest, most precious, rare human life be organized around?

We shot this video with our dear friend Adya at The Wake Up Festival last year, where Adya opened our gathering in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. We’re really happy that Adya will be joining us again this year, and hope to see many of you there.

Buzz on, buzz off

While visiting a friend in Denver last summer, I was amazed to see in her front garden hundreds of honey bees dancing in the perfect dusk light. Luckily, I had my awesome new high-tech pro digital SLR camera with me.

“Ha!” I thought, “Finally a chance to use this baby’s rapid-fire, super auto-focus, image-optimizing, mega-sensor, anti-shake, bla-bla BADass-ness!”

Among photographers, the sure sign of an amateur is a behavior called “chimping”—bobbing your head obsessively from viewfinder to LCD screen to see if you got the shot. Well, I was chimpin’ like a National Geographic fanboy (oh wait, I AM a NatGeo fanboy). Anyway, half an hour and about 200 shots later, I did not have the perfect apiary masterwork. I had a camera full of blurry and out-of-frame bugs.

When I visited my friend again the next week, all the bees were gone, except for a few late summer stragglers. And it was gloomy overcast. And all I had in my bag this time was an old film camera—the kind that you have to focus and crank by hand and then apply “percussive maintenance” (i.e., smack hard) just to get the light meter working.

And there were exactly three shots left on the roll.

“Forget it,” I thought, “nature photography is for wussies.”

But the next thing I knew, the ancient Nikon was in my hand.

clickity click click!

Cut to one month later. I’m standing at the drugstore photo counter, and in ye olde-school stack of 4-by-6’s (remember “prints?”), this appeared:

Andrew Young Photography

If you’re not impressed, okay fine. But I was. Not by any proof of my artistic prowess, but by what I learned.

Am I about to wax scholastic about master street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment?” Or reflect on the Tibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s love for miksang, photography as dharma art? Nope, though both luminaries came to mind. What did in fact leave an impression were these thoughts:

1. When I realize that each frame in my camera—or day in my life—is precious, I get MUCH more out of each one.

2. All those restless hours of meditation practice and shoeboxfuls of crappy contact sheets may have led to a mastery that shows up, when it matters, as effortless flow.

3. Between the two poles that I call “intense concentration” and “effortless awareness” lies the vast majority of my life’s geography, and that I might want to enjoy the scenery regardless of the mode I’m in.

4. I am SO done with insect photography. No, really. Bugs are disgusting.

Okay, your turn. Was there a time when your years of practice paid off, effortlessly and unexpectedly? If so, do post a comment, I’d love to hear about it.

Kristin Neff: The Liberating Power of Self-Compassion

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Kristin Neff, a professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. The recent book and documentary The Horse Boy illustrate her and her family’s adventure with autism. With Sounds True, Kristin has created the audio program Self-Compassion Step-by-Step, which includes clinical evidence of the importance of self-compassion along with techniques and exercises for cultivating this pivotal quality. In this interview, Tami and Kristin talk about three pillars of self-compassion, “self-compassion breaks,” and the importance of recognizing our common humanity during difficulties that feel unique and isolating. (69 minutes)

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