With a PhD in Clinical Psychology, Tara Brach is an American psychologist and writer, mostly associated with advocating for the role of Eastern spiritual practices in Western contexts. She grew as a Unitarian and lives in Virginia with her husband, a teacher of meditation and yoga.
Tara Brach helped found the Insight Meditation Community in Washington DC in 1998. This spiritual community teaches and practices insight (or Vipassana, as referred to by Buddhists). Her teaching focuses on drawing attention to the mindful attention to the inner life of people, as well as developing a full and compassionate engagement with the world.
A spiritual teacher who travels all over America, Tara teaches online, in written form, and also in person. She has visited Europe to discuss her views on meditation and Eastern spirituality in psychology. Her teaching focuses on the application of what are essentially Buddhist teachings to bring about healing at an emotional level.
Her first published work, Radical Acceptance, dealt with how practices such as mindfulness can be effective in healing trauma. Other written teachings offer similar suggestions, such as how tapping into inner peace and wisdom can help people who are going through psychological difficulties and stressful situations.
“Imperfection is not our personal problem: it's a natural part of existing.” Tara Brach, from her book Radical Acceptance
In person, Tara Brach is well-versed as a presenter. In addition, she teaches classes, provides workshops and leads silent meditations. Brach is also well-known as a teacher of mindfulness and meditation on the internet. She even produces a regular podcast which is so popular it's downloaded around one million times every month!
Tara Brach gained her qualification in psychology from the Fielding Institute. Her dissertation centred on a ground-breaking analysis of the effectiveness of meditation in the healing of certain eating disorders. As an undergraduate, she received a double major in psychology and political science from Clark University.
Tara Brach travels globally teaching on meditation and mindfulness © Facebook/Tara Brach
It was at this time in her life that Brach began attending yoga classes, something which led to an interest in exploring Eastern approaches regarding inner transformation. After graduation, she chose to spend a decade in an ashram (a spiritual hermitage) where she developed techniques in concentrative meditation. Later, she attended a Buddhist Insight Meditation retreat run by Joseph Goldstein. During this part of her life, Brach trained her mind in unconditional and loving presence. “I knew this was a path of true freedom,” she says.
Brach bases many of her past teachings around the processional development in her life. It's from her direct personal experiences with the role of Eastern spirituality in her own life, as well as her academic understanding of clinical psychology, that has led to her particular vision for blending Buddhist ideas with psychological ones.
Among the many notable works of Tara Brach is her book, Radical Self-Acceptance: A Buddhist Guide to Freeing Yourself from Shame. The book looks into how crippling self-judgements and inner conflicts can lead to futile perfectionism, loneliness and an over-reliance on self-worth based on work. In it, Brach offers interpretations of Buddhist tales and meditations to show how to overcome such judgements by a radical acceptance of one's self.
“Tara Brach is well-known as a teacher of mindfulness and meditation on the internet. She even produces a regular podcast.”
Another title worth seeking out is True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. It deals with subject matter such as obsessive behaviour, life-changing illness and relationship breakdown. Brach has also produced a free guide to meditation which is available in several languages. This easy-to-read guide provides entry-level advice for establishing a meditative regime. It deals with hindrances to meditation and guidance on how to sustain meditation as a practice (we have some ideas of our own; check out Five strategies to help you develop a meditation practice).
As mentioned, many of Brach's teachings and ideas in psychology are accessible via the net, much of it for free. Although she frequently teaches in person, for many people it's the online world which has brought her vision of a blend Western psychology and Eastern spiritual teachings to the fore. You can find several online courses on mindfulness, which she developed with Jack Kornfield, at Soundtrue. We've already tried Mindfulness Daily – an app which provides daily lessons and shot meditations.
Tara Brach bases many of her teachings around her life development © tarabrach.com
Brach's audio podcasts, which include led meditations, can be opened in iTunes for free. Another place to listen to her talks and other audio freely is via her website which includes an integrated audio player. The archive goes back several years, so there's plenty to hear and learn from.
Some of Brach's past talks are also available on video. They offer many insights into matters such as awakening consciousness, seeking internal and external truths and spiritual empowerment. While addressing from a lectern, Brach's style is engaging and often compelling while never becoming overly technical in either psychological or spiritual terminology. Her website hosts a number of these videos. She also has her own YouTube channel which includes a fascinating free-to-watch playlist named 'Finding True Refuge'.
As a practising psychotherapist and meditation teacher, some of Brach's talks and training sessions are for professionals only. For example, some of her groundbreaking work in showing how psychotherapists can integrate mindfulness strategies into their clinical work is conducted in academic institutions in the United States only.
However, public events are online. Other than Brach's frequent work with Vipassana meditation instruction, occasional retreat teaching sessions are listed on her website. She also maintains regular updates of her Facebook page which details upcoming talks and public events. ●
Ed Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He's also a practitioner of Reiki.
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